The Gentlest Advice I am Capable of Giving

Last week I celebrated a year of relative freedom from crippling depression. April 15th marked the anniversary of an important decision: to try and stand on my own two feet for the first time in 5 years. From the moment I made that decision, I accomplished so many things: I became gainfully employed, I put a definitive stop to an over decade-long addiction to cutting, I weened myself off of a medication that was really only making me more tired and therefore less inclined to take action, I started exercising and eating healthier (hell – that I started eating at all was a miracle, after years of struggling with a nasty combination of GERD and stress-induced nausea), and I forced myself to be more social. These changes instilled in me the strength to handle curveballs with a little more grace than I previously did. I felt better equipped to deal with unpleasant situations than I had in a very long time, and the people around me noticed the changes, too. In the last year I have received more compliments regarding my mental stability than I think I ever have. I am proud of the changes I made, and it feels good to not be the token Girl, Interrupted for a change.

…But just because I boast more stability and confidence now doesn’t mean that it isn’t a struggle every day to maintain some semblance of normalcy on the outside while utter chaos whirlwinds inside me.

A few days ago I got considerable backlash for posting a macro with the sentiment of, “If you want things to change, you have to initiate the change.” A lot of people interpreted it as a down-the-nose sneer at anyone who hasn’t made the fantastic changes that I have, and look at me I am so happy, why can’t you all do what I did, I’ve overcome depression! This is hilarious, in a sad kind of way, given that I am currently going through a rather nasty cycle of depression. The kind of depression that saps me entirely; that is gradually consuming the joy from my life and leaving me with an overwhelming need to just sit, and stare, and sleep. It is a sickness that is touching every part of me right now and by extension the ones I love (that’s what hurts the most, seeing the ones closest to me growing more frantic to help as I slip farther away).

I haven’t got fuck all figured out, to be honest. The only thing I know, the thing that I have to hold desperately close to me when I’ve forgotten all else, is that I am the only one who can make me happy. I can take a medley of pills and cry woe is me! all I want; but, in the end, unless I take the steps to be happy, nothing will change. If there’s only one lesson in life I ever learn, let it be that!

Depression is a sickness and it needs to be treated as such. A cancer patient cannot reach remission without choosing treatment. A diabetic cannot survive without choosing insulin. These are accepted truths. Yes, depression is hard; it is a battle against yourself every goddamn day for the rest of your goddamn life. You still need to choose to treat it. You need to choose happiness over complacency.

I get a lot of flak for my aggressive view on a lot of things. People think I am being an asshole for the sake of it, or because I think I’m superior in some way, or whatever. In the end, I’m just a realist. I value directness and evidence. In an ideal world, no one would suffer from depression and we wouldn’t even need a strategy for managing it; but, as so many can attest to, this world is far from ideal. The reality is that change really does come from within. Things don’t just miraculously get better one day. Anyone who tells you that is either fooling themselves or selling something.

I can’t offer a lot to the people who are struggling with this particular demon as I’m not done with it myself. What I can do is give you resources, so you can make a choice yourself:

Free lesson-by-lesson online cognitive behavioural therapy course: http://www.paniccenter.net/
Crisis chat: http://crisiscentre.bc.ca/
BC chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association: https://www.cmha.bc.ca/
The miracle of Google, to find therapists and other resources near you: https://www.google.ca/

Not to mention all the outpatient programs for mental health and addictions available through the various hospitals in the greater Vancouver area.

There. Let’s see how much people shit on me for this post.