Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Is there no way out of the mind?" - Sylvia Plath

Sometimes it feels like I have spent the vast majority of my life actively attempting to survive it.*

I know that sounds pretty dramatic, but since I was in grade 7 I've suffered from varying forms of mental illness. In University I was officially diagnosed with Depression and generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some days, on bad days, it does feel more like surviving than living.

The truth is that a lot of the time I feel a sort of disconnect to everything...like there is some sort of invisible emotional barrier keeping me from fully being in contact with the outside world. Feelings and experiences take ages to sink in and sometimes they don't at all. I experience an almost complete inability to live in the present at times. I get confused easily. I often have to concentrate very hard to keep a train of thought or to remember what someone told me. Things that may have happened a day ago somehow vanish from my brain and to access them again I need to sit and focus for a long time, or be reminded. The worst of all of it is someone telling me they love me and me just...not feeling it.

It's these things that make me hate my depression, hate being on pills.

Otherwise, my depression is like a scar from childhood- a faded line on my body that I can trace with my fingertips. It's ugly and marred, but it's been with me so long I wouldn't quite know how to be me without it.

My depression is cyclical. It comes and it goes for varying amounts of time. It's been doing this since I was young and yet I never quite see it coming or even realize it's arrived until it's been there a while. It all starts with my not giving a flying fuck. "I don't care about my health, I'm gonna smoke. Who cares if people think I'm fat? This is my body and I wanna eat that whole god damned cake! My room is a disaster, but whatever, it is what it is." At first it really is a comfort, you feel free...it's usually around the point that I'm eating six meals a day and smoking about as many cigarettes that I realize something has gone terribly wrong. Once I've clued in, I then realize it's been a few weeks since I've actually truly ENJOYED anything. I look in the mirror and realize I've gained ten pounds and I absolutely HATE myself for it. For all of it...and of course, that doesn't help matters. I then end up on a self-hate spiral. You're FAT. You're UGLY. You don't DESERVE love. You're WEAK. You are a PIECE OF SHIT. Part of you knows that as soon as you're out of this haze you wont feel that way anymore, but in that moment you're helpless. And it is a haze. It's like being stuck in a thick fog where everything seems warped and unclear. One day out of no where I will wake up and the fog is just...gone, as if it were never there. End of cycle. All of a sudden I can see the mess around me and I want to clean. I want to exercise. I want to eat better. I want to smile. And I do...I do it for as long as my mind stays clear, but eventually old depression will come around the corner again.

Sometimes it takes an obscene amount of effort for me to live my day to day life. It's like trudging through mud. The effort it takes on a bad day for me to get out of bed and be at work and laugh and joke...I don't think it's that hard for other people. On those days I constantly have to remind myself to smile and that everything is going to be fine. That one little mistake I made isn't the end of the world. I repeat my mantra of,"I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm okay." while my hands shake. 

Today is Bell Canada's "Let's Talk" day.  It's about ending the stigma of mental illness across the country. If I can help someone even a little by sharing even this small part of my story, then I'm happy to. If I can get even one person to maybe show compassion instead of indifference when facing someone with a mental illness, then job done. A bit of kindness and empathy can go a long way.

I wanna say for worried friends and family who read this - I'm alright. Really, I am. I'm still the same silly Karla who will put a box on her head just to get a laugh out of customers at work. I've just days ago come out of another cycle and I'm on a new medication that lets me really feel things again. I haven't touched a cigarette since September. Life is good for now. I know at some point things will get dark again, but I'm luckier than most: I have people who love and support me unconditionally through the really dark times. I have people who understand...too many people just don't have that.

Don't be afraid to speak up if you need help. Don't be afraid of who you are. Don't be afraid to talk.

 *I just realized that I ripped this line from Hyperbole & A Half. I honestly didn't realize it at the time. I should have known better, I've never been that eloquent.

drawing by Sylvia Plath

Here are some useful links to help you better understand mental illness:


  1. What is comforting, but also scary about this post, is that you pretty much just wrote my thoughts. It's hard and scary to live life this way, you are very brave to share this :) I only recently started seeing a therapist to deal with my anxiety and bi polar disorder. I am doing better now, but going to a therapist scared the crap out of me. I think I was scared that people wouldn't think I was normal, and that someone might see me going in and decide I wasn't a good enough person to be able to handle my own shit, I felt weak, I felt defeated, and would often lash out by overeating, shopping excessively to make my self feel better, or just retreating from everyone and everything and sleeping or staring at the walls for a few hours. After seeing a therapist I feel more comfortable talking about my issues, and I don't feel so alone and scared. I don't feel as worthless as i did before. I am no where near breaking my cycle of depressed thoughts, but medication and talking really really helps. I hope that there will be relief for you soon, or perhaps a better way to cope, sometimes things don't change but we change and become stronger and more equipped to deal with them. Either way, thank you for sharing this! You are an awesome person! and don't you forget it :)

    1. I'm glad that you found some comfort in my shared experience! Sometimes it's really easy to feel like you're the only one going through these things. I'm not bipolar (as far as I know) but I have friends who have struggled with it and I know it can be really terrible. Hang in there, lovely! My biggest thing with going to the doctor is that I never expect them to believe me. I always expect them to tell me to just get my shit together and stop complaining...it always surprises me when I'm met with compassion or real help. You should watch that Stephen Fry documentary I linked above. I think it will make you feel a bit better as well.

      For me, the biggest help right now is the love of my boyfriend. The fact he hasn't run away screaming and continues to see the best in me gets me through the hardest of times. He just metaphorically holds my hand and let's me know I'm not alone and that I'll get through it. I am really very lucky. I know you'll come around from this. You're strong and awesome too! And I'm over here believing in you :)