Lets Talk

I like writing about my mental health issues because it gives me a chance to unload the crap I’ve gone through and it also gives others a chance to see that they may not be alone.

Today on Bell’s “Lets Talk” day I’ve asked for other people to share their stories.
A huge request, I know. I asked for full stories or partial stories. Tell me about your struggle…all of it or tell me about one episode/your first panic attack/your first doctor’s appointment about your mental health issues/your first break through…anything. Anything that might show people they are not alone in this because God, mental illness can be a lonely place.

The following stories are in the authors words.
***The following stories may trigger, please read with caution***

Danya’s Story

I am trans. For thirty plus years, I have battled depression after depression, each one getting worse and worse. (I have just discovered a report card from ’85 where the teachers comments allege to my nascent condition.)
I would self mutilate and later turned to drugs and alcohol. This went untreated for years, all because of the stigmas around depression (pick yourself up), homophobia (girlyboy, girlyboy) And an utter lack of information about transsexuals. These things were not discussed in polite circles or anywhere at the time in rural Ontario.

I have known for a long time that I was not in the right body but how does one express it when there are no words? As soon as puberty hit the changes in my body started to make me feel sick…but I had to deal with it, everyone said I was a boy, so I complied. Trying to fit in when you are wearing a mask is extremely difficult. I was beaten often.

So, I kept struggling forward, graduated from college, got a career job, moved out of mom and dad’s.
The move was the best thing ever, I was free and in the big city. I started discovering things about myself, my identity, my sexuality but the depression kept hounding me.

Then, in 2004, the year of the flood as I call it, my world came crashing down.
I was taken to emerg where I saw a doctor that diagnosed depression, gave me lithium and referred me to my first psychiatrist.
A few sessions in, the topic of identity came up. I told the doc I believed I was trans. He nodded and sent me home. Next sessions had him showing me pictures of intersexed children, to which I said “I don’t think you understand, this not what I am talking about.” In response, a prescription to a heavy anti psychotic drug and a referral to the ROH to see a forensic psychiatrist specializing in sexual deviants.
I let this go on for four long years. The anti psychotics rendered me into a zombie, no emotions, just flat. Until I said no more and just went off the meds altogether.

Fast forward to 2012 and another major depressive episode.
A friend of mine had just referred me to the Primrose family clinic which met I had a GP. What I didn’t know about this facility is that they are a team, so when I approached my GP with depression I got to see a psychiatrist and a therapist who recommended CBT, ACT and regression therapy. That’s when stuff got weird, in a really good way.
They listened, they heard, they sent me to an endocrinologist who after a few meetings confirmed my GID (gender identity disorder) and quickly began HRT( hormone replacement therapy).
That was last July. I am glad to report that the depression has all but disappeared (fingers crossed) and other than a few setbacks (losing a job because of discrimination) I am one happy girl. I still have a ways to go, but I can see the way now.

Let’s talk!

Leigh’s Story

Not sure where to start. I have probably been depressed since grade 11 (so 1996) (or maybe earlier). Was not diagnosed until 2002.
Looking back we can see the signs.
Sleepless nights but once I was asleep, I’d want to stay there. It took me 6 years to do high school. For the last 3 years of high school I only had afternoon classes and I was lucky to even make those. My late and absent pages that came with my report card were as many as a short story.
My mom had no idea what was going on being that she was a single mom and worked full time.

It wasn’t until my roommates at Loyalist told me to go talk to the doctor on campus.
I was failing out of my program for the 2nd time. Because it was just a campus doctor, he just gave me samples of an anti-depressant (celexa) and sent me on my way. Celexa did NOT help. If I thought I was sleeping all the time before, I was about to learn I could sleep even more.
I was not referred to counselling, and there wasn’t anyone monitoring my reaction to the meds.
I flunked out of my course, registered to go back as a general arts student for the winter, and went home for Christmas. I saw my family doctor over the holidays and we changed my meds over the break.
I take Effexor now. I know it gets a bad rap, but it really does help me. I adjust my dose in the winter to account for the SADs and lower it in the spring, once it’s no longer hibernating season. I know it is extremely difficult to get off (the withdrawal symptoms are painful) If I miss a dose, I can very much so tell. It’s also expensive, so once my doctor was unable to give me samples and I wasn’t in school, I discontinued them.

This was probably my darkest period. Within about a year, I had hit bottom at least 2 times that I can really recognize.
I got into my first serious relationship. It was not healthy and once I was off my meds I became someone I do not recognize to this day. I was jealous and possessive. Verbally and physically abusive. It wasn’t all me.
He did things to ensure I stayed crazy. He’d push my buttons and played on my insecurities. When he broke up with me and we were still sleeping together (cause nothing makes a guy come back to you like GIVING him sex), I just kept spiraling.
There was a night that he had to break down the bathroom door to get the knife from me. It’s not the first time I had contemplated suicide, wasn’t the last, but was the closest to that point that I had gotten. I used to stockpile pills too, especially tylenol 3s and such.
I came home from Belleville (where I had moved to be with this guy), and began to rebuild myself. I moved back in November. The pictures from that Christmas I can just see how unhappy I was. The pale face, dark circles. There’s tons of pictures cause it was my niece and nephew’s first one, but I cringe at any that I am in.

I got back on the Effexor. I started going to my family doctor regularly to talk about stuff.
I wasn’t all better and it was a long climb back to being someone living with depression as opposed to someone suffering from depression.
My mom had to take me to the hospital once because she didn’t know what to do with me. I was trying with a razor (schik or something), but all I was doing was making my wrist itchy, and yes, sting and bleed, but clearly this wasn’t going to do the trick. My mom had very sharp scissors for knitting, I needed those. She caught me looking, saw my wrists and down to the Queensway Carleton we went.
It was’t a serious enough attempt to have them admit me, but my dose was increased and I was referred to a psychiatrist in the out patient program at the hospital. I saw her for about a year. I went back to school part time. I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I stayed single. I had to work on me. I barely liked myself, let alone loved myself. How was I going to love anyone else.
It hasn’t been a totally smooth road. There are bumps. I’ve cried and screamed and asked God to just kill me to make the hurting stop. There are days when I’m just so tired, I can’t move. Those are the dark times and they can be pretty bad, but they don’t last as long or happen as often. I’ve learned to recognize the signs or know my triggers.
I slid down after the wedding because this momentous occasion that I’d been anticipating for so long was over, what now? The wedding was beautiful and honeymoon amazing, but I had my up, there’s usually a down. The thing with Effexor is that it helps stabilize my moods so that my highs are not so high that the swing back down brings me so low. The pendulum swing is smaller. I will have this all my life. Whether I inherited it or my brain chemistry got messed up during my formative years due to things outside my control (broken family, isolation, bullying, etc.). I know it will never fully go away. It’s just important to know that I am not broken, that I fight the fight every day and look towards the future.

Roxanne’s Story

Roxanne’s story is documented in a different manner. She has already been documenting her struggles with Self Injury on youtube and was kind enough to share the link with me

Click here for Roxanne’s brave Journey To The Final Cut

Christa’s Story

I could see bottom. I thought I could anyway.
What I know it was now was a crash. A full mental break down. It kept me in bed off and on for a year but at this particular moment I wanted more than sleep. I had just been diagnosed bipolar and it wasn’t going well.
My brain was telling me that I was more trouble to those around me than not. I became convinced that they would actually be better off without me. I was weak for being so selfish and staying around, knowing how sick I was and all the trouble I was causing. “He” could move on without a crazy ex-girlfriend, my mom wouldn’t worry herself into tears and my kids wouldn’t be in fear of an angry, scary mommy anymore. Really it was the best bet all around if I just did it.

I started saving medications. Pain pills, mood stabilizers, anti-depressants. Anything I could get my hands on. It didn’t take me very long to have a solid little stash.
I made a plan. I chose a day. I chose a place where I would be found and it wouldn’t be by my kids.
I was going to take all these pills with alcohol and gravol (cause I didn’t want to risk bringing them back up don’t cha know)

My day was approaching and I got scared. No, not scared. Scared is reserved for roller coasters and frogs. I felt a terror that went straight into me, grabbed my stomach in it’s cold hands and started the full body shakes from there.

I called “him”. In retrospect it was the best and worst idea of my life (mostly best).
Our break-up had been messy enough, he triggered me and I knew it. For some reason he was all I wanted at that moment (Now I blame co-dependency).
Somewhere between the sobbing, apologizing, telling him I just wanted to sleep and that I was scared…he figured out what was going on. He told me he couldn’t come help me. He would be the worst person for me. I begged. He was right.
We would have fought, he would have left in frustration and I would have been left alone and worse than I started.
Instead, he called people. He called people he didn’t like, he called people he hardly knew, he called people he knew would take care of me.
I didn’t know what was happening but of a sudden I had people with me.
My ex-husband literally stayed awake all night and watched me sleep to make sure I was ok on the first night.
Then I was handed to a friend who took me out & distracted me.
I was then passed onto another friend who filled my day and night with distraction.
I was never alone, not for a second until my “time” had passed.
Had it not been for reaching out in that one, terror filled moment, I might not be here.
Had it not been for the foresight and the love of others, I might not be here.

I am here. I am stronger than ever. I made it through and came out on the other side. I did it with help, no doubt but I did it.
Thank you to those who helped me when I was down and continue to help me still.

Vikkie’s Story

All my life something seemed to be amiss. I’d have odd mood swings, feel dark and down for no explainable reason at all, and even went through a phase of cutting my wrists because the pain was a reminder that I was still alive. That I wasn’t broken. But boy did I feel like I was. So when I was diagnosed with depression in 2006 by my family doctor, pieces of the puzzle finally made sense and fell into place. We talked about getting me on medication to help with my anxiety and depression, and for the following three years, I tried medication after medication until we finally found one that worked for me.

This involved months of side effects, some that made the depression worse, to almost completely unbearable. A few times I cried openly at my desk at work, for absolutely no reason at all. During this guess period, the depression continued on as normal, some days being less of a struggle and others ended up feeling like a battle that raged with no relent. There were often days that I debated on just giving up because it felt like an a battle that I could never win, never overcome. Not that I didn’t try. I forced myself to smile. Forced myself to try and look on the brighter side of life and what it had to offer. Fought with myself and the often overwhelming feeling of defeat. But it never made a difference. No matter how I outwardly I lied to family, friends, coworkers, bosses, and myself, with a smile that was only skin deep.

I hated myself. Hated that my own mind seemed to be an enemy that I couldn’t escape. It constantly would lie to me, telling me things that it couldn’t possibly know. Told me things that were fears were actually truth. That I was worthless. That I was just a waste of space. That I was a mistake that was unwanted and should just kill myself, because that would solve all the pain that everyone around me was going through, since their pain was more important.

But as years progressed, I became adept at hiding it. Why did I hide it? It was easier. Easier than being called lazy. Easier than having to deal with the disappointed looks and glares that family thought I couldn’t see, couldn’t hear in their tones when they spoke to me. They had no idea of the battle and pain that I had trapped within, not due to lack of explanation though. I tried to explain, tried to tell them what it was like, but only got the response of “You need to push through it.” or “I had depression before and I got through it without medication.” Because obviously ALL depression is the same.

It’s been eight years now, and I still battle the same issues everyday. I still have that gnawing thought process going on in the back of my mind, and yet I continue on. I’m still broken. I’m still smiling on the outside, while inside I can feel shards of my once happy self, fall and shatter. Mirroring back the devastation of my self enclosed pain.

Matilda’s Story

Depression And My Fight to Win Myself Back

It always hurts the most when the people who say they love you treat you the worst.

It all began when I was a child. My mother, whom I was so attached to, was sick. She suffered from extreme anxiety disorder and was unable to cope in any relationship in a normal manner. Critical and hard, her fear was the absolute root of her resentment and lashing out at my father.

I still remember their fight like it was happening now in front of me…the sun coming through the window, the smell of coffee and rain in the air, my baby sister crying in her seat because no one was coming to pick her up. All I could do was try to hush her and tell her it was ok while from the living room I watched my parents throw food at each other in the kitchen, all the while yelling at each other. “Please stop!” I kept saying. No one heard me. Then came what was to be the next and last fight between my parents, the one that resulted in my fathers arm breaking when my mother threw him into the huge plant pot in the living room. I will never forget the look on my fathers face when he said goodbye to us. His arm was in a cast, his deep brow furrowed, lips begging not to burst forth with the cries of anguish that I now know must have been trying to claw their way out of him. At my tender age of 5yrs, I could not understand why he was upset. “Don’t worry daddy, we will be back soon.” I didn’t realize what was happening. I thought we were going shopping or something. I could not have known that no, we would not be back. My mother was taking us away from him, to move across the country.

When we arrived in Nova Scotia I got to meet my older brother. I also got to meet my grandparents. Nanna told me not to sit on grampa’s lap as he’d been drinking. Someone told me that grampa sometimes touched the kids when he was drunk. He scared me. Wandering off to find my big brother I was distracted by the sound of yelling. I stood at the top of the stairs in the entry way and watched my nanna repeatedly punch and hit my mother as she tried to cover her face. “You stupid bitch! What the fuck is wrong with you?! Why did you bring them here? You want me to look after them now to like I do with the son you were too fucked up to raise?” I just stood there. In that moment I literally felt my heart break. Where was my daddy? Why was nanna so mad at mommy? I’m scared and no one is picking me up!

Life with my mother after that was very hard. The three of us, my mother, sister and I, moved into a one bedroom apartment in a small building in Spryfield, an area that I would not to this day raise my own kids in. My memories of living there are vivid and painful. I had to walk to and from school by myself. I hated that school. There was a bully there, the kids called him Moose, probably because he was bigger than the rest of the kids. I hadn’t yet learned how to read and was laughed at when called upon to read a page from a book in front of the class because I didn’t know what side of the page to start from. I got bullied and beat up so bad but I was afraid my mom would be mad at me if I told her. When I was tricked into “closing my eyes to get a big surprise” and ended up with a mouth full of sawdust and sand I decided to stop going to lunch. I would walk through the swamp along the sidewalk so no one would see me then hide outside of the building under a tree and eat my lunch by myself. After a while I lost my appetite and wouldn’t eat at all. The school called my mother who spend the better part of a night screaming and yelling at me for skipping lunch. She kept telling me she loved me though, that I was her little angel. This is why I couldn’t understand why I would wake up and she wouldn’t be there. I would wander the apartment looking for her and she wouldn’t be there. This happened on a few occasions. She would just be gone. I never knew where she went. The neighbors clued in to her leaving her kids alone in the apartment when one day the fire alarm went off and the lady across the hall knocked on our door. I opened it and told her I didn’t know where my mother was. She took my sister and I into her apartment after the alarm was shut off. My mother came and got us after a while. Then one day I woke up and my daddy was sleeping on the couch in the living room. He had come to get my sister and I because someone, probably the lady across the hall, had called Childrens Services on my mom. She was told to either work something out my dad or they would take my sister and I from her and put us into the system. So dad came to get us. He dropped everything…his job, friends, house, and moved us to Toronto. This is where we started over.

Life with my dad was wonderful. He was a loving, responsible, kind and gentle man. He provided a safe and clean home for us, sent us to school, gave us huge Christmases and birthdays, took us on trips and did all the things a mom usually did to like mend our clothes, crimp my hair, play with us. My memories of my childhood with my dad are those of a loving, doting parent who let his children suffer for nothing.

But the damage was done.

Because of the trauma suffered from what I went through as a very young child I had developed an abandonment complex and constantly feared something awful was going to happen to my dad. He worked in construction and sometimes would be gone for weeks on contracts while my aunt, uncle or grandparents watched us. It was during these times when I would have nightmares about him not coming back or of him dying. My biggest fear was and still is losing my father. I recall vividly a day when I came home from school, 7th grade I think, and dad wasn’t home. I wandered the house looking for him. Panic set in and I started to cry and scream. When he walked through the door he couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Our washer had broken and he went over to the laundrymat. In my exasperation I tried to tell him what was wrong, he just gave me a big hug and kissed my forehead. When my uncle called me to tell me that my dad had been in a car accident on the highway I had my first anxiety attack. He hadn’t been injured, but that didn’t stop the feelings of complete helplessness and fear from strangling my common sense of well being.

Making friends was never easy for me. When I was a kid I used to send my little sister to make friends for me. The outgoing person I am as an adult, I was very shy and withdrawn as a child. My sister however, she’s 3.5yrs younger than me, was always very outgoing and made friends very easily. She has no memory of what happened before our dad moved us to Toronto. And no memory of our mother screaming at her to “shut the fuck up” when mom was had friends over, leaving my baby sister to scream and cry in a soaking wet diaper in her playpen for hours while mom got shitfaced. My sister is fortunate to not have to share my pain of what I witnessed for both of us. So when it came time to make friends in school I was a bit of an outcast and only hung around a couple of people. When junior high, grades 7 and 8 came along, I opened up a bit more. Unfortunately it someone came out as being flirty and slightly promiscuous. I innocently managed to get the reputation of being a slut even though I hadn’t even kissed a boy yet. A classmate informed me of that tidbit just before grade 9/high school started. “You’d better be careful about who you talk to and how you act once high school starts. Everyone already thinks you’re a slut.” Lovely.

High school was an experiment in who to trust and who not to let in close to my personal space. I had friends, however again, I felt like an outcast. I didn’t really fit in to any one group and felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Where everyone is looking for the approval of their peers and trying to garner acceptance I eventually realized I was more accepted by the guys than the gals. The girls thought I was a slut (hadn’t even lost my virginity yet) but the boys were nice to me. I found the more I tried to fit in with the girls, the more I felt like an outsider. But the more I hung out with the boys, the more comfortable I felt. And that realization is what led me on the downward spiral of pain, betrayal and abuse that I lived with with the men I chose to have in my life.

He was a year older than me, wore a black leather jacket, had long hair and drove a black pickup truck. He went to another high school and knew some of my friends from junior high. Friendly and outgoing, he charmed me the day we met. He said I was pretty and that anyone would be so lucky to be in my company. I was smitten. Someone was interested in me! This popular guy with a smile that would melt an ice shield said that he wanted to take me out and get to know me. We spent the first month getting to know each other and sharing our secrets. I came to trust him and found myself missing him when he wasn’t there. He would pick me up from school and we would go out for ice cream or grab a bite to eat. My friends at school thought he was a great guy and whenever he visited me at my school people just gravitated towards him. I felt so lucky.

I invited him to come to our schools fashion show one night. My friend, a guy, was doing a saxophone solo and my other friend was a model in the show. My best friend met me there and the three of us sat together to watch the fashion show. When our guy friend did his solo we clapped and cheered. My boyfriend seemed happy and in good spirits. After the show we left and as we walked down the road towards the lot where he parked his truck, he told me he saw how much of a crush I had on the guy playing the sax. I told him God no, he was just a friend. He didn’t believe me. He went into the middle of the road in front of the school at the intersection and layed down. Cars were honking and swerving to avoid him. He just layed there yelling that if he ever caught me talking to my guy friend he would throw himself into traffic. I didn’t know what to do so I begged him to get up. He did, and I clung to him, convinced I was never going to talk to another guy again. I thought everything was fine after that, until we got into his truck and he pulled a gun from out of the middle console. He put it to his head and pulled the trigger…*click*. He just smiled at me. “I love you. I love you so much that if I ever lose you I’m going to kill myself. Do you understand that?” I was terrified. I just nodded. He pulled the trigger again…*click*. “There is one bullet in the chamber. Just one. How long before you think it’ll go off?”…*click*. By now I was in tears. I swore to him that I would never leave him, that I loved him and that I would never, ever talk to another guy. He kissed me, smiled and drove me home. I was shaking so bad when I got home I almost fell down the stairs. I couldn’t see straight. All I kept seeing in my mind was that gun against his temple. He called me when he got home. But he didn’t say anything. “Hello?”…*click*…*click*…*click*….then he hung up. I still don’t know to this day whether or not there was a bullet in the chamber or not.

Things got very bad very fast with him after that. I dated him for a year. Throughout that year he literally stripped me of the little confidence I had and conditioned me into believing he was the only person that loved me and that ever would love me. He controlled what I wore, how much makeup I wore, when I studied, when I saw family, who my friends where, who I talked to…. I lent a bandmate a tape after music class. He broke into his locker and found it. He was convinced I was cheating with this guy. He spend three hours that night stalking his house and looking for him to beat the crap out of him. When that failed he showed up at my school the next day with his brother and a friend and publicly beat the hell out of him across the street from the school His bro and friend held his arms back while he put cigarettes out on his chest. They cut his hair. Punched him repeatedly. Kicked him and spit on him. It was horrible. None of the teachers did anything about it because it was not on school property. This was in the 90’s. I’m sure things would be different now (hopefully). The next day in band class the guy wouldn’t even look at me. My boyfriend then worked to alienate me from anyone who would talk to me at school. The last half of my relationship with him I literally only had him, so when he proposed to me and gave me this huge diamond ring, I said yes because I thought he did all of those things because he loved me and only wanted me for himself. I was 15yrs old.

After a while the abuse got so bad that I didn’t care anymore. He chased me around the plaza lot with a crowbar. Tried earnestly to run me over with his truck. Threw a hammer at my head and when that missed he threw a dresser at me. Abandoned me on the side of the highway far from home. Forced me to miss Christmas with my family. Set my stuff on fire. Punched me in the face. Threatened to kill me. Got me drunk and had his way with me as I vomited over the side of the bed. While we were up to his families cabin, alone, he pointed a crossbow at my head then chased me through the forest laughing hysterically. After every single one of these instances he would apologize for his actions while crying and promise never to hurt me again. He said he loved me and that I made him do it and that I should try harder to make him happy. So I did. He wanted a baby so I tried to give him one. When I couldn’t get pregnant he blamed me and said it was because I didn’t love him enough so he punched me in the stomach and said if I couldn’t give him a baby than I would never give anyone else one either.

My dad, my friends, my family…no one knew about what was going on. I didn’t tell a soul. I thought it was normal. I was 15yrs old and this was my first relationship. I spiraled into a deep, deep hole of severe depression and anger, only I couldn’t let out my anger because I didn’t want him to know I was miserable so instead I internalized it and I became sullen, withdrawn, very sad. One night we got into a fight while we were out. It was the end of winter. We were standing in the empty parking lot of a library. He had just broken up with me for the dozenth time and demanded his engagement ring back. When I refused to give it to him he punched me in the face and almost broke my nose. I took the ring off and threw it into a snowbank then ran. Blood pouring from my nose I didn’t stop running for blocks. I could hear him screaming my name as I ran. I called my friend to tell her what happened but she had gone on a ski trip so I told her aunt instead. I wanted her to pick me up. I didn’t want my dad to know because I was ashamed and scared. I thought he would be disappointed in me. The aunt asked me where I was and said she would come to get me. 10 minutes later my dad pulled into the driveway of the donut shop I called from. She had called my dad and told him he needed to come get me and why. I got into my dads truck. He didn’t say a word. As we drove he took my hand in his and told me he loved me. He then asked if I was pregnant. I said I didn’t know. He said we were going the next day to the doctors to get a pregnancy test done and to put me on birth control. He then told me he didn’t want me to see my boyfriend anymore, that he loved me and that I was worth more and was too special to be treated the way he had been treating me. My father, my hero, the man who rescued me from my mother, tried his best to rescue me from the abuse of my boyfriend. But I went back to him because he said he loved me.

Four months later, after a particularly brutal day of him beating me, I stabbed him in the arm. I’d had enough. The police came. The ambulance came. My then ex had a huge gash in his right forearm. We were both charged but I didn’t care. I was free from him. Now the law told him he had to stay away from me. Although I was out of that relationship with him, away from the beatings, the abuse, the assault on my spirit, I was so depressed I thought about suicide. I didn’t have the means to cope with what happened to me. I hadn’t even realized WHAT happened to me until I started reading about it in the school library…Relationship Violence..Partner Abuse..Dating Violence. That day I learned that what happened to me was NOT normal, that was NOT how relationships are supposed to work and that he probably did not really love me but was more obsessed with me. I didn’t know where to turn to, who to talk to or what to do.

So I kept everything inside. The problem with that though was it had to come out at some point. And it did.

Just before my 19th birthday I moved to Nova Scotia, this time on my own accord. I had family and friends out there and I wanted desperately to start over again, to get away from the pain and anguish I was still feeling. It was there that I met a man who was kind, gentle and accepting of me and my trauma. We had a great relationship for about six years. The problem was during that six years all that pent up pain, anger and resentment started to seep out. I became angry. Very angry. The slightest thing would set me off. At first I just thought it was work stress. But after I switched jobs it got worse. I couldn’t focus. I started yelling at my partner, would burst into tears out of nowhere, began having feelings of incredible self doubt and really started to hate myself. This all led to binge eating and a dependency on marijuana and alcohol. When I started to gain weight from the binging and drinking I sunk even lower. I recognized something was wrong and went to see my family doctor. I told her I thought I had an anger management problem and opened up about what had happened with my abusive ex and a bit about my mother. At 21yrs old I was told I had clinical depression. Clinical depression…it sounded so……sterile and cold. She explained that what I had been experiencing, the anger and outbursts etc, was a part of the depression. She asked me to find out my families mental health history. After speaking with my mother and aunt, I discovered that while physical ailments afflicted the men on my maternal side, mental health issues were rampant with the women. Depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, agoraphobia…my mothers side of the family with the women read like a dictionary of mental health issues. I was stunned. I also learned that these illnesses can be genetic, and because alcoholism was so prevalent in my family, with both the men and women, I was at high risk of becoming an alcoholic. My doctor put me on a low dose antidepressant and referred me to a therapist. Although the antidepressants were helping, the therapist told me that unless I stopped smoking weed she would not help me. This made no sense to me as the addiction was part of my illness. I never went back there again and decided I would just go the medication route. While my partner was supportive of me, he was not happy. My behavior, overwhelming stress and depressive episodes took a tole on our relationship and him and just before our 7th anniversary he left me. This was especially heartbreaking as we were engaged, I was planning a wedding and he had asked me to go off my birth control so we could try to conceive. All of that…the hope for a family of my own, my supportive and loving partner…was gone.

After my fiance left me I spiraled into a very dark place. Now living on my own for the first time in seven years, I found myself to be very lonely and didn’t quite know how to cope with it. I was on my own for the first time as an adult and although I tried to hold down two jobs to support myself it was too much. I stopped taking my medication and allowed myself to fall into the void. I would spend days, when I wasn’t working, on the computer on dating sites. I found myself craving human contact so I began a sexual relationship with my drug dealer. We entered into a dominant/submissive relationship. He would get together at either of our homes to get high and have sex. After we were done either he or I would get up, get dressed and leave. This happened between two and four times a week on average for about nine months. On the days when I didn’t see him I would be trolling the dating sites looking for single men to invite over just to have sex. I would always have to be drunk or high before I would have them over though. I never, ever slept with a stranger sober. I was afraid that if I was I would feel something and I just wanted to succumb to the numbness that was overtaking me. While these men were in my bed I would feel needed, wanted, attractive and confident (I’m sure the inebriation helped with that), however after they left I would feel disgusted with myself, guilty and swore that was the last time. But then my dealer/master would call. I couldn’t resist him. So I’d give in and sleep with him, high, again. The disgust and guilt eventually gave way a total absence of feeling. I felt…nothing. Not even the anger, pain and anguish that had been plaguing me. Just…nothing. When this happened I crawled into bed one night and stayed there for days. I only got up to use the bathroom. I didn’t even shower. My apartment was a mess and so was I. All I did was sleep and cry. No drugs. No alcohol. No nothing. Just sleep and tears. My mother eventually came over and peeled me out of bed and poured me into the shower. She cleaned my apartment and tried to help. But I was so angry at her for everything all I could do was cry and scream at her. She called my sister who called me. She talked me into moving back to Toronto, to start over again…again. She was going to help me. I missed her and I missed my dad, so in the summer of my 26th year I moved back to the people who wanted me close to them.

The first few months after I moved back home were hard. I was still severely depressed and emotionally void of anything other then despair. It got better though. I got a job, reconnected with a couple of close friends and with the help of my sister and her friends I was able to find a bit of joy again. I also started cognitive behavioral therapy and a new, higher dose anti depressant. Things were going well! I was going out and being social and managed to make quite a few friends from one of the dating sites I had initially only used for hook ups. It was through this dating site and those new friends that I met my next partner. I had all but sworn off dating before I met him and gave up on the idea of a family of my own…but something about him made my legs weak, my stomach flittery and my heart stop. The moment we shook hands you could feel the zap in the air. We were inseparable after that.

I will be the first to admit that I fell harder for him that I had both intended to and should have. I wasn’t prepared. I knew I should have backed off but he made me feel so good! He was charming, sweet, incredibly handsome. I tried to take things slow but three months after we met I found out I was seven weeks pregnant. The emotions came tumbling out like a volcano. I was on birth control and he, most of the time, wore a condom so I was very surprised that I got pregnant. And after failing to become pregnant by my abusive ex as a teenager then by my fiance I was all but convinced I was infertile. So finding out I was pregnant was a wonderful moment. When I told him he was, like me, terrified but happy. He was unemployed but promised to start looking for work and get a job right away. He said we would make it work. He said everything would be ok, that he loved me and that this was the best thing to happen to us. He promised he would make sure we would be ok. He promised. And I believed him.

Not long after that he moved in with me. When I was at work, puking at my desk from morning sickness, he was at home in his jammies doing his artwork, not looking for work. More time went by and he still was not looking for work. He would spend his time on the internet on the dating site chat boards having fights and debates with people. I started to highly doubt he would find a job anytime soon so I began nagging him to find work. He said he was, but all he seemed interested in doing was writing and doing his artwork. We began fighting. At first it wasn’t so bad, just a tiff here and there. But it escalated quickly. He wouldn’t even help out a friend at his job when he offered to pay him. Instead I did and when I came home with the money he had payed me he demanded I hand it over to him insisting it was “our money”. He used that money, along with the money he was given by his father, to buy weed and beer. He literally sat on his ass doing nothing but get high, drink and draw his art.

One day, after a particularly bad argument, he wrapped his arm around my neck from behind and squeezed. I couldn’t breath so I tried hitting him to get him off of me. He threw me to the couch and said the most horrible things. I called the police on him. They arrived and asked him to leave without pressing charges. I was four months pregnant with his child so I took him back. Afterall, we loved each other and he had promised he was going to make things work no matter what. Two days later came a knock on the door. Six officers were at my door. Apparently the officers who first responded didn’t do their jobs properly and should have arrested him. That was why the other officers were there. He was arrested on the spot and taken off to jail. He was ordered not to have any contact with me nor I with him. Not long after that I moved into a bigger apartment and again took him back. We were going to make this work. However, he assaulted me again two months later and was arrested and charged again. He still hadn’t found a job, still hadn’t quit smoking weed and had started putting me down on a regular basis. I had stopped taking my meds because I feared they would harm the baby so my depression again spiraled out of control. At this point I was desperate to be loved and wanted so again, I took him back.

After our daughter was born in 2007 things only got worse. The fighting, the put downs, the screaming, the complete and utter lack of accountability and responsibility…it was horrible. I did move out from living with him, got a place of my own and started to take care of our child on my own. I was pretty happy in my little apartment, having some peace and quiet and alone time. Raising my daughter was a joy. I loved every moment of it. Her father and I tried to make things work, however the moments of love and goodness soon became less and less and gave way to more and more moments of fear, resentment and anger. Again, I found myself unable to cope. Being a new mother and suffering the mental, physical and emotional abuse from my childs father brought about postpartum depression on top of the depression I was already coping to deal with. I went back on medication and tried my best to manage.

Thanksgiving weekend of 2010 was a turning point for me in my relationship with my partner. He still was not working, was high everyday, refused to watch our child and made it a point to make me feel even worse than the last time he put me down or insulted me. That weekend, while our daughter was away with family, he sexually assaulted me twice. First in the shower then in the bedroom where he said he was going to “finish what he started”. As I layed there with him on top of me, staring blankly out the window, I shut all my emotions off and let the numbness I had known so well take over. I felt like a shell of the person I had struggled to hold onto. All the hard work I had put into trying to become a better person went out that window. He said to me, “look at you, you can’t even look at me”. But he didn’t stop. When he finally finished he got off of me and said “that was fucking pathetic”. I hated him. And even worse, I hated myself.

It was April of the following year that I finally left him. He had introduced me to an old school friend of his a couple months before and right after I left him I started dating his friend. I had my doubts, however this guy told me that I deserved better and that he could treat me the way I deserved to be treated, loved the way I should have been loved by all the other men in my past who clearly did not appreciate me enough. I was so angry and sad and void of love for myself that I believed him.

What started out as something I saw as promising quickly turned into a living, breathing nightmare. This person needled me daily about my ex, the father of my child, questioned me, argued with me, accused me and gaslighted me all the time. It was emotionally exhausting. He was insanely jealous of any man I was friends with and systematically worked his way through all of them to alienate me from them. He insulted my sister, judged my family, blamed me for all my past trauma…”well you’re so fucked up it must all be your fault. Maybe everyone was right”. He would harang me to the point where I would have a knife to my wrist then wrap his arms around me and tell me that he loved me and he wouldn’t let anything happen to me, but then tell me “you can’t make a whore a housewife”. After my miscarriage he talked me into letting his ejaculate inside of me, telling me that if I got pregnant it’s because it was meant to be. His grandparents had just died via a murder/suicide and he wanted to bring life into the world where two lives were lost. I also wanted a sibling for my daughter. The following year my second daughter was born. Before her birth my depression was out of control. I was allowing this man to verbally beat me every day, giving in to his tirades and accepting that everything he was doing and saying to me was somehow my fault. He never came to any doctors appointments. He never helped me during my pregnancy. He didn’t even believe the child was his, he was convinced my ex was the father and when our child was three months old he made us do a paternity test. He sexually assaulted me numerous times when I was pregnant and struck me in the face more than once. My feelings of self worth were nonexistent. My confidence was shot and I felt like I had died a thousand times inside. I had trouble bonding with the pregnancy because I was so upset all the time and I started to doubt whether or not I deserved this child, let alone my first daughter. The insomnia started again and although I wanted to go back on my meds he wouldn’t let me. He said it would hurt the baby. The baby he denied was his. After she was born, when she was about five months old, I started back on my meds. When he found out he hit the roof. He accused me of purposely trying to hurt our child as I was nursing her and he was convinced I would poison her from my meds through the breastmilk. He told me that if I didn’t stop taking my anti depressants he would call childrens services and tell them I was hurting my baby. I literally felt stuck.

Thankfully I had started seeing a social worker and going to courses around abusive relationships. When my daughter was six months old I left her dad. I had support from my family, friends, my doctor and my social worker. I went back on my medication and continued taking the classes and seeing my worker. After many mini breakdowns, bouts of binge eating and insomnia, I realized that I have two little girls I needed to be healthy enough to raise. I started eating better, getting more sleep and working out. I lost some weight and started to gain back some of my confidence.

Today, at 35yrs old, I still struggle with periods of feeling worthless and questioning whether or not I’ll ever feel ok. Some days are better than others, however I now recognize what triggers my depression and how to avoid falling back into that deep, dark void. After a period of remaining single and staying far away from men relationships I reconnected with an old school friend. We have been dating for three months and are taking things as slow as possible. He is aware of my depression and anxiety and has offered his support. I have opened up to him a bit about the past abuse and while part of me wants to tell him everything, I have learned to set boundaries for what I am comfortable with. I am not ready to tell him everything and he doesn’t push me to. I am grateful for that and to have someone I know, that I trust, to be with and open up to and when he tells me he loves me and cares about me deep down I believe him because for once in my life it feels right. He doesn’t hurt me.

I have learned a lot over the past while, both about myself and about the many faces and facets of my depression. For one thing I have come to realize that up until recently I had no respect for myself nor much love for myself. This is what attracted the awful men into my life. People like that feed on weakness because its easier to manipulate a person who doesn’t care about themselves. I have also learned that I can control my depression with therapy, keeping up with my meds, a healthy diet and exercise. I recognize my triggers and I am becoming more and more aware of my inner voice that tells me when things aren’t right. Accepting that I am imperfect but worthy of love is a recent development. It’s one that both my partner and I are learning together. I have also learned that I need to have the courage to move beyond my past trauma and that the depression does not own me but is still a part of me. One day at a time. Baby steps. All I can do is be aware of my self and keep on top of my self from the perspective of someone who has been through hell and back but is still here to talk about it.

Every day is getting better. And everyday I am loving myself more

I have asked for more stories from more people and I will add them to this entry as they come in.
Please, if you relate to one or all of these stories, know this… You are far from alone. There are people who love you and want to help you.

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9 year old Happy Tears

I have borderline personality disorder and bipolar. I don’t hide it. It’s part of who I am but by no means all of who I am. I feel that being open about having mental illness will help destigmatize it.
Just think, if you’re a super awesome person, people like you, you do good things…AND you have a mental illness, people will start to realize that maybe it’s not all “one flew over the cuckoos nest”.

Any way, I didn’t always know I was sick. Most people get diagnosed between 25-30 but with more knowledge being out there, diagnosis is coming earlier and earlier.
Before diagnosis, I knew something was wrong with me but I didn’t know what. I was angry all the time. I mean, rage out angry. I did things I couldn’t explain which hurt myself and others. I didn’t like this person but I didn’t know how to stop.
Diagnosis wasn’t a magical turning point either. Things got worse before they got better.

My family bore the brunt of it all. They were where I felt most comfortable to be myself and myself wasn’t pleasant.
I yelled all the time. It was my manner of communication. My poor children could do no right and were constantly afraid of me.
When I wasn’t yelling, I was sleeping. God, I could sleep like I was training for the Olympics.
The poor babies got used to mommy being absent in one way or another.

I started looking for help around the age of 18 but I didn’t get diagnosed till I was 27.
Ten years of not knowing what was wrong and another four years of trying to figure all of this out.
It was rough to say the least.

I’ve started to get my feet underneath me in the last 2-3 years. I’m starting to understand my triggers much better. I’m balancing my need for social with my families need for me, much better.
My kids are better behaved. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more understanding or because they know they can actually do right now so…lets do right. Either way, I’m yelling much less (if at all) for so many reasons.

Today my youngest did something which would have made me blow my top for sure.
I had a headache and I resisted the urge to sleep it off in my bed. Instead I went downstairs where my son was playing video games and chatted with him till I nodded off.
When I woke, he was gone. Not from the basement, from the house.
I tore off and went looking for him.
He was at a friends house where my eldest had a sleepover last night.
He was still in his pjs and he had invited himself over.
So far he’s committed three household infractions
1) Tell people where you’re going
2) Get dressed before you go out
3) Don’t invite yourself over to somebodies house

When we got home I sat him down and talked to him. I didn’t yell, I just broke it down calmly.
This might not seem like a big thing to some people but it’s huge in this house and it’s been a regular thing for about a year now.

When we were done talking my son said to me “I’m glad you’re not mean mommy anymore”
I hugged him tight and explained that I was sick for a very long time and being sick made my temper hard to control, but I’ve gotten better for them. For my boys. I got better so that I could be a better mommy.
He hugged me tighter and started to cry. I went to comfort him and he told me “These are happy tears, mommy”
I kissed his head and cried with him.

After that moment, he proceeded to get excited about chocolate milk and guacamole.
He is now downstairs playing with his brother innocently oblivious to what kind of mark he made on my heart and my recovery today.

What seems like a little moment to him is huge to me. I will never forget this.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, please read this and know you can get better, you can be the person you want to be. This is NOT who you are. You are wonderful, loving, fun, and unique.

A quiet moment with my youngest

A quiet moment with my youngest