There will be no semblance of proper writing etiquette in this post. I am basically going to jump from place to place. Too many thoughts in my head. Sorry.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of when everything changed in my life and it feels a bit bittersweet. Months (and maybe years) earlier, I had already started experiencing crying spells – lows, picking unnecessary fights with my friends, ending friendships (that maybe should have been given another chance) and giving up on my then-job. But on April 25th last year, I bought a ticket to leave home, with the intent that I didn’t actually really want to come back until I could forcibly ‘fix’ myself. I didn’t want to come home until I was my same complete self – the girl that organized all the dinners and social calendars; the girl who immersed herself in a billion activities and ideas at one time (the girl who might have taken a risk for change because she wouldn’t be as afraid of failure); the girl who laughed wholeheartedly and sincerely without a facade, and excitedly told a bunch of stories to everyone without anxiety; the girl who was afraid of mostly nothing and no one; the girl who did not take words with offense, negativity and judgment, especially by friends; the girl who could be there without question for any of her friends; and most importantly the girl who could be 100 percent happy for others because she was happy herself. Of course, I had no idea I actually had all these mental problems. I had no idea how incredibly scary the next year was going to be. I just wanted to leave the country hoping to find enough peace to return home ‘happy’.
But here we are, one year later, and in many ways, I do not feel any better than I did when leaving Canada last year. As I have said over and over, I lost myself, and I am not sure I will ever be the same girl again. Every so often, in a silent moment, when I get into my head, I start crying again. And it’s not forced tears – the tears just come down naturally in streams, my stomach feels tight and I have to take repetitive short breaths just to make it stop. Sometimes it stops, and sometimes it lasts for a few hours. I am not suicidal right now, but I don’t know how many disappointments it will take for me to relapse again. Whatever sickness I have – ‘the grey’ mood disorder, bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, whatever idea the doctor has next – the one conclusion for me is clear, my depression is not gone and I am not strong. I am just trying to suppress everything with a pile of drugs and go through the motions, but the depression hasn’t left at all. This personal hell (some things are described SO perfectly in this blog about manic depression – #6 – 7, #9 – 13 feel so, SO close to home) may never leave me. I feel vulnerable and unprotected and every day I worry about disappointments throwing me into a relapse. Other days, the drugs just make me feel nothing. I absolutely do not feel a thing. I actually want to slap myself continually until I can cry so that I can feel something. In some ways, the numbness is about 100 times worse than the sadness. Too much numbness makes me want to feel pain or something. Too much numbness pulls ‘certain images’ from the back of my head further forward. Yes, I can think about suicide without being actually suicidal.
While I was in St. Mikes, I curiously watched 13 Reasons Why, which was incredibly well-done, real and so honest for a television show. It was also probably completely inappropriate as I was still harboring suicidal and negative thoughts while I watched every episode, and to actually see a played-out suicide scene was probably not what any doctor would have recommended. Of course, watching the suicide scene was incredibly difficult. Of course it made me have a tough cry, and of course it made me slap myself ( even though it was just a TV show) when I sat through the different reactions of people (her mom and dad especially) who had to experience the aftermath of a suicide. My thoughts automatically cued to my dad and how that image would probably kill him.
Obviously the context of the storyline was completely different from what I am experiencing, but it importantly touched on a number of powerful issues – bullying, sexism, rape, reclusiveness, loneliness, suicide – that can resonate with so many people out there, and some of which resonated with me. It is tough growing up, and I can say even in my 30s, it is so hard to make and maintain friendships and not feel complete loneliness some days. I remember myself moving high schools because I felt bullied by a girl in my school. I cannot even imagine growing up in a social media world. I feel for my kids, if I can ever have any.
But my true connection with this show of course was in that very last episode. Even though there were ‘reasons why’ and her thoughts while slitting her wrists obviously could not be on the tapes, I wanted to know more what her final thoughts and feelings were going into the suicide scene. I wanted to know what made her decide it was that day and that moment. Most importantly for me, I wanted to know how deep her depression was. I wanted to know why she picked razor blades; this, because I have read about all the various ways you can kill yourself, and this, I think, is one of the more painful ways to go, and the most horrific for someone to find. I wanted to know if she ever debated whether there was something worth living for (i.e. her parents, her future). I wanted to know if she felt fear and ever thought about getting up out of the bathtub and pressurizing her wrists after a few minutes in. I wanted to know if she heard voices in her head urging her to continue. I wanted really so much to know how she just let go. Yes, for a fictional character I got hooked, but I don’t think the character is very far from many people out there.
I was disappointed that they did not open up the aspect of mental health more. I was disappointed in the aftermath that all the paraphernalia in the school was about looking for signals of suicide, but there was nothing about spotting signs of or helping depression, which (along with the trauma of the rape) was one of the main triggers. The counselor character was also ‘bleh’ – reminded me of my first therapist – transparent, cliche and unhelpful (which I guess was the point). His whole scene with her made me feel grateful for the night I was with the psychologist and she would not let me leave her office by myself until JH came to bring me to the hospital, because she could sense I was suicidal. She knew that night if I went home alone, I was susceptible to every thing that floated around my head that night and the racing emotions driving my every movement.
Anyhow, I felt, for a show that was so powerful, it could have done just a bit more to help mental health stigma along with all the other powerful issues. And well, even though it is just a TV show, I needed some relatability in thoughts for those moments right before the suicide. I cannot ever fully explain my own suicide attempts, but there has always been something that has held me back, and there is always a flurry of thoughts running through my head while I have held my own fate. I have never talked about those experiences in full retrospect with anyone (even doctors), but I kind of wish I did with my roommate in the hospital just so I could identify with at least someone else in the world. Talking about it with my friends and family has always felt like taboo. Anyways, in some sort of alternate ending, I wish she would have found that 30 second light to hold her back; but I guess the point is that nobody did enough to be there for her. I am mid-way through the book right now. It has been of course a bit more descriptive with thoughts which I am grateful for, but I have not reached the end yet. I know she overdoses on pills in the book, so reading about that will definitely be difficult.
Jumping back and switching gears to ‘high school’, let’s talk about social media. Social media does not help, even in your 30s. Even in your 30s, it’s still like high school. I have maintained this ‘conversation’ because I need ‘someone to talk to’ that does not end in an hour and is not ‘structured’ (i.e. my psychiatrist). I have linked these words maybe nonsensically with a hobby that helps – food and travel photography. I, in turn, share my food and travel photography, and the occasional ‘something else’ on other platforms like Instagram. I am not actually sure being on social media like Instagram ever helps me though. I managed a few years ago to cut myself off of Facebook, which was fairly positive for me because as JH would point out “I always became green-eyed monster” i.e. I lost myself in negative ways (the signs of BPD…). However, with Instagram, it’s hard for me to walk away because it has become a bit of an addiction especially as I learned how to use an SLR and started to really love taking and sharing photographs. I cannot give it up because it keeps me a little sane and distracted.
Social media though actually intensifies my negative feelings, and I am not sure it is ever positive for me. ‘Seeing things’ on Instagram can break my ‘stability’ in as little as 5 seconds, create negative obsessions that last for days, and push me back deep, deep into depression. Case in point, just some examples – (and this will seem fairly crazy, but when you are ‘crazy’, this is what happens) seeing ‘friends’ out together without you; seeing ‘friends’ who used to like your photos not like your photos anymore but like everyone else’s photos, but yet still follow you (Why follow you then?) ; ‘friends’ who follow absolutely everyone in all circles possible except for you. Crazy as it sounds, I think negatively about these types of things every time I use the social media platform. To me, it feels like these people are the people who don’t want to break through to be your friend. You tell them just once to ‘leave’ and they don’t want to stick around for you (and there’s the 13 Reasons Why reference). But if they would bother to ask, I would tell. If they decided after once that they don’t want to talk about it, I would not force it on them. But I am human, and even though I can be reclusive, there are times where I want to belong too. But, I guess these are obsessive, crazy things I need to work out with my psychiatrist and psychologist. Figuring out people, seeing the positivity in people and dealing with relationships is the key to moving out of lows.
Getting through a social meeting without leaving with negative thoughts is probably one of the first challenges I need to get through. Getting through a social meeting without putting on a facade and enough of a smile and wishing that I am at home in my ‘safety net’ is another. Talking about something other than mental health is also something I need to learn (pretend I am at work…pretend I am at work…) – after all I have ‘this’ to bitch to. Giving people a chance to understand is something else I need to learn. It’s just hard sometimes – while family and some friends provide unconditional support, they have no conceivable idea what it is like to live through this. My psychiatrist has urged me though to give people a chance. I have in fact been surprised by the number of people who have reached out to me over the past few weeks – all people that are actually not my close friends, but who have wanted to see me and wanted to learn and understand.
I need to figure out this craziness, or I will continue to be negative and depressed every day of my life. And I want to get away from that – because depression leads to lower lows which leads to loneliness and suicidal thoughts, which leads to…well, the demons. I just have to figure out how to ‘see, read and hear things’ and not let it cut me so deep. My psychiatrist asked me in our last appointment what I wanted from my relationships. I said it was simple – care (even minimally), and forgiveness. I feel resolved to fix myself and my relationships, but this will take time and well, potential relapses may put me 15 steps back, but I will continue driving forward. It is Mental Health Week in Canada from May 1 to 7. I hope that people will talk and write and say everything out loud – it is so important.
Last thought – Seroquel / Quetiapine is the worst drug ever. I black-out at night; and feel hungover all day….every day of my life, no matter all the trial and errors with timing – 6:30 PM, 7:30 PM, 8:30 PM, it’s all the fucking same. I just want this hangover to end. I cannot focus, my body feels slow. I just feel so useless.
As always, back to the lighter side of things, I have been obsessed with rhubarb. It’s pretty much rhubarb season, and I have been baking with rhubarb almost every weekend. It is just a beautiful, versatile fruit. I dehydrated a bunch of rhubarb strips rubbed with sugar, and wrapped them around a peanut butter mascarpone cheesecake. Rhubarb and peanut butter is not weird – it works. The recipe is found below.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
Rhubarb Wrapped Peanut Butter Cheesecake – Adapted from here
- 1 cup graham crumbs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese at room temperature
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line the bottom of a 9-inch diameter springform form with parchment paper. Oil lightly with non-stick spray.
- Wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy-duty foil.
- Mix the graham crumbs and sugar with the butter, and press onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Bake the crust for about 12 minutes. Cool.
For the filling:
- Lower oven to 325 degrees F.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
- Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan.
- Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan creating a Bain Marie.
- Bake for about 1 hour 5 minutes.
- Leave the pan in the oven with the door cracked slightly open for another hour.
- Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours.