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Breaking The Silence For Broken Brains

Social StudiesJessie MaComment

PAUSE.

For anyone that has ever known me in a capacity larger than my obnoxious social media antics (or even ones that read more into it), know that - yes, I'm a lively, humorous person - but I'm not a simple person. I'm not mindlessly happy, floating through life all chill and content. I'm selective, analytical, and every feeling comes with a side effect. (Look at this blog...). So yeah, I'm a mess and I know it.

Ironically, I've gotten so many messages thanking me for my honesty. About how brave I am to show my struggle. About how my resilience through all my trials inspired them to be better.

Even, on how my "depth" is somehow mysterious and attractive, (from guys who, undoubtedly, harbor some grade of Superman Complex. Ugh.)

But here's the truth.

There is absolutely nothing inspiring, sexy, or desirable about mental illness. 

Let me guess- you want to stop reading. People find the topic uncomfortable, incomprehensible, irrelevant to themselves directly, just something to politely skirt around. In fact, we often use humor to ease our nervousness about it. 

When is the last time you've heard a joking reference to depression, OCD, suicide, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, etc.? Probably not too far off. 

We're so quick to snicker about it, yet when the real matter (me) is obviously struggling, obviously suffering, obviously trying their fucking best, there is no acknowledgement. 

Discussion surrounding it is either exclusively professional/medical, or completely sarcastic. So when people aren't psychiatrists but recognize that they shouldn't laugh, they say nothing.

I've been deafened by this silence for a decade.

REWIND, birth.

My compulsive need to dissect my emotional self, influenced by my interest in Freudian psychology made me study my childhood. 

I come from a broken family. No need for details, but neither of my parents were healthy = they weren't happy = no one was safe = the majority of my early life was spent in an environment of instability, scarcity, paranoia, absence, and having to confront matters I couldn't even comprehend.

And I still feel like don't have anyone. Shhhh- I'm aware that I do have friends and plenty of acquaintances. But I harbor a fear of true intimacy, an inability to maintain long-lasting relationships, and a dual desire for / aversion to those who might really care. 

Perhaps it's the skepticism - because what had been ingrained in me, from an early age, was that everyone leaves. No one cares. No one. Is here for me. 

Irrational? Sure. But I had my reasons. 

So yeah. Fuck your comments about "Daddy issues." You have no clue.

FASTFORWARD, 10 years ago.

I'd been relying on people to get by. Each relationship supplied me with those things that I felt fundamentally lacking in: a sense of self-worth, a warm home, a sliver of hope that maybe, someone might give a shit.

These 'Boyfriends' turned into 'Drugs,' whom I overdosed on (as they happily supplied), and when each relationship was over, I went into withdrawal. 

Since my first suicide attempt, on my birthday, at age 14,
after my return home from the in-patient facility in Arizona where I "recovered,"
post-completion of 2 years of tedious out-patient treatment... 
I have always had a boyfriend - with the exception of one year, after a particularly eye-opening breakup. 

The Paradigm Shift

In 2012, At the peak of my abuse of a particular Drug, I found myself in the lowest place I'd ever been. I had someone who gave me all their love, promised the world, shared their life with me, but I wasn't happy. I loved him, but being "in love" was terrifying. Because I didn't know how to give back. I just knew how to use. 

See, the catch in using people as objects is this: people are not objects. I fell in love with this boy, a love that I'm still convinced surpasses all loves in the history of all lifetimes. He was the one. 

But I was still a junkie. And a junkie, as disappointing as it is, does not magically heal at the touch of love, no matter how supreme it feels. 

I didn't learn how to be a lover. I had to learn how to stop being a junkie, first.

I spent the subsequent year alone. Talked to some guys and went on a few dates, but I refused to give myself away. Needy, insecure, desperate, my heart was in no condition to go anywhere, lest be trusted by anyone. I didn't want to ruin another person, after seeing how the "love of my life" wasted away at the hands of my addiction. 

That year was of painful, immense growth. I can't say I loved myself completely, but I was getting to know myself. I found a genuine care for my friends and family when the majority of my life I'd been cruel and uncaring. My interest in dance turned into a die-hard passion. I was thrilled about the possibilities in my career. I was rising from my sickness. 

Then I fell again.

And again.

FAST FORWARD, last year.

No need for details, as the topic of the story here isn't about my exes, but of myself. 

In 2014, I fell in love. And just as quickly and powerfully, got burned. Badly. And the combined events again drove me to that low point, the point I'd been afraid of for almost a decade. I grew depressed, anxious, paranoid, vindictive, all around fucking bad. In less than a year, I was back to being at that dangerous low. I wanted to quit. I needed help. 

But instead of helping myself like I did before, I, like the true fucked-up person I am, scrambled for another Drug for help. To ease the pain. To make me forget. To keep me company. To make me feel desire for anything in life. Needless to say, I didn't learn from my heartbreak. I got worse. Everything got worse. 

2015.

Turning 25. I somehow found myself face-to-face with the 14 year old junkie I had been so terrified of confronting. 

MORE FAST FORWARD, last week.

I always hated my birthday. I'd always play it off like "Oh, I don't like all that attention on me" but that's bullshit because everyone knows I love attention.

The truth is, I fear November 20. Sounds pathetic, but I'm scared of a date. I saw it, less as my birthday, but more saliently as the anniversary of my almost-death and all the associated feelings of the attempt. When the date loomed closer, every fall, it triggered the darkest, most hideous fear that I still never learned to handle. 

Nothing was bad last week. 

My life is okay.

I have 2 jobs that I love, that give me an outlet for my creativity and need to be productive. And pay the bills.

I have 3 dance teams that I'm proud to represent. That I look forward to rehearsing with. That keep me present, in my body, aware, moving. 

I am physically healthy. Aside from terrible eating and sleeping habits.. all my organs are functioning. Bones unbroken.

I'm aware of how many blessings I have in my life, and how selfish and ignorant it is for me to be unhappy when a ridiculous number people around the world can't access clean drinking water. I know. It makes no sense. 

But depression and anxiety are hardly of a logical nature. 

Like I said,

nothing was bad last week. Nothing someone of sound mental health couldn't handle. 

Except,

I was still a junkie. I was plunging lower. A series of unfortunate events fanned the fire. Damaged relationships. Professional failures. Financial hardship. A genetic vulnerability coupled with compounding triggering factors I forgot how to safeguard myself against. 

Lower, lower. And I felt like dying again. 

CUT TO --> Climax, drama, a bunch of shit I'd rather not talk/write about. Pills, Code "10-56," crying mothers, and the like.

But long story short, I had to get better. As heroic as the story would sound, for me to say it was a personal choice to "stay strong" - I can't. I really, literally, just had no choice. 

But someone's decision (fully self-administered or not), to "be better" isn't followed by clear-cut steps progressing to that. It's followed by a lot of confusion and angst, shame, embarrassment, taboo

It's followed by disapproving, or at best, uncomfortable looks colored with faux understanding and contrived empathy. This further amplifies and perpetuates the isolation one feels, the same isolation that probably drove them to that point in the first place. They're labeled as "crazy" or "dangerous," seen as their disease, rather than a sufferer of a disease. 

Someone can have chicken pox. Have a broken bone. But I found, the harsh way, that having a mental health disorder makes me a pariah. Instead of seeing depression as an external, invasive spirit, like we would cancer, or even a damn STD, depression is me.

This discrepancy, this taboo, this sad misunderstanding - it's a recipe for the depressed and suicidal to emerge and relapse, emerge and relapse...

The Burdensome Nature of Mutual Secrecy

Fact: 1 in 10 Americans are, or have been, clinically depressed. 

Fact: Every 13 minutes, someone in the U.S. takes their own life.

Fact: No one is talking about these fucking numbers. They're staggering. A number of your friends are probably suffering. Maybe you are too. But it's rarely discussed. Rarely do people ask for help. Because it's a wordlessly agreed upon silence.

Like I acknowledged, I get it, it's uncomfortable. It's scary. But you know what's scarier? Losing people. Your fear hindering you from helping them. Being too late. That's a hell of a lot scarier to me. 

So this is my call to action:

I didn't just brush my shoulders off, decide to buck up, and get my shit together. I had to seek out individuals who loved me more than they feared my disease. I started to see myself from the eyes of those who believed in me, instead of judging or rejecting me. Who saw good in me, when all else was pushing me to be cruel and uncaring. 

For someone to be better, they need to feel like they are more than their shortcomings.

They need to feel the echoes of honest and genuine efforts that ring louder the more they choose to hear them. You can spiral down, or you can climb up. Loneliness is a slimy wall with no pegs that lets a person plunge.  

There's no denying that it's a scary and tricky thing to navigate. I myself don't quite know how to approach another person who is suffering from depression, or, God help me, suicidal ideation. But I know what not to do - and that's to stay silent. 

So here are my words. What are yours?

P.S. Shoutout to my two of my favorite people for approaching my struggle in a light-hearted but empathetic way:

 

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My post-birthday weekend Facebook post.

1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Online DSM resource

Talk to a crisis counselor