When I started this series on writers and mental health, I added a million disclaimers. What I wanted was a series of posts on strategies to help authors protect their own mental health–I didn’t want anyone to think I had a fix for those who suffer from serious depression. The things I wrote about: meditation, healthy diet, journaling & exercise, are just strategies. But I also wanted to address serious depression, and I envisioned this amazing and fabulous post by my friend and fellow author, Heather Brewer, because:
- She’s an amazeballs writer.
- She’s incredibly compassionate.
- She battles serious depression.
It’s even more awesome than I thought it would be.
TRIGGER WARNING: The following blog post is about depression, suicide, self-harm, anxiety, and all sorts of unpleasantness. If you feel you may be triggered by these things, please don’t read it. And remember—Auntie Heather loves you.
Can I just put that out there? It sucks and it often feels like there is no end to it at all and the worst part is that no one wants to talk about it. So those who suffer from it feel isolated and weird, which only manages to feed the beast. The beast grows bigger, until it’s the only thing in the world that someone who suffers from it can see. It’s ugly and horrible and feels so damn inescapable.
I know. I have depression. I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety. I suffer from bouts of suicidal tendencies. I attempted suicide when I was sixteen. Tried to hang myself in a closet. The bar broke, and until recent years, I never told anyone about it. But I’m becoming more vocal about such things now. Mostly because I noticed that no one wants to talk about it.
That makes me angry, if you want to know the truth. So many of us are suffering from mental health issues, but there’s still such a stigma attached to it. I want to change that, if I can. Even in a small way. If you watch my vlogs or follow me on social media, you’ve probably heard me talk quite openly about my mental health. When I do so, I notice that a lot of people get quiet. Maybe they don’t like the squicky way the subject makes them feel. Maybe they don’t know what to say or how to help. Maybe they have these issues too and aren’t ready to talk about them. Maybe they just wish I’d shut up.
But I won’t shut up. Because I am not ashamed. After all, I have nothing to be ashamed of.
I have, for as long as I can remember, had these issues. I see the anxiety in my daughter already—apparently I gave her that little gem of DNA to deal with for the rest of her life (sorry, kid). But no one ever told me, throughout my childhood, throughout my teen years, throughout much of my adulthood, that having mental health issues doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means that you have health issues that you need to manage. For me, that means therapy, meditation, and medication. For you, it might mean something different. But it begins with coming out of the mental health closet and saying, even to yourself, “This is how I am, and it’s okay—I can get help.”
Recent years have been a major challenge for me. I self-harmed, planned out a suicide attempt, and said goodbye to the world. But then something funny happened. I got sick with severe anemia and stuck in the hospital for days. (Okay, maybe not funny ha-ha) But the thing is, lying in that hospital bed gave me a lot of time to think. I didn’t think I wanted to live. But what I did think was a question.
“Have I really tried everything possible to make myself better?”
The answer was no. I had not yet tried medication. So I made myself a promise and gave medication a go. So far, the meds are working. Every day is not sunshine and rainbows. And some days, yes, I still have dark thoughts, and wonder if I can bear to keep going. But the answer is yes. I can. Because of you, Minions. I can’t leave you alone to face the darkness. I won’t.
So when you’re there, in that dark place, and you feel like you’re all alone…just reach out and give my hand a squeeze. Because I’m here. And we’ll get through it.
• The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org)
• The American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (www.aacap.org)
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s mission is to provide immediate assistance to individuals in suicidal crisis by connecting them to the nearest available suicide prevention and mental health service provider through a toll-free telephone number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).