“This is me. This is the face of mental illness.
I’ve suffered from major depression my entire adult life and battled with suicidal thoughts since my early adolescence. For most people staying alive is their default, it’s just what they do. For me staying alive is a daily choice. Sometimes I have actively had to search out even the smallest, seemingly silly reasons to decide to stay alive that day, like: “I’m pretty sure I ordered something online; I’ll wait till that comes along.”; “Packing up all my stuff will be really inconvenient for my house mates.”; “Who’s going to take care of my cat?”. Sometimes curiosity keeps me alive.
With a combination of medication, therapy, extensive soul searching, self-care, research and studying psychology I’ve come to a place of calm. I surrender to the flow of life and just ride the wave and I enjoy it. My mental illness doesn’t define me any more and I’ve learned to live with it well. It’s no longer a vicious beast; it’s my steady companion, a teacher in self awareness, empathy, relationships and, ironically, happiness. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have a quote on my cork board above my desk that really resonates with me: “What if everything you’re going through is preparing you for everything you’ve ever wanted?”
It’s so true for me now, because all my experiences, including the failures and heartbreaks, have lead me to my calling: mental health advocacy through the arts. I currently have a storytelling and music production about depression, a radio show dedicated to mental health and I speak at events. My personal experience combined with my studies in psychology allow me to discuss the subject from many different perspectives. My aim is to bring a new level of compassion and understanding to the subject of mental health and illness and encourage people to share their own experiences openly and without shame. So far I seem to be quite successful at this and I’m very grateful for all the amazing people I’ve met along the way and make it possible for me to do what I do.
I still struggle daily, especially since suffering a number of injuries and going through surgery. I feel trapped in my body and the chronic pain triggers intense depressive episodes, anxiety and panic attacks. I just have to take it day by day and so far I still manage to make the same decision every morning (and sometimes I even look forward to it) : “Yes, I’ll stay alive today.”
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