Numb vs. Empty

If empty means void, or not containing anything, or unfilled, or nothing, why is it the only thing I can feel?

Take a deep breath in.

Hold it…

Don’t let it out…

Keep holding…

A little longer…

Have you reached the point where the air feels like its about to burst out of you? Does it feel like you are completely filled with air, nothing else? Can you not feel, or even think, about anything else besides the air? Thats what empty feels like.

Whenever I talk to people about my depression I always say how empty I felt. I tell them about how I would lay on my bed, starring at the wall for 3 or 4 hours and not realize any time had even passed. I was what most people describe as numb. I choose to say empty instead. I see a big difference between those two words; Numb is when you don’t have feelings. Empty is when you don’t have anything. You can be numb but still feel other things, like the blanket under your hands, or the feeling of being sleepy. If you’re empty you don’t feel anything, you don’t realize you have a blanket in your hands, you don’t see the clock striking 5am. Emptiness has always been really terrifying for me, it’s not something I ever want to experience again.

The best way I’ve ever heard emptiness described was in a book, written by Suzanne Young. The character was talking about depression in general, not specifically emptiness, but thats the great thing about reading. You can take anything you read, remove the plot, and let it mean anything.

“It’s like being dead but still conscious.”

When I read those words, they really stuck with me. I was in a dark place, I was empty, but those words sparked something inside me. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alive. (No.. not literally) What I mean is, I wasn’t living, I was just there. Although the quote is a little dark, it will always be one of my favourites, because it was those words that brought me back to life.

I’m not going to lie and say as soon as I read this quote the clouds cleared and I was magically happy and cheerful. Geez, I read that book almost 2 years ago and I’m still not “healed”. But it was that moment that I realized shit needed to change. I needed to start looking for something to pull me out of my grave.

Thankfully something did, because my claustrophobia would not do well with 8 x 2 x 6.

Step by Step

Great things are done by a series of small things being brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

The road to recovery isn’t paved, and it sure isn’t an easy drive. Actually it’s the exact opposite. It’s almost a vertical hill, and there’s bumps and pot holes and landslides. But if you take it slow, step-by-step, you’ll eventually make it to the top, and the view will be worth it.

Van Gogh was an amazing artist (one of my favourites), who was not respected during his time because he was labeled as “troubled” or “crazy”. In reality he was struggling with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Unfortunately Van Gogh did not make it to the top of the road to recovery, but work is proof he was trying. As quoted above, he believed small things could come together to form greatness, and I have to agree.

When you have a mental illness, it’s the little things that make you feel “normal” again. It’s the little things that push you up the road to recovery. It’s the little things that heal you.

Getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, making dinner, going to class, all these things are considered “little” but in reality they can have a very large impact. These are the first steps to feeling better and I can tell you from experience, the first steps are the most difficult. Finding the courage and strength to break a streak of sadness can be really hard. You often get stuck in a funk, as some people say. What really happens is you get used to feeling a certain way, and its easier to stay the same, than it is to change the way you’re currently living. However, that change could be the change that changes your life.

Van Gogh knew it, and now I know it too. It’s the little things in life that make the difference. So if all you did today was get out of your bed and move to the couch, congratulations. You did it! You were able to pull yourself out of that cocoon of warmth and stand up! You stepped out of the safe quarters of your room and walked to the couch! If nobody tells you they’re proud of you today, know that I am. Remember a step is a step, no matter how small the foot. 

Find your light

It’s dark. You’re alone. You’re scared. There’s something screaming inside you, “You’re not good enough. You’re worthless. You’re disgusting. You’re toxic. You’re a monster. Give up. You don’t deserve a happy life. You will never be happy.” You’re scared. You can feel yourself slipping. You’re drowning. You’re mind is morphing into something else. There’s a leech sucking the light out of you. You can’t see a future. You’re surrounded by darkness. You’re stuck in the darkness. You can’t breathe. You’re shaking. You can’t sleep. You can’t get out of bed. You physically can’t move. You can’t eat. You’re not you anymore. You can’t stop it. 

Thats depression.

Metaphorically, happiness is light and depression is darkness, and since the beginning of time people have been scared of the dark. It’s when it’s dark that the predator pounces. You lose your sense of sight in the dark. That’s when the monsters crawl out from under your bed. But as soon as you flick on the light, everything is okay. Depression is when you’re mind is dark, and you can’t find the light switch.

I often say, “I was in a dark place”, what I mean when I say this is my mind was in a dark place. When you’re mind is dark, it’s difficult to be happy. As soon as a happy thought breaks through, the darkness grabs hold of it and smothers it. I think this darkness is why depression is often described as feeling like you’re drowning. Like someone has tied a weight to your ankle and you’re being pulled under.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe anything but what your depression tells you. You may feel like you’ve tried everything to get better but nothing working. At least that’s how I felt. I knew that I needed to find my light but I just couldn’t. Everything I tried failed. As soon as I thought I found my light, the bulb would blow. It was is a never-ending battle. But you know what they say, the longer the battle the sweeter the victory. I eventually found my light, and I realized what the problem was all long; I was looking for a switch. When i should have been looking for a spark.

A spark is all you need to start a fire. When you have depression, happiness is more like a fire than a light switch anyway, its something you have to tend to, to make sure it keeps burning. And that spark can be anything at all, anything that makes you smile. All you need is one thing, and it will start a chain reaction inside you. A smile will lead to a laugh, which will lead to a conversation, which will lead to an idea, which will spark inspiration and ignite your happiness.

To truly feel the light of happiness you need to achieve the light inside yourself. You need to find two sticks and rub them together. You need to work hard and create enough friction to make a spark. You need to stack leaves and twigs, so your spark has something to ignite. Once you’ve made that fire, you’ve found your light. But you can’t stop there! Then you need to tend to it, you need to watch it and keep it safe from the wind and the rain. You need to keep it alive and brilliant.
Because you are brilliant, and you deserve the light.

Secrets

What is a secret anyway?

A secret is something you keep hidden. Normally it’s because you’re ashamed, or embarrassed, well, thats what I think at least. I know that personally I’ve had way too many embarrassing moments too keep them secret.. Besides who wouldn’t want to know I was a failing beauty queen contestant, who accidentally insulted our then-premier and completely forgot how to use common sense while on stage? I never even thought about trying to keep these experiences secret. My mental illness was a different story.

Upon being diagnosed I was struck with a wall of denial. I just couldn’t believe “someone like me” could be depressed. I had it good, and depression was just for drug addicts wasn’t it? I didn’t want to tell anyone I was depressed because I didn’t want to have to admit it to myself. I had labeled people with depression as “crazy”, and now I was one of them. Was I crazy now?
I was taught that mental illness was something you only spoke about in whispered voices, but this wasn’t something I could hide. I was so embarrassed to tell people.  I assumed everyone would treat me differently, like I had some contagious disease. Of course that didn’t happen. People were surprised, but they understood that it was something I couldn’t help. Im not going to lie, there were, and still are, a few people who don’t accept my depression but thats life. 1 out of 50 ain’t too bad!
I’ve become significantly more vocal about my depression over the years. And I no longer agree that mental illness is something you should whisper about, or even try to keep secret. I think it’s something you should print on the front page of the newspaper! The conversation about mental health needs to become louder. People have a hard time accepting things they don’t understand, so us mental illness survivors need to tell the world our stories. The more people open up, the less stigma will surround the topic. In turn, this is will make it easier for the newly diagnosed to deal with how they’re feeling.
I know they say, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself”, but this isn’t 1984. Accept your mental illness, embrace it, and tell the world. Critics will be critics, but you’re the one they’re writing about. Make it a good article.

The Lotus List

She was a lotus flower, growing from the mud.

When i first got diagnosed with depression, I was confused. I didn’t understand what was happening inside me and it felt like I was stuck in reverse. I was put on a few medications but nothing seemed to work. Each day, I would wake up and take my medications, but i still felt awful. Every single visit to my doctor ended in an increase in my dosages, or a change to my medications. Nothing seemed to be working, which made me more and more frustrated. I just kept spiralling downward. I’d often ask myself why i even bothered to take these medications if they appeared to have zero effect. I had thought that one day I would wake up and feel normal, that all these medications would have finally kicked in and I’d be cured. But unfortunately that’s not the way it works.

I had to accept the fact that the medications weren’t going to “fix” me on their own. I needed to wake up and realize that my life wasn’t a YA novel. This perfect person wasn’t going to walk into my life and save me with love. I needed to save myself. I had somehow wandered into a graveyard, and fallen into a six foot hole. I needed to get dirty and dig my way out of the mud.

My efforts included:

1. Stopped listening to sad music
2. Stopped reading books about suicide
3. Started going to therapy
4. Took the time to do the things I enjoyed
5. Stopped feeling guilty about having a “down day”
6. Started validating my feelings
7. Started meditating more often
8. Started writing more
9. Started practicing yoga more
10. Remembered to smile everyday
11. Remembered to laugh everyday
12. Learned to appreciate the small things in life
My list is full of starting and stopping. That’s because depression alters your personality, and makes you stop wanting to do things that make you smile and start doing things that are going to hurt. So when you’re trying move forward, you need to do the opposite. Start doing things that make you laugh again, and stop thinking you don’t deserve happiness, because you do, everyone does.

Who am I? Why am I here?

“Why am I here?” Is a question I have asked myself too many times to count. For instance I’ll be sitting in a restaurant by myself feeling awkward and out of place, or I’ll be in class lacking confidence, trying to make as little eye contact with my professor as possible, and the whole time I’m wondering “Why am I here, when I could be hiding out in my room”. Even though I’m asking myself the same question today, it has a different meaning.

Why am I here, in this blogging community? Who am I? Do I even have anything worth saying?

I’m a 22 year old student who works two jobs, while dealing with depression, anxiety and insomnia. Just looking at my planner gives me anxiety. Am I really fit to be telling people how to live there lives? No, probably not. But then again no one is, all I’m doing is telling people how I live my life, and maybe they’ll want to follow along.

So why am I here? Why am I writing? I’m here because I want to be. I’m here because I love to write. I’m here because I’ve never learned more about myself than I have through writing. I’m here because I want to document my journey through life and I want to inspire others along the way. Everyone has heard the saying “Life is a journey” once or a dozen times. I feel it’s a little overused, to be honest. But that being said I do agree with it. Life is a journey. Actually, it’s a bunch of journeys that all add up to become one. There’s a journey to growing up, to happiness, to well-being, to achievement, to your soul, to confidence, even to death. Each journey is different, but they all come together for a common cause, the journey of life.

I think my main journey in life, is to inspire others to find happiness and peace within their own lives. That may sound a little pretentious, but if your going to dream, dream big right? How do I plan on executing such a journey? I have no idea. If you have any ideas, you’re welcome to send them my way. I think I need to start with myself. If I write about my own journey to happiness and peacefulness, maybe I’ll figure it out. Or maybe someone will someday read my work and feel something.

So, Who am I? A writer. Why am I here? To inspire.