Stay Strong Through the Storms of Life

TRIGGER WARNING:

I DISCUSS THINGS LIKE DEPRESSION, SELF-HARM AND SUICIDE. IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO THESE THINGS, THEN PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS!

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The thing is I’m never really sure how I’m going to feel from one day to the next – even on my meds, I can’t tell if it will be a good day, a great day, or a mediocre day, but one thing I can tell is that the bad days almost never exist; or more to the point, they *do* exist, but not nearly as frequently, or as devastating as before.

We humans may be resilient, hardy and stronger than we believe, but sometimes we try to be too strong for too long and we damage ourselves, beyond any conceivable repair (we’re always able to repair ourselves, as our bodies as magical and mysterious, but the mind takes a lot longer to repair than the body, and some days, it feels impossible). The darkness creeps in and wears us down, so we become tired, and/or irritable, or we cannot tell reality from the mind games and tricks; we become too weak to try to fight the darkness. We become our own worst enemy and then we start to believe the lies and let the pain take over – that’s the thing about depression: It takes over.

I denied myself the simplest pleasures; things I always enjoyed became faded memories; fragments of another life, which simply did not feel real. I embodied this persona – happy and outgoing on the outside, lost and broken on the inside. Soon the broken pieces spilled out and overcame the joy – like the Dementors in Harry Potter (which is literally depression personified). I frightened my friends and family and often joked about self-harm or suicide; not something I find comfort in, and feel guilty for doing so. It was a means to discuss them without actually doing things to myself.

I was broken, numb and empty, but often couldn’t explain why. Sometimes, this manifested itself into my Ghostbusters fanfiction, and my version of Dr Jillian Holtzmann, literally became myself, personified, fictionalised and was a good a place as any to get my feelings out. Some things were, of course, over-dramatised, but other things were simply a mirror of my childhood, of my year, months, weeks, that day.

Being broken, numb and empty was just who I had become. I craved attention, sought it out in the digital plain of the internet (and more specifically, the Book of Faces), but it was always for the wrong reasons. I wanted to whinge and moan, seek sympathy and solutions, but I never actually wanted to heal myself, to ‘fix’ my ‘broken’ mind. I never actually wanted to die; just wanted to disappear until I felt better, but it was easier to be self-destructive and discuss suicide, than to just admit how I *really* wanted it to be. I wanted to feel better, but didn’t know where to begin, or really, how to do it, or how long it would take. So, in short, I just carried on the days, wishing things were “the way they used to be” which is how most of us feel, but I wasn’t inclined to do anything about how I was feeling. I hoped that a job would fix me, by giving me structure and routine “as it always does” but even that became a monumental task.

Long story, cut, semi-short: I had become someone I didn’t like, but I had no idea how to change. This had become my new ‘normal’ – The new me. Bitter, depressed, lonely, alone, poor, jobless and feeling like I had no friends, or rather, no ‘real’ friends. They were busy living their lives, and I was busy, struggling away, struggling to make ends meet, but blinded to reality or how I could do something different with my life.

That’s the other thing with depression – you feel like you have no real friends, and you feel as though either everyone hates you, or they’re out to get you, which is a by-product of feeling as though everyone hates you. You replay conversations from years ago, and wonder how it could have been different. You forget that they were indeed *years* ago and think they happened yesterday. You become angry to someone you haven’t seen in months, and think they’re angry with you too, or that you’ve done something wrong to rile them and that’s why you’re no longer speaking. The reality could be as simple as you shut everyone out, and wallowed in self-pity, but you’re too far gone, too far into your funk that you miss the signs of people trying to help, because, and bordering on repetition here, they no longer wish to associate with you, or your funk-induced stupid, or negative decision-making.

It is easier said than done to “just get out of your funk/negativity/depression/self-wallowing/pit of despair” those who don’t actually suffer with depression, seem to think they know best, but telling someone to “just cheer up” or to simply “get over it” actually, and this is a totally random guesstimation here, probably, have not been depressed and don’t understand one iota how disrespectful and detrimental those words can be. You need someone who understands, or if they don’t, takes it upon themselves to understand, and actually offer support and tell you that “it’s okay not to be okay” (Samaritans slogan there) and that they can help you.

To me hearing the words “You know where I am” or “I’m here for you” is as bottomless and as go-to as “thoughts and prayers” (which is to say, that not everyone actually does pray to make things better, nor do they offer their assistance, they chuck out those words into the Universe and hope they offer some sort of levity to the situation; I do it, all the time and it’s one of those things which people say to offer sympathy, without feeling compelled to offer sympathy… on the flip side, people *do* actually pray and offer real-life sympathy, but for me, they’re often meaningless and when I was stupidly, but not severely, depressed, offering me the words “I’m here for you” were by no means what I actually wanted to hear. Occasionally, I would ask for prayers off my Christian friends, and I knew they would pray for clarity and stillness from God.)

After a slight digression of the meaning and significance of prayer when I was depressed, I shall continue on with my story…my turn of events…my first-hand account; whatever you so wish to call it, this super long post, which is by far not even complete.

Rewinding a little, to get back onto track: Being in a funk is easier said than done to get out of, but oftentimes, that’s all it is; a funk. I know from experience, but you have to take each day as it comes and celebrate every achievement you make, no matter how small.

You got out of bed today? Good job, that’s amazing.

You showered? Fantastic; doesn’t that feel good?

You ate something? I am so proud of you – that’s one of the hardest things – keeping hold of an appetite!

Oh, and by the way, NONE of the above has any inkling of sarcasm! I genuinely, hand-on-heart, truly am proud of you and what you’ve done today. It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fun, but you got moving and that’s the first step. That, and talking to someone – your best friends, your parents, your teachers, your dog (although, perhaps conversing with someone who can actually speak *may* be a better idea) or your doctor. Now, I know for some people, and I’m the same, going to the doctor is hard work or scary, and you may not feel like it, but trust me when I say this: Be honest and open and tell them what’s *really* going on. They’re doctors; they’ve heard it all before. And, if like me, you have to go from your General Practitioner to a specialised Mental Health doctor, do it. Talk to the people who are professionally trained to deal with mental health; to deal with depression. They’ve probably seen countless of accounts similar, or if not, the very same as you, and they are trained to help. And if you need medication, it’s alright to take medication to improve your mental health. We take Aspirin/Paracetamol/Ibuprofen etc. for a pain in our joints, ligaments, or for headaches, so why is there a massive stigma surrounding mental health and medication?

Having a strong support network behind you is one of the key factors in place to have to help you to get better. Please talk to someone so that you don’t feel quite so alone. Honestly, talking to people has helped me loads. I was reluctant to talk about my depression as being a thing I lived with. I sucked it up, oftentimes put on a brave face when I really wanted to cry, but people noticed; my family noticed, my best friends, my now-girlfriend noticed. I knew I had it, but what I was afraid of was being rejected; actually losing friends, (which I knew I had, I just frequently forgot I had them) and actually being alone.

I know there’s a huge variety of people on the Book of Faces, whom I consider to be my friends, and if I could tag those, and my family members, who were there for me at all times, I would, but I’m going to favour, and I feel quite guilty for doing so, two people who have cheered me on from the side lines, and made sure to message me every single day, asking how I was and reminding me of who I truly am. These two people, I cannot thank enough – granted, I extend my thanks to all of my friends, but Adam and Katie have stood above the rest.

(This is by no means me saying that no one else did, but Adam, a guy I barely knew from Twitter, took it upon himself to read my Tweet, inbox me, get to know me, the *real* me, and held steadfast onto that information, spoon-feeding it to me when I least expected it, so that the information was in my head when I needed it the most. He made sure I knew, every day that I was: awesome, kind, caring, beautiful inside and out and a great person. If ever you need someone to send you motivational messages, he’s your guy, like seriously. Katie, on the other hand, was very similar: she learnt the real me also, and she has never given up. I may have gone off the rails in anger, to the both of them, but they have stood by me from day one of talking. Katie shows me an unwavering abundance of love and although seeing me depressed has affected her in some ways, she hasn’t left and she has promised me that she won’t. She made sure to message me every day, simply saying hello and asking how I was. And on the day that I, literally, asked 30 people how they were/making sure those who posted sad Tweets were okay, sending them cute animals, or for the Kate-stans, gifs or pictures of Kate McKinnon, to cheer them up, Katie, amongst all of this, quietly made sure that I was okay, and slowly fell for me and the person I am outside of the depression.)

Without Adam or Katie, I don’t know where I would be. I mean that with the greatest respect; and for those I haven’t name-dropped, I am also extremely proud to call you my friend also, but sometimes the newest of friends cause a bigger impact than those you have known your entire life; or a good chunk of it. I have lots of friends and family who have always cared for me, and send me a message now and again, but these two went above and beyond (again, I am not doing this to make anyone feel unworthy – I would tag all 1,000+ of you if I could – the fact that you are actually reading this shows me that you care about me, so here’s a virtual cwtch from me to you!!) With a nudge in the right direction from certain family members, and from my friends, I eventually sought help – from February to September I just swanned on, just surviving, and then September I decided enough was enough and I actually had to get off my backside and do something about it, if I actually wanted to change.

I’m three months into the anti-depressants called ‘Mirtazapine’ which was given to me to aid my sleep and give me an appetite, as when I returned from visiting Katie in Canada, early September, I was getting maybe 2-3 hours’ sleep a night for a fortnight (2 weeks for all you non-Brits) and I was barely making 1 meal a day. Granted there are still days, even now, where I sleep too much or too little and I can’t regulate hunger properly, but at least I am back to eating at least 2 meals, and sometimes even 3 meals, a day.

I am trying to spend less time up past midnight, sleeping more ‘normal’ hours, and I have some sort of schedule (which does go AWOL now and again, so this is something I need to work on; I’m awake during more sociable hours – i.e. between 10am and 10pm, instead of up at 4pm ‘til 4am, say.) It wouldn’t, however, be remiss of me to say, with little exaggeration, that Adam and Katie saved me; the latter in particular. Not so much from the depression, as that’s being managed by the meds, but they saved me from myself, by reminding me each day of whom I truly am, the value of myself, and the beauty which I possess.

It can be safe to say I am starting to feel like my old self – which, for many years, is what I would describe as ‘normal’ (as normal as can be, anyway!) The good days are far more apparent, noticeable and more frequent than the dark days, which loomed and hung over me like a black hole – never mind the cartoon of a dark cloud hanging over one’s head, but a black hole, which I often wished to be sucked up into.

As I write this, it is clear to me that I never ever want to go back to the pit I was in, to the feeling of despair, of hopelessness, being lost and feeling ready to give up on the life I had. I am reminded just how lucky I am to be alive; how it’s not so bad after all – I mean, I have a family, a roof over my head, food in my cupboards, or in the case of when I am in arrears, food parcels sent over in cardboard boxes from my dad, and I have a loving, caring, honest-to-goodness perfect girlfriend, so I don’t have *that* bad of a life. I just would like to leave the UK, so I can start a whole new chapter, story, life, with Katie by my side. (I won’t ask her to move from a 4 bedroom house, to a 2 bedroom flat – we want a big house, as we can see us having a family in our future). Even if I am on meds for the next year, the next five years, or for the rest of my life, that is something I will have to accept as some sort of normalcy and I know, with them, I will never go back to that harrowing mental place again.

The path I wander has been laid out for me, and I am gradually coming to the realisation that this is the path I was always meant to be on, I just needed a little faith, grounding, understanding, and hope, to find my way there. The path is long (probably about as long as this post is!) but it is one I am walking with friends, who never left me, and family, and my new life in Canada, lies ahead, like a light at the end of a tunnel.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Never has a quote from Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore been so apt. Again, easier to say than to believe, it really is like switching on a light and seeing clearly for the first time in months. Like when you get a new prescription pair of glasses from Specsavers, or they clean the ones you have, and you’re amazed at how much you can see. Happiness is *always* there, *always* has been, *always* will be. It’s just a matter of finding it, remembering it’s there and remembering that though your days may be dark and long, your light will come back around, like a lighthouse (the original meaning of my lighthouse tattoo – “My happiness and light will come back around like a lighthouse” – which then became a “reminder to stay strong through the storms of life” and yano what? We’re all lighthouses. There will be ups and downs, trials and tribulations, storms throughout life, but we need to hold steady, and be strong and we will come through the other side, and like 99% of the time, we will come off better than we were at the beginning of the storm; of course there will be that 1% where you’re not quite the old you, but the reason for that is because you’re a new you.)

I can’t say that my depression dissipating is like a light being switched on and all the darkness has been obliterated, but I do feel lighter mentally, and like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

The road, as I said before, is long and the journey to whom I want to be, to where I want to be, is even longer, but with each passing day, I feel happier than I have done in a long time, so seeking the proper help wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But for now: One day at a time.

(And as I close this, I think that this is something I should also post to my blog, so that it is there for all to see, and cannot get lost down my timeline. I shall do that. And then I will post the link, so that you may read it.)

I also would like to say, that whilst this isn’t the answer to everything, I am hoping that you find comfort in these words, knowing it does get better, and if you want someone, who has experienced depression, to talk to you, then hit me up, and I will be there for you – I mean that. Anything that ails you, drop me a message, and even if I can’t sort it, I will listen, I won’t judge, and I will try and make it as best as I can make it, however that is to be achieved, and for those of you who have actually read all 3,200+ words, I applaud you and thank you. And this is pretty much turning into my 5,000 word essay, which was 100% of my marks for Film Studies – and that was a whirlwind of a journey!

Anyway, from the bottom of my heart to yours: It does get better, just stay strong, because you are awesome, you are valued, you are cherished, you are loved and you are the best. You can do it!

With love this Christmas time – and stay safe out there – Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and thank you for indulging me. Oh, and I’ve started writing my Ghostbusters: Answer the Call fanfiction, ‘Boo Crew’, again, so, erm, watch this space, I suppose!

Xoxoxo

Hannah (Holtzmann)

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