I Will Continue
Editor's note: Thank you, Adrianne for sharing your insightful journey of overcoming your challenges with depression and suicidal thoughts.
I was a prisoner for 12 years to a creature who lives inside me. This creature has no form, unless it is, perhaps, the same as my form. She has been my closest companion, and I have given her everything. In return, she has remained with me constantly. She was cruel, yet she was unflappable. She was perhaps the only thing that I could truly rely upon.
My depression began to really take hold when I was sixteen, and although I have gone through times of functionality, depression has become an inherent part of myself. Sixteen was also the first time I attempted suicide. Because I was a minor, my doctor prescribed sleep aids that I was meant to take day and night. Needless to say, the haze that I stumbled through life in was not conducive to maintaining the high grades that my perfectionism demanded of me. Without being offered an alternative, I gave up on hoping that medication could free me of the weight that was constantly pressing down on me. I continued to seek counselling until I had more coping strategies than it would ever be practical to employ.
When I was nineteen, I was raped and that was what I believe triggered my auditory hallucinations. Although typically unobtrusive, the voices that came from radios in rooms that didn’t exist could be cruel and disorienting at times. I was informed that it was common to have these hallucinations and that I shouldn’t be concerned. I became accustomed to these disturbances and learned to hide them effectively from the world. It gave me a reputation for being somewhat distracted. Ignoring the hallucinations meant that sometimes a friend or family member wouldn’t be able to get my attention for some time as it is nearly impossible to differentiate the voices that are in my head from those in real life. That was much better than being labeled ‘crazy’, which I was certain was exactly true.
I went through nearly a decade of cycling through functionality and suicide attempts - finding self-harm along the way - all-the-while seeing various counsellors and insisting that medication was not for me. I was coping. The depression was like a blanket that held me together, and without it, how would I not fly into a million pieces? The voices meant that I wasn’t alone. In a world that could be so inconsistent, how could I abandon the familiar?
A lot happened during this period. I graduated from university, I moved to the mountains, I bought a house and I got a couple of dogs. I met a lot of men who didn’t care about me, and I met one man who cared about me a lot, and I married him. I would be asked incredulously in counselling appointments if I was happy on my wedding day; it’s apparently meant to be the happiest day of your life, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had been happy. I lied. I was non-committal. I shrugged and murmured in agreement that I must have been happy on that day. The truth was that I had no idea what happiness was. It wasn’t real. In the same way, I didn’t believe that anger was a valid emotion until I went blind with it one day. But I didn’t want to do a disservice to my husband, whom I cared for deeply, and I didn’t want anyone to think that our relationship was diminished because I was incapable of conjuring that magical feeling that everyone seemed to place so much emphasis on.
This was also when my mother began receiving help and went on medication for her very similar issues. I hadn’t been aware of her journey with mental health and as she told me some of her stories, I insisted to myself that I wasn’t “that bad” and if she could get along for so long without medication, I could continue. I wasn’t ready to take that step. I was sure that if I felt happy, there wouldn’t be any part of the real me left. It wasn’t a part of my identity. I was sure that all positivity was false and some people were just better at hiding their desperation than others. I was very good at it until (Until. There will always come an Until) I wasn’t.
The hood of my jacket began talking to me. I knew it wasn’t really talking to me; that wasn’t possible. But all the same, every time I put on my hood, there was a man yelling into my ear. I couldn’t watch television with my nephew because there were too many voices that were unfamiliar, and it was too difficult to differentiate between the internal and external. Then I began to see things. I began to self-medicate every night so that I wouldn’t have any time on my own to self-harm. Then the self-harm thoughts subsided and were replaced exclusively with the preoccupation of ending my life. I had failed so many times before, but I had never been so committed. I was putting a plan in place. I was ready for Saturday, and I knew there were people in my life that would inevitably be sad for a small period of time, but they would recover. They would continue. They had other reasons to live. I didn’t.
Fate intervened. I had made an appointment with a counsellor weeks before and I was riding the high that accompanied having my mind made up. I could do anything because I wouldn’t need to for much longer. This was a new counsellor that I had been sent to because my hallucinations were not as common in the small town I had moved to as they apparently were in the city that my first doctor had lived in. I can either classify this appointment as the shortest in my life, or the longest. It took about 10 minutes for her to ask me if I could keep myself safe. I hesitated. This was enough for her, and she took me across the hospital to the emergency room to be assessed by a doctor there. This doctor committed me under the Mental Health Act, and I was transported by ambulance to a psychiatric ward in a city 3 hours away.
My stay at the hospital was short. I was only there for three days, just long enough to be prescribed an antidepressant and for them to give me “voluntary” rather than “involuntary” status. Three days was a long time to try to occupy myself with puzzles and colouring books in a spartan facility, awaiting the 20-minute meeting with the psychiatrist who came once a day and left me feeling unfulfilled and unheard. I went home before I should have, but I kept taking my pills, finally accepting medication.
This wasn’t the end of my journey. I have been rejected by what I have always considered the most important self care – counselling. I have been considered to be “better” if I have an appointment on a good day. I have been through multiple medications – both antidepressants and antipsychotics. These experiments always start with hope and, until recently, have always ended with discouragement. Sometimes I would spiral the whole way back down into the familiar darkness that I lived in for so long. The good news is that I have felt happiness. A colleague told me a joke, and I smiled about it even after she had walked away. I sang along to my music in my car, and my heart was light. I realized that my marriage wasn’t working and had the strength to leave. I will continue to count these moments. I will continue to remember that I was a person before depression. Most importantly, I will continue.
Why is it important for you to share your story and experiences with mental health and illness?
I think that for people with a chronic mental illness, there is a lack of understanding that there is no "cure". I want to help people understand that there is a difference between an episode and a disorder.
Golden, BC, Canada
More about Adrianne:
I am a mountain woman who has a passion for adventure! I am an avid ice climber so most weekends in the winter you will find me scaling a frozen waterfall in the Canadian Rockies. If there is no ice to be had, I spend my time rock climbing, paddle boarding or trail running with my two dogs. I love to read classic novels, listen to AC/DC and knit incessantly. I hope that someday I will be able to help youth who struggle with their own issues, and give them the support that they need.
This is another picture of myself ice climbing! I believe that there is a comparison to be drawn between a journey with mental illness and ice climbing as you just have to keep attempting in the face of adversity and sometimes you need to bash through some ice before you can keep moving up.
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