**This may be, what is commonly referred to as “triggering” as this includes discussion on depression, personal stories, and otherwise other information related to mental illness that may be “too much” for some.**
I remember the first time a doctor ever asked me the two questions:
“Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?”
“Have you ever thought about hurting someone else?”
I was fourteen-years-old, my stepmother had just passed away right before Christmas, and I had spent the year prior battering my own skin, believing it to help ease my emotional pain via replacing it with physical pain. It worked for some time; though, it only felt like it did. Now, almost 15 years later, I still have the battle scars to remind me of that time.
I also revisited the experience a few more times throughout the years. This wasn’t about ending my life, as many falsely believe. Moreso, it was about ending the pain, if only temporarily. The medication the doctors “fed me” only turned me into a zombie; numb, cold, and uncaring (I suppose the last two go together); nothing mattered for quite some time. **There are many who benefit from psychiatric medication(s) and I am in no way, shape, or form giving medical advice. This is just my personal experience.**
So, when my fourteen-year-old self gave the doctor the answer, “yes” to the question, “have you ever thought about hurting yourself?” I was backer acted. For those who find this term to be new, being baker acted is when you are basically deemed a threat to yourself and/or others. Usually, a baker act is a 3-5 day stay at a rehab center of sorts. This upset me and my parents, to say the least, because I was unaware that “thinking” about hurting yourself meant I was now a threat to society (that’s how such things make a depressed person feel).
I said “no” to the second question, by the way. Just sayin’. Not once has it ever crossed my mind to truly hurt another, even through all I have experienced – my own worst enemy was no one else but me. Again,
My own worst enemy was non-other than my own Self.
That first visit, yes you read that correctly, the first visit to, what people love to refer to as the “looney bin,” put a few things into perspective for me. First thing, I never wanted to tell ANY doctor the truth ever again, pushing medication(s) on me appeared to be (and quite frankly, still does) the only way to “get better,” and I left feeling severely flawed. They stamped me with all your typical diagnosis: GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), major depression, and ADHD. Imagine the medication for those three “disorders” or, to some, “diseases.” Dis-ease (being in a lack of the feeling of ease) became almost a comforting place for me.
Three years later, I was your typical seventeen-year-old. I acted out of impulse at times, didn’t always “think things through” prior to acting, and felt judged constantly. I tried to jump out of my mother’s driving car that day. Which led me to my second visit to the same place I was in just a few years prior. Though, this time, I wasn’t sad, lonely, upset over it. Moreso, I was angry, defiant, and thought everything was “ridiculous.” I was then stamped with the label of having bipolar disorder, A.K.A. Manic depression. Insert more medication here.
I had always been under the impression that my “normal” was depressed. Sounds super strange, right? Well, really, if you or anyone you love has experienced true depression, despair, anguish directed towards the Self – it truly isn’t that weird. It is true when they say we do find an odd comfort in our pain and the solitude only feels good in the moment, but in the long run, only adds to the sum total parts of what made up, what is typically a self-infliction derived from feeling AND believing to be “dysfunctional” or “broken” or just simply “wrong” in some form. I eventually had to ask myself, “am I truly that abnormal? Is there something truly wrong with me that can only be fixed by medicinal and or falsely labeled “therapeutic” means?
How does one answer a question like that? What a conundrum – almost something too difficult to ask and/or answer. So what did I do next? My own research. I always loved psychology. Take me to a Books A Million and I can guarantee you the first section I will walk to will be the self-help section. This wasn’t me trying to defy my doctors, my parents, medicine in general – this was me trying to DEFINE me as something other than allowing others to do so. This was about me trying to find MYSELF, figure out myself and who I truly was, who I truly am, and who I planned and plan on being.
This was no easy fleet, seeing as how I had always been made to believe I needed to be fixed by something outside of myself. And, this isn’t me trying to blame anything external on MY internal “problems,” but to shed light on just how little those externals matter.
See, when I started on my journey to self-exploration, I started out the typical way. I looked inward, was overwhelmed by how much self-work I needed to do, and spent years going back and forth with hiding from who I was to believing I was so much more. It wasn’t until I remembered the process, the journey, the “getting there” to be the whole point. If I hadn’t gone through the trials and tribulations I had experienced, where would I be today? My answer? I don’t care. Why? Because, I couldn’t be more thankful for all the pain, the tears, the screaming, the shame, guilt, all of it! Simply because, in those moments, I saw the parts of me that were raw, the parts that were REAL, but those parts weren’t “broken.” They were just pieces to the puzzle that I was determined to put back together.
So I did.
Little by little, every single day, I started to pick myself up. I started to expand my mind to a new awareness that slapped me across the face…and HARD. I wasn’t angry at the doctors, my parents, my life – I was angry at myself for not knowing how to handle any of it.
See, the truth about depression is simple: yes, it IS true that there are people who are simply more inclined to experience mental “illness;” though, most of us keep ourselves there. Read that sentence again. Most of us KEEP ourselves there. Where we dwell, is where we strive. The term “snap out of it” is not something I’m referring to when I say any of this, as believe you me, I would love to know where to find the snap to just take off my cloak of depression – it takes more than that.
Today, I’m much stronger than that little fourteen-year-old girl who was simply going through puberty but with the slight genetic disposition of possible mental illness, leading me to dwell in that possibility. I’ve said it before and I 100% agree that where our attention goes, where our energy goes = it flows. Whether that energy, that attention, that focus is directed toward bettering life, striving for fulfillment, dwelling in dread, succumbing to the title “mental illness,” or some other derivative of a life goal or change – it will be whatever you wish it to be.
Again, this is not me saying to “snap out of it.” This is me admitting to and, I’m sure many can agree, just how impossible it is to do so without truly looking inward. And, I mean looking DEEPLY inward. Looking into the parts you do and do not wish to see, feel, hear, taste, whatever senses come about. All of our thoughts, our actions, our feelings, our beliefs tie together. If I had continued to hold onto the belief that I was my depression, my anxiety, whatever “stamp” they wanted to give me that day – I probably wouldn’t be here today.
I stopped dwelling in that place. I still visit from time to time, but I don’t stay long. I bring an extra “bag” for when times are really tough, in case I feel I “need” to stay in that frame of mind for a little while longer, but then I pack up and leave. Why? Because I know I can. I now know that nothing internal can be fixed with anything external. No medication, no amount of money, no sparkly man (or woman, whichever for you) could ever make the necessary changes that I needed to make for myself.
Again, baby steps. Even if you find yourself living day-to-day; what is just one more day? Even if you find yourself living hour-to-hour…How about just one more?
Look, I won’t sprinkle your life cupcakes with sugar and tell you that things are going to be perfect, but I can promise, things will be just fine. That is my perspective. And, if ever there’s a time when I can feel that perspective changing, I look inward. Even if reading this makes you roll your eyes, if you refuse to truly observe yourself from all angles – how can you ever expect to improve your life?
I asked myself that question as well too, so please don’t feel attacked when I use the word “you.”
Change isn’t as scary as many of us perceive, and often times, it’s exactly what we need. It’s every day, bettering yourself, better your outlook on life, love, (and the pursuit of happiness? lol) but seriously, it is about LOVING YOU AND YOUR FLAWS. Being able to look at something like anxiety or depression square in the hypothetical eyes and say “you don’t own me” is one of the boldest things you can do. You are YOU and nothing else can define that Truth except for you. Know that.
“Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?” Yes, I have. I have THOUGHT about it, I have attempted it, but if ever asked again, dare I say…
“Well doc, have you not?”
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