My Experience with Depression (Faye)

I’ve been told that the first post for contributors is usually about their journey within the mental health world.  So here goes.

I’ve been struggling with depression for as long as I can remember – I was abused by a family member as a child and that left me emotionally scarred.  When my parents divorced, it only got worse until said family member moved away.  Things just seemed to pile on and on and when I was 13 I began the struggle with self harm, cutting and scratching myself.  The scratching got worse whenever I was deprived of blades and for the first time in my life I stopped biting my nails, but only so I could leave those long gouges that passed as burns when questioned.  This continued for many years and still, maybe once a year, I find myself drawn back to the comfort of the pain a blade brings, an addiction I think I will always be fighting to overcome.

Anxiety had been in the background on and off during this time, but didn’t hit full on until I was about 14.  I had been dancing competitively for years and I finally broke down before a performance.  I finished that year and changed schools, leaving the art school I had waited five years to attend for a more conventional school experience, where my anxiety and depression got worse and worse.  I had come out as gay when I was eleven and at the art school, that had been something to celebrate.

At my jock-filled school of choice from 15-17 years of age, it was a curse and nothing I did, not even dating boys to try and hide it, helped me escape the mockery.  It was because of the torment I received, and the lack of action on the part of the teachers, that I started skipping classes and ended my Grade 12 year without graduating.  From there on, I jumped from job to job (and went through a particularly poorly timed relationship with an emotionally abusive trans-man) until I finally started working full time at a chain of adult novelty shops.

Just before my poorly timed relationship I had finally moved out of my home – after my abuser had moved away, my mother had married a man who was emotionally abusive towards me and, I later found out, had become addicted to crack at the age of 50 which explained a good portion of his behavior.  But I was only out for a year before I moved home again to begin school.  I was attending art courses at a Vancouver school and commuting all the way from Langley, which had my anxiety in full swing – I tolerate transit on a good day, and despise it the rest of the time, so early in the mornings I’m in no mood for it. On top of that, only a month and a half before I started classes, my step-father had passed away, which had me in conflict – we’d had good days and bad and I was both relieved and sad, guilty that I was even thinking that it might be for the best, mourning the loss of the man who, prior to his drug abuse, had been a better father to me than my own.

I had been in school for two months when I finally entered the mental health system.  My mum walked in on me lining up pills on the kitchen counter, getting ready to call it quits.  We fought and she dragged me to the hospital, where I was given a bed and a dose of Ativan to put me to sleep until the psychiatrist came in that morning (apparently they don’t work at 2am, go figure)  I spent the next two days in emergency while they waited for a room to become available in the psychiatric ward.  I was given certain freedoms that emergency patients don’t have – I think they understood that cooping me up in my “long term bed” which was a concrete closet with a bed in it, would only work to make me more depressed.  The psychiatrist started me on Celexa that first day, which of course, I decided to have the “10% of patients” response to and spent the next week shaking.  They moved me into the psych ward on day three and I spent five days with people who made me look sane.  Because we don’t have a detox centre in Langley, the psych ward also serves for drug addicts trying to kick the habit.  I also discovered my allergy to sleeping pills which left me wide awake and seeing things.  They tried three different pills that week, none of which worked.  By the last day, I had lost it.  I was miserable, the vegetarian food looked like sludge and I just really wanted to go home.  They released me the next afternoon when my Mum came to pick me up, and I had another week off before I returned to classes, now dosed up on Celexa and taking Ativan when my panic attacks got bad.

I ended up dropping out of school and moving to Edmonton, struggled for six months through another failed relationship and began another one with a trans-woman I’d met through my ex.  When I moved home, she came with me to enjoy a trip to BC for a week before going home.  We maintained our relationship for another four months before it also ended.  I was getting ready to start school again, make another attempt and I did, but again, only made it about six months before I dropped out again and began hunting for work.

That was a year ago.  Nowadays I’m working in marketing at a local housing company, while doing my photography on the side and trying to create a name for myself in the art world.  When I look back at how far I’ve come in this single year, I’m amazed at how long my journey was and where it has brought me.  Sitting in my apartment, surrounded by my pets, I feel for the first time in my life as if I’m home.  That darkness that chased me for so many years is a shadow on the edge of my world.  It’s always there, always reminding me that it can swallow me up, but I keep it at bay and I’m beginning to remember what happiness feels like, learning how to smile in a genuine fashion again.

For the first time in my life, there’s hope.

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