I’m Back, And Boy Have Things Changed.

My last published post here was just over a year ago. I’d had a really good day and wanted to let my internet friends know I was doing better, that depression wasn’t winning the battle and I was still around. This post is somewhat different.

As anyone living with depression can tell you, it comes back. It always comes back. For me, I found my rock bottom this past summer. A lot of things have happened in the last year, so much that I’m not even sure where to start. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever post here again, especially after so much time. I debated deleting this blog many times, but given that I started it back in 2012 and it’s really served as a place for me to express my thoughts, I decided even if I wasn’t going to post anything I should at least preserve this little piece of my history. Now I’m glad I did.

I’m not a coffee wench anymore. I quit my job in July after the company I worked for, STARBUCKS (I can definitely say it now because I’ll never work for them again) fired my boss and beloved friend over some nonsensical bullshit. They had fired my sister years before for a bullshit reason but at the time I was in Toronto and living alone so I couldn’t afford to quit, so when this happened I was like, “FUCK THIS COMPANY” and handed in my notice the day after I found out my boss had been fired. (I’ll save my Starbucks rant for another day, but I assure you, it’s coming.)

My sister broke up with her boyfriend last summer, which was a really positive move. They were completely unhappy together. Ash and I moved to a new apartment in the same neighborhood. She supported me for several months after I quit my job, for which I will be forever thankful (and forever paying her back, to be honest). During the two months I was out of work, I finally found what I believe to be my rock bottom. I have not been that mentally unstable since I was a teenager.

My sister started dating a new guy and basically disappeared from the face of the earth. (I don’t really fault her, that’s kind of how the women in my immediate family operate.) Jobless and broke, I was spending all my time alone. I was angry over what happened with work, I was angry that all the grand plans my sis and I had had for our shiny new lives had completely fallen through, and I was painfully lonely. Granted, my cat Bella is basically an emotional support animal at this point given how often I’ve hugged her and sobbed into her furry side, so I wasn’t *completely* alone, but human contact is important. I stopped leaving the house, which meant whenever I had a job interview I would go into a massive panic attack. I began to believe there was no reason to keep going. Everything I had been hoping for had disappeared from my life. I missed my mom. My entire support system evaporated in the span of two months, or at least that’s how it felt at the time. Depression likes to make you think you’re isolated even when you’re not because it prevents you from reaching out for help.

I remember one time Ash stopped by to pick up some clothes and then she was heading back to her boyfriend’s house. I had been hoping she would stick around because I hadn’t seen her in days. The instant she left I completely lost my shit. It felt like I had been abandoned (which, again, was mostly in my head). I remember grabbing a baking pan out from the drawer under the oven and beating myself over the head with it until I actually bent the metal. I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. That night, as I lay in bed still crying, I punched myself in the face over and over while obsessing about what a waste of space I was, how I would never find another job and if I killed myself my sister wouldn’t even find me until days later. Maybe weeks.

Things started looking up again when I was hired by Second Cup at the University of Toronto Mississauga. I was so excited! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was being hired as a store manager (for which I have ZERO experience) with no training and was expected to take over the store after two days. You can imagine how quickly I panicked. I didn’t even call to quit, I just had a panic attack one morning before work and never went back. THAT was when I really started to fall apart.

I spent days in bed. I was trying to get out of my own way and try to be positive and keep looking for work, but everything seemed pointless. It was like all the color drained out of the world. I did manage to get hired as a cashier at a pharmacy, but that nearly fell apart too. All the upheaval and depression and anxiety crashed over me like a wave and I woke up one morning weak and throwing up. I called in sick and spent the whole day sleeping. The next day I managed to head to work but I was anxious the whole time, to the point that I was literally red-faced and sweating. I was sent home. Then I called in sick again over the next couple days and I was certain I would be fired. I didn’t know how to explain what was happening because I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt physically weak and sick to my stomach and although I had had panic attacks in the past, this felt different. It was like I was walking through mud. Everything took tremendous effort.

That was when I began actually planning my suicide.

I have thought about killing myself many, many times. This isn’t a secret. I have self-injury scars, I’m not ashamed of having struggled for many years just to stay alive. But this was different. At one point, I became convinced that I must be possessed by a demon or something because I felt like I wasn’t in control of my feelings or actions. I began to dissociate from my own body. It felt like my limbs were foreign objects, that my mind was poisoned and separate from my physical being. I have NEVER experienced that before. I decided I was going to go to several different stores and buy the strongest over the counter sleeping pills I could get, then take them all and slit my wrists in the bathtub. It was an actual plan. Given that I had spent my teens and early 20s cutting myself, it seemed like the natural choice. I even knew what I was going to wear. I have never planned my own death in such detail before and I hope I never will again.

Behind those intrusive thoughts and the dark cloud, my sense of self-preservation made a last ditch effort to get help. I knew I needed a doctor’s note for work, so I asked my sister to come to the walk in clinic with me. I told her the gist of what I’d been feeling (although this is the first time I’ve ever gone into detail about what happened to me) and asked her to make sure I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I have a tendency to downplay things and I wanted Ash to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

We went to the clinic on a Saturday. I sat in a room with my sister and the doctor and told her EVERYTHING. About my very long history with depression, the Paxil I took as a teenager, my brief time locked up in the psych ward, my past experiences with cocaine and ecstasy, I mean EVERYTHING. She suggested I try Cipralex and wrote me a prescription for a two month supply. I don’t have insurance so I went with the generic version which costs just under $50 for two months.

It has completely saved my life.

The first couple of weeks were difficult when it came to side effects. I felt groggy and nauseated and I lost my appetite. The pills made me feel like I was high. But I kept taking them and eventually the side effects settled down and I slowly began to feel normal. I had more energy. It took less effort to get out of bed than it had in years. I felt like I could breathe again. I decided to walk to and from work every day rather than take the bus. It’s about a 20 minute walk each way, so for the past two months I’ve been walking 40 minutes a day five days a week, which is far more physical activity than I’ve had in ages. Plus I’ve saved around $360 because walking is free.

When the pills were almost gone, I went back to the clinic and told them I would like to stay on the medication. I now have another two month supply with two refills. I still have bad days (and one VERY bad day when a friend passed away from cancer, which I will write about in detail very soon), but instead of being overwhelmingly devastating, I’m able to manage my emotions. I still occasionally think about suicide and I probably always will, but I’m able to listen to my rational mind and I certainly don’t plan on acting on those momentary thoughts. The meds are like a buffer or a delay between myself and my depression. It’s still there, but it no longer rules my life. I feel more like myself than I have in over a decade.

There’s no shame in having a broken brain. There’s no shame in needing to take medication every day, possibly for the rest of your life, so you can enjoy the same quality of life as everybody else. I would not still be here if not for the meds I now take.

When I think back over my life, I can see why I grew up with depression. It runs in my family so I was predisposed anyway, and then my life experiences built on that predisposition. But I’m not the only one who has suffered from this, and I’m not the only one who has had to ask for help. If anyone reading this is going through something similar, I encourage you to get help now, before it’s too late. You are worthy.

Shortly before my breakdown, I found my way back to God. I went to church and cried my heart out at the hymns and I felt connected in a way I hadn’t felt in years. I prayed before my sis and I moved into our current apartment and asked God to take over my life and show me what He wanted me to do. I truly believe He sent me on that downward spiral so I would hit rock bottom and get the help I’ve needed for years. I believe He wanted to show me how dark it could get so I would have the strength to seek the light again. I realize not everyone believes, but that belief has helped me so much. If I hadn’t opened my heart to Him again, I would definitely not be here right now.

Jen: 2 Depression: 0.

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

4 thoughts on “I’m Back, And Boy Have Things Changed.

  1. Jen, you’re my hero. Your courage in facing these demons, and writing about your struggle, is awesome beyond belief.

    I was so worried about you, and you have been in my daily prayers.

    You epitomize everything I wish I might be. I’ve been fighting hard against pancreatic cancer and metastases, but you…you’ve transcended hell itself.

    By God, Jen. I admire you. And if I ever again would deploy to the world’s cesspools, to let the oppressed know that someone cares, and someone’s willing to die alongside them…I’d want you by my side.

    Because I could draw courage from your strength, and draw compassion from your love.

    1. Hello again, Andrew!

      I know I was silent for a long time, but I hope you know you were in my thoughts as well. I’m sorry I made you worry, it was never my intention. Thank you so much for praying for me, I truly believe it had an impact. When I had my spiritual awakening, it totally overhauled my life and I’d like to believe your prayers had a hand in my allowing God to come back into my life. (One day soon I’ll write a whole post about how that happened and everything that has happened since I gave my life back to Jesus.)

      I know you’re fighting hard, and cancer is one of the absolute worst enemies anyone can ever face. The way you carry on in spite of the battle you’re facing has always and will continue to inspire me to keep going on. I believe we can draw courage and compassion from each other, because this here is a two way street. I’m glad you’re here, you’re truly an angel on earth and I believe our paths crossed for a reason. Folks like us need to keep each other going. Your steadfast faith and kindness has been incredible, and I hope to be like you someday.

      I’m keeping you in my prayers as well.

      1. Oh, Jen! Worrying about you is an honour; you’re one of a very small number of people I’d be that concerned about. That I might have had some hand, through prayer, in your spiritual awakening is awesome for me…just so uplifting.

        Cancer’s pretty awful, yeah, and its metastasizing sucks, but when I’m tempted to be upset about it I look at Josie and Reebok, twin Ridgeback sisters (aka “Oh, God, it’s THEM!”) who are just now sleeping, cuddled together. Had my body not let me down, and my career not have been abruptly ended, they would have been killed, for when I found them they were at their last ‘Please Adopt Me!” outing at a local Wal-Mart. My life for theirs – I would make that trade today.

        It is a two-way street…and may I say that it takes an angel to recognize one?

        You have a place in my heart, dear Jen. When we meet in the next life – and we will, for how could it otherwise be Heaven? – expect a hug from a chap who never hugs ANYONE.

        We, as friends, have earned that.

      2. The way you are handling what happened to you in nothing short of inspiring, and I know that Josie and Reebok are grateful that your path led you to them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, animals were sent to us to help us face anything. I don’t know how many times I felt like I couldn’t keep going and then my cat would come lay down on my chest while I cried and start purring and suddenly things didn’t seem so bad for a moment.

        I know when we meet in Heaven we’ll have ourselves a nice hug and I’ll get to personally thank you for having such a massive impact on my life. As much as I look forward to that, I hope we both take our time getting to that gate.

        And yes, we have absolutely earned that.

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