As I move forward with my depression prevention action plan, I’m beginning to notice just how easy it has become to do things I never would have had the energy to do before. I always used to look at people like my sister, who would get it into her head that she wanted to rearrange the living room furniture one day and then just do it, and wonder why they didn’t have to sit there and try to motivate themselves. It seemed like magic, that simple ability to just go to the grocery store if you needed something or wash the dishes when they were piling up. No “I’ll go after two more episodes” or “Maybe I’ll have a nap first and then I’ll shower”. Just action. It might sound dramatic, but for the last decade I have actually struggled with things like that and I know I’m not alone. It was even to the point that unless I had work or was meeting up with a friend later, I wouldn’t even bother showering. Taking care of myself seemed pointless. In fact, the longest I have ever gone without bathing is two months. TWO MONTHS. No shower, no bath, I wore the same hoodie and jeans every day and covered my greasy hair with a bandanna. I stunk to high heaven, let me tell you. I didn’t wear deodorant and rarely brushed my teeth. I was fifteen years old, in high school, and nobody would talk to me or sit near me and to be honest, I don’t blame them. If that’s not a sign of severe depression, then I don’t know what is. The system failed me. My teachers, the principals, the guidance counselors — none of them recognized that I needed help. Their solution was to remove me from school and put me in an alternative learning program because I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know how to ask for help either, because I didn’t really think I deserved it.
My mother, bless her heart, was going through her own journey at the time. We had moved from Newfoundland two years before and she was still getting settled into working life after being on welfare for many years. I truly believe she was trying her best, but she simply didn’t know how to deal with someone in my situation and in a new province probably didn’t know where to go for help. She’s also a product of her time, and the stigma against mental illness was much more prevalent in her day than it is now. Even when I was 15 it was still an uphill battle to be taken seriously, so reaching out for help still carried a measure of shame.
I did have one person in my corner, my S.A.L.E.P. (Supervised Alternative Learning for Excused Pupils) coordinator Nancy. She asked me why my clothes were dirty and took my sister and I to the laundromat to wash our clothes when we explained we had no money to do it. She asked me why I wrote lyrics and poems in a notebook and kept it to myself when I should be sharing my writing with people because I was passionate about it. She got me a co-op placement at an employment resource center and told me I had to go twice a week and made it quite clear I would be expected to shower regularly.
I hated her with a mighty passion.
She was exactly the type of woman I now admire. Strong-willed, no-nonsense, and entirely direct. She heard my million excuses and then called me out on all of them. She had a massive impact on my life and was one of the first people to recognize my problems and offer solutions. Of course, at the time I would tell her what I thought she wanted to hear and then do whatever I wanted, which must have been endlessly frustrating, but her words resonated with me despite my best efforts to ignore them.
Now, I work full time and have been doing so for the last twelve years. I’ve lived on my own for about the same amount of time. I was 17 years old when my sister came into my room to tell me that my now former stepfather had been talking to my mother about kicking me out. Ash had been frightened he would act on it and helped find me a place to live, so rather than let him have the satisfaction of giving me the boot, I announced I was leaving and moved out. See a problem, find a solution. I learned that from Nancy.
The only problem I didn’t learn how to solve until much later was how to cope with depression. With winter coming, in addition to 10mg escitalopram, I’m also taking 2000 IU Vitamin D and 180mg Magnesium Glycinate. The doctor told me to take the glycinate as opposed to any other type because the side effects are less severe — but let me tell you that first week I ran to the toilet more than once because it essentially acted as a laxative. Now that the side effects have worn off, things are going much better. My life is going in a direction I’m immensely passionate about and I know 2018 is going to be an amazing year.
Nowadays, I know there’s nothing I can’t do.