Monday, September 9, 2013

i'm a survivor.

Today I spent $100 on books about depression and suicide even though I can't pay my rent and technically don't have a job...I hung out with Lex and his cool’ uni friends. We saw a movie which I vaguely enjoyed even though I found the humour cringe worthy and kept wondering why the main character didn't just kill the day got sunnier, my tremor got so pronounced that my legs and arms were visibly shaking and my eyes blinked rapidly as if I was having an invisible seizure...
Why does normality seem so alien but reality so depressing? Why are there so many variables to my mood and my day? If the only thing I want to do is watch a movie or read a book, my eyes flutter or my head throbs with fatigue...if I feel up to leaving the house to do something social or practical; some aspect of my illness jars the silence and sends me into a downward spiral of hopelessness and despair...if I talk to my friends about my feelings I feel like I'm hurting them, but if I don't, they overwhelms me in a cloak of sadness.
This thing - my sadness - is violent and all consuming. It is a terrible weight, an anchor that I am chained to; forced to carry around daily. It's self-inflicted and seemingly logical, so especially cruel when reality hits (always after new scars, popped pills, tears shed, plans made or excruciating hours passed). Some days I feel like I should carry around a sign that says:  “Please don't give up on me. I'll come back soon, just give me time...”.

“Actually [there] was only part of myself that I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself, that dragged me into suicide debate and made every window, kitchen implement, and subway station a rehearsal for tragedy...a successful suicide demands good organisation and a cool head, both of which are usually incompatible with the suicidal state of mind.” —Susanna Kaysen
“That's the thing about depression: a human being can survive almost anything, as long as [they] see the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end.” ―Elizabeth Wurtzel
Why do you live in your body like you will be given another? As if it were temporary. You starve it, you let anyone touch it, you berate it. Tell it that it should be completely different...but who praises the way it holds up your weight, even when you are falling apart?” ―Warsan Shire

Yesterday I went to a conference on post-trauma growth; an alternative take on trauma and PTSD. It focuses on the positive psychological changes that occur after trauma as a result of resilience and recovery. This model does not minimise trauma or related issues (eg. flashbacks, phobias), it just emphasises the individuals overall high quality of life due to self-taught or implemented coping strategies. More info can be found here.
At the conference I was lucky enough to hear a talk by Mark and Ellen Modra, bereaved parents of the beautiful Hannah (pictured above and below). Mark and Ellen suffered a huge personal tragedy; yet despite all this, they are determined to spread the world about Hannah's death and not shy away from the facts - Hannah did not pass away’ and her dead was not an accident. She committed suicide. Hannah died on the first day of year 12 after a short battle with depression.
I was also blessed to talk to Hannah's younger sister, Clare. I came to her as a suicide survivor (I guess not literally...but psychologically it feels pretty close). I told her a little bit about myself, my recent hospitalisation, annoying medication side-effects and my frustration with both the public and private health care systems; especially the lack of support for the family and friends of people suffering from suicidal ideation or traumatic grief.
It was fantastic to talk to someone who understood my outrage, who listened calmly as I cried with heaving sobs (a particularly rare occurrence as of late). We agreed to try and organise a free conference like the one we attended for suicide survivors and bereaved siblings or partners between the age of 18-25. I truly believe this is a powerful cause that could have real therapeutic benefits. Talking with Clare emphasised the reality of suicide; the long term complex issues faced by family and friends and the stigma attached to her sisters death...reinforcing to the rational part of my brain the torment that I actually considering inflicting. Clare said that talking to me helped her understand how much pain Hannah was in; and stopped her blaming or resenting her sister for causing so much pain. We both admitted that we continue to struggle with our own longevity; “you have your good days, and then the dark ones,” Clare said. But I am determined to break the silence about suicide and provide educated support to those in need. This is crap, it is not fair.
Something needs to shift, because right now it's unbearable.