Ending the stigma.
When you open up a story on Medium (for those of you who’ve never used it), the ghost prompt says “Tell your story..”
I’ve been staring at those words for five minutes now, not really reading them. It wasn’t until they finally registered that I knew what I needed to say here.
I want to talk about depression, but it’s difficult. It’s crazy difficult. And to talk about it in a personal sense? A sense that relates to my personal experiences? That’s almost impossible.
But it needs to not be impossible. It needs to be okay.
I was 13 when I tried to kill myself for the first time. I’ll never forget that day. I took a bottle of aspirin over the kitchen sink. I don’t remember wanting to die, or knowing that I was killing myself. I’d stayed home from school sick that day. I wasn’t really sick, I just didn’t feel like being around anyone outside of my own skin. I had a headache, and I went to the kitchen. I remember the aspirin (it was the generic uncoated kind) turning into mush in my mouth. I couldn’t swallow it all, and it tasted to vile. I coughed up a bunch and got a glass of water to swallow the rest down.
The next few hours of my life were a horrible, wretched, world spinning ride of nausea and pain. My parents came home, and they knew immediately something was wrong. My dad got me to throw up, and then the pain stopped. I remember throwing up pieces of my stomach lining, and my dad crying. I think he cried, anyway. I cried.
A year and a half later, I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, after being sexually abused.
I started smoking, and I started cutting. I have 13 scars up my right arm, including very crummily etched letters that spell “Fuck”. There are a few scars on my shoulder, too, and one on the inside of my wrist. I remember taking just enough aspirin to make the world spin and wash, but not enough to die. I wanted to die, and I hated myself for being too much of a coward to do it.
With my diagnosis came a prescription for Zoloft. But, when I looked at those little orange bottles, I didn’t see a way to get healthy, or any help for me. I saw a label, plastered across my face, that said I was sick. There was something WRONG with me, and I had to be fixed.
I didn’t take those pills. I stockpiled them, and eventually, I swallowed two bottles at once. I got my stomach pumped that day.
Eventually, I decided I wasn’t sick. Fuck being sick. Fuck being broken. I’m not that. I resolved to never take one of those pills ever again. I left highschool and went to college. I got pregnant, I had a daughter. I got married, and then divorced. I moved to the big city, I got married again, I had two boys, I finished school, I became a successful developer. I love my job, and I love my family, and most days, I love my life.
But here’s the truth: I can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to die. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve sat alone and cried, because I couldn’t think of a single happy thing. Sometimes, I can’t think of anything at all, just an expansive nothingness. It eats at you, and if you let it, it will consume you.
I’m afraid to let everyone know. What if they don’t think I’m okay to do my job, once they know? What if my “successfull” career falls to shambles, because they think there’s something wrong with me? What if they take my kids because I’m sick? What if they judge me?
I’ve tried to tell people a few people close to me, but they shake their heads. They don’t believe me. When I was a kid, it was easy to see how messed up I was. I was slicing my arm to pieces, for Christ’s sake. But now; now I”m successful. Now, I’m a good mother and a good wife, and I have a successful career. There’s no way that I’m sick. They don’t believe it.
Today, reality came crashing in. Someone many people knew and loved died because of this disease, and hundreds of thousands of others have died before him. So here I am: I’m sick, and I hurt, and my hurt is no less real than if I were bleeding.
It’s odd to me, that I feel GUILTY for being sick. You don’t feel guilty for getting the flu, or pnuemonia, or cancer. Those are things that happen TO you, but for some reason, we’ve all decided that depression and mental illness are somehow our fault. Like I could have done something to stop it, or solve it.
I couldn’t. I can’t. I am me. I am beautiful, and funny and brilliant and successful. I am a good mother, and a good wife, and I have depression.
I don’t want your pity. I’d like support, and more than anything, I’d like awareness. I’d like to live in a world, where I can say, “Hey, I’m bipolar” without people looking at me like I’m a leper. I’d like to know that generations that come after us won’t be judged, or scared, or guilty, for having this sickness. One where they can seek help as easily and freely as people do when they have readily visible illnesses.
I have tweeted, and I will be tweeting once a day: my diagnosis, along with #endthestigma. If you’re willing to share yours, do. A simple tweet diagnosis and the hashtag. If you’re not, then feel free to retweet mine. More people need to know that it’s okay. That it will be okay.
And if anyone feels the way I have felt in the past, reach out. I will listen, always. I don’t care if I know you, or I don’t. I don’t care what time it is, or where I am. I have my cell phone on always, if you need someone to talk to, message me. Just say “Kayla, I need help.” You’ll have my full attention, I promise.