It's often difficult to start writing a piece where you just want to yell out a point and can't really figure out how to create context or use intriguing transition sentences to "build up a story". What can the audience relate to? How can I introduce the subject without losing the audience's interest? God damnit, how the hell am I going to come up with a promising thesis? I'm sure you've all been in a situation where you've been lost trying to write a paper on the Cold War in Grade 10 History or lost trying to draft an essay on the subject "Why?" for Psych 339 or totally confused when preparing a presentation for your next sales meeting with your biggest Latex client. You know what has to be done, you know what's expected, but how do you actually word it so that it makes sense to everyone else?
Imagine you never attended a single History class. Imagine your Psych 339 teacher only gave you 30 seconds to write the whole paper before deciding you have no idea what you're talking about. Imagine you had the biggest presentation of your life on your first day of work and you had literally no idea what latex even was.
Now imagine this.
Imagine beng expected to live up to expectations without any form of direction or preparation. Imagine there's something in your head forcing you not to get out of bed every morning, even though you have every intention to. Imagine there was a Pizza Pizza across the street telling you that having a Large pizza to yourself will make you feel better. Imagine you wanted to talk to someone so badly but you couldn't bare the thought of someone just telling you to perk up and pick yourself up. Imagine wanting to open up to someone but you really have no idea what you want to open up about. Imagine being at constant war with judgments and the idea that there's a cookie cutter solution for any given mental health problem. Imagine waking up depressed and wildly overweight, praying so desperately every night to wake up the next morning as someone who you were last week, last month, or even last year.
This was my life. I liked being low profile and I enjoyed time alone, but living in the shadows? That's something I wouldn't wish upon anyone. I didn't know how to talk to anyone or who in my friend/family group would even want to hear about this sort of stuff. It was a difficult year to say the least with all the academic expectations and external obligations, but going through this just added 30 lb weights to my ankles for every single step I wanted to take. As I've mentioned in a previous post, my first panic attack took place in a library alongside one of my best friends who took me straight to the school psychiatrist. Appointment after appointment, I became more comfortable in sharing and being open. I became more comfortable in accepting where I am and moving towards a place of contentment, because at the time I forgot what "peace" was.
I look back on this time and I remember how eternally grateful I'll be for those few people who helped me get back on my feet; how I'll be eternally grateful for those who held me together at my breaking point. I look back on this time and I remember how eternally forgiving I am of those who weren't ready to be there or who couldn't see that I needed the help that I received. I look back on this time and to this day, I am so grateful for going through this entire experience.
In early 2016, I noticed a shift in someone who I was very close to. A change in demeanour, heavy irritability, a loss of interest in things that were important to him, among other things. What stood out to me the most was that he gave me something of his that I've been wanting to use/try for 3 years prior, but I was never allowed to get close to it. It stood out to me because a) he never gave into my pleas for his cool things, b) it was completely unprovoked, and c) it's something he cared about, but gave it away like it was nothing. My worry provoked me to offer to pick him up from the bus one day and drop him home. Instead of going straight home, we stopped at a Wendy's parking lot because I was craving chicken fingers, but more importantly, I wanted to see if I could help in any way. I assumed girl troubles, but he didn't have any to vent about. I brought up school and tried to provoke him with my history of academic troubles, but nothing. Finally, I went on to talk about what I went through while I was in school - my depression. Something clicked. There was a look in his eye like he was ready to break through the wall of emotions he spent so long creating.
Dropping out of school, twice. Getting addicted to alcohol. Seeking out drugs as a coping method . Completely changing his outlook on life. And the hardest to hear of them all, multiple attempts at self harm. All this happened over a span of ten years. Ten years of silence.
I was motionless, speechless in fact. I couldn't believe all this was happening right in front of me, to someone so close to me, for all that time. This was hidden behind the texts about the upcoming iPhone, hidden behind the days he asked me to go to the movies but I was busy, hidden behind the days he just sat there and watched me play video games. I can't really explain how hard it was to hear all this, but I also can't really explain how honoured I was that I did. You're probably confused of my gratitude for experiencing clinical depression, well this is why. The simple mentioning of mental illness/ depression triggered this conversation. My experience readied me to hear this, readied me to be more empathetic, readied me to be open minded to something I may not have understood if I didn't go through it myself.
Take a minute. Think about a time you've asked for help; think about a time you've been asked for help - By a friend, a colleague, a stranger; think about the feeling you had when someone helped you. There are millions of Canadians, reaching out a hand every day. More often than not, their hands won't be reaching out the way this hand is - some may reach in the form of irritability, some may reach in the form of physical and mental sluggishness, some may reach in the form of not being able to sleep and some may reach by offering you a tiny gold DJ box that was super important to them. We have a duty to continue trying to better understand the symptoms and effects of mental illness, channel the empathy that lies within all of us and not just raise awareness, but raise the number of cases solved.
I want us to feel more comfortable in reaching for that hand. I want us to feel more comfortable in reaching for that hand. I want us to feel more comfortable in reaching for that hand. I did, and I'm more than confident you can too. That hand you saw above is the person who inspired me to become what I am today. He is NVSN. You are NVSN. We are all NVSN.
Written by: Naim Jutha, NVSN.