at Not Myself Today

I love the motto/title of this anti-stigma campaign. There is no better way to put it. I wrote a “pledge” or a story. Here it is (I hope that they do not mind I am double posting!).

Not Myself Today

I feel shaky as I sit down to write this. Remembering how I felt when I started getting sick still makes my hands go clammy. I had just finished university. Over the course of the summer, I began to have panic attacks – bursts of intense, overwhelming fear, in which my mind fired off angry, scared or upset words. The buzz of terrifying thoughts of how I had completely failed at the task at hand, or how something horrible was about to happen was like a cluster of wasps stinging my brain, so thick they clouded my vision and so frequent and sudden that I didn’t know which way to swat in order to make a ceasefire. In the brief moments of clarity during these attacks, I realized I was just a person standing on an empty street, wanting to scream but silent, wide-eyed, among normal people, and I began to think I was losing my mind. I had lost all control of my emotions, my thoughts, my reasoning, and I knew I must be going insane. I thought I would lash out with all the energy coursing through my body – I wanted to break things, to run, to hit, but all I did was stand there, a storm on the inside, empty on the outside.

I was lucky. I am so lucky. I got help at CAMH. I went through cognitive behavioural therapy for the panic.

But over that winter session, my grandmother was ill, and I wasn’t seeing any success, any change, and the panic still kept coming. Now I knew it was a panic attack, I knew there wasn’t a real danger, but the little voice kept saying over and over that I was insane, I was crazy, I couldn’t control this and I never would.

I lost interest in everything. I stayed holed up in the house. I missed work because of panic attacks, and never contacted my friends. My boyfriend helped get me up in the morning, and warmly accepted my bursts of terror or disappointment or anger, and was patient.

One cold night in March, I got so angry about not understanding, not getting better, not being in control that I grabbed a bunch of blankets and sat outside, coatless, in the winter evening. I watched the last bit of the sun set. I sat there for hours, cold and empty, hating myself, letting my mind wander and feeling sad. I knew I was pouting. I knew it was pointless. I knew I had to keep going. At some point that night, the idea came to me that I could do something, at least. I stirred finally, and went into the kitchen.

When my self-harm turned into suicidal thoughts, my boyfriend took me back to my doctor and insisted we try medicine. I let them convince me, and started on anti-depressants.

That’s how I think of “the start”, which actually took place over a whole year. It’s another year later now. It’s taken that long to find a mix of medication that fits my needs. But I’m starting to feel better. I’ve been through mindfulness behavioural cognitive therapy for depression. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and I’m now in dialetical behavioural therapy. I have learned a lot of skills to deal with the emotions and thoughts I have been so desperate to control my whole life.

I cannot say thank you enough to my boyfriend, still my boyfriend, and my family, and all the friends who have known I’ve been dealing with these disorders and stuck by me. My new workplace has been flexible, and my boss is phenomenal and understanding.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve had help when I needed it. Few people have known I am sick without me telling them. One day I was going to CAMH and saw an old acquaintance on the streetcar. When I told him where I was going he said, “Oh ya? What do you teach?”

I hope it’s ok to post this last bit, but I’ve been writing a lot about what’s happening. I want to describe what it’s like to be inside my mind, so others can know, so others can share, so everyone can learn. I keep a blog, I hope it will help people.

Sincerely, Christina


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