I want to take some time today to talk about my own mental health journey. A never-ending exploration into my own mentality and a quest into my whole being. I’m approaching it with determination, passion and honesty. Most of all, I want to share it with others as I believe we are all in this together and that maybe a bit of what I’m learning and attempting to apply to my own wanderings through my heart, soul and mind might be helpful to others. I have been told that I am both a good writer and speaker so I’m using the strengths, gifts perhaps, that others profess to see in me to convey my story. I’m not fishing for more compliments; I am merely telling my truth (compliments scare me because I question their authenticity; but I want to believe them, so I am practicing that).
Since my early teens, I have questioned everything: authenticity, honesty, existentialism, hope, freedom and religion, to name a few! What I found were hypocrites, liars, doubt, despair, criminals and a very dark reality. I couldn’t believe in anything, even reality. In fact, I wasn’t sure what reality was. I dug a hole so deep and dark that suicide became my only option. I couldn’t bear to face another dark day in hell. I hated myself and my life–which to me, was nothing. I finally broke down in my 29th year. I’d spent 16 years of my life living on the cusp of suicide and, for the most part, in a living hell. Nothing meant anything anymore. I was completely lost and broken. Little did I know that I was going to spend the next 10 years clawing my way out of that deep despair.
I was hospitalized several times for my sins, as I believed them to be. I was a bad person, a failure, a disappointment, a pathetic excuse for a human being and for certain, a loser. I didn’t deserve to live. While in hospital the first time, I was involved in psychotherapy groups and individual counseling. I felt like an imposter. I just didn’t belong there, at least, not at first. After a few weeks of ‘incarceration’ as I sat, for the most part, silently, I began to realize that I was feeling safer with myself. The threat of taking my own life or sleeping forever was slowly dissipating and I began, for the first time ever, to feel as if I did belong. I began talking a bit more in therapy groups and in individual appointments until I was able to leave the institutional setting and set my sights on returning back to work. All this took more than 12 weeks. 3 months. It seemed like an eternity. I was to find out that eternity wasn’t even close and after being let go from work, I pursued therapy with a passion I hadn’t known before. I was dead set and determined to survive.
The psychiatrist I was seeing finally found a drug, after countless trials and errors, that worked. I took it faithfully and even when I was doing well, I still took it. I didn’t want to dive down towards death again. I worked hard at improving my self esteem, my fear of failure, my assertiveness and my whole outlook on life. At 39 years old I went back to school, received my B. Ed. and began teaching full-time at 40. I loved the work, the kids and my colleagues. Most importantly, I loved the extra-curricular activities like band, sports and directing musicals. I was in my zone! And then they took my antidepressant off the market. It caused liver failure; I had blood tests every month to check for this, but they still took it away from me. My descent was slow and steady. As I had in my 20’s, I tried to hide it away. We once again began the slow and arduous task of finding a suitable medication. Some worked better than others but nothing worked like my lifesaver. Then, in 2010, I received a “Key Contributor” award and I began my final descent. I was unworthy of this recognition. I was an imposter once again and I didn’t belong. I lasted until 2012; I was 49 going on 50 and I crashed.
I have worked on and off since then. I would return to the classroom only to be beaten down. I no longer ‘had it’. I couldn’t raise myself up to face a room full of adolescents who were struggling emotionally. I was a lost soul myself and ‘faking’ it no longer worked. My insecurities seeped through into my work and for the sake of the kids, I had to leave. This was painstakingly difficult. Even as I write this I am moved to tears. As a failure, once again, I withdrew into myself. The hospital became a norm for me as I bounced in and out. I believe my last stint was in February of 2020–just before Covid hit. As Covid sucked the life out of some, it breathed new life into me. I was no longer a strange person who isolated, as everyone was isolated. I no longer had to brave crowds as there were no crowds to brave. It was perfect. I was not alone. I wasn’t different. This lifestyle suited me just fine!
This brings me to my current situation. I traded my roommate for an emotional support dog and sold my house in August of 2020. That paid off all my debt, which was really nagging at me, and I moved into my trailer. For sure I had to downsize and it meant getting rid of a lot of ‘things’ I had accumulated. I began to realize that all these ‘material accumulations’— the books, the hockey cards, the mementos, even the thousands of pictures still in their envelopes and all my musical instruments–were just add-ons that held me back. They had had their use and now were of no importance. I kept one of my keyboards, two saxes and my guitar as well as all my converse high tops, but that’s about it. I had a huge garage sale that brought in more than enough cash to pay for the dumpster that I overfilled. I, then, began to live a life of freedom. I am now in my 60th year. I’m going skydiving on my birthday. The last concoction of meds are working and I have decided to work on my broken life. Maybe bring some light into the darkness. It wasn’t until I began reading Brene Brown’s books and listening to her Ted Talks that I really began my journey back to civilization. The thought and sound of ‘living authentically’ captures my attention and I haven’t stopped reading and working to cultivate more positive attitudes in my daily life. I am on a course of self-awareness that I have never been on before and it is taking me to new heights that include writing my blog and sharing it with others. I want to be an advocate for Mental Health and this is how I’m fulfilling that dream right now.
I want to thank each and every one of you for traveling with me. It is with joy, compassion and courage that I share my stories. As a final word I want to share, for a second time, my new mantra:
I will cultivate value, worth, respect, accountability and reflection into my life and apply it by integrating courage, compassion and connection into my thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards myself and others.
Living Love, Jaidan
peace balance empathy