Next week is Mental Health Awareness week. As a result, I thought I would write about my own experiences dealing with my mental health. And mixed in I will have book recommendations for novels (mostly YA) that deal amazingly with mental health.
I grew up in a household where mental illness was common knowledge. I always knew that my sister, 10 years my senior, struggled with mental illness. I didn’t realize until later that my father did as well. When I was around 8 or 9 my parent’s did try and “shield” me from the worst of my sisters cycles. At that point she was going on 19, diagnosed bi-polar (still the label at the time), and about to enter what we now refer to as her “dark years.” Mostly because she doesn’t really remember what happened during those years. My belief as to why they hid it from me was I was in a “copying Kate” phase. I think the worry was I would intentionally try and be like her, even in her depressive cycles.
We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…
Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.
Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.
Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.
In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.
Fast forward about 5 years. I was a sophomore in high school when the anxiety started really kicking in. The feeling like I wouldn’t ever fit in. My friends joked that I was like the chameleon. Every day at lunch I would hang out with a different friend group. Constantly worrying that if I spent too much time with one group they would realize just how out of place I was. That I didn’t really work with them. So I jumped from group to group and never let anyone get too close. That became my norm.
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
The thoughts I had about myself seemed completely normal to me. “Maren, you are so ugly.” “Maren, you are so fat.” “There is no way that guy would like you, look at the all the way prettier and skinnier girls that are in this show too.” “Why would they possibly invite you out? You are so boring.” Every day these thoughts would swirl through my brain. No matter how many times I had friends that would ask me to sit with them, or go out with them on weekends, the thoughts persisted. By my senior year in high school these thoughts were part of how I lived. I didn’t realize that they were part of a mental illness. I completely believed them to be true.
In college the anxiety worsened, and the depression that had been simmering for years on the back-burner started to boil. No matter what I did, the thoughts and worries began increasing. My personal life took a serious toll. I never let anyone get close enough to do more than a first date. Friends left, either because I pushed them away or because they legitimately sucked. My family went through a significant downfall (this one luckily figured itself out after many months). Because of everything I couldn’t keep a lid on the depression anymore.
But I did.
For years and years I compartmentalized everything in my life. Every few months I would go through, what I referred to as, my compartments “busting open.” For a few days or a week all the self control I had would be decimated. I would avoid contact with everyone, going on a hermitage. I didn’t have interest in anything I loved. All I could do was binge watch TV and go to the beach to stare at the ocean.
Fast forward 8 more years. My ability to maintain control on the anxiety and depression has deteriorated significantly. I “break” far more often. I promise those around me that I will get help, but I never do. I promised my father that I would follow his recent example and finally get the help I deserved. Not only for me, but for those around me that loved me. A couple of months later, I hadn’t followed through on that promise, and my father died suddenly of a heart attack. The next few months were a blur of emotions. By September I had, unknowingly, slipped so much further down than I ever had in my life.
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.
Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.
The wake-up call came during one of my late night runs. I had taken to running at 10 o’clock at night, which came with it’s own dangerous behavior. I collapsed at my 2 mile mark in the middle of a park and thought to myself “Gods, this would be such much easier if I was just dead.” That thought scared the shit out of me. Through all the years of battling depression I never once went to a suicidal place. It was a point of (ridiculous) pride for me. But here I was, wishing I was dead. And I didn’t just think it once, I thought about it a lot, over several weeks. I scared the shit out of my best friend, who felt so upset that he was all the way across the country and couldn’t help me. I scared my sister. I scared my husband. So, in honor of my dad, I finally did it. I made an appointment with my doctor to get a referral for a psychiatrist. The first step of many. My psychiatrist put me on medication and it seemed to get so much better, after a month of insane side effects.
You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
Two weeks ago my multiple jobs became a little busier, and my anxiety/depression began to skyrocket without my realizing it. I was working 80 hours a week and sleeping 3ish hours a night. Until 4 days ago. I had a day long panic attack. I spent the day crying and hyperventilating at random intervals, shaking, a million thoughts racing through my head all at once. Until that night when my husband and my mother rushed me to the ER because they were sure I was going to pass out from erratic breathing. Doctors and nurses kept coming in to ask me if I had a “plan” for suicide. They were taking away my phone (which for me is a big deal), talking about putting me on a 72 hour hold, and I had no control over what was happening. Needless to say this didn’t help the anxiety. Luckily, the ER psychiatrist finally determined I was not a danger to myself or others, so they let me go.
Over the past few days since then, my family has forced me to give up commitments. To get myself down to a 40 hour work week (or as close as I could manage on such short notice).
My struggle with mental illness is far from over. But that is exactly what it is. An illness. And this illness is something I can fight, as long as I have the strength to make myself do so. I hear some people say “Being sad is a choice.” I say, fuck that. For those with depression and other mental illnesses being sad isn’t a “choice.” But I can amend the statement. Doing everything I can to fight the sad, that is a choice. And it is the choice I am taking every day.