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Mental Illnesses are prevalent in our world. They greatly affect not only the individual involved, but the people around them. In the month of April, we focus our spotlight on Mental Health, in order to heal together and break down stigmas.

We want your stories. How has your own, or someone else’s mental illness affected your life? How are you rising above stigmas?

Please share your stories with us during the month of April.

Today, well …really yesterday, I can’t sleep …my coworker stopped me to ask what was the matter. I suppose that it’s been pretty obvious for a long, long time that I haven’t been too happy.

So I laid it out for him.

“I don’t know how long I can keep doing this.” said I.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, just dragging myself through each day. You don’t understand if you haven’t felt it. There is literally nothing worse. It’s like thought-cancer. Every last good thing that you have done counts for nothing. Nothing is good. You don’t hope for anything because nothing works out, in the end. That’s the way it is when you’re a loser.”

“Hey, I think you’re pretty great. You’re a great employee. Nobody worries if you’re in charge of a project. They know it’ll be done. I can’t claim any understanding of what you’re feeling, but I do understand loneliness and doing the single dad thing. It’s really hard, but you’ll get through it.” he said. “Have you thought about getting any help?”

“Yeah, I’ve done therapy. I have to dredge up all these shit memories, some of which I had all but forgotten. It’s not easy or fun. The drive gets me too. When you’re feeling this way, two hours of driving becomes a HUGE obstacle.”

“Well, do you mind if I help find you someone to see? I wear lots of hats and it really isn’t any trouble. We care about you, and it really tears me up personally to see you this way.  I mean man, when you’re up, you’re up and going, smiling and happy, whistling tunes and singing.”

“Well, those times are becoming fewer and further between. Thank you. Yes you can look.”

We had our Christmas party tonight and it really was all I could do to get out the door. My kids and me. The only single person there. It wasn’t easy. The kids got some small presents, and we feasted on prime rib roast and ham, salad, and green beans with garlic and bacon, funeral potatoes, and cheesecake for dessert.  I ended up smoking at least a dozen cigarettes in between playing cars and dollies with all the kids. I really do love playing with kids. They’re so much cooler than adults. Plus, they don’t mind when you’re a bit of a nerd. They think it’s funny. They’re not all caught up in being an “adult.”

Anyway, it was a fun night. At least as fun as being a depressed mess can be.

It struck me that my coworker noticed something that has only been slowly dawning on me the past few months. I may very well suffer from some kind of Bipolar Disorder. I noticed in this last year that I have periods of not exactly mania, but something akin to it, that precede my depressions. And indeed, thinking back, there were times that I was the one dragging a reluctant wife around to friends’ houses, staying up too late and drinking too much, laughing too loudly, smoking way too many cigarettes. Looking back, it’s like watching a slow sine wave …up and down, and up and down. But the peaks are flattening out, while the valleys are falling lower and lower, like some macabre emotional EKG readout, about to flatline.

In any case, this December is my crossroads. I really think that it’s my last chance, and that I WILL be a fool if I don’t follow through and take whatever help my company can give. Once again, I am struck at how selfless these people can be. I have often thought that my job was the single best thing that I have going for me, aside from the children. I am blessed that they care. I explained to my coworker that even getting out of bed is a HUGE accomplishment for me some days.  What I didn’t mention was that most of the days that I don’t show up to work, I’m laying in bed wondering why I’m even breathing. Last month, I spent two working days and nearly all weekend in bed, leaving only to buy cigarettes. Another thing I didn’t say was that I am completely sure that I could CONQUER THE KNOWN UNIVERSE if I could get better. Another serving of hyperbole anyone?

But its true. I have managed this much in my fight against depression. I have a tiny nucleus of potential, waiting like the silence before the Big Bang, hidden away from the shadows. Indeed, somehow I have managed to keep this strange little grain alive through it all, shedding its light silently like the crystals from Final Fantasy. Maybe that’s what they call my god-spark, my soul or whatever. My true self. It’s a dim light, and a cold one, but at least I’ve managed that much.

I have been very reluctant to try medication. I must admit that I self medicate with marijuana. But….cannabis IS NOT A PANACEA! I have argued this point with people more than once. You can be depressed, get stoned, and yep, be stoned AND depressed. It does make things bearable in that I am freed for a while from the cyclical thoughts of self loathing. But it’s not a treatment. An old hippy once told me that pot should be the spice on an otherwise good life and that kids now wanted to feel stoned to improve their lives and end up being slaves to pot. It’s true. I’ve known people who will go without food in the cupboard in order to get weed. Food is the very first thing I buy, after paying my bills …after all, what will one eat when one has the munchies? Which, since I have a really bad habit of eating little to nothing for days at a time when depressed, is another benefit. It’s sad that so many who advocate for marijuana don’t just say that it’s like a glass of wine for people, and the governments should get over it. They push like it’s some kind of miracle thing, but its just a damned plant with psychoactive substances. Yes it has been shown to have medical uses, but I really don’t think that depression should be one of them.

I have been reluctant to try medication since my stint on a previous bipolar medication. Sure, I didn’t feel depressed any more. But it was a hollow sort of feeling, and I didn’t like it. I couldn’t get happy or sad. It was weird. Maybe it was working like some kind of chemical lobotomy. I’m becoming more and more convinced that there is something wrong in my brain chemistry. I don’t know if things went wrong because of the sexual abuse I suffered, or because of a genetic thing, or both, but I think that some kind of medicine is what I need. I will have to give up pot, to be sure, but I am not espoused to Mary Jane, and I don’t think that I’ll miss her to much.

I also have to get over my anxiety that the medicines will make me feel more suicidal. I began self-harming in 2014. I hit myself hard in the face and head. I already have a kind of cavalier view of pain. Physical pain is easy to bear, for me at least. This means that I could be one of those who just snap because of their medications and finish themselves off impulsively. I don’t want to die, no matter my suicidal thoughts. Not really. But it’s frightening when you can suddenly become your own worst enemy.  No one has ever hit me as hard as I have hit myself. But the scariest part of it is that, for a while, I feel better. Yes.  I hurt myself and feel better. Fucking A.

So December is my crossroads, and I hope I take a better path.  Dare I hope that I’m going to get better?  Tentatively, perhaps.