my heart, my opus




here is a hint: you already know most of the story.
most of the story is about me being sad, miserable, depressed, long depreciative fugues, blahrghblarghblaargh etc.  from the very root of my root i have felt worthless and ugly and miserable and awful.  that is something that rings more true than anything else to me and it always has.
but this is a happy story.
it's a story mostly about a song.  incidentally, the song is called salve regina, and it was written by ramona luenguen. but that doesn't matter much.

chapter one: once upon a time i was in toronto and i had this horrible wave of suicidal thoughts and tendencies that just absolutely completely washed over me and everything that i am.  i wrote this poem at a cafe called the world is not meant for me and i meant every word of it:

the world is not meant for me
beauty might be everywhere
and stars might fall and trees might
reach to the sky that might be blue
that might have sun
and light,
and glory

but light burns
and stars fall anyways
and glory is for
heroes
and i am out of love and out of
life
and the world is not meant for me.

when i came back i was sad.  i went through one of the saddest months of my life.  and this was my reality.

(farewell to anger - leonid afremov)


chapter two: i decided i could go to argentina with my choir, lady cove.
i had already paid and i learned all of the songs and said i was going and so i was ready and i was on a plane and i was there.  i was sad but i was there.  and i was surrounded by love and loving people.
and then the most marvelous thing happened.

we were in a church singing this song, salve regina, and there was one chord that rang so perfectly true that all of a sudden i had value.  i had value because i was part of this fantastic chord that was ringing everywhere and i was singing and i immediately burst in to tears because never, not ever, have i felt like i am of value besides that little moment and i remember that and remember that things like that are possible and even if i don't feel them now i have felt it before because somethings can just transcend sadness and it is worth your life to go looking to find them.  that is what i did and what i am doing.  trying to find more of these snippets of life that keep me breathing.  anyways, i wrote a poem about it, and at the end of the poem i decide to stay alive, so i figured i would share it.

my heart my opus
my swollen soul
my secret
soaked in heavy darkness
i am alone.
i drain the sea of all its life and dark waters swirl through me
but secretly
secretly.

here i hold the dark blue heart of fire
the melancholy hue that takes light
from light and swallows the bellows of a smothered lonely heart.

but even in the sadness
and the madness of sweet solitude
music holds me and rocks me-
and notes flow through sorrow 
like it is nothing-
songs swell too
and the world is true
(it takes me back.)
so choirs sing my soul to ease
and i can sit on hands and knees
while billowing chords cry love like
suns still shining
when the world bows away 
this world will have me
i can stay.

this is our story



this is not my story.

i have never really written my story - at least not in story format.  you have read great detailed scenes of my life, but i have never shared 'my story'.  there are a lot of reasons for this.  the first reason is that the narrative structure of my life story is thoroughly unimpressive.  instead of having a magnificent aristotilean arc, it has this horrible parabolic frenzy way about it that makes it hard enough to write, let alone read.  the second reason is simply that i don't feel real ownership over my story.  it doesn't feel like it belongs to me.  this feels like the story of a lot of people.
this feels like a story of friends, family, and bystanders.
it feels like a story of my little newfoundland life and my great province and the beer i drink and the bread i make.  it also feels like the story of people who i have never met but who share simple parts of my life.  it feels like telling this story as my story would be pulling at the thread of a spider's web, only to destroy it.

this is our story because i am alive. this is our story.  and i'm deciding to share it now, in it's whole terrible format, because today is world suicide prevention day.  and if you know me, you know that until about yesterday i considered my eventual suicide inevitable.  i couldn't imagine a scenario where i would live past the age of 25.  and if you know the literature, you'll know there isn't really all that much we know about preventing suicide.  and so here is our story.  for the anecdotal record of stories of prevented suicides.

anyways.  i'm not sure where this story starts, but for now it will start in 2008 because that is when the notes of my mental health care professionals start.

in grade 12 i was diagnosed with depression.  i was surrounded by very supportive friends (few of whom knew of my diagnosis at the time), a very unsupportive boyfriend, and a particularly foolish amount of school work.  i had a tremendous doctor who gently led me through my diagnosis and soothed my abundant worries and misperceptions about anti-depressants, and soon i was left with a slightly tamed sadness.

i made a few mistakes.

the first thing i did wrong was lie to my doctor.  at that time, i didn't tell her why there were scars on my arms and i did not tell her how often i was making myself throw up and i certainly didn't tell her how little i wanted to be alive.  i also didn't break up with my boyfriend, which i probably should have done.  but all in all, this is not the worst i have ever felt. it took me about a year to recover from my heinous little year with small little tears in my heart.  but at the same time, my friends held me.  they held the part of me that i forgot and still forget sometimes.  that part is loud and slightly rambunctious, a la fintan, slightly obnoxious but only with the best intentions.  that part of me that would roar with laughter with john follett and erin and slowly eroded in this tragic slow motion mayhem that was the onset of my depression.  people noticed sometimes that i was sad, and some teachers wrote home to say hey what is up with meaggy but for the most part i was under control.  i was still much sadder than i should have been, and i was certainly still dysthymic.  but i was functional.  and i functioned like that for about three years, moping along in my little life not at 100% but somewhere close enough to happiness that i could see light.

this is also when the little suicidal seeds started to sprout in my psyche.  even though i wasn't particularly miserable at the time, suicidal ideation always had this magnificently awful power.  it was a false relief, that ultimately complicates everything more, but it just functioned as this idea that festered because of that power.  i want to be very careful not to glorify suicide in any way that triggers anything for anyone, and so for that reason i want to say: this relief comes with a lot of invisible ropes that end up binding you even tighter than before.  but it has this terrible power that makes it grow and grow and eventually you can feel relief for just about anything.  i remember something as small as getting a bad mark on a test would send me into suicidal fits.  this is dangerous.  this is dangerous and it is also not very healthy.  and also, it is a bit sad.  the point is, this is a dark power.  the real relief comes in smaller, palatable pieces.  it comes in the smiles of strangers, the monthly check-ups with erin heys, the long drives with shauna and long walks with liz and the songs of choirs and etcetera.  the most important thing i have learned is that this is where light is.  suicidal thoughts are darkness within a darkness

all in all though, for about three years i was of mediocre health.  i would have my bad days but for the most part wellbutrin was keeping me afloat.




the summer after third year i went to toronto for a conference.  i arrived a week before i should have and was much more alone than i intended to be.  i have never really explained my major depressive episode in toronto, mostly because i barely understand it.  this is one of the times i have been closest to suicide in my life.  i had vivid flashes of suicidal maybes and to be that close to death left me feeling haunted.  a lot of my sadness came from my romantic delusions of a friendship, but the trigger was much more than that.  the problem was that in toronto i became suddenly completely alone.  there were small respites from this, like when andrew fitzgerald (sent by gods, i'm sure) came romping through town.  but for the most part, for the first time in years my friends weren't there to hold me, or show the part of me that glows, and without that i was left to grieve the person i was once.  it was hard to imagine continuing life without myself.

but i did.  mostly grounded by heavy anchors of love and concern (text messages, mostly) sent to me by friends and family.  eventually the conference came around and i was still broken and crying constantly but there were smiles around me and bright laughs and eyes that were happy to see me that slowly dragged me back into the real world.  soon enough i was on a flight to montreal and hurled into the arms of family while i recovered.  i wailed and bellowed on the way home, while overwhelmed flight attendants tried to pacify me with cookies and juice, and i spent the next month catatonic and weeping.  eventually another boy came bouncing along, who i describe as either evil or magnificent, depending on the day.  i spent the next few months growing into my sadness.  i was completely disoriented.  i spent day after day in bed and sometimes i would try to get up and would fall to the floor and etcetera.  i've been through most of this.  i spent an entire year in the catacomb of suicidal ideation.  i had days where it was the only thing i would think about.  on my worst day in history, i summoned the person who probably has the most right to hate me, and he walked with me through the hardest hours of my life, mostly just by being there, and also not completely hating me.

and now i am a girl of relative stability who goes to work every day and comes home and cooks supper and writes a bit and watches some mad men.

that is the story.
but my point isn't in the story.
my point is this: this is our story.
this is a simple story about sadness.  this is the kind of entry that can make me cry and cringe at the thought of posting it but i decided to do it because people need to know when they are heroes.  i remember crying for days after telling my (ex)boyfriend i was suicidal because i knew he would never want to be with me. the point is, i was wrong.  whenever i thought this story was about me, it wasn't.  because i am alive.  so this is our story.  this is the story of how the world conspired to save the life of a young little 23 year old girl.  it's pretty simple, in the end.  it's just about love i guess.

further notes on smiling and stigma

now that i'm happy i don't have much to write about.  so i'm trying anyways to dig deep into the pit of words inside me and pull out something that is worth saying.  i'm not sure how successful i've been.  you can be the judge of that.

we all live in our own different little realities.
there are a lot of harrowing and macabre details to my reality that i don't particularly enjoy sharing but i do anyways, and sometimes people trumpet around and say it makes me brave, but i don't really think so.  i think the people who listen to what i'm saying are brave.  they are the heroes.  woven in and out of this blog are my little realities, the small little facts that hold my world together like secrets.  they are the little details that people see and feel a punch in the stomach or chills down their spine.  



these are largely chronicled in (this) e-mail which i sent to my friends and family a year and a half ago.
i will try not to go through them all again.  there is a risk here of sounding dramatic horns that don't need to be heard right now.  because my reality right now, right at this very moment, is that i am happy.  i am working a normal (amazing) job with normal hours and cook above average meals with my above average brother and see my above average friends  and visit my above average province and so largely my reality right now is a good one.  there are only a few remaining little details that would scrape at the psyches of anyone who loves me anyways.  anyways, that's what i'm talking about.  the small details of our lives that shape us.  we all have our own realities.

talking about mental illness is supposed to be brave.  and it is.  but listening to mental illness has always seemed a lot more valiant to me.  because it's hard.  when we're talking about stigma, that's easy to forget.  it's easy to forget that it is hard to hear things.  it is hard to hear that your sister can't imagine a version of her life where she lives past the age of 25, and it's hard to hear your friend describe her arms as battlefields, just like it's hard to be able retrace every scar you've ever had.  and that is where a lot of stigma comes from.  that is important to know.  before i talked about how stigma is a social license not to listen.  stigma also comes from the pain that comes from listening.  and it is important to understand and process that before we screech STIGMA.  and so one of the things we need to defeat denial and stomp out stigma is simple: courage.  be brave.  when it comes to mental illness and hearing about sadness, be bold.  be ready to talk about sadness but be ready to hear about it too.  

my friends often wonder what they can do and how they can help.  without professional degrees it's a bit hard.  and it's easy to say just listen.  but it's more than just listening.  it's opening your mind to the sharp realities of mental illness.  
be bold.
open your heart to the hard things.

that's how you help.

an ode to my depressive self

to my depressive self - you are not me.
that is what i have to say first.



i know depressive personality disorder is not necessarily a /thing/ provided by DSM but the thing is, sometimes it just feels like you have a depressive personality.  it feels like there is a different part of you that exists when you are depressed.  there are different voices inside your head that tell you different things, and you need to learn to know who you are through them and who you are outside of them and that is not an easy thing to do but from this i have learned that i have a separate depressive personality, a person that exists when i am depressed who does not exist otherwise.  she is a person who is drenched in cynicism.  she is cold but softhearted. she loves people fully and relentlessly but in the most misguided ways.  she is great and terrible but she is not me.  that is what i have to say first.

i will tell you right now that i blame a lot of things on my depressive self.  there are a lot of breakups make ups and fake ups that probably wouldn't have happened quite the way they had if i weren't depressed.  so it becomes this interminable pull on your actions when you're depressed: how do you act in a way that is normal for you?  how do you stay true to yourself while demons are reeling around inside of you?

the short answer is: you don't.
being depressed is just different.  it's a different kind of world.   it is a whole new universe.  being depressed is like being born again into a separate world where things can't matter.  nothing matters.  even the things that matter most don't matter.  because you've got to take it day by day, and if i'm taking it day by day and really being honest with myself, i usually think that i have less than a day left to live so that is how i act.  because thinking beyond one day at a time is just too overwhelming.  it's overwhelming because the idea of having to be alive for more than 3 more hours is excruciating.  so you don't let it in.  and that's how it rolls.

the thing is, there is no one in the world who needs love more than your depressive self.  and, there is no one in the world who can love yourself quite like you can.  compassion is the most important thing for your depressive self.  you know those little voices that come rampaging through your head when you're depressed, all screeching about how worthless and useless you are?  the truth is, you can find other voices.  if you really try hard to love your depressive self you can find voices that say "it's okay meaggy that you've been in bed most of the day, but it's time to get up now because getting out of bed will help you."  because inside it feels like every part of me hates my depressive self.  it feels like i'm absolutely exploding with blame and shame and all of the other things that come with sadness.  and so you train yourself.  you train yourself to have this little deliberative voice that loves and loves and loves you, and eventually you'll be ok.  it's not that easy to do.  you have to sit down and tell yourself that you're worth it and everyone makes mistakes and some mistakes aren't even mistakes and then you've gotta roll with it.

the point is, i have meandered my way through some kind of hell and back.  i've spent the last two years really seriously hoping i would die and now i'm happy to be alive.  as i was waiting for my medication to kick in, i browsed lots of forums that promised me to just keep waiting, that it is worth the wait to find the medication and i always wondered if they were right.  it turns out they are.

and so on this, the 14th day in a row that i have been happy, this is what we need to say to our depressive selves:
i love you.




not myself today at work

so today is the launch of the partner's for mental health 'not myself today' campaign at work.  the campaign looks at opening up conversations about mental health in the workplace and reducing stigma.  they even have a 'not myself day' where people wear their mood on a pin! all in all, it's pretty exciting.
you can check out more about the campaign here: http://www.notmyselftoday.ca/home


i don't have all that much to say about this other than it's pretty exciting.
i'm a student. i've had small jobs and jobs for awhile but ultimately my main job is being a student right now and that suits me just fine.  sometimes i wonder how on earth i managed to get a degree while i was depressed.  most of my friends roll eyes when i say that, but i think of just how miserable i was and i seriously wonder how i kept it together enough to keep churning out papers for four years.  and i don't necessarily think it is a good thing - it probably would have been wise for me at certain times to step back and drop a semester or so, but i'm pretty stubborn so that didn't happen.  the choice to continue working or school when you're depressed or because of any other mental illness is a pretty personal one, and the right choice is different for everyone.  i'm not working right now, but i probably should be.  i'm just the kind of person who needs structure in my life to be able to function.  that's how i roll.

so, i'm looking for a job.  fellow community correspondent mel dearden wrote an awesome post about why you should hire someone who is open about their mental illness here: http://meldearden.wordpress.com/ and she says just about everything that needs to be said on the matter so i won't get into it all too much.  basically she talks about the skill overlap, and how the communication skills and emotional intelligence required to navigate a mental illness are desirable skills for employers to be seeking as well.  challenging yourself and your thought patterns forces you to engage with all kinds of paradigms around wellness and mental illness.

that's what this post is about.  it's a bit rambly but that's okay.  my thoughts are pretty scattered on the subject since i'm not working right now.  embracing mental health is more about finding and cultivating the power of mental wellness than simply tolerance and tolerating conversations of mental illness.  it's about opening that conversation into a safe sphere where it is celebrated. what i'm saying here is this - the best thing you can do as an employer for the mental health of your employees is celebrate mental health.  don't just allow these conversations to happen, but celebrate them.  and that's what it's all about.

short shame and self-sabotage


today i had a therapy session where, as per usual, my therapist was amazing and gave me a lot of things to think about.

the thing is, lately i've been feeling overwhelming guilt about a whole lot of things.
if someone were to ask me my top four regrets, i would be able to list them instantly. 
it's easy to have regrets.
we all do things we don't like and wish weren't associated with how people look at us. 

so that is part one of this post.
i am a nice person who sometimes does horrible things that i end up regretting dailydailyeveryday.  
this is what a circle of shame looks like: i am horrible i do terrible things i am a horrible person i don't deserve to be alive.  that is just one little example of the interior monologue that plagues lots of people, especially if they are depressed.  the point is, it isn't actually useful to think about things this way.  there is a tendency for me to hate myself as much as possible, so that it will matter less when other people hate me.  i hate myself for more things than you could possibly imagine.  i come up with new things to hate myself about on a daily basis.  
the logic here is this: this takes power away from other people.  the power to hate me, i guess.  because when you do hate me, it can only affect me so much.  if i think i am fat, it hurts less if you call me fat.  if i think i can be immature and abrasive and rude, it hurts less when you think that about me.  
it's a simple enough defence technique, and it comes into play a lot of times.  

basically my whole life and self-image are constructed on this sort of self-sabotage.
these four little regrets are just things i have been thinking about today, out of many days in many years.  i have lots of other regrets that i won't list on the internet or try to get people to forgive me for them.  it would just take forever.  and probably be a pretty mood-damning thing to do.  but another thought came to me.  maybe it isn't fair of me to take that power away from you.  maybe people need to have the power to hate me in order to have a normal relationship with me.  maybe it isn't fair that i hate myself more than you ever could so trahaha now i am immune to your hate.  maybe if i really listen to people, my life wouldn't be about trying to get people to forgive me for things but to let them know that i am sorry, and they can forgive me when they forgive me.  i need to learn to let people forgive me on their own time.  

ultimately, it's about relinquishing control. 
it's about saying to yourself 'it is ok if my exboyfriend hates me, it is okay if that person hates me, h8ersgonnah8' etc instead of hating yourself even more.  

there are different kinds of shame.
there is the self-sabotaging kind of shame that is a song that goes like this: howcouldidothatiamahorriblepersonihatemyself.  and there is the healthier more wholesome song with a much nicer tune: i did something i regret, i made a mistake, but that is okay.  it is okay to make mistakes.  there is nothing i can do now but say i am sorry and try to do better.
i spend my whole life trying to be better than i was the day before.  sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  sometimes i just get really angry and end up doing stupid things like leaving angry notes on my neighbour's car because it was blocking mine, or being immature and snarky in a facebook fight about victim blaming.  
those are two of my mistakes.
maybe my standards for myself are too high.


depression gives me a reason to hate myself.
and that is what is wrong with shame and self-sabotage. 
there is no love in this.
there is no gentle voice saying youcandobetter or yourebetterthanthis except for if you look deep enough, you'll know that the reason you feel this guilt is because you're better than this.  you are better than your actions.  don't list your regrets.  think of the ones that come to you instantly and then leave them.  apologize to someone if you have to, but be careful.  once i had a near-manic break where i wrote 97 apologies to people i knew because i felt bad about basically everything.  i would recommend not doing that.

that's all i have to say really.
just try, really try, to find love for yourself.
or at least take a breath and just stop with the self sabotage.  you're hurting yourself.

five: you're safe with me


sometimes i find myself surrounded by enough friends and family who are able to gently coax me into the right decisions for my mental health and mental fitness.
(i really dig the term mental fitness.  i'll probably be using it a lot from now on). 
right now the right thing for me to do is write about my sadness. because i am feeling sad and i have been feeling sad for the past year and especially the past month and right now i just need help, and people to smile at me and tell me it is going to be okay.

this is how i feel. 
when i wake up in the morning i feel like my entire body is swollen with lead.
it feels like there is a cement block smashed on my head that tries to keep me in bed.
then i get up.  i get out of my bed.  i want you to know that i really honest to god do absolutely everything i can to feel better.  so i get out of bed.  then i take nessie for a walk.  i walk briskly so endorphins can bop around and do their thing but it doesn't always help.  the sun is nice too, but not enough.  sometimes it feels like nothing is enough.
i feel like complete nothingness.  i feel ugly and fat and garbage-like, which is this new term i coined for when you feel like garbage.  when you have been busy doing nothing for a year it is easy to feel like you are the drain in the sink of the world and you consumeconsumeconsume without ever giving back.  after a while it starts to feel like you don't deserve tears anymore.  i am just so tired of trying medications that don't work.  i want something to work.  desperately.  this is how that feels.  
sometimes when i walk nessie i start crying.  once i fell to the ground and started crying and the person next to me looked at me like i was a maniac and i wondered how some people can just not cry, because there are so many things to cry about.  i suppose the same can be said for smiling, but it doesn't feel like it. 
honestly the only thing to say is that i'm just really hurtin' and need a hug or seven.  but that's not the point of this post.  onwards.

i was at unleash the noise last weekend, and one of the (many) things we spoke about was who is responsible for the mental health and mental fitness of everyone.  i differed from one of the opinions at my table, and figured out what i believe.  there is a point when you are ill at which you feel like a burden.  i have a feeling this isn't limited to depression, but is something you feel when you are ill with any number of debilitating diseases or sicknesses.  it is just really unbearable to think that while the world keeps spinning around you (and some how you manage to do the necessary things to stay alive, like breathe and eat) you are suspended in this timeless state of nothingness.  that is a strange feeling.  this is something i figured out this weekend, among many other things, at the brilliant unleash the noise conference.  because even though i was depressed out of my mind, ideas were flowing in and out of me and it seems like some of them have stuck.
my mind was stuck on the question of who is responsible for our mental fitness?  some people at my table thought it was us and only us, some people thought it was us and our friends, while others maintained it is a combination of us, our friends, and our community.  i will tell you right now if i am the only one who is responsible for my mental health i would not be doing so well.  i have leaned on my friends like nothing else during the time i have been sick, and their support has kept me here.  
but what about if my sickness is too much for people? surely it is too much for me, and it's bound to be taxing for the people closest to me.  maybe they have mental health issues of their own that they need to focus on, and any mention from me makes it that much harder for them. 

so here is my conclusion: it's about a safe place.  it is all about safe communities.  the responsibility for my mental fitness isn't yours or mine or something that belongs to someone: it is something that comes from safe dialogue.  it is something that comes when i am allowed to speak about my sadness within a community that loves me, because they love me.  and today i reached a point where i have to hand the responsibility to my community - i have to take this titanic leap of faith and tell you i am really honestly just still very sick and i just need a lot of lovin.  
all i know is that i need you right now.  i am coming into the darkest part of my life and i really need support.  i need strangers to tell me they love me and it will be okay, and i need friends to hold me and i just need people to tell me that i'll be safe with them.  and i think that's ultimately what we're looking for when we talk about livin' stigma-free.  

the lovely ellie from lady cove wrote me a message once about my blog and she wrote you're safe with me
and that has stuck with me for a long time
you're safe with me




i just want you to know that i'll be okay. that this is a good thing and this is a good step in understanding my sadness and how far it can take me. i don't want you to worry and i'm sorry if you do.


(for those who follow my promises to feel better soon, i will get there eventually.  depression is full of lots of little bumps along the way.  all i can say is keep waiting, like i do).  

the lament of the lonely and waiting


the interminable purgatory when you're caught between waiting to find the right medication/waitingtoseethedoctororpsychiatrist/waiting for any medication to work and what is either wellness or what you see as your inevitable demise is one of the hardest things about depression.  it's one of the things looked over the most but cried over constantly. any brief wade into depression forums will yield millions of posts from users beguiling do i really have to wait this long and our depressive forefathers reassuring us to waitwaitwait and swearing it is worth the wait and promising us if we just hang in there it will be okay.  



this period is a time when you make the same decision every day, several times a day.  you wake up and you say "it is just another day" which could mean "another day to bide with my demons" as much as it could mean another day that you might hurt yourself.  because every day you spend teetering on the cusp of something horrible.  and that horrible feeling of inconceivable danger to yourself is something that feels impossible to communicate.  when i finally found the bravery inside of myself to seek help for my depression, it took me a really long time to admit that i was suicidal, and that i was hurting myself.  my doctor was/is the best she could possibly be and i don't think that was her fault - i just think it took me a long time to be able to understand that my sadness was a truth, and not something i should be hiding because truth is something that shines no matter how dark it is.  but you feel like once you finally say the words "i want to kill myself" the world will stop and doctors will join in a circle around you and protect you from the darkness.
so here is the lament of the people to tell you: that's not what happens.
it is a sad confluence of lack of resources and a lack of understanding for what darkness really means, but here is what usually happens.  (it depends of course, on the long list of indicators as to the severity of the threat and suicide risk assessment)
1. your doctor will start you on a medication.  now wait 3-6 weeks for it to kick in.
2. your doctor will refer you to a psychiatrist.  now wait for a YEAR. or several months. and then wait for your appointment.  and THEN wait 3-6 weeks for a medication to kick in.
3. your doctor will refer you to the hospital.  now wait 3-6 weeks for medication to kick in.  

the point is, in the world of mental health, getting better involves a wholllle lotta waiting.  right now i am waiting for my next psychiatry appointment, where i hope to GOD they will find the right medication, so i will wait 2 weeks while i'm weened off my current medication and then 3-6 weeks for the next medication to start it's work.  and hopefully it will work.  the point is, waiting sucks.  and while the point of this post isn't "FIX ALL MENTAL HEALTH CARE!" that is a worthwhile post for someone to write.
what i want doctors and professionals and mental health care workers to know is this: be gentle about it.  
the difference between a doctor telling you with sympathetic eyes that it will take awhile but it will be okay, it will be okay, it will be okay, and a doctor shuffling you out the door is titanic.

waiting is the worst part
if you know someone who is depressed and they are waiting
to feel better
hold their hand.  

i call bull$#it: cutting, suicide, and the things we don't understand


this isn't something i will enjoy writing very much, and might not be something many people enjoy reading.  i don't even particularly want to post it for those reasons.  but the reason i am writing this is for the few people who will read this and say oh my god yes, because even if we can talk about depression there are a lot of parts of depression that are still so hard to say and to speak and to call our own.  i've been depressed for six years and woven in and out of that time have been little threads of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and disordered eating.  so i'm going to pull on those threads a little now, to unravel the biggest pieces of stigma in sadness; the things people understand the least.  so for now i'll start with cutting.  

here are my own pieces of truth. 
i'm not saying it or talking about cutting and self-harm it for any other reason than this: i want other people to be able to talk about it too.  there is something so isolating in the most absolute complete way about being suicidal and hurting yourself.  it feels subhuman.  it feels like the most basic thing- some kind of survival that should be a primal instinct and shared in all of humanity- is just, missing.  i don't feel particularly brave for posting what i posted before, and i feel kind of nauseous about posting this because it feels empty and savage but it is all true and so i am sending it into the world with the hope that it will find another truth, somewhere, and make it okay.  okay to talk about and just a lot less scary.  

       

self-harm and suicide are probably one of the most misunderstood things about depression and mental health.
there is the obvious impact and immediate emotional stress on people that release the theories of attention seeking and the greed and selfishness of suicide, which is totally understandable.  obviously when someone close to you hurts themselves you will wring your heart trying to find answers.  but those theories linger, and they are a bit wrought with inevitable angst and sadness and a lot less founded in the hearts of the depressed than in the hearts of their friends.  because i can absolutely guarantee you that it just isn't like that.  at no point in my life has any mark on my arm or body been for anybody but me.  i have gone through phases of hiding things, having back up stories in case people ask, or just being too out of it to even think someone would notice and realize what was going on.  

i've never really understood all of the dynamics around cutting and attention-seeking.  this is of course referring to the semantics of being emo and/or cutting for attention.  by this i mean, so what? is it not sufficiently messed up for people that someone would go to the extent of physically harming themselves for attention?  and also, is there something seriously wrong with longing for the love of others?  because i'm pretty sure just about everything we do is for love. buuut i've never been so worried about that.  if someone accused me of attention seeking they would either be obviously wrong or obviously right and in both cases all i have to do is speak, because that's just straight up bs.  and i will tell you that if you talk about me or anyone else who has hurt themselves like that: bullshit.  it does bother me some, really- to think about the severe complex systems of my heart and to see it so unpoetically simplified.  to think that someone can take the most titanic shadows in my life and turn them into trivialities, to diminish them to something that is found in the world most people have instead of something spun from a darker place.  and that is part of my pet peeve about "crazy ex-girlfriend/boyfriend" banter as well - you are diminishing something that is so much more than those words.  something that is much more than my words.  and so i will tell you that for me, cutting was always a very personal experience. i honestly don't even know why i started, why it occurred to me as something to do.  theories around control and the seduction of controlling pain make sense to me but there is more to it than that.  the word that fits is release.  that is the only word that completely fills the feeling for me.  it is like you are full of dark and heavy air and it just leaves when you hurt yourself (either by throwing up, or by cutting, or burning, or whatever).  it just feels like all of the darkness and weight escapes and light seeps in through your pores and you can sigh and smile again.  that's what it feels like.  the other thing about it is they are personal trophies and badges.  they are for me and me alone.  they show my pain and it becomes a weird poetic obsession, and it is dark and horrible but that is the truth.  it is something i have moved beyond at the moment, and my last scars are from june, which is very good for me.  but i could make a map of my arms for you and show you every scar i have ever had.  

but cutting is a scary world.  cutting is a world where once you start it is just so SO hard to stop.  it is a world where anything can trigger you to go running to the nearest room and finding the nearest not-totally-blunt-object and it puts you in a world that is so much worse than anywhere you've ever been before.  i never took my efforts to stop hurting myself seriously until an exasperated meaggy asked my old therapist why i would bother stopping, and she replied so simply "because if you don't, you'll never get better."

my scars are a direct communication line between me and my demons that excludes the rest of the world.  it is a language that is only spoken by darkness.  it pulls you out of the world, and when it brings you back you are full of this air that means nothing.  and you can float on that air for a little while but it takes you further and further away from the world that matters.  if there is one thing that scares people with depression, it is the thought of forever, of an eternity of madness and just never getting better.  in case it isn't clear what i'm saying here is this: try not to hurt yourself.  it is a bad idea.

but what i really want to say is this: don't even talk about the things you don't understand.  because i don't think i've ever heard bs about cutting from someone who has experienced it themselves.  don't think about suicide as greedy if you have never been there - anyone who has been close enough to suicide can tell you that it is an absolute coma of darkness, and no kind of reasoning or information about other people can penetrate that little haze of misery.  it's just not about that.  it is a total haze where everything is nothing.  when i would hurt myself, somewhere inside of me i must have known that it would hurt the people who loved me - but depression silences that part of things, and makes the voices of others impossible to hear sometimes.
if you want to be a champion of non-stigma, all you need to do is listen. and listening means knowing what you can't hear alone.  because the damage that is done by the words we string together about greed, attention, neediness, and weakness is not just that it's wrong.  it's bullshit. it's bullshit because it stops the conversation with words that don't fit at all, and diminishes something so deeply personal into something so minuscule.  so there it is.  i call bullshit.  if you joke about slitting your wrists, cutting yourself, or talk about someone who is emo for those reasons, i will call bullshit.  because people deserve more than that.  i don't want scars to be jokes.

post-script: this is mostly based on the campaign by partners for mental health, let's call bulls#!t.  you should check it out. there are some really striking words on their wall.

from a woman who is hard to love


before we get started and my friends start grinding their teeth and saying but meaggy we love you! just know that i mean a very certain thing.  i mean i am the kind of woman that warsan shire talks about in this poem.  i know that people love me and i love them too.  this is more about me saying that i am the furthest thing from what the world wants me to be, and i'm okay with that.  but not everyone is.

you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.
  (warsan shire) -- http://warsanshire.blogspot.ca/2011/01/poem-eleven.html 

i love boundlessly.  i love people i barely know.  this is a phenomenon that comes not from being neurotic, but from caring sincerely and deeply about everything.  anytime i have any kind of crush or mild little love for anyone, it comes from this little chesnut of truth deep inside of my soul which is this: i really, genuinely, wholeheartedly and full-throttledly (notaword) love people.  i get deeply invested in people who say three words to me, and that is because i can tell from three words what heart is holding them and that is enough for me.  that is enough.  i don't need to wait to know someone's whole soul before i care how they are doing or what happens in their life.  the first day of group therapy, i left with an overwhelming sensation of wanting to hold everyone's heart.  i feel like that literally every day.
i've got an obnoxious heart that just can't handle love with any dignity.

and then i'll tell you this is a hard way to live.
because it makes this true: i am a woman who is hard to love.

people meet me and they see my sureness.  this is funny to me because i know i do not have very much sureness or confidence.  the sureness is this: i know that you are good.  that's where it comes from.  if i seem confident to you, that's why.

there are too many reasons why to list, but for those of you who still tear their hair out over what a jellicle cat is, i'll try to define myself in this way.  i am a woman who is hard to love.  i am a woman whose arms are flabbier than they should be and my hair is wild and waxen, i am a woman with a loud voice who says hey shut the hell up when i'm drunk enough when you whistle or cry out at me.  i am a woman with a clear voice who sings like a lark or a total loon and i love so much i have nothing left.  i am hard to love because i have been told i am hard to love, and i have been told i am not worth loving, and i don't know what to say to either of those things except 'okay'.  i am obnoxious instead of shy and i love ruthlessly instead of quietly.  i am a woman who is hard to love and this is my letter to the world.  i am sad instead of happy and dark instead of light and i know how we become the abyss that we live in.  i am a woman who is difficult to love.  

because the truth is, i'm just a regular girl with a really big heart.  it is difficult to love me.  but this is what i have to say: it's okay.



there are a lot of things for me to learn.  you can't make homes out of human beings.  
but for the most part, i just want you to know
most of my smiles are real
and we are extremely beautiful.

partners for mental health: not myself today


hey guess what! i'm the newest community correspondent for partners for mental health!  this is one of my first steps to wellness.  there are a handful of us across canada and we do things like blog and tweet and engage with media to promote partners for mental health and their message!

when i started writing this blog, i was not well.  i would howl through the day and cry through the night and spend my days with the bell jar or i would sleep for 20 hours at a time.

once i started writing this blog i started perusing the internet for groups that support the mental health cause and work to eliminate mental health stigma.  and then i came upon partners for mental health (@PartnersforMH) and all of their campaigns and there were a lot of little cogs in my head that went clickclickclock because the organization is simple and lovely and everything the world needs it to be.  the organization is about mobilizing and action. 



so hi. my name is meaggy aylward.  i am a 22 year old go-girl who wrings out depression like the damp weight it is to find water and light, little droplets of truth in the strange nuanced world of sadness, mental illness, and i look for ways to find light.  mostly, i am a newfoundlander in ottawa romping around doing psychology courses and collecting the fragmented pieces of my life and putting them back together after my depressive episode last year.  i still find it hard to write about depression, but it is something i do because i believe that stigma lives in the air- the space that exists between people who have depression and people who don't when nobody talks about it.  because there are so many strange and covert realities of depression that some people just don't know about: there is more to being sad for several months than just sadness- there is the teary reality that you can't imagine any version of your life in which you live past the age of 25, there is the place where a future doesn't exist and the present is only a piece of the future so that doesn't exist either.  and the truth of stigma is, it is borne of the space where words can fail and heart need to be as open as possible.  and so that is what i am asking of my friends, family, acquaintances and strangers.  i am asking you to have an open heart.
which is why, if you haven't already, i'm really really asking you from the bottom of my heart to take this pledge.

people are so cautious around me.  it isn't because they are evil.  i don't think i know any evil people.  it is because they are afraid.  and that's okay.  it's okay to be afraid of hurting me at first, but soon i want you to realize that you don't need to be and i don't need you to worry about that. when everyone around you starts tiptoeing around the world like king midas it gets a bit daunting.  i want us to fill the air with words instead of misunderstandings and stigma because both of those things suspend love and friendship and all of the good things in the world.  i want you to say to me "i'm afraid if i talk to you you'll fall in love with me because i am a guy and you are a girl who is crazy" or "i'm kind of afraid to say the word crazy around you" so i can say "no dear, i'm just not myself today" or "psssssssstttt - that's just not how it works."  so that's what i'm asking for with this pledge.  i'm asking for more than my friends looking up and saying "RAH RAH WE HATE STIGMA" - what i'm asking is for friends, strangers, acquaintances, and people to just take this pledge thoughtfully and say to yourself that you will honestly help me try to fill the air with real words instead of the words we conjure to make sense of something we don't understand.  because stigma doesn't come from evil people who hate everyone - it comes from people who just don't always know how to love certain things.  that's okay.  but let's deal with it.  let's figure it out. let's take THIS PLEDGE and post about it and talk about stigma when it's there and love when it isn't.

and that's the not myself today campaign! it was launched ages ago (last april) but i still love it.  and guys. GUYS. there are MOOD RINGS involved.  in case you don't remember your childhood, mood rings are the best things in the world.  check it out, please.  and talk about it post about it comment about it or let me know that you took the pledge that you can find HERE, so i can smile and remember how wonderful i think you are.  

ottawa, ho!


this is a short post to tell you that i am moving to ottawa today.  
i am scared and it feels like someone has a balloon in the cavity of my torso that they are blowing up which feels a little like anxiety.
and also excitement.  i'm excited too.  ottawa is full of the most wonderful people and my most darling friends and i know that this is the best thing i can do for myself right now and i will be full of happiness and fun and joy.

i'm driving with hot geoffrey, so obviously the road trip is going to be a hilarious display of disgruntled meaggy following redundant safety measures and my dear father trying to interrupt my crying.  maybe i will make a rule: dad you're not allowed to interrupt my crying. i'm going to get there and be hurled into errands like oh i don't know buying everything you need to live.  
i will post something longer about the shared tragedy of moving away from newfoundland.  later.  when i'm done crying.  

for now, let this rock know i love her.
i love this place.
and i love all my friends and family that live here.

i won't be gone long.  a year, maybe two.  however long it takes me to find my way back home.  my mother is convinced i won't return to newfoundland.  obviously she has never met me.  saltwater is in my blood.  the sea is what i am made of.  

god guard thee.

four: ring in the true

now it's time for a little cheerier new years post.
the previous one was a bit of a backstory.  just that i've been a bit sad (understatement supreme) the past few days and needed to take a bit of a weary look back on my year.
the truth is, from an objective point of view, i've had an amazing year.  i graduated from university, i was surrounded by friends, i got it together and changed my whole life plan, i've sung some songs, been with family, and gotten the courage to decide to move to ottawa so i can find my way home.

every moment happens twice, inside and outside
the world inside of me has been dark and dormant, but the world around me has been spinning so fast it sings.  sometimes it is impossible to reach the true - to hold and understand that the world spinning around you is the world you need to be part of.  but i'm a little happy today, and so i can stick my hand into a small velvet black abyss and pull out bells, little golden tones of truth and the ring of the true is where i will come to find myself when i'm sad.  this is worth doing.  it's worth having a large amount of evidence to prove to yourself that the world would have holes in it without you.  here is my cup of kindness.  here is the mug with the warmth of the world that i get to drink.

four: ring in the true


i know there are people who literally drop everything and come to me when i am depressed.  they just come over to watch me cry and hold me and keep me safe.  they cry with me and are just there, exactly where i need them to be.  in my darkest moments, when the only thing i want is to get out of the world.


i have friends who come to me when i'm crying and are just present.  and that's all you really need to be.  the isolation of depression helps build the bad world; it builds your inside world where certain moments mean that certain people hate you, even if they have only ever felt love for you ever.  but when people come to be with you, even if they don't say anything, they are just there and that is good because they are a piece of truth, a piece of the moments and a piece of the space that live in the true world, the world that is held by everyone.  elizabeth has done that for me so many times.  she just comes and gently reminds me to believe in that world.  i don't know if i would have made it through the summer without elizabeth, and i say that with a lot of real tears and real truth.


pretty much the exact same goes for shauna.  shauna and i shared a sadness sometime, and there is nothing more relieving than holding the world together.  if anyone has held the part of me that glows, and reminded me that i am something more than sadness, it has been shauna.  because she holds a light the thing i call darkness and makes me look at myself and see that i have been something, and i have been someone who smiles and laughs to kill myself and is loud and full of love.  but the ability to hold someone when you're not your happiest self is astonishing, and shauna has done that for me so many times.  to suspend your own world and live in someone elses.  that's crazy.  shauna rules.  diva4lyfe.  shauna got me out of bed and into the world and that is one astonishing feat.  she brought me to the truth when i was too blind to find it myself.

and there are soooooo many people who have done this for me.  people who have rang the bells of truth in my life and sat with me when i've been sad; so here's a cup of kindness, to shauna, to elizabeth, to michael, to stephanie, to david, to sarah, to erin, to mitchy, to jeremy, to andrew, to erinandstephenandbefferandlauren, to daniel and to anyone whose name i might have skipped; you are the reasons there is any truth at all in my world.  so thanks for that.


anyone who knows me knows that my family is at the very center of my self.  they always are and always have been.  my family has been pouring their love for me into my heart since i was born, and they never, ever stop.  lauren and kristian and bethany came for two weeks in the summer so i got to flee from my life and take refuge in the best place in the world (middle arm, our cabin) where we swam and drank and laughed because the baby's eighth word was "cognac."  and of course chris' family are always my perpetual fortress of refuge.

and of course.
the baby.
the baaaaby!
sophie was born in november two years ago, but i saw lots of her this year.  she came here dressed as a peacock for halloween (can i just say, adorable).  she burbles and bellows and recognizes me and squeals with delight and really is there anything more validating than a baby loving you that much the answer is no meaggy, there is nothing more validating than that.  


and i graduated.  whut.  i can't even believe i got a degree through four years steeped in my little depressivecoma.  but i did, in a weird feat of stubbornness and fear.  and my family surrounded me and celebrated me and so did my friends and it was weird and disorienting but it happened.  cool.  

and then there are the groups that have held me.  the little collections of people that hold me together.  the people who are collectively patient with my silly little inability to do anything, and were again, just there.  so here's to the mun oxfams of the world, and millenium network, and the farfalla, and the colouring club, and the choirs, and the rotary music peeps, and groups of old friends, and groups of new friends, and all of you.  all of the people i smiled with in the past who helped me know that even if i thought in my heart of hearts that everyone hated me, it was okay.  


and the music, the thing that (in case you have read this poem (my heart my opus)) anchored me to the world and kept me here and made me feel with a heart i honestly didn't know i had anymore.  there is something strange yet wonderful about singing all lies, aka "i can see the light of a clear blue morning" when that is in fact something i can not see at all.  here's to the overtones and the nets of people behind them and the meaning in music that is more than us and more than me and that is just the melodic beats of truth that bells ring out.  ring in the true.  here's to kellie and robin and maria and anyone who somehow got me to sing despite myself and all of the choirs and all of the pieces of music there are.  



here's to the every laugh and smile of everyone this year.  because each peal of laughter and piece of smile is a coin of gold to me, and all together it is the best treasure ever.  here's to more moments like this:




i'm scared of this resolution a little.  ringing in the true means living in a world that i haven't known for ever.  it means that i need to abandon my strategy to keep self hate close to my heart (so i can hate myself before you hate me, so your hate can't hurt me).  so that's what my new year's resolution is: ring in the true.  to know that you love me.  to trust in the world i can't always see.  this isn't an easy one.    i'm really, really scared.  but cheers to everything and everyone here.  i love you.  people have been saving my life on a daily basis and that is an astonishing life to get to live.  so i am going to try as hard as i can to not get stuck in my false world, and to celebrate the truth.  ring in the true.  and that is the gift to people who love me: to keep trusting them.  to keep them in my world.

ring in the true. :)

post-script: also, here's to nessie.  obviously.  just look at her.




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