This is from Natasha Tracy. Natasha is “an award-winning mental health writer with a broken brain and a mind trying to deal with it.”
I woke up one morning in 1994 crushed with depression. The first thing I thought of that morning was how much I wanted to kill myself, and if I couldn’t do that, then how much I wanted to hurt myself. I kept cutting implements and bandages near my bed just in case the feelings were too much to bear.
Of course, this was like every morning of my 16-year-old life. I was depressed, but I didn’t know it. I only knew that I wanted to die. I needed to die. I needed it like most people needed breath. And I knew that no one understood.
My home life was one of the things driving me to depression and granting me the leanings of suicide. Things there were a hellish nightmare of screaming and hate. And the people related to me and forced to love me gave me no consolation whatsoever as I was sure that they didn’t. These people hated me and wanted me gone every bit as much as I did. This was, at least partially, my depression talking, but I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know what depression was and I didn’t know how loudly it spoke.
So I found myself in my car trying to drive anywhere away from there … away from the nexus of crazy. So I drove to the only place that I knew would have me—to the house of my rapist. As is most often the case my sexual abuse was complicated. And while I hated what this man in his 40s did to me the one thing I couldn’t live without was his love. He would tell me he loved me. This was undoubtedly a lie but convinced as I was that no one else did, that my life was worthless and that I should die, that one sliver of love offered by a minion of Satan made me keep breathing.
I arrived at his house to find him not home—away, undoubtedly grooming other little lovelies for his nest. So I did the only thing I could think to do, I curled up on a square of cement near his front steps and went to sleep weeping—an attempt to escape the world that was trying to kill me.
This is a picture of a girl in crisis. A girl so tightly wound in the grasp of depression that she can see no way of dealing with it at all. A girl so desperate to feel anything but the pain of mental illness she was prepared to put her body and her soul in harm’s way just to not feel like death was upon her for one brief moment in time.
At sixteen, in spite of being acutely depressed and showing all the diagnostic symptoms of depression, not one person ever suggested I was mentally ill or that I was suffering from a mental illness. I had seen multiple counselors and therapists and not one suggested that I see a psychiatrist. No one, anywhere, thought that a medical illness could be part of the problem. And I assumed they must have been right. Seeing a doctor was certainly nothing that occurred to me either. The adults didn’t see it, why would I?
But this is what happens to the victims of mental illness. They become desperate and then become victims of predators that would abuse them physically, mentally or sexually because their pain makes them so easy to manipulate.
And in my case, being as young as I was, it was my parent’s responsibility to see that I was sick and it was their responsibility to get me help. But like so many, they had their own illnesses and problems to deal with and were incapable of helping their drowning daughter.
The lesson here is this: those of us who are drowning might not realize it. Those of us who have a mental illness may not see it. Those of us who are unspeakably ill might not even know that such an illness exists.
So on this day of mental health blogging I challenge everyone to spread a fact about mental illness. It can be any fact you want and it can be to any person you want. It can simply be the idea that mental illness exists, it’s treatable and that it does get better. It could simply be the idea that just because you are drowning today doesn’t mean you have to be drowning forever. It could be the idea that people can take their own destiny by the horns and direct their future in a new way with the help of others who can guide them.
Because people need to know that mental illness exists. It’s real. And you can come back from it before you become another cautionary tale. No one has to suffer the kind of desperation I did.