I suppose many of you have heard by now about Chris Cornell’s death and while I was not a die-hard fan of his, I certainly appreciated his music. Audioslave debuted during some pretty pivotal years of my life and I cannot listen to that album without slipping into nostalgia or remembering how hot I thought he was.
I read his wife’s statement regarding her husband’s death, here, on Rolling Stone’s website, and I cannot help but to think about what a terrible waste his death was and about how that could have been me, so here are the confessions of this indie author.
Some of you may know this and some of you may not, but for a time, I was extremely depressed and incredibly anxious. I have spiraled a couple times in my life: in high school, university, and several years after graduation. In fact, I almost didn’t graduate university because I suffered a breakdown so serious, I refused to attend class and barely left my apartment for a month. I had to retake my courses and almost stayed an extra year.
I somehow came out of it, though it’s been a while now. I believe it was mostly thanks to a friend, some family support, and odd things, like random inspiration–but the truth is, anxiety and depression never truly leave those afflicted with them. They lay dormant inside, small seeds pressed deep in the recesses of the mind, just waiting for the right conditions to sprout.
And sprout they did a couple years before I turned thirty.
The anxiety came first. I became anxious about going to work because the truth is, I hated my job. I took some bad advice and decided that money was important and I needed it to feel secure and happy. I couldn’t sleep at night, thinking about how terrible my day had been and wondering what horrors tomorrow would bring, and then of course, my thoughts would continue on to the rest of my miserable life and my eventual death in what I considered to be a meaningless existence.
I was in a relationship with someone who didn’t love me anymore. Raven, my dog, died, and she was more important to me than I could ever fully express; a rock and a companion that had been there for me through some of the most difficult trials of my life. After she died… I broke. I split right in half: One side depression, the other side anxiety. I sat on my couch, day and night, crying or watching Netflix to try and distract myself from the incredible pain I was in. I just wanted to escape.
Without proper support from friends and family–because no one knew how to help me or understood how truly bad it was—I turned to medication, thanks to advice from my family doctor. I was on what I consider to be a very high dose. It stopped most of the crying and the physical pain I felt, but it also stopped everything else. I stopped caring about writing, drawing, work (I had gotten a part time job by this time), I stopped showering and I stopped going outside. I was no longer hurting in the same way as I was before, I was hurting in a new one.
Medication did not fix my problems or help me to help myself. Instead it took away the potential drive to do anything that might actually turn my life around and make me happy. I became part of the audience, watching the reel of my life, crying out for the girl on screen, wanting to help her, but I couldn’t. I was physically incapable of standing up and taking her hand and saying, “It doesn’t have to be like this. Come with me.”
I got kicked out of the house I was living in and fired. For the first time in my life, I had been fired and my boyfriend left me. He told me he didn’t want to take care of me anymore. Of course, while I had struggled this whole time, he had lived at home in his parent’s basement, working the job my father had gotten him, and could now afford to buy his own house. What a nail through the chest that was.
I was an island in an inconsolable sea of heartbreak, loss, and sadness. Losing those things that we use to define ourselves; a job, a pet, a lover, and becoming estranged from friends and family, I tried to take my own life. I had given it a lot of thought, because I had a lot of time to think about it.
The first time I really considered it I was in university. Unfortunately, I feel like once that thought pops into your mind, it ripples out through time, cresting and then breaking on the shores of your sanity at the worst of times. The life crash I was having was definitely the worst I’d experienced. I was ready to end it.
I called my brother up to say goodbye to him. I should mention here that he did not live close and tried the best he could for me from afar. My brother may be younger than I am, but to this day he remains my hero. When I called him, he drove all the way from Toronto to stay the night on my couch and make sure nothing happened. He had to wake up early the next day and drive back to Toronto for work. I look back and feel terrible for how much I must have scared him.
But he couldn’t always be there, so eventually I found the time and I made an attempt. Luckily what I tried did not work and I woke up with a new appreciation. I don’t remember everything about that morning, but I do remember gentle rays of golden sunlight and staring for a long time at a maiden hair fern I had placed on the window ledge of the room I was staying in. I realized I didn’t really want to die, I just didn’t want this life. I wanted a different one, where I did what I loved every day and I loved who I was.
So, I decided to try. I went to see a counselor, I started to wean myself off my drugs (despite my Dr’s insistence that I keep taking them), and I got a shitty part-time job at a gas station. I was exercising. I couldn’t afford a gym membership, so I would jog outside and do what I could inside: push ups, sit ups, etc; things I couldn’t do when I was on my meds because I had no drive and no energy. I changed how I ate. I cut out wheat, dairy, and I went from vegetarian to vegan. It was hard, but very much worth it.
Weaning myself off my medication was incredibly difficult. I will not lie about that. Towards the end, I would open the capsules and count out beads to lower the dosage and reduce withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms from my medication where terrible. My vision would get blurry, my eyes would feel like they were shaking, and the headaches would last days. The weirdest thing though were the “zaps” from withdrawal. It felt like little jolts of electricity were running through my system. There was nothing I could do about the symptoms though, so I waited it out. I worked when I could or I laid in bed. I reminded myself every day that the pain and discomfort would not last forever. It was hard, but I cannot express how happy I am that I did it.
Now that I think about it, I feel I should re-tract my shitty part-time job statement, because I was proud of that job and I don’t feel anyone should ever be ashamed of their job. At least they have one, at least they are trying. I did hate that I sold cigarettes, helping people to kill themselves, that our store didn’t recycle, and I hated that I drank more energy drinks than any one human being should ever consume, but it was my job. Mine (my precious). I had earned it, kept it, and I had money again and because of the growing financial stability it gave me, I was able to write again. I cared about writing again, which in turn meant I cared about my life.
Eventually I would be able to get out of part-time work and focus on full-time writing. And once things were more stable for me financially and emotionally I was ready. I met someone great, who supports my writing and who has vowed to love and cherish me through the good times and the bad. Together we build the life we want, everyday.
So, my life wasn’t amazing the moment I decided I wanted to live and live without fear. There were stepping stones to getting to where I am now, but change is possible. You don’t have to be stuck in a life you hate or are afraid of anymore, you can change it. Counseling was and is the core of my success. I cannot stress that enough. Without someone I could speak to and to give me tools to take with me into my every day life, I do not believe I would be here. My counselor did for me what friends and family could not. She gave me real tangible solutions to the problems that I faced.
With her guidance, I took control of my life. Exercise, a healthy diet, and a healthy mind were the building blocks that gave me a better and happier life, not a pill. I am not saying that no one needs medication or that exercise is going to solve all your problems, I am saying that you can take control of your life and through counseling, exercise, and healthy food, you can be your best self and take on anything, like publishing a book.
My anxiety and depression are not completely gone, I wont lie about that, but they no longer control me. When the storm comes and waters the seeds of doubt in my mind, I pick up a phone and I make an appointment and get help. I go for a run or a bike ride and I keep going. I know now that I can weed out the bad thoughts and feelings. I beat them before and I can do it again.
And you can too. You are much stronger than you think. Take a chance on yourself and live your life completely.