the electricity that runs through us.

When I spent a week on the psych ward at the hospital, I met a man named Jonathan (whose name has been changed for obvious reasons). He is thirty-eight years old, Caucasian, and has the saddest eyes I have ever seen. His face is gentle and approachable, and with no facial hair, he looks ten years his junior. His hair is brown with a sprinkle of red, quite curly, pulled back under a baseball hat. He is so open, and his honesty kept my stay on the ward a little more bearable.

I was checking my email on one of the two computers accessible to inpatients, and he sat beside me on the other. He asked me how I was feeling – it was my first night on the ward. He asked me why I was there, and after my response, I asked him the same question.

He tried to hang himself – twice, in the past month. The first time in his bathroom over the door, but his weight was too heavy for the rope and he fell, and smashed his face on the bathroom tile. The second time from underneath his back patio. His second attempt was also unsuccessful, and after being found by his mother, he was sent to the lock down ward. He said he couldn’t speak for a while after because of the damage to his throat, and his face was pretty beat up and bruised.

Jonathan is bipolar, which means that he experiences extreme mood swings from complete depression, to emotional highs much like a feeling of euphoria. He told me he had been pretty even keel for the past twelve years – he hadn’t had an episode since he was twenty-six. But, much like what I have experienced in depression, one small thing went wrong, followed by another, and another, and another, until he found himself in a downward spiral, with a noose around his neck.

During my stay on the ward  Jonathan’s psychiatrist was experimenting with different medications to find the perfect “cocktail” to suit Jonathan’s needs. This is pretty standard when dealing with mental health – everyone’s brain, and needs are so vastly different that not all medications do the same thing for each person. But the side effects are usually a zombie-like state of feeling nothing, and dead eyes. Jonathan told me that he was getting to the end of experimenting with medications – he had tried them all, and nothing was working, and finally his psychiatrist suggested ECT.

Scary, right? I had no idea that doctors today still use electroconvulsive therapy. But, it’s much safer these days – patients are under anesthetic, and less electricity is used in each session. ECT is used when other medications fail, and apparently it can reverse the symptoms of certain mental illnesses, like depression, or bipolar disorder.

So, as I was being discharged, Jonathan was preparing to attend weekly ECT.

I hadn’t seen him in almost five weeks when I ran into him in the hospital hallways late last week. I said a big hello, and he greeted me with a hug. Then I noticed his slowed, almost slurred speech. He told me his treatments were almost complete, and he would soon be able to go home. He said hopefully the slowed speech would wear off, but the doctors couldn’t be sure. He had lost some short-term memories, and was hopeful those would come back too.

 

To be completely honest, I’m not sure why I’m writing about him today. I mostly just wanted to share his story too. To let people know that it’s more than just depression out there – that real people are experiencing real things and they shouldn’t be looked past.

 

I wish you all the best in your journey, Jonathan. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

she was free.

In addition to my writing here, I also keep a journal filled with thoughts, quotes, notes to myself, and sometimes, creative writing.

Today I would like to share with you an excerpt from a journal entry that I wrote five days after being admitted to the psychiatric ward.

 

February 15th, 2017

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. What happens when we die? What comes next?
Perhaps it is a little something like this…

“She took her last earthly breath; for a split second as her lungs grew heavy and her last breath dissipated into the outside air,  she felt a burst of panic. She felt the deep sadness that was her life.

And then it all went away. 

Every twisted thought of causing harm to her own body had disappeared. The overwhelming emptiness she fought every day, was gone. Her pain, both physical and emotional, ceased to exist.

She was free.

The darkness turned into a vast infinite space. The universe enveloped her, cradled her like a baby, and presented to her gleaming galaxies and uncharted nebulae. She cupped her hands and held a star, and felt its’ warmth coursing through her veins. 

She did not feel sadness for leaving her loved ones behind, for she knew they would meet again.

But now it was her time. Her time to rejoice in her new life – for her soul was at peace, and her smile would never fade.”

 

One thing that I deeply struggle with as I fight my battle with mental illness, is the thought of suicide. When is it too much to handle? When will I want to bow down, wave my white flag and surrender? What am I even fighting for?

I have to wake up every morning, and actively choose life.

And I do. I did yesterday, and I did today, and hopefully I will again tomorrow, and the day after that. But it is never easy.

If you have a loved one struggling with mental illness, please take the time today, and every day, to tell them how much you love them, so that they too, may continue to choose life.

hello my old heart.

My heart plays tricks on my mind. In the darkness, when I am trying to be still, I can feel my heart ache inside my chest, restricting the flowing blood, and shortening my breath. It sends movie reels to my eyes, replaying the moments I could have chosen my path differently. It shows me how I got here, to this province, to this class, to this mat, on this floor, lying still in the darkness.

I am searching for a balance between keeping my heart locked away, or wearing it on my sleeve. Is there such an in-between place?

If my heart could sing tonight, it would sing this lovely song, that I will leave for you here:


Hello my old Heart – The Oh Hellos

Hello my old heart
How have you been
Are you still there inside my chest?
I’ve been so worried
You’ve been so still
Barely beating at all

Oh, don’t leave me here alone
Don’t tell me that we’ve grown
For having loved a little while
Oh, I don’t want to be alone
I want to find a home
And I want to share it with you

Hello my old heart
It’s been so long
Since I’ve given you away
And every day I add another stone
To the walls I built around you
To keep you safe

Hello my old heart
How have you been?
How is it, being locked away?
Well don’t you worry
In there, you’re safe
And it’s true, you’ll never beat
But you’ll never break

Nothing lasts forever
Some things aren’t meant to be
But you’ll never find the answer
Until you set your old heart free

Until you set your old heart free

 

peeling back the layers. 

As I was savagely sanding away at the various layers of paint that have seeped deep into the wood of this lovely peice of furniture, I stopped and thought, what life has this dresser lived? What does each layer of paint represent in its’ life? Was it properly cared for? Did it sit forgotten in an attic to collect dust while mice made homes in its drawers? How did it end up here, in my father’s garage? 

Perhaps it seems silly to wonder all of this about a crumbly hunk of wood that most people would have brought to a junk yard. But for some reason, it comforted me to think of it in each home. 

The first layer painted is white. It’s quite small, so I imagined it in a little girls room, perhaps as a home for her toys. Maybe as the girl grew it became her first make up table, the top of it trashed with pink powdered blushes and knicks of mascara. 

The next layer was a sandy yellow. Maybe it made its way through the family, or to a friend who decided on a new colour. Perhaps it found it’s home in a hallway, topped with a vase of flowers, drawers filled with odd buttons and notepads. 

But it was somehow forgotten. It ended up in my fathers garage, below a mountain of miscellaneous items, full of dirt and cobwebs. 

I want to bring it back to life. I want to give it a home, where it’s safe from being forgotten again. I want to fix the wood and fill the holes. I want to make it beautiful again. 

I will end with this quote, which I have posted before, but it is beautiful and warm, and perfect for this post. 

 “It took her years of pulling back layers to find the love she was born to hold. For her own heart and soul were craving her attention.

She was always putting others before her. Now it was time to wrap her fingers around her own body, caressing her beauty and believing in her worth.” Simi Fromen