In the Bones

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It’s like lying under a pile of rubble, understanding and feeling how heavy the boulders are but also knowing how damaged you’re going to be once you get out so you’d rather just lay there. It’s like walking outside but only bringing one sweater because you know you’re going to be cold regardless of how many layers you wear. You accept that the coldness is in your blood, running through every vein, artery, bone, all the way to the very core of your soul. Seeing the beauty in everything but knowing it’s only temporary so you don’t allow yourself to get attached to anything. When it’s bright and sunny out but the first thing that crosses your mind is to find shade because that’s where you take refuge in fear of getting burnt.

Sitting there in my school uniform as my feet hung off of the bed, I answer her questions as honestly as I possibly could without saying too much that would win me a free trip to the hospital with a handful of Zoloft. I didn’t quite understand why she was asking the questions she was, but I answer like any little girl would. Just over 30 minutes, the case was closed and the jury had to come to a verdict – sentenced to life. She scribbles some notes onto a small piece of paper with her autograph at the bottom. I look up from the ground and directly into the eyes of my father that were now swelling up with tears. It was like watching your favourite super hero as a kid, drop to their knees in defeat, except this time it was real. It was also the first time I was able to physically feel my worth diminish as guilt took over, although I don’t know why. All I could think about was how I have to get to science class. She hands my dad the piece of paper that defined me entirely and we silently made our way out of the building and back to school.

I was 14 when the word was first used to describe these constant thoughts that flowed through my body and to my brain like the blood in my veins. I had just entered high school and suddenly my whole life was set in stone because of one person. I had barely gotten my period and already was being told to pop 3 pills a day just to feel happy – or stable at the least. As I tried to understand my mind after that fuzzy day, my daily routine began with my teachers telling me about how my grade 9 courses actually mattered (because learning to colour in the map of Canada is a requirement for any possible future career) and ended with my sister informing me about how there are more negative side effects than good to these pills. This tiny little orange bottle contained either my complete happiness or my self-inflicted death – it was very hit or miss – and at the age 14, that was a decision I was not ready to make. Talk about teen angst.

As word got out to various friends and family members, every conversation began with either a lot of piteous head tilts followed by words spoken to me as if I didn’t understand English or smug eye rolls followed by, “It’s just your teenage hormones. You’ll be fine.”  I don’t know which was worse, knowing that this thing was inside of me and growing at a terrifying pace or thinking that it was all made up. Well I am here to reassure you that it is indeed alive and well and still enveloping every thought in my mind. Some days I feel at home with it, some in prison, and others I feel like it’s made up completely by some twisted part of my mind. At the ripe age of almost 19, I still don’t know which is worse.  Graphic 3 (4)

Maybe this thing is genetically rooted from my mother’s personal tango with it as well as being married for several years to a man who suffered from schizophrenia. Maybe it’s from years of being ridiculed and tormented by classmates and older siblings on a regular basis growing up. Maybe it’s from standing by and watching live as my brother used and abused drugs for years. Maybe it’s all of the above and more. I don’t exactly know the how, what or why of it, I just know it exists and that alone scares me enough put me into an early grave, or worse, a hospital – because the only thing worse than being a dead dead person is being a living one.

Mental illness is not something that should not be glorified nor be taken lightly. It is a very real thing that many people suffer from. Why is that we show sympathy towards people who experience the pain of having problems with any other organ(s), but scoff at the brain? You wouldn’t tell someone with problems with their lungs to “just breathe”, so why do we tell people with depression to “just get over it” ? Mental health, like any other health issue involving an organ, is a chemical imbalance that the individual has no physical control over. A person doesn’t choose to have schizophrenia, a heart condition, depression, anxiety and so on. Yes, there are specific ways to balance out the chemicals for each individual illness, however, alienating these people because of something they have little to no control over does not help them. If you wouldn’t shun a diabetic, then you have no reason to do the same to a person who suffers from depression. Before you point fingers and mock, educate yourself. Don’t let ignorance be your justification.

Depression is just a mere glimpse of my life. It does not define me as a whole and it is not okay to categorize me simply as a depressed girl. I am a human being before I am my illness. There are no limitations to depression, no requirements, no qualifications: there just is.

By Alexis Jamil

featuring photography from @_mayfleurs !

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