finding light in darkness

by Dani on June 22, 2012

TRIGGER WARNING This article contains information about depression, suicide, eating disorder and mental illness which may be triggering to survivors.

I have depression.

I have anxiety.

I have an eating disorder.

I have attempted suicide.

All in all, I have mental illness.

I don’t tell you this for pity or judgement but as a chapter in my story, as something that is part of my life but does not define it. 

It took me months to be able to write this post and clicking publish made me feel sick to my stomach.  This is raw, unpleasant, sad and at the same time incredibly cathartic and while it may be hard to read, it has been even harder to live through. 

My hope is that if you have mental illness and mood disorder that you will talk about it and not be afraid because you are not alone in your struggle.  I share this because I base my practice as a Holistic Nutritionist on the relationship between food and mood, mental health, eating disorders and stress management.  I tell you this because if you have never experienced a mood disorder, none of this may make any sense.  But maybe someone you know is suffering in silence and needs help.

As a Holistic Nutritionist I take on a responsibility to help people to, in someway live their best life.  It is my passion, what I love to do and brings me complete happiness.  As a friend, daughter, co-worker and person on this earth, I am a relentless optimist.  It is the root of my being to believe in the good of life. 

The irony is not lost on me though, relentless optimist and all, that I have depression.

My story begins as a teenager where I first started to experience depression.  It was more than typical teenage angst, there was something seriously not right with me.  I was medicated with a high dosage of SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) anti-depressants and called it a day.  Depression and anti-depressants have a very picky relationship with one another and sometimes it takes trying different types of drugs and different dosages to find the “right fit.”  Let’s say it was not a mutually beneficial relationship between these drugs and I, and so I stopped taking them and hoped for the best.  I thank my high school boyfriend for handling me with compassion and love during this time.

The next few years of my life were pleasant, I had ups and downs like everyone else and nothing ever felt out of my control.  Enter my mid-20s where I just felt lost in my life.  One night while mad at the world and waiting for the subway, a young man standing not ten feet from me, who was probably around the same age as I was, jumped in front of the oncoming train and took his life.

In that moment, my life changed forever.  I felt broken that I saw the last few moments of someone’s life whose name I didn’t know, whose story I never heard, end in the blink of an eye.  For a year and a half after that I wasn’t able to close my eyes without having that image in my head and now, 4 years later it is still burned into my memory as if it was yesterday.

The severity of that event changed me and for the better.  I learned that life is not to be taken for granted.  I learned that being kind to anyone and everyone may be the simplest and yet most profound act we can do for one another.  I learned to care about my health, my physical body and my spirit by learning more about nutrition and starting a regular yoga practice.  I learned the value of life and then became a vegetarian.  It taught me strength and I ran a half-marathon (having never been a runner.)  I choose to make a really sh*tty situation into something meaningful.

This high went on for a few years and it was amazing.  It taught me life lessons and helped me become the person I truly wanted to be.  This high didn’t last and depression reared its ugly head and accompanying it, an eating disorder.  I had gone off the birth control pill and my hormones were an absolute mess, I was not in a good place in my life and as perfect as I was trying to be on the outside, the cracks were starting to show.

Life got to be too much and there was a suicide attempt.  I’ll spare you the details but I can tell you this now that I have some distance from the event; never for a second did I want to die, I just wanted the constant pain I experienced daily both physically and emotionally to end because it was unbearable.  That chapter in my story is closed and I now put value on my life and my worth.

As of right now, I am not out of the woods but I can start to see the trees and the light and it is shining bright, this I know for sure.  Am I better?  No.  Am I working on it?  Absolutely.  Every day is a gift unto itself and I learn to live each day at a time, moment by moment and breath by breath.  I have good support and I let my optimism win, it is what grounds me and reminds me of who I am at my root core; a pretty, freakin’ happy person and not because of the meds…(come ON, depressed people can make jokes too!)

I love the above quote, “I am in repair.  I’m not together, but I’m getting there.”  Because that is exactly how I feel.  I’m still the same small, funny, happy girl who squeals when she see’s dogs and will never say no to chocolate or a hug.  I’m still the same me, just with more life lessons that I thought I could ever learn. 

Having this thing doesn’t make me incapable or incompetent.  And being honest about it doesn’t mean I want pity or sympathy.  I just want someone to read this and if they can relate, know that whatever they feel is okay.  This too shall pass.  And you will come out better for it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy story in its entirety.  I’ll leave you with this quote from the amazing Brene Brown, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  If you or someone you love experience mental illness, please reach out for help.  If you live in Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association is a wonderful resource.

With love and constant gratitude, Dani

*This post is dedicated to a very special person in my life who had the strength and courage to ask for help.  You are never alone and you are always loved. xo

Due to the sensitive nature of this post I have closed the comment section.  If you have any comments, please feel free to reach me through my contact page.

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