In line with Suicide Awareness Day in September, PGR is raising awareness around a very taboo topic: Suicide & Depression. We’ve interviewed several individuals (heroes) about their lived experiences; stories that we hope will bring you healing, hope, and a deeper level of understanding.
In our interview below, we feature Jamie who shares her journey and explains how recovery can be an extremely volatile process; one that can be likened to a roller coaster ride.
Tell us more about your journey?
It all started after my parents divorced and the family drifted apart. As I was only 9 at the time, I didn’t understand what was going on and was unable to process the myriad of emotions. After all, no one ever really asks how the kids are doing in such situations. Instead, it seemed like everyone just tried to hide it from us (kids) and even though I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I knew something “bad” was happening.
Growing up was a roller coaster ride. I spent every week split between two houses that treated me and my brother differently – the rules were different, the way of living was different, there was even a struggle on the religion side.
As no one pointed it out as an issue, I simply adapted to it at the time. As I grew older, however, I started to see how badly it affected my identity. In an attempt to “shield” us from the problems, things ironically got worse as both sides of the family would say negative things about the other.
It was hard being “stuck in the middle” of such negativity. There were certainly thoughts of faulting myself but it was more a sense of despair… and I can’t even begin to explain what I was feeling. I didn’t have anyone to cry to or listen to me… so I just started self-harming in an attempt to get relief from all the negative emotions.
How did you get diagnosed?
I got diagnosed after seeing a therapist at the age of 15 – though it was not my choice.
Tell us more about your recovery journey?
The recovery journey was really a roller coaster ride.
Some days, I couldn’t even get out of my bed. I still wanted to isolate myself and I was still struggling with thoughts of wanting to die. I had to take it one day at a time and even then – sometimes one day at a time was too difficult.
Slowly, after many sessions with my therapist and relapses, I managed to get to where I was functioning enough to go back to school.
A lot of people helped me along the way. The saying that it takes a village to raise a child is definitely true – even more so when the child is unwell. Thankfully, I had teachers, family, and friends who supported me at various points of my journey. As annoying as it may have seemed at times, there was never a period of time where I was “left alone” and for that, I’m truly grateful.
What did you wish you knew back then?
I would’ve told myself it was okay to ask for help at an earlier stage of my depression and that I was not alone.
As teenagers, we tend to feel that nobody in this world understands us but that isn’t true.
At the same time, it can be slightly tricky when it comes to depression and I implore adults to avoid using phrases like “it’s the same thing as what we went through in the past” because it can be far from the truth.
Children nowadays face different pressures – pressures of a constantly evolving society, intense competition, and increasing pressure to do well in all aspects of life.
I would’ve also told myself it’s completely alright to carve a path that is different from everyone else.
What are some misconceptions about suicide and/or depression that frustrate you?
There are so many:
Those struggling are “just sad”.
Those struggling want to die because they are cowardly.
Those struggling do this to get attention.
Those struggling are just lazy.
Those struggling just can’t think positively.
Those struggling chose to be depressed.
These are just a few but there’s so many more.
This isn’t a misconception but something that many people tend to do – sweeping things under the carpet when people try to be vulnerable with them. By responding with comments like “just take a break” or “don’t think about it anymore” or trying to divert the conversation to something “more positive” – it actually makes the individual who is struggling feel invalidated. They’ve shared for a reason, albeit how hard it is. Even if it’s uncomfortable and you don’t know how to respond, just being there for them and validating their feelings means a lot.
What advice do you have for those who are struggling?
This may be controversial but I want to thank you for continuously trying to struggle in life.
I empathize that it is an extremely difficult choice to make between wanting to end the pain you’re going through and fighting to live another day. The decision isn’t easy.
I also want to tell you it’s okay to fail sometimes. We can’t all have good days because it’s the bad days that give the definition of good days.
On the bad days and periods of relapse, you may feel like everything is back at square one. That’s alright – because in the midst of that, there’s likely a learning point and growth from that. Maybe it’s learning what triggered you, learning a different coping mechanism, gaining new insights, or realising this relapse didn’t last as long as the previous one.
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