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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

I’m Not Living

By Shayna Anderson

 

Friendship is fleeting

Love tugs at my clothes –

Will not let me fall,

Will not let me dive.

I’m not living

But they won’t let me die.

 

Shayna Anderson is a writer and artist who lives in the USA. She is at times happy, at times depressed, and at other times, violently suicidal. She cherishes every moment of sanity she has, and hopes never to give in to the darkest recesses of her mind.

 

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ART BY CAROLINA WARNER

Door Panels

The door panels are created around batik art panels by the Indonesian artist Ciptoning.  I constructed imagery to express my journey inward and my concept of strength for the day.

Leaf Fabric

The leaf fabric was created using deconstructed screen printing and foil.  I include the leaf to tell the part of my story that includes getting play clothes and belonging to a group of fiber artists who encourage one another to grow.

Carolina Warner has struggled with mental health issues most of her life.  It wasn’t until early adulthood that she sought treatment.  It took many years to get a Bipolar II diagnosis and medication that included mood stabilizers along with antidepressants. She feels she has been fortunate to have therapists along the way who could help her grow emotionally.  When symptoms ended her professional work life, she was encouraged to use art to express her feelings and experience.  She was able to stabilize and grow as a quilt artist.  Although she may or may not return to a full-time work life, art will always be part of her journey.

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THE LAVENDER HOUSE

By Holly Ward

Jessica would come to remember very little about her stay at The Lavender House.  She would recall the white walls, the atmosphere of solitude and the buzz of white noise in her ears.  She would occasionally think about the other people.  How they rocked gently and muttered under their breath to the people she couldn’t see.  At times their mutterings became louder and more intense, anger etched on their faces as they battled with old foes in another time, another life.

She would at times consider the equality of the place.  There was, seemingly, very little prejudice about mental illness.  Black, white, old, young, male, female, rich, poor even celebrity, it didn’t matter.  These afflictions weren’t choosey, they would happily destroy anyone’s life given half a chance.

And she supposed that that was what bound all these oddities together.  The desire of someone somewhere to not give half a chance to the demons that battled their loved ones.  She supposed she was lucky that John had actually cared enough, loved her enough to take away her freedom like this.  Because he had taken it away from her, she was a prisoner of sorts for those four weeks.

She pondered on her good fortune and that of her fellow patients, (because that is what you were at The Lavender House, no inmates or the wonderfully inaccurate ‘guests’ here).  They all had someone who loved them, someone who had cared enough to commit them before they hurt themselves even more than they had already.  She knew she was fortunate but she couldn’t feel happy about that yet.  Not for some time to come.

She had found a group of what you might call friends, but somehow the banter and chumminess that the word conjured up was wrong.  Friends implied choice, conversation, the sharing of knowledge and maybe laughter.  Her friends here were more like comrades.  Battling through this stretch of soul bearing and humility together.  They met every day for a group session.  Other people who had come so close to losing everything, maybe some had done so already, but someone had put them here to try and get it back.

The sessions were exposing and frightening.  At first Jess said nothing, in fact for days she said nothing.  This was apparently quite normal, although that seemed the wrong term for this place.  But to Jess, who was used to talking, used to presenting to roomfuls of people who were all hanging on her words, it was a new experience.  The very fact of being able to shut down, to say nothing, to languish in the depths of her own despair was a comfort of sorts.

She recalls the session where Lilly, a highly paid corporate lawyer in her former life, said her first words.  The words that reached deep into Jessica’s aching brain and caused a response to flow from her lips.  It felt involuntary.

Lilly had said ,”The kids were better off without me, I was useless to them.”

Jessica felt this resonate around her mind, it touched her broken heart and she said.

“I know that too.  I was damaging them”.

This had in turn started a rather slow but gradual discussion amongst their group of eight people.

“I needed someone to stop me, stop me hurting her so much” said the man in the red t-shirt to her left.

“I’m pointless, my wife deserved better” the middle-aged man in the corner.

And one by one they all revealed their weak spots.  The people who meant most to them, the people they had betrayed.  And they had betrayed them, these dependents, carers, lovers, they had all been betrayed by the illness that had consumed their families.

It was the first time in a long time that Jess felt she might just be with people who understood how her hurt mind worked.  Maybe in this white room in a facility in Sussex she would find her redemption.  Maybe she could find a way back to her life and her children.

Her recovery was painful at times.  Frustrated she would scream and shout at her therapist.  The anger she was so familiar with would rise up and explode out of her mouth in torrents of abuse.  She would experience the high this provided, she would writhe in the fix of self expression, until, as always she would collapse in a heap of shame and guilt.  But it was different here.  The guilt didn’t have the same sharp claws, she could shrug it off more easily.  She could consign it to a part of her mind and file under ‘recovery’.  The therapists were kind, they understood this was a process, they encouraged it.  She would recall that she felt a genuine freedom at The Lavender House, freedom to shout, scream, cry, wail and collapse.  There was no shame here, no guilt.  Only understanding and talking, if she wanted it.

Of course there were drugs too.  She was medicated at night time, when her demons would rise up from the depths of her soul and try to reclaim her.  They were bound up in a fog of Temazepam at night.  But during the day her anger was encouraged, it was fortunate, they said, that she could feel anger.  It was a good sign.  It meant the tunnels in her brain were rebuilding or realigning or something.  But it was definitely good.  She could believe this when she looked at the poor souls sat hour after hour gently rocking in their favourite chairs.

But Jess was on the mend they said.  She was making progress.  She had shut down, she had broken down but they were helping her get started again, cranking up her mind back to full health.

Today John was due to pick her up, she had seen him four times since she was committed.  She hadn’t seen the children once.  This was normal apparently.  Too much for them to understand, she missed them like she’d miss her arm.

The morning she had been brought here she hadn’t seen the children since the morning before.  She could hear them calling her as she lay in bed unable to move, but she couldn’t get to them, she didn’t see them.  She wondered what was going through their young minds.  How do a two year old and a five year old comprehend that their mother had broken, that she was unable to continue to be their mother.  Their world had it’s own logic, they understood the way the world was.  Josh perhaps more than Lucy, but there was an inate understanding in their forming minds.  Their own tunnels were being built. She had felt no sadness that morning, she had felt nothing, in truth she struggled to remember anything of that day or indeed the few days that followed her committal.  She knew she had been sectioned when she woke up on, what she was later told, was the fourth day.   She had felt the emptiness in the pit of her stomach, then the fear sinking in from all around, suffocating her.  She could hear a strangled shrieking sound enveloping her, it was her own voice of course.

She must have been sedated, calmed down.  She was quiet and sleepy, devoid of feeling.  Maybe that was better, maybe the silent life was easier for her.

But now they had deemed her repaired.  Repaired enough to go home and rest with her family.  She wondered what that meant.  She was a mother now, full time, she needed to learn how to do that.  A great big challenge that rose up and terrified her.  Until she had broken down she had had work to distract her, her reason for not being their mother full time.  But everything had changed now.  She had lost her job, she had lost her mind, she couldn’t lose her family too.

Summoning all the reserves of strength she had built up in these four weeks, she went to wait for John to collect her, to take her back to her life.  She could do this, she would do this.  She would be a mother and a wife again, she wouldn’t let them all down.

She looked out of the window, his car had just turned into the gravel drive.  A small lurch in her stomach, her mouth dry.  She was relieved to feel a glimmer of happiness, of hope as he got out of the car.  His familiar face, his slight frown against the weather.  His unfailing strength and belief in her and their marriage was almost tangible even from this distance.

He looked around and saw her.  Apprehension mingled with relief on his strong face.  She knew it would be alright.

Holly Ward is the mother of two little girls who, along with her full time job, make her life rather wonderful, happy, exhausting and terrifying in equal measure.  Life can get on top of her but writing is the best therapy (and she’s tried a few other kinds!).  She writes to keep the clouds away.  Holly lives in South East England with her children, husband and cat (who is a bit scared of her girls). Visit her blog at http://hollishobby.com.

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By Lynne Taetzsch

Although Lynne wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until her late 40s, she knew well before that things were not right.  Having severe insomnia and depression as a teenager, she told her mother she needed to see a psychiatrist.  Her mother made her a cup of tea instead.

For Lynne, a life of making art and writing has been a saving factor.  Being able to express her feelings and to transform them into something beautiful has made it all worthwhile.

Lynne has lived throughout the US,  and now resides in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State. She’s had many jobs, and through most of them, she kept painting. Since the spring of 2000, she’s been painting full time in her studio in Ithaca, New York.

In 2000 Lynne moved her 93-year-old father and 92-year-old ex-mother-in-law to an assisted living facility near her and became their primary caregiver.  That adventure led to the writing of Lynne’s latest book, The Bipolar Dementia Art Chronicles.  Lynne has a website, ARTBYLT.COM and regularly updates an art blog with her art and thoughts.

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PERFECTION IS FRAGILE

By Lauren Black

A flower looks beautiful and strong at first sight… but when you touch it, you feel how fragile it is;
just like women who felt strong, but had to face their fragility when they were touched by the hands of mental illness.

Lauren Black (not her real name) was born in 1991. Since her early childhood she has been having issues with anxiety and psychosomatic illnesses. After nearly a decade of incorrect treatment she was diagnosed with severe depression (suspected bipolar disorder) and several anxiety disorders as well as a mild perceptual disorder.

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Photo by Lauren Black

BROKEN DREAMS

By Lauren Black

London, Barcelona, Berlin, Munich, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague… she had always been a city girl at heart. She loved the people, the melting pot atmosphere, walking around the streets at night. She simply enjoyed the anonymity of the lifestyle and the adventures that could be found around very corner.

She had plans for her future… bright dreams swirling around in huge, colorful clouds around her head, that filled her heart with glee and her stomach with a light tingling every time she even thought of it… New York, L.A., San Fancisco… she would no longer be forced to follow the beaten track. She would be the first one of her family to leave that stuffy, suburban life behind… she would stop existing and would start living.

It was a beautiful morning in Paris, although it had already been hot and stifling for days. The streets were buzzing and the people were chatting and laughing… simply enjoying life and everything that came along with it… even if it was a hangover after a long night of partying. Paris just like so many other cities around the globe, never seemed to sleep.

Everyone was apparently just happy, except for a young woman who sat right in the middle of a pavement in Montparnasse. She was so pale that she really could be considered as cadaverous-looking; her upper body was slightly swaying back and forth and her hands were tightly clutching an almost empty water bottle. That was when she got to know the reverse of the anonymity-medal. Everyone who passed her simply just preferred to stare at her, but no one helped, although already half an hour had passed since she had collapsed right there where she still sat in silence, except for a small whimper that escaped her lips now and then every time a wave of nausea broke over her.

At last, a man squatted down beside her: ‘Excusé moi? Do you need help?’

She looked up, desperately trying to focus on what was happening around her, but all she could see was a blurry mash of colors.

A hospital, a handsome doctor and these lights… lights were everywhere… and then, there was just darkness.

‘Miss Black? Miss Black? Don’t you wanna get up? It’s time for your sports therapy.’

I turned around to face the wall and tried to blank out the annoying voice of our dear nurse in charge.

‘Are you ignoring me?’ She stood right in front of my bed looking like some kind of bogey on the prowl. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and tried to go back to sleep, but she wouldn’t let me.

‘You can’t just skip therapy,’ she said sternly, ‘You already missed the group therapy session for NO apparent reason. I’m not gonna let you slouch here while the other patients are out there, working on their well-being. Don’t you wanna get healthy again?’

Was she serious? Get healthy AGAIN? Couldn’t this stupid woman understand that there was no going back? Once a nutcase, always a nutcase. With no dreams to dream and no life to live. The healthy Lauren no longer existed; she had been left behind on the streets of Paris.

She was just a nurse, with dreams to dream and a life to live, with a family and a house and probably everything else a decent person in today’s society needs to rank among the ‘happy ones’. Me and most of the other patients at the Asylum would never have any of these things.

Mental illness is mostly tantamount to loneliness and isolation. Mentally sick people can even be lonely in a crowded room or in an embrace of a loved one, because their way of thinking or talking is different.

Two different worlds.

And because it hurts to be alone, even around people and because it shows you how pathetic you really are, it always seemed to me as if some of us freely chose to be all alone with themselves and their thoughts and their crazyness… when you’re alone, there’s no one around you can compare yourself with. When you’re alone, you’re almost normal.

My perception is not her reality. My reality is not her perception.

‘FUCK OFF!’, I yelled, ‘YOU KNOW SHIT. LEAVE ME ALONE.’

The nurse just looked down at me for a couple of seconds and then, with an affected smile on her face, she said: ‘That’s very disrespectful and I’m disappointed. I think I’d better consult the doctor on call. He’ll be taking care of you. And of course I’m gonna talk to your therapist about this… outburst.’

‘Do what you want’, I spat at her through clenched teeth. ‘Go and get the doctor, I already know him, at least he’s got packages full of pills and not only a mouth full of stupid jabbering.’

Lauren Black (not her real name) was born in 1991. Since her early childhood she has been having issues with anxiety and psychosomatic illnesses. After nearly a decade of incorrect treatment she was diagnosed with severe depression (suspected bipolar disorder) and several anxiety disorders as well as a mild perceptual disorder.

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Sylvia Plath was born in the 1930s, and enjoyed much success as a poet from a very young age. However, she has been said to have suffered from depression, anxiety disorders, and possibly even bipolar disorder. She was hospitalized for a ‘nervous breakdown’ (a suicide attempt) and was given shock therapy. However, this did little to help her.

At the age of 33, Sylvia Plath committed suicide by sticking her head in a gas oven. She first sealed the kitchen off with wet towels so that her sleeping children would not be affected by the gas. She was found by her au pair with her head in the oven.

In the following – rather graphic – poem, she talks about the beauty of pain. Could she have been a cutter?

CUT

By Sylvia Plath

For Susan O’Neill Roe

What a thrill —
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian’s axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz.

A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?
O my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill

The thin
Papery feeling.
Saboteur,
Kamikaze man —

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Babushka
Darkens and tarnishes and when

The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

How you jump —
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

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