My struggle with mental health has been lifelong. I was born into poverty, to a single mother already raising one daughter. We did not have a lot of support, and our financial situation was bleak. I have trouble remembering things back then very well, or even in order. I know that we moved a lot, spent a long time couch surfing at the homes of friends, and changing schools. My mother, who was stretched so thin trying to get by with us, was not able to be home with us as much as she wanted, or as much as we wanted. I could not read until I was almost 7. At the age of 6, I was sexually assaulted by a family member in a position of trust. This event has changed so much of my life, even now, 23 years later. I have severe anxiety, and PTSD. The history with the man who assaulted me did not end for many years, though the assault stopped soon after it started. The problem was that at the time the assault occurred, I fell through the cracks of a system that is entrusted with human safety, protection and justice. I was not protected from my attacker, nor were those who would fall victim to his hands after me. I was not heard and he was not stopped for many years. I was 17 before any of us saw any kind of justice for what he did. The consequence for being disbelieved was, unfortunately, the pulling apart of my family. My siblings and I were all separated and sent to different caregivers. The life I was given after that is what I truly believe saved my life. I think without the support I had back then I would have turned to substance or alcohol abuse. I’ve considered them more than once to cope but I know that road gets so much worse. I’m trying so hard. I suffer from chronic insomnia, severe nightmares, constant anxiety, panic attacks and periods of depression that fluctuates from bearable to completely unmanageable. Worse still is that those problems were worsened by a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis at 19, after years of being sick.
I struggle daily with managing my feelings. My journey to get help began four years ago, and I’ve barely had any response from anyone. I’ve tried to get help in this Province with little help, even now. Referrals to therapists or psychiatrists fell through cracks and trips to emergency drop in clinics for mental health were temporary band-aids. I’d leave feeling a little better, and sometimes within hours the help that I had, became ineffective. I saw medical doctors who were not willing to entertain conversations about mental health, or told me outright that mental health problems such as the ones I suffer from are just excuses, they aren’t real, and therefore cannot be fixed. I’ve read self-help books and turned to meditation and medication and herbal remedies. They say to ask for help. They say to tell someone if you’ve reached the end of your tether, feeling suicidal and unable to cope, if you’re scared. And yet here I am, feeling mostly like those words were a joke. I’ve taken responsibility for my mental illness. I know there’s something wrong with me but I don’t know what it’s called, how to treat it, or where to turn. I know that watching me struggle and spiral out of control is hurting the people I love, and has cost me relationships with people who destroyed me emotionally to lose. Everybody leaves. I’ve been left feeling like there is no hope because this Province is extremely lacking in resources for people battling mental illness. I am so grateful for what we have but it is not enough. I’m losing hope, and for the first time in my life I’m becoming apathetic about getting better because wanting to get better and not being able to is causing me more distress than the acceptance is. I always believed that I was a functional person that this thing was happening to, and with help it could be treated. I never before felt like I am what’s happening to me, until now.
I have extremely low self-esteem. I take blame for every bad thing that happens to me, the people I know, or the situations I’m in. All of the flaws I see in myself and all of the bad things I’ve experienced and all the hurt people have ever dealt me is so magnified that it’s nearly impossible for me to see beyond. I feel at fault. I feel like a failure. I feel like I deserve to feel this way, to be ill, to never get better, to get worse, and to die this way. I feel like I earned it. I feel like my presence in other people’s lives costs them things that without me they would not have to sacrifice. I feel like I attract bad things and bad people. I feel ignored, shut out, and rejected. I feel like nobody is listening, and that people’s “encouragement” is just filler platitudes for not having any answers, or not knowing what to do or say, and not wanting to be involved. I’m beginning to feel like it will never get better. I lived with my depression and anxiety silently as an adult, until it took on a life of its own. And I refused to ask for help until I realized that it had grown beyond my ability to control it or cope with it. I’ve had suicidal thoughts before, but passively. I always knew that really, there are people who love me even if I don’t feel it the way they deserve for me to. Knowing that, intellectually, is what has kept me from acting on those thoughts. I don’t want to hurt or punish or inflict my misery on others. Recently, though, I’ve been feeling like the pain of losing me would pale in comparison to losing the consequences of me. They’d be free, no more worrying about what I am or am not capable of doing, or what mood swing I will have next, or who is responsible for how I feel, or walking on eggshells for fear of stressing me out. The people I love would be free of the anxiety I cause them. Wouldn’t that be a relief? Wouldn’t that be some kind of loving, merciful act? Is it selfish?
Kassondra is a Mom, Wife, Musician, Artist, Writer and Type 1 Diabetic. She battles her mental illness by immersing herself in family, writing, music and art. She believe that access to mental health services, support and physicians who are better educated about mental illness and treatment options is of vital importance. While she has, and sometimes still does battle depression and suicidal thoughts, she is always trying to overcome them, and is hopeful that there is a better life ahead of her.