Hey everyone. So I haven't been feeling super well lately, having a fucking cold and all, but I've recovered. Anywho I went in today to see my social worker Stephanie and we talked about how I have been chosen to speak in a new campaign called TAMI (talking about mental illness) that begins in October. It will consist of visits to most high schools in the Durham region to talk about mental illness and the affects it has on it's victims. It's aim is to help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Several patients from local hospitals are chosen by their social workers to be guest speakers at these events. I was asked by Stephanie to be a speaker. I had to write a speech and I was hoping that I could get some practical feedback on how you think the speech will be received by students who are your age. In the speech you are supposed to outline your journey, and not get into too many details. You don't want to scare people with details of your suicide attempts for example. The message that I am trying to deliver is basically how I knew I had depression, how I was affected(family and friends too), the catalyst that sent me running for help, how I found help, with whom, and what kind. Any setbacks I may have endured, the management of the illness, and what I have learned. Stigma is supposed to be directly addressed in the talk, and it is supposed to be delivered in a personal context(such as how it impacted my recovery). In the speech they expect us to make it more conversational, then lecture like since the audience will be students who are about my age. Alot of teens don't respond well to lectures, they respond well to being included in the talk and feeling that they are connected somehow. I stayed away from talking too much....tried to make it relaxed.
I tried to include clever hooks that will help keep the students attention. So below I have included a copy of what I have written. Please leave your comments and give me any advice you think would help me deliver a more successful talk. Thanks in advance.
You can’t map out your whole life from to finish because somewhere down the line your plan will get derailed. Life is unpredictable and you never know what’s in store for you from day to day. Because of this unpredictability I spent two years of my life desperately seeking some form of control.
From me standing up here, you’re probably all thinking, wow this girl doesn’t look depressed, but then you have to ask yourself, what does a depressed person look like? It’s a different description from person to person and because depression is in fact the hidden disease, we can’t label any look, the look of a depressed individual can we? There is one thing however that I’m certain of. At some point in all of your lives you’ve been sick, and you’ve had to see a doctor. And I’ve never met any doctor who hasn’t tried to help the patient with their problem, because let’s be honest they want to get paid. So if every doctor that everyone in this room has seen has tried to help then why are thousands of teenagers in Canada still suffering in silence from depression? It’s simple, people are afraid to come forward with their problem. They are afraid to face the music so to speak. But that doesn’t’ alter the fact that mental illness changes lives does it? I didn’t recognize the impact my mental illness had on my life until recently and when I did, I knew that coming here to talk to all of you may be the most important thing I ever did. Depression is an internal fight that is undetectable to the human eye. It is a very slow transformation that can take weeks, even months to show its full effect. I remember waking up one day feeling like I was watching every one from a window and they couldn’t see me. I felt like I was watching my life happen before my eyes. Because of this strange feeling I began desperately trying to hide it because I didn’t know what it meant. I contained my emotions in a tiny glass jar in my stomach and kept on going. But there’s only a certain amount of time someone can contain such powerful emotions. Soon I couldn’t concentrate at school, I would become irritable all the time, and I wouldn’t have any will to do anything anymore. Eventually what goes in must come out, and one day the glass inside of me shattered and I didn’t stop crying for weeks. This change sent my family into a flashback of my father’s depression and immediately they knew I needed help. I was referred by my family doctor to the nearest mental health crisis unit. The diagnosis of major depression didn’t do much for me, just another label that was thrown at me as a teenager. It changed my view of myself though because immediately there was something wrong with me, I wasn’t normal anymore. I remember that feeling so well, it’s almost like a shove in the wrong direction. I was no longer on the same page as my friends; my diagnosis meant a so-called permanent change in my life.
The transition from a grade 11 student to a depressed, mental health patient was difficult. All of my friends were very confused and thought I was going to the “nut house”. Because none of them had experienced an inner sadness quite like mine (to the same extent that is), they didn’t know how to react. An admission to a day program for adolescents seemed like a world of difference from my regular ritual of going to school every day. I felt like a drug addict, ashamed of my “problem” and very alone. But this day program consisted of being in a safe haven for teenagers just like me who were also suffering. It meant an environment of understanding not one of judgment and isolation. This event really changed my view of my depression; it really made me realize how many people were also struggling too. I was in the day hospital for six weeks and by the time I was finished I was much more confident in my new “self” and was already nursing the beginning of a fresh start.
At home I was very fortunate to have two very “cool” supportive parents. My dad who also suffers from depression was on my side and had already taken a leave from work to help me get back on my feet. My older brother however was not quite as convinced of my sickness. He was constantly speaking of my craving for attention and how he believed that I was making this whole thing up to shift the attention of my parents to just me. His words really cut through my skin like a knife and I often cried myself to sleep at night. I didn’t feel like my brother really knew the extent of my inner pain and this caused a lot of rifts in our family dynamics. I was on a concoction of medication by this point, and I wasn’t quite sure of their effect either. I didn’t sleep well and often lashed out at my family members because I believed it was their fault that I wasn’t sleeping. The less I slept the more “out of it” I became. I saw my friends very little during this time because I was afraid of their reaction, and steered clear of their judgments as much as I could. Because of past experiences with people judging me I became scared to live my new life. I refused to leave the house, and developed a very severe anxiety disorder that kept me inside all day away from the outside world. I was terrified of public places because I really believed people were staring at me. I think this was because I thought my peers could sense that I was depressed. The anxiety was overpowering. It was like having butterflies in your stomach all the time with waves of nausea rushing through your body 24 hours a day. I began having attacks of anxiety which cause your heart rate to rise because you are so nervous, and then your palms become sweaty and you really do believe you are having a heart attack and you are going to die. Never underestimate the power of your mind because when I was that anxious I couldn’t focus on anything else and my mind took over. To overcome this I had to tap into my mind and start to reprogram crucial wires in my brain that were crossing. I had to begin to take my life one hour at a time and try to get through one task at a time. It was difficult; I’m not going to lie to you. It was a battle between me and my depression. The worst part of trying to reprogram your brain is the constant belief that you can’t do it. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it 90% of the time, and because of this began giving up more often than not. I of course had suicidal thoughts, but found comfort in my family, in writing, and in my gladiators, the team at the hospital who helped fend off the “evil” depression.
I bet you guys can relate to this next thing. How many of you are often influenced by others opinions of yourself, now come on be honest. No matter how much we don’t like to admit it we can be really hard on our peers sometimes. Calling them really harsh names, or trying to make ourselves feel better by putting someone else down. But in the end does it really make us feel better? I struggled with the public opinion of mental illness. Those who haven’t experienced mental illness think that the sufferers are “crazy” or as the British put it “have fallen off their trolley”. Well, I assure you all, I didn’t fall off any trolley and I certainly wasn’t crazy in any respect. But I thought I was because kids at school and in general would tell me that I was crazy, had lost my mind and wasn’t “normal”. This scared the shit out of me. I was a teenager of course I wanted to fit in with my peers. I desperately fought to be normal like them, but the more I fought the more I realized there wasn’t really a normal anyway. Nobody is normal; we all have our quirks and strange talents and qualities, but then again our society pressures us to be normal. They expect us to be like everybody else and fit into one nice pattern of ideal productive members of society. But let’s face it, not everyone is perfect. Not everyone can fit into that mould. We’re all unique and no matter how many times we’re told this we seem to forget this the day we turn 13 years old. We all want to be like the other, but never really take the time to think about somebody else’s life from their perspective. Guilty as charged right? Well because of this harmless mistake we all make is a terrible consequence called stigma. It’s a form of discrimination that often makes the world of it’s victims a lot more difficult than it has to be. Since depression is considered almost invisible a lot of people believe it therefore doesn’t exist. Because of this the general consensus is that people who have a mental illness are a perfect target for persecution. Hey you’re different so we’re doing to put freak on your forehead and shun you. Ok well maybe that’s a little but harsh but you get my point. The sufferers of depression become labeled as incapable and lazy. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to get up off their butt and walk without crutches would you? Well then why is it okay for people in our society to tell someone who has depression to suck it up? I guess some people just don’t see this connection. If someone who has just witnessed a murder is feeling upset we don’t purposely make their life more difficult by telling them it’s over so move on do we? Well, this is exactly what hinders sufferers of depression from getting better, more often then not. This is why it’s so important for you to try to see the sufferer’s point of view. You all have listened so attentively and that is the first step. I’m so appreciative that you guys have taken your time to listen to me talk about something that could affect one of you at least once in your life. Starting a new life after depression is very difficult so let’s try to help each other out. Early detection of depression is important and it could very well prevent you or someone you know from becoming very sick. The longer it takes to detect the longer it takes to recover. I was one of the lucky ones and have since begun my journey on the road to recovery. But don’t think that you’re safe and don’t think that accusing someone of not trying is not hurtful either. If you were depressed how would you like to be treated? Open your minds and open your hearts, it could happen to you, so why not do anything we can to help make the stigma surrounding mental illness history. Thanks guys for your attention, you’ve been a great audience.