Written by: Twyla Wilband
I know what it is like to feel heartache, to feel alone, and to wonder why God has given you life. Wanting to curse God that He made a mistake giving you life where there are people around dying and want to live. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning with no physical or mental energy and wondering how you are going to get through the day. To feel sadness that lasts for days, weeks, and sometimes months without end. I understand the feeling of discontent, no matter how hard you try to change your mood- there still is that underlying feeling of numb and that something is missing. To feel ambivalent about everything, I get it. I totally get that sometimes self injury makes a person feel something compared to feeling nothing. Yes, I understand why people feel they have to punish themselves with this method- because you feel you are not good enough and never will be. I know what it is like to be tormented by voices that are not there- telling you to do things you do not want to do… hurt yourself or perhaps others. I also get that sometimes it’s hard to communicate with the outside world for days or weeks at a time because you are scared to go out or talk to people for one reason or another. I also empathize with you that it seems no one has stood by you in this time and you feel something must be wrong with you. I get that you may feel as if you are going crazy and you feel alone in this process. That dying seems better then living and suicide seems like an option more so now than ever before. How could I sincerely understand you ask? It’s because I too have been there where you have been or might have been… rock bottom. I have lived in the shadows of this world for a long time- more in than out of them it seems.
I don’t remember what it is like to not have a mental illness as it has been a part of me for so long. I have lived with a mental illness since the age of at least 13- before then my brain has blocked out a lot of memory from the past. So in a sense, I can say that I have lived with a mental illness for so long that I have earned my degree and I should have a certificate on the wall for my experience! It needs to count for something- how about a medal of courage? Looking back I would not change whether I was to have a mental illness or not because it has taught me so much about life, about other people, and most importantly about myself.
Don’t get me wrong, at times I thought dying looked a lot better than having to live with a mental illness for the rest of my life. Besides, who would want to be depressed a great amount of time and not able to shake it no matter how hard they tried? Who would want to lose family and friends due to the stigma that the illness brings? Who would want to be on disability because they cannot hold down a full time job because the illness gets in the way of living? It does not seem like much of a life. Then you wonder why I would not change it if it was that bad and I had to suffer great loss? Well that’s simple.
If I did not have a mental illness then I would not have the empathy and understanding for other people who are struggling that I presently do. I could not truly offer hope to someone if I have not lived it day in and out and know what it is like to come out the other side. From the experiences that I have been given, I have gained a lot of patience with myself and with other people. I am able to know myself better than anyone else does- what I need, what works, and what I should not do. This is something many do not master till they are much older. I have learnt that even though mental illness created a road block for me in some ways… it has also shown me the paths I would not have seen before, and paths that I had to create on my own in order to get to where I want to go. Perhaps where I am at now with my experience is where I ought to be in this moment in time- willing, ready, and able to help others who are struggling and broken.
There was a time that I did not think nor did the doctors think I was going to make it as far as what I am today. I had doctors tell me that they would be surprised if I made to age 25 with how I going. I felt utterly hopeless and I did not want to live. Often times, I would self injury as a way to cope with how I was feeling inside. When I was not self injuring then I was attempting to end my life. There was no purpose that I saw in my life, everything felt so hopeless from a young age. I figured that if this feeling was going to be there in the future then life was not worth living. I did not have many supports in my life at this time and I was dealing with a lot of traumatic events that had happened as the years went on. I did not see any value to my life. Then when I started to hear voices that no one else could hear, I really thought I was doomed to the prison sentence of mental illness forever and I would never live a full meaningful life.
Being the fighter that I am though, I choose not to settle for this destiny. I began to find my voice that I thought I had lost long ago. I found one person who really believed in me and my potential and in turn I started to believe in myself and the possibilities that I could do. I started to realize that I had a gift of experience and I did not want to keep it inside– this is when I started to share my story to crowds and individuals and eventually join like minded organizations. Also, this is when I thought what I had to offer had value to other people and blogging became something I knew I could use to reach more people.
So what do I do today in order to stay healthy? The biggest thing is that I get creative. Playing with paints, crayons, and colours is very therapeutic for me. I like to think of myself as an artist and I often use it as means of release, communication, distraction and of course fun! I have an art journal which I illustrate in which provides a visual image to what is going on or what I might be feeling inside. I often think in pictures so drawing what I feel comes very natural to me. I also paint pictures on canvas for fun and leisure time. I feel very satisfied once a project is complete and I am happy with the outcome.
I encourage everyone to have an outlet where they can express themselves in a healthy manner. It’s important to have something that you enjoy doing that provides you with accomplishment once completed. I also encourage people to rely on safe people who will listen without judgment in your time of need. Everybody needs a safe person to talk to and confide in.
Don’t lose hope. When you want to throw in the towel- please don’t. These are the times a breakthrough is about to occur. Hold on tight and do not let go. It may feel as if you are sinking down into quicksand but there are ways to get out of it without giving up and letting yourself sink. There is hope available. Remember I know and understand what it is like to be at rock bottom. But, I also know what it is like to be up on the surface where the sun is shining. If I can make it through each storm then you can too- no matter how bleak it might look while trudging though. We need to link arms together and remember no matter how much you feel it, you never truly are alone. There are others who like you, have experienced trauma, loss, and mental health issues. Hold on to the hope that you can and will weather the storm and see the sun out on the other side. Have hope… have faith.
Believe in yourself and what you are capable of doing. [Tweet this quote!]
You are strong and mighty.
Art credit: Twyla Wilband
Twyla Wilband, lives in Nova Scotia Canada and dedicates her time and energy to mental health promotion and stigma reduction in her community as well abroad. She is trained as a Peer Support Specialist and uses her life experiences to help others. Although she is diagnosed with a mental illness, she does not let that define her as a person. She enjoys creative expression through art, writing, and photography. Her biggest feat as of late she is proud of is training her cat Kishka, to use to toilet… yes you read it right the first time.
You can read Twyla’s blog, Inside the Looking Glass at: http://kool2bkind.blogspot.ca/ where she writes as a Community Correspondent for Partners for Mental Health. Also on Twitter she can be found at https://twitter.com/TwylaWilband.