Why did you write your contributions Linda?
I wrote these poems because I want to be able to help people. They say to turn your pain into art, and I think that is good advice. It gives you the power over the situation, and helps you gain some insights into who you once were and what you were thinking. Once you're at that point you get to choose to move on in whatever way you can or change learned behaviour that may not be healthy or normal.
Were they based on personal experiences?
Yes. My uncle did take his own life when I was a teenager. It was heartbreaking. I really didn't realize he was struggling so badly. I was wrapped up in my own struggles and really wounded, and it made me sad that maybe on some level I pushed him away. I blamed myself for a long time. I thought maybe if he knew that I loved him or if I had made it a point to show him how much I loved him that he wouldn't have taken his own life.
Describe a little about how you felt at that time?
At the time when my depression was the strongest, I was a teenager. I was heavily bullied because I was shy, I refused to drink underage, I was a good girl and I was fat; anything you can think of people mocked me for. I began to think of myself as disposable and worthless. I began to see myself as a burden to everyone I loved. I was very critical of myself and that, combined with the bullying and arguments I sometimes had in my home life, created a very toxic environment for me. I managed to handle the situation by becoming comfortable with being alone. I realized that some people are bad for my health, and sometimes being alone is better than being around someone if they're going to make me feel bad about myself or treat me poorly. I also decided that I wasn't going to give the people the satisfaction of getting to me. That I was going to live my life to prove them wrong, to show them that I was a lot stronger and more capable than any of them gave me credit for. I told myself that I was going to get through this because high school wasn't forever.
Do you still suffer from depression?
Yes, I still suffer from bouts of depression but I take it a day at a time. Some days are easier than others. There are periods of time where I am completely fine, and there are others where I find myself having a bad mental health day and I try to use music or my writing to heal. To get all the ugly stuff out. I also try to remind myself of good times in life - I think that's why I like to take so many pictures with family and friends, so I have something good to hold onto. I hold onto old cards, too, to remind myself that there are people that do care about me. I also have my uncle's last letter to me, and I read it from time to time when I'm feeling down. He told me to pursue my dreams relentlessly, and that is what I hope to do. I hope one day I'll make him proud. I miss him very much. But his death taught me that I didn't want to die, I just didn't want to feel this way. So I try to choose happiness every day. Some days I am more successful at this than others.
What would you say to anyone going through similar emotions and experiences that you went through?
The advice I give anyone who is struggling is seek help is that it is okay to find someone who understands, and speak to them. Anyone who mocks you or is condescending about your mental health clearly hasn't understood what it is to struggle with your battle. Don't waste your time or energy with those sorts of people; they will always find a way to devalue you and your experiences. Find a way to express yourself, too, whether it's through dance, writing, music, sports, video games - whatever makes your heart happy. Find something to help you through because, in the end, we all have to save ourselves. People can help you through the struggle, but they cannot take the struggle away for you. Also if you have medications to deal with your depression then please, please take them. My uncle stopped taking them because he'd feel better, and then he'd spiral down into depression again. If you feel better, that's great, but please keep taking your medication so you can continue to feel better. Also, if your medication isn't working for you then try something else. Sometimes I've found being in nature helps me. Just being near the water or the trees is beneficial to my health, and I think we all need some fresh air every once in a while. And VERY important; remind yourself that you have a value and a worth, even if other people cannot always see it, and that you are loved more than you know. People aren't always going to reach out to you when you're struggling because some of them might not even notice, but that doesn't mean that they don't care. Sometimes we're all struggling through things of our own. Just be gentle with others and be gentle with yourself. Practice self-care; need a nap? Take one. Take a shower. Eat a piece of chocolate if that will make you feel better. Just take one day at a time, and try to breathe as best as you can. Not every day is going to be a good day, but there is something good to be found in each day even if it's something small. Try to retrain your brain to see the positives (no matter how small they may be), and find joy in simple things. It really, really makes a difference.