On this day, ten years ago, I received the call that literally saved my life. I was at work when my phone went off and I answered, despite not knowing the number on the display.
It was the clinic my then-psychiatrist and I had applied treatment in, because at that time, I was so fucked up that I legit had no idea anymore how to make it through the day. Auto-pilot. Just functioning, but no longer living.
The call from said clinic couldn’t have come at any better moment. I had just cut my arm again a couple of days prior, the red streaks still visible. I knew that I was fighting against windmills, and a losing battle, if I didn’t manage to turn this around. They informed me that I could roll in the very next day, and boy, was I relieved!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm (if I may call it that) everywhere else, because midterms were coming up, and frankly, those were the last damn fucking thing on my mind. I mean, I was mentally blocked, anyway – I’d read a couple of pages and didn’t know five mins later anymore what I had just read. It was absolutely impossible for me to focus. Perfect conditions to be sweating over exams, right?
I was like, “Fuck this, this is about MY. LIFE. and thus more important!” Had push come to shove, I could’ve re-taken classes etc. and also some exams, but in the state I was in? N.O.P.E.
Packed my stuff in the evening, and off it was to a small town in Northern Hesse (the state I lived in before moving to Berlin) the next morning. I remember arriving at the clinic while it was SUPER foggy and you couldn’t see your own hand before your eyes anymore. A perfect metaphor for my own mental state. Brain fog. And also, it often felt like walking in fog, having lost direction and all that. And yes, I was lost indeed.
In a previous entry, I mentioned the duration of 13 weeks. That was how long I stayed in that clinic. I knew that I’d need a lot of time for in-depth therapy there, and I was going to take that time. They put me back on track in there, helped me figure things out, and while I still have relapses and setbacks, I can proudly say that I am still ALIVE.
Yesterday, it was World Mental Health Day.
While I appreciate that there is a day which focuses on the topic of Mental Health, I feel it is still not enough. The stigma that surrounds Mental Health is still around and hasn’t faded away in the least. Like, after German goalkeeper Robert Enke commited suicide, and word got out that he’d been struggling with depression for several years, all of a sudden, it was okay to open up about Mental Health. But if I thought it’d be the case for more than just a couple of weeks, I was proven wrong. As my own story shows so clearly. “Are you looking for attention again?” is like THE phrase I got to hear all the bloody time. *eyeroll*
And it’s not motivating at all. On the contrary …
So please don’t hate on me when I say that I am on the fence when it comes to those fancy “World Mental Health Day” hashtags, trends and posts. Yes, it is a start, but the conversation must be going on beyond that. Mental Health is just as important as physical health. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken limb or with cancer to “simply snap out of it” whatsoever, and yet, this is one of the things you get to hear when you open up about having anxiety or depression or any other mental illness. That apparently the first companies also over here are starting to get the memo to allow “Mental Health Days” is a good sign, and it should be more widely accepted.
But unfortunately, most people still believe that you’re lazy when you take a day off for your mental well being. There it is again – another stigma. When the world becomes too much for you, the daily war inside you is too overwhelming, you aren’t lazy. You’re just that – overwhelmed. Maybe even too much so to function properly. This is another issue in our society, an achievement-oriented one, you’re conditioned to run smoothly day in, day out, show no sign of weakness, because HEAVEN FORBID you do. And mental illnesses are still considered weaknesses. Another problem is that it is extremely difficult to find a therapist you click with, and whether your health insurance will cover therapy is another story. However, therapy is nothing to be ashamed about!
There is this wonderful saying
Depression is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’ve been strong for too long.
I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I think most people who never had to deal with a mental illness don’t know in the least how much strength it takes to face every day when there’s a war inside you. When each and every fibre of your body hurts. When you’re not even well rested after another night of turmoil because your brain and nerves are running wild (or, as I like to say, “won’t shut the fuck up”). When you feel like the end of the world is near and yet, you soldier on. When you feel like you’re drowning in an endless sea. Suffocating. Heavy. Stuck in quicksand.
Looking back at the moment when I received this very phone call, I can only say – I was given a second chance. A second chance to live my life. Yes, I still have a very long way to go, but I am thankful for the second chance to change a couple of things (moving to a different city, for example), to be more aware of the signs my body is giving me and understand them. A second chance to be who I REALLY am.
Will I ever fully heal? I don’t know. But I do know that I have an awesome godson whom I love to bits, an amazing support system of docs, friends, family and therapists who care. I still have a whole lot to discover, see more of the world, adventures, concerts to go to, all that. I will make use of that second chance – and I’ll do it my way.
title: quote from the song “Leaves Of Legacy” by Climates