Hi everyone! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Colleen and I’ve participated in One Brave Night before so thought I would again this year since it falls on my birthday this year.
I’m not really sure where to start with this about me section. From the beginning? Or would that be too boring for the people who already know me? From my first episode? Or would people be confused as to how I got there if you don’t know the beginning? From the last time I participated in this two years ago? Or would that not give enough history? I’ve been going back and forth about what to write here for a while, so hopefully something I say will make sense.
To (hopefully) make a long story short, I’ve struggled with my mental health for probably ten years now. It started as not wanting to go to school, skipping dance and not leaving the house. But then over a few years progressed to me dropping out of high school after one semester, dropping out of dance and basically doing nothing every day. I guess I started getting really bad when I was about 15, when I first started restricting (I’m pretty open about my mental illnesses, but I still struggle talking about history with eating disorders) and self-harming. Every day until I was about 18, I would hurt myself; whether it was not eating anything, purging or self-mutilation, it was every single day for three years. (Edit: didn’t even talk about the anxiety and OCD but, honestly? Compared to the depression they weren’t even that big of a problem) I don’t think the people in my life knew just how bad it was. I think everyone knew something wasn’t right, but not the extent of it all.
When I was 18, I entered a day program at a hospital for two months, and for those two months I was really good. I had started eating properly, I wasn’t hurting myself and I actually attended the program every day when I was enrolled. There were amazing doctors to help me through my journey, but once I turned 19, I was removed from the youth program and couldn’t get long term help from the adult unit. The problem with most hospitals is the lack of long-term help in mental health for adults. At the two hospitals I had been at before (Mackenzie Health hospital and Markham- Stouffville hospital) their youth programs maxed out at 19 but offered zero long term options for adults. I was left on my own with no psychiatrist, no therapist and no one to help me.
Honestly? Things are pretty blurry for me, I don’t remember how I spent most days. I’m not sure if I have a bad memory, memory problems or if I just repressed the hell out of my teen years. One thing I do remember vividly though is seeing my family doctor at about 19 or 20 and he didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t responding to the medications that I had been for years the way I used to and I was getting bad again. He suggested I go to the CAMH ER and tell them what’s going on. So, I did. They set me up with a psychiatrist who I’ve been seeing since that visit a few years ago. And for a while, things were good. Up until this time last year.
I’m not sure what triggered it, but it was the worst depressive episode I’ve ever had. I was back to restricting, purging and self-harming. What made it worse this time though, was that I was the legal, so I was getting drunk every night as well. It got to the point where I was really suicidal and couldn’t trust myself anymore. This went on for a few weeks. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t wake up hungover, sore and weak any longer. On St. Patrick’s Day I was in the CAMH ER once again, but for very different reasons. I sobbed to the doctors, saying how I just couldn’t stand to be in my body anymore. How I couldn’t bare waking up anymore. How I couldn’t even look at myself. How I didn’t want to be here. I spent the night and I truly believe that doing so saved my life. It’s been almost one year, and I am so thankful to be alive.
I’m bipolar, I have BPD (borderline personality disorder) and I’m bulimic. It’s hard for me to say those things. There’s still such a stigma around being mentally ill (unless it’s depression or anxiety, the only two things neurotypicals care about sometimes) and I’m hoping by putting myself out there, and saying all of this, that people will realize that mood cycling or having a personality disorder isn’t scary. People with mental illnesses aren’t scary and people need to stop talking about them as such. I’m not a bad person because of my diagnosis’ and I’m not a villain.
The past year I’ve been working on myself non-stop. I’ve been trying to find the right dosages and the right medications with my psychiatrist (which I believe I have now found which is super exciting) and going to therapy every week or two. I was doing really well for a few months until September, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as earlier in the year. It was a rough few weeks but being in that pain inspired me to keep going. I signed up for a group for youth with substance abuse problems and a 16-week DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) group, through CAMH after that episode. I have since completed the substance abuse groups and graduated from the DBT group.
This time last year I would have never thought I would be where I am right now. I’m happy. I think I have (finally) found the right dosages of the right medications with my psychiatrist. I’m working with my (new and absolutely amazing even though I’ve only seen her once) therapist on the things holding me back and learning how to keep moving forward. While I’ve grown so much, I still have more growing and learning to do. I still have bad days, but not as often as I used to. And when I do have a bad day now, instead of running to alcohol or self-harm, I know how to work through it and make it another day.
I have such amazing, loving and supportive people in my life, and I want to thank you all for reading this. Your donations to CAMH’s One Brave Night are helping me to keep making the progress I need to continue on my recovery. I wouldn’t be here without CAMH. They have saved me when I’m on the edge, they’ve pulled me back and helped me. This hospital has done so much for me and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for them.
I want to thank you all for reading this, sharing this or donating. It’s so overwhelming sometimes to feel the love from the people in my life. I love you all so much and thank you.