On the 1st of January 2016 in the middle of the early morning after going to a handful of clubs in Berlin, I sat in the kitchen of the Airbnb I rented with a handful of friends, alone, drunk and crying. I was supposed to head to Amsterdam that day, in something like 3 or 4 more hours. I hadn’t packed, and I hadn't slept. I wrote and rewrote a Facebook status, questioning whether or not it was worth my fear to post something that had been on my mind all week.
Here’s a slightly redacted version of what I posted:
2015 has been a big year for me.
It’s been a year of meeting and getting to know the most brilliantly and hilariously excellent sets of people whom I never would have ever envisioned myself to meet otherwise… It’s been a year of emotions and all those other things I haven’t felt in a long while. It’s been a year of firsts and lasts and all of those things in between. But I guess most importantly it’s been another year of not killing myself.
So thank you, 2015, and everyone who was in it, even if your participation sucked and you only showed up for a day or two. Know that I care about you and your participation in my life mattered to me. Know that you’ve been a part of something that has changed a life. Know that there have been times I specifically think of your face just so I don’t have to kill myself. That matters, and I hope it’s not super creepy, because 2015 matters in me forever, as much as 2012 did.
Going to and being in university has changed so much of my life, from my little baby feet to my tiny baby brain. I look forward to what’s going to happen in 2016, mainly because I hope hoverboards will finally fucking be a thing so I can own one. If that doesn’t happen in my life span I will be such a vengeful fucking ghost, I swear to god.
I don’t actually care about hoverboards, I just remember sitting in the weird hole the status had crawled into and wanting a way out that was lighthearted enough to get a chuckle out of it.
I wasn’t sure where else to take that energy after that post. It was a relief to be able to send that kind of thing out into the world surprisingly without any real negative consequences, but I wasn’t ready to articulate things to other people or to myself just yet. I was still over a year away from starting therapy, and the momentum of the reveal eventually fell away.
A year later, after an argument that ended with a reveal of my depression with my mother, we were in Ottawa on a road trip to see family around Canada and America and I was in a very different place in life. I was out of uni, getting ready to get a dog, starting one of my most thorough stints of therapy. I wasn't without depression, but I was managing my symptoms the best way I knew how.
The news of Chester Bennington's suicide broke, and it hit me in an unexpected way.
Linkin Park had played a big part in my growing understanding of myself in some of the worst times of my life. Emo music in general had given me words to describe my pain in a way that nothing else ever has, and as whiney and teeny the genre was, Linkin Park was tied to so many odd memories I had of my high school years that when the news broke I felt a sudden grief that I had never felt before.
I was also quite suddenly aware that no one is immune to suicide, and no matter how much I fought these things in my head, no matter what things I put inside myself to fill that void in my brain, no matter how successful I could be and what kind of legacy I theoretically will leave behind in the future, the risk of my brain going the wrong way and ending things for myself was always going to be around.
I'd never experienced death in this removed but emotionally connected kind of way before. I've still not experienced death in an intimate way, and I couldn't find the words to talk about that.
I couldn't listen to Linkin Park for about a year, because listening to Chester's voice just reminded me of all the things I felt at my most suicidal, and the knowledge that even if I weren't at my worst things could still go wrong was too much to bear. I couldn't talk to anyone about it, because at that point I just didn't know how. There were so many other things to work through at therapy.
I watched people posting condolences. I read articles about the situation, and the family's wishes. I looked at what kinds of advice was being dished out at the end of each and every one of those - LifeLine, ReachOut (and, indeed, to reach out), Beyond Blue, if you or anyone you know is feeling... And I felt nothing.
Eventually the news cycle moved on, and with it, everyone's condolences and well wishes and sadness. Life went back to normal.
A year after that, the news of Anthony Bourdain's suicide broke, and everything started all over again. It was the same condolences, the same kinds of articles, the same kinds of LifeLine, reach out, Beyond Blue, if you or anyone you know, RU OK, mental health is important advice... But this time, I was sad, bothered, and just absolutely furious.
I started finding the words. I started talking to close friends, sharing my anger, and realised a lot of us felt the same kind of dissatisfaction with the systems designed to help us. I started learning about how most mental health support systems were originally designed by people who don't understand first hand the problems we have in existing in the world. Many of them, with the exception of the few new forms of thinking, are designed to suppress our symptoms and not treat them. I started articulating my frustrations, and it was good.
I decided to start posting about my mental health honestly on social media in June 2018. I didn't really have an understanding of the stigma that I could be facing, and even now, 2 years down the line, I have only ever been approached directly with positive reactions. The only place where my honest approach to mental health has been the reason for underhanded ill intent has been in the places I've worked.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that mental health honesty has brought me mostly happiness and health. It has cut a lot of useless opinions out of my periphery, and saved me a lot of time when it comes to people's attitudes towards being honest with themselves and with other people. The feeling of not being able to talk freely about my brain and all of it's thoughts has become a very practical red flag for identifying safe spaces and safe people.
It's been quite nice, after 2 years of practice, to get to a place where I don't have to redirect to hoverboards and other light weight topics every time I want to thank the people in my life for helping me not kill myself.
Maybe in another 2 years I'll have even more words. Maybe I'll get to the point of immediately tell people who ask me R U OK on R U OK Day exactly how angry it makes me.
One can hope!