I was cutting before it had a name. At 15 years of age, I had a special razor in my dresser drawer I would pull out at the end of the hard days. I always cut my inner thighs, because I knew nobody would see or question me about it. It's frightening to think about now, knowing what I know about the femoral artery! I really had no idea what I was experiencing had a name: depression.
Years passed and I had long stopped cutting. I was the mother of a toddler and an infant son. I had prayed every day of that second pregnancy for a boy, yet I couldn't enjoy him. When I looked at my baby, I remember thinking that I must be the world's worst mother because I truly didn't think my baby was cute. His face was fat and looked lopsided from the haircut in the NICU; his bum looked square when he tried to crawl, and he refused to be held unless he was nursing.
I had only been married 2 years, and was already living with domestic violence. A well-meaning mentor came to our home to speak into our marriage, and pointed out that I was moody and could be challenging to live with. I remember thinking, "He clearly doesn't understand." The rest of the marriage counseling was lost on me; I cried for days over that single sentence. I had no idea that what I was experiencing had a name: post-partum depression and severe anxiety.
My metaphorical house of cards fell after the divorce, after I learned my daughter had been abused, after I took on two step-children ... and lost one. Then and only then did I find myself in weekly counseling sessions, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and anger issues. I remember asking my counselor why my hands shook so badly that I spilled coffee all over her chair every week for several months. She said it was my fight-or-flight response, and it indicated how much work we had to do.
Today, I am grateful to be alive. I found that razor in my dresser drawer about 5 years ago, and finally threw it away. My well-meaning friend was one of my biggest advocates when the domestic violence was revealed. I have ceased taking anxiety medications, and most days I find life manageable or treatable with uplifting music.
Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. Most people don't know my story; I was never healed enough to tell it. But I'm ready now. Because mental health issues have a cause. Left untreated, mental illnesses create victims. But mental illness is as treatable as the common cold. It may be more permanent, but you are never alone and you are never unloved. Please talk to someone you trust, a professional, or both. I wonder how different my life would look if I had picked up a phone instead of a razor all those years ago.
To my friends who support Bell Let's Talk Day ... thank you! I cried happy tears today when a friend sent every text message one word at a time, racking up the nickels for mental health support. Together, we can end the stigma. And we will. 💝