“Why don’t you drink? Are you an alcoholic or something” It just doesn’t sit well with me is my reply every time because how do you tell someone that alcohol makes you the funniest person for 3 hours before it turns you into a suicidal, panicking mess. There is an incessant need for me to explain myself, as if something is fundamentally wrong with me because I don’t want to drink. That I’m somehow less fun to be around because I don’t have booze fuelling my system. It hurts me to think that people who chose to be sober are automatically presumed to have some sort of problem. My problem isn't with alcohol nor me as a person, my problem is with the chemicals in my brain. I wish I could because I love drunk me. I’m confident, funny and outgoing until all of sudden I’m not. Sometimes it’s a simple comment that flips my brain from happy to manically depressed. It’s like I’m all of sudden swallowed by a big black hole and it can take me days to crawl out of it. Everything becomes black; I’m no longer dancing around hysterically laughing but sat down crying in a corner, rocking back and forth, battling terrifying thoughts.
For far too long, I so desperately believed I deserved to have that normal teenage Friday night out that I pushed away the fear of the aftermath and enjoyed the buzzing effects of alcohol. But the comedown was always looming over me, like a heavy cloud just waiting to piss it down with rain. Why did I drink despite that? Because I wanted some normalcy in my life when everything else going on was far from the normal I use to know. Because I was embarrassed that people just assumed I couldn't handle my alcohol when that was the furthest thing from the truth. Because I had managed to convince myself I could handle the comedown by myself. Because I just wanted to fit in and not have to choose a life of sobriety at 20 years old. But I quickly realised I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put my friends or myself through the usual drunk Jasmine routine, it wasn’t fair on anyone but mainly it wasn’t fair to myself or my recovery.
There comes a point where you have to put your needs above your wants and I finally after months, got to that point. I tried drinking on NYE for the first time in 6 months, didn’t get overly drunk and again I enjoyed myself until all of sudden the usual doom and gloom came crashing down. I beat myself up for letting myself ring in another year feeling like that and making my friends come to the rescue. I thought I would try since I hadn’t had anything for so long but I've realised it doesn’t matter how healthy my mind is now, alcohol will always cause me to spiral out of control. I’m finally okay with that being my reality. I’m no longer ashamed of being the only sober one. And yes, I don’t always like it and I know I seem boring but I can assure you it beats the hell out of trying to talk me out of suicidal thoughts a few hours later. I know you may not understand why I can’t just let lose and have a few drinks but please don’t make me feel like less of a person because I can’t participate. I am still me, I will still laugh at your jokes and reply with sarcasm and have fun.
There is nothing wrong with people who choose not to drink; it just means we know what is best for ourselves. You're not any less fun, normal or weak because you can't drink. You're much stronger than most for listening to your body. Does that mean I will never have a drink again? No, most likely not because like everyone sometimes I still struggle to say no and resist the urge to just forget about my problems but that doesn’t mean you get to judge me either. If I want to enjoy a couple drinks with my friends, where I feel safe then please let me without any comments. Yes, I constantly have to fight very strong urges to keep it to a minimum but I know myself better than anyone. You may think I'm being dramatic or overreacting but the reality is that alcohol is not a right of passage for every young person. My goodness do I wish I could go out every weekend like my friends, drink to my heart's content, enjoy myself and be happy but for me, it doesn't happen that way.
It's taken me months of awful drunken suicidal nights and self loathing to learn the art of self-control and to accept that this is a bit of normal I don't get to participate in right now. And it's okay. So if you're like me, don't feel like you need to explain yourself or your actions, ultimately you will always know what is best for your mental state. Be kind to yourself, you're already battling hard thoughts without beating yourself up too.
This week was my 20th birthday, a day I never thought I would reach let alone be able to celebrate outside the four walls of my bedroom. Last year I was in the midst of my depression and the days leading up to my birthday were hell. I was consumed with guilt that I couldn't be thankful for reaching another year, that I knew people had it much worse and I should be thankful for being alive. But I just couldn't understand why I was having to celebrate another year in what I can only describe as hell. Learning to be thankful for my pain almost seemed like a joke to what I was enduring. And then it all got worse but during that I somehow learned to give thanks to what I was experiencing.
This year I woke up thankful for the suffering. Thankful for the endless nights of tears. Thankful for the battles and fights. Thankful for the courage of those around me. I am thankful for my depression because although there was a time I thought it was going to kill me, I think just maybe it might have also saved my life.
I know that sounds extremely contradicting yet it's the only way to describe my journey. I had many days where I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling wondering if this was ever going to end, praying that somehow life would take me away and end my suffering. Then coming out the other end of it, I can say with absolute certainty that battling my way through those days has saved my life countless times. I wouldn't wish depression on my worst enemy but strangely I wouldn't change the presence it's had in my life. It has shown me how powerful my own strength is and that is something I desperately needed to discover.
My depression and anxiety have been there through every moment of my life for the last few years and I'm just starting to learn to live life without my sidekicks with me. That every negative thing doesn't need to be comforted with self-loathing, guilt, hatred and sadness. For the first time in over 6 years I feel like I'm finally getting to discover who I am without depression. It has swallowed me whole for many years and made me unsure of who I am without it. But this year, my 20th year on this crazy planet, I'm getting to figure that out. And my gosh, that is a blessing I could never had dreamed of getting so soon.
My 19th year started at the bottom of the rabbit hole where there was no light to be seen, not even a glimmer. I fought tirelessly for over half of that year to inch my way to the light and finally I found it. It was blinding at first, to see light when you haven't been able to feel it for months and then it gave me my life back. My 20th year started on the edge of the rabbit hole, my legs dangling over the side and looking down at the darkness realising just how far I've come. I've still got places to go but I now know that I can do it, even if my depression is at the forefront or miles behind me.
My only goal this year is to remain thankful for the struggle, whether I'm in the midst of it or I'm basking in the light of my accomplishments.
When we talk about mental health, people often shy away from the grim details, in fear of getting judged. Many realities of mental health are faced behind closed doors and only seen by those in close proximity of the person suffering. I can only speak of my experience with having a major depressive episode and I'm sure it’s nothing like people imagine. Depression is often romanticised in films, quotes and books when really there is nothing pretty about it, you’re seeing a person during one of their most vulnerable and excruciatingly painful moments of their life. Before I fell ill with depression, the thought of going a day without showering, eating, brushing my teeth, putting make up on and physically not being able to get out of bed seemed unimaginable to me. Then it hit me. I felt like I was stranded in thick, gooey mud trying to get to dry land. My feet simply wouldn't move, no amount of will or determination helped. I would see everyone on dry land, yelling, “Just lift one foot up and move forward”. The simplicity of what I had to do was what made it all the more agonising.
Every normal thing that a ‘healthy, functioning person’ was able to do was something I couldn’t bare the mere thought of. Showering would feel like a monumental task. After you go one day without, the next day and the day after that, don’t seem to faze you. I wouldn’t shower for 4-5 days at a time. I wouldn’t wash my hair for an even longer time than that. I never tell people that, because you get that look of absolute disgust and confusion as to why you can’t just pull yourself together for 10 minutes to wash yourself. But if I was “actually sick” and wasn’t physically able to, no one would question it. I’d be greeted with sympathy and light-hearted jokes. I would go a couple days without brushing my teeth. Which again is something utterly disgusting. I would wear the same clothes for days and days, no matter how many stains it got. I couldn’t find any energy to open my wardrobe and choose something else to wear. My only function was being able to sleep, day and night. I barely drank so that I wouldn’t have to get up to go to the toilet. I did the bare minimum required for me to survive, nothing more. When I would venture out of the house, it was in those dirty worn for days clothes, my hair was a mess, my eyes dark and puffy and my lips all cut up from the hours I’d spend picking them. Nothing in me cared, I wouldn’t even recognise people I knew, let alone stop to talk to anyone. I’d walk into the shop, walk slower than a turtle and space out. My body was there, going through the motions but I was nowhere to be seen. Then there were other times where my level of anxiety and paranoia ate me alive, that being anywhere in public drove me insane, literally and I’d run home and hide out in my room till my mind slowly stopped spinning.
There is absolutely no part of me that understands how depression took my ability to do such basic tasks. It's hard to grasp the despair one feels during depression and the agony of not being able to understand why you can't will your mind to do anything. I felt paralysed, like all my muscles were mush and my brain was far away on another planet. Depression doesn’t care and it stops you from caring about yourself and others. You don’t live during a depressive episode, you’re merely breathing to stay alive. Depression doesn’t just destroy your mind; it destroys your dignity, every last shred of it till you’re lying on the bathroom floor, barely wrapped in a towel sobbing in frustration and mental agony because you can’t will any of your limbs to move and get in the bath. That is what depression looks like, it’s not pretty and it sure as hell isn’t easy to stand and watch someone struggle their way through it.
I am sick. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t ask for this. I didn't enjoy any part of this illness. That’s the thing people can’t seem to grasp, that we are sick. When you break your leg, the bone is in two pieces and the function of your leg no longer serves its purpose, until it is rested and healed. When the brain becomes ill, it too, is like a bone shattered in two; it no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. And, it too, needs rest until it can heal. Sometimes the broken leg never mends itself 100% and we may have to do exercises and take painkillers for months afterwards. The brain is very much the same. Sometimes it will never go back to the way it was before the trauma hit and medication and therapy is needed for months, even years afterwards. We don’t call a person weak for breaking his or her leg, so why is it acceptable to say that about someone who’s mentally ill. It’s one illness that can’t be compared to the other. Pain is pain, whether it’s physical or mental. So before saying something to a mentally ill person, imagine their illness as a broken bone and your perspective might just change.
Hey there, I'm Jasmine, your average 20 year old working as a nanny and play assistant. Maybe Tomorrow follows my journey living with mental health issues and chronic pain, all whilst trying to have some fun along the way.
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