So this year I decided, for basically my own entertainment to build a cheap-ass Sobeys-bought gingerbread house…with the only deviation from tradition being my plan to swap the decorative candy with all of the Bipolar, anxiety, and insomnia medications I’m currently taking.
I was planning to join Snapchat for the sole purpose of sending pics of my masterpiece to a handful of my friends who enjoy more tasteless humour.
But halfway through building my little holiday asylum, I thought that maybe a little more could come of it.
As I was lining the house with the prescription anti-depressants and mood stabilizers that I’d swapped with Skittles and Sweet Tarts, I couldn’t help but remember where I was this time three years ago.
I’m not going to launch into an autobiography. And I don’t have the patience (or the talent really) to bend my experience with mental illness into some cute, whimsical, Buzzfeed-friendly anecdote.
So I’ll just say this.
Three Christmases ago, I was fresh out of a psych ward-landing, mental breakdown.
I had to drop out of school, I had to withdraw from the people that I loved…I had to basically put my life on hold because of an all-out Battle Royale that was happening inside of my own head.
I was hopeful though, and had resolved to kick up my efforts in the New Year by getting physically healthier, giving myself a solid date for when I would return to school, and just generally trying to not be a giant wimp.
I had a plan. I would be free of the mental duress and mind-monsters that had derailed me before the next fall rolled around.
I would be able to continue my education and leave this whole fiasco behind for what it was…a simple glitch in the matrix.
A mistake that had only happened because I wasn’t strong enough.
Because that’s what it was.
A product of my own weakness.
My inability to deal with life the way that stronger people did.
Three Christmas later, I have been fortunate enough to conclude that the only ‘mistake’ I made was in choosing to feed that idea.
Here’s the problem though, there are far, far too many people who have not come to that same realization.
Over the past few years, grappling with my own illness has forced me to slow down and see these people who I’d never seen before.
I watched as they either snapped or wasted away, and in some tragic cases…I had to watch as some of them chose to leave this world behind.
All because of a poisonous little thought that stopped them from getting the help that they needed.
Traditionally, when you’re being attacked, you need to see some kind of opponent before you can take a swing.
When a mind is being constantly battered by some invisible enemy, what else is there to do but eventually turn the blame inward?
And when you’re stuck in a mire of humiliation from what you perceive to be your own inadequacy, the most natural thing to do is to hide it or pretend that it doesn’t exist.
You *cannot* identify something that doesn’t exist. And leaving this particular enemy unidentified is the only ammo it needs to destroy you.
For some ironic reason, Christmastime is notorious for throwing these feelings into sharp focus. Whether they be products of mental illness, trauma or neglected grief.
If you find yourself in a dark place, please…don’t ignore it.
You may think that it makes you stronger, but it doesn’t.
Genuine strength, -the type you are going to need to start fighting back- cannot be attained until you can name your enemy.
So go and seek help. Whether it’s from family, friends, doctors or all three, don’t hold yourself back from reaching out.
Reach out for help so that you can call this thing out for what it really is.
This is probably where I’m supposed to bring this post full circle by saying something like, ‘Don’t *you* end up in the gingerbread nuthouse Hurr hurr!’
But…I’m not……going to do that…
Merry Christmas to everyone regardless of where you find yourself this year.
Stay safe, stay sane and take care of yourself.
Just realized a bit late that this icing has basically hardened into sugary cement and that I’m going to have no choice but to eat my pills off of a gingerbread house every day well into January.
So if you see me anywhere public at 11:30 (AM or PM) and I’m toting around a gingerbread house…you’ll know why.