By Tammy Ozolins, Middle School Teacher
It is such a cliché I know; your world feels like it is crashing down, you have no energy. You even feel like your world is getting darker and darker and all you want is to see a little glimmer of hope. Your days are long, and you are tired of it all. The walls are closing in on you and you cannot breathe.
Does this sound familiar at all?
That is exactly how I felt when I was at my lowest point of depression (I manage and cope with Bipolar Disorder-which was not diagnosed until my mid-twenties.) I would cry myself to sleep at night, just praying the pain would stop. It started my senior year in high school.
I wore so many masks that I became physically and mentally exhausted. Academically I did well in high school was well-liked. I hung around so many groups of people that lost myself and the masks began. For example, I was an athlete, so I had to put on that athlete’s face and win all the time. And since I was funny, I had to remove the athlete mask and put on the comedian mask. I truly lost who I was! I felt like I had to be the best version of that person for everyone, I was a perfectionist, and this added to my anxiety and stress. I wanted to please everyone, except for the person who I needed to please the most which was ME.
How did I handle all this? Not the right way at first
I held how I was feeling inside because I was embarrassed and really thought NO ONE would believe me. I coped with alcohol- a lot of it. Sure, if made me feel good for a few hours, but the mood swings never went away. Another negative coping skill I used was self-harm (almost every night). Life became a living hell and the pain and loneliness actually became too much to bear for me when I was in my mid-20’s and I had a suicide attempt.
The mind is a powerful thing, and I knew mine was struggling, but I also had no idea where to go for help or who to turn to. At that time, I did not have the best relationship with my parents and did not know how they would react if I told them, “Hey, I am drowning over here and I do not want to live anymore.” They had no idea about the self-harm or the suicide attempt (later in my life they would) and they knew I was consuming alcohol. But I am sure they just thought I was me just being a teen or a young adult in college and this is what kids do. I do not think they understood I was using it to numb and cope with my feelings.
Fast forward a few years
I finally found the courage to say something to my parents. It was a Christmas day, and I cried all day, then that evening I sat them down and looked at them and said, “I am hurting, and I do not want to live anymore, and I do not know what to do.” I thought they were going to be mad, but they held me tight and said, “We will help you,” and they did not know I was hurting. That night my dad, sister-in-law helped me check myself into a psych ward where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (I was like 21-22 at the time). I was hospitalized again later in my life.
In the beginning, I said the cliché, “Hang in there.” I truly meant it. Some of you may be screaming, “Oh please.“ Right now just hear me out. This is a battle I fight every day; shoot sometimes I do not think it is a battle I feel like it is a war. But you see I am the solider that can defeat the enemy. It is not an easy battle and I am not going to sit here and say it is. But I will say that for me it is a battle that comes and goes. I also, know I cannot fight this battle alone, I have other soldiers helping me (my faith, family, friends). I had to accept I will battle this mental health condition for the rest of my life, but I can now do it. So, please if you are struggling, it is OKAY and more importantly OKAY to ask for help!
Now, obviously, since you are reading this, you can see that I lived through my attempt. The battle for me can be long or can be short, but I will tell you after each battle I grow and I learn from it.