This past weekend Australia was in a state of shock after hearing that media personality Charlotte Dawson had taken her own life. Nearly every person with a social media account or a blog has written something about how they have reacted to the news, or how Charlotte was an incredible person or to throw blame at the trolls that bullied her for years ….. but that is not what my post, this post, is about. I’ve made no secret of my battle with depression, having talked about it numerous times on this very blog and constantly on social media. Admittedly, I haven’t spoken about it much over the past year and it’s for a good reason …. or so I thought.
Charlotte was a gorgeous, talented, funny woman as well as a warrior for human rights, compassion and equality. By all accounts, she should have been very happy with her success in life and for her memorable impact as a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model. She had fans, friends, family, loyal followers and she made a nice dollar or two. Why would someone with all that commit suicide? Well, that’s the thing, a lot of people who commit suicide have no reason that others would consider justifiable. Depression, mental illness, suicidal tendencies … they don’t discriminate. They’re an equal opportunist that can touch anyone and everyone. It’s this fact that most people are taking away from Charlotte’s death but in my case it’s something completely different. The news of Charlotte Dawson’s final act made me realise something massive in my life had changed. Something I never thought would happen.
I don’t want to kill myself…… anymore.
My battle with depression is considered to have started at birth. There was no single defining moment that made me depressed, I was just born with a chemical imbalance that was clinically diagnosed as depression. There’s nothing I nor my parents could have done to prevent it. However, the thing to remember is that depression isn’t just a little box that people easily fit into. Mental illness is just as unique to a person as their fingerprints. Not everyone who experiences depression or a mental illness is suicidal, and not everyone who is suicidal has a diagnosable mental illness. Although in my case, depression and suicidal thoughts go hand-in-hand.
I won’t rehash everything I’ve said previously about my depression, you can read my past posts about it when you are ready, but what I haven’t said previously is that suicide had always been my response to any emotion I didn’t like. It was like a dark, stormy cloud constantly hanging over my freshly blow-dried hair and I was always waiting for the day it would rain. I knew one day it would rain, I just didn’t know when.
I’ve always understood that suicide was probably going to be the way I leave this planet and I just accepted that it was unlikely I’d ever change my mind. Anti-depressants have helped over the years. They made situations feel less intense or helped me cope with things I thought were overwhelming. But my first thought whenever things got tough was suicide. It was my Plan B for everything.
Another thing I have made no secret of is my journey to veganism. It’s changed my life for the better in so many ways. My physical health and appearance (the most important things, of course) have been improving day by day, but what I haven’t talked about publicly is how it’s changed my mental health. Frankly, I’ve been skeptical that the vegan lifestyle could’ve changed something I had since birth. I thought I would sound like a kook so I kept it to myself. Until today.
Despite being a high functioning member of society who is achieving the things I set for myself, it was only recently that I’d started to realise that perhaps I was quite an emotional person previously. But since making the transition to a vegan lifestyle I’d noticed my mood was more stable, I could experience happiness & joy (something foreign to me previously), and that I wasn’t crying about EVERYTHING. As time went on I noticed more symptoms of my depression were fading away, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I had realised Plan B was missing.
The news of Charlotte Dawson’s death surprised me. Obviously, no one was expecting it but I felt sad and angry for the loss of this great person. It was what came next that really surprised me. Once those initial emotions were out of the way it hit me like a train that my suicidal thoughts had gone awol. When did I stop thinking of suicide as my path out of life? When did Plan B drop suicide as the only option? How did this monumental change happen?
Looking back now I realise it has been a gradual thing. After 6 months of being vegan my mood was so good that I decided I wanted to start coming off my anti-depressants. I never wanted to be on them for the rest of my life, despite all the medical professionals telling me I would need to. So I put it off and decided to remove other unnecessary pharmaceuticals from my life first, such as the pill. A few more months passed and I realised my coping skills were that of a ‘normal’ person (I use the word normal loosely because who is ‘normal’ these days? what is ‘normal’?). I was calm and content with myself, and I was able to do fun things like have friends and go outside. This sort of progress made me put my foot down and decide to wean off my anti-depressants, which I will be doing very slowly over the course of the year. But it took the death of Charlotte for me to realise just how far I have come.
If there was ever a person who thought that I would forever be stuck in the war of depression – and that’s exactly what it is, a war against yourself with no purpose or goal in sight – it was me. Now, I no longer have a suicidal thought. I rarely even have a thought that would be classed as depression. The worst it gets for me is that I now experience PMS and I turn into a cranky-nasty monster if you don’t let me eat a bag of sugar.
Moral of the Story
I didn’t write this post to bring awareness to depression or mental health (although it does by default), I don’t want to weigh in to the Charlotte’s Law debate (a push for tougher cyber bullying laws) and I certainly didn’t write this because it’s fun to take a walk down Memory Lane. I wrote this post for one target in mind – the people who have a mental illness. To you, I say this:
- Life CAN get better. Don’t ever stop trying to find the solution that works for you. Looking and feeling good in my skin was the catalyst for me finding happiness, and it was then mastered when I found veganism. Your happiness is out there too.
- Medication isn’t the enemy and it won’t turn you into a zombie. It’s just one weapon in the battle that is war and it doesn’t have to be used forever.
- Think outside the box. Just because a medical professional may say that your mental illness is a physical issue, it doesn’t mean that medication alone will ease your symptoms. Your lifestyle can and will impact your mental health.
- Most importantly, don’t be afraid to say something. You don’t need to necessarily ask for help, you can just say you are feeling different or that you aren’t coping with things as easily. Speak to a medical professional and tell them what you have been feeling. Loved ones mean well but they don’t always know what to say or do so if you realise you’ve just blow-dried your hair and a storm cloud is hovering over your head, tell a medical professional.
And now to round out this post with some hilarious meme’s, not because these topics shouldn’t be taken serious but because I truly believe laughter is one of the greatest medicines of all, and it’s even better if you can laugh at yourself.
Have you ever experienced mental illness or suicidal thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with anything I have said? Let me know by commenting below.