I had my first interaction with the mental health system in 1999 when I was 13. My school called my dad to come pick me up with concerns about my safety. He took me to CHEO where I was admitted and ended up staying for 345 days because of on-going safety concerns. Since that time I’ve had other inpatient stays, both in Canada in the children’s system and the United States as an adult, and lots of outpatient care. I’ve been given a laundry list of possible diagnoses depending on the psychologist or psychiatrist I saw, but the ones that seem to stick the most, and make sense to me, are major depression and bulimia.
Things are not perfect today, but they are pretty good. I do still have days, weeks, sometimes even a month or two, when I struggle, and I’m still actively working on trying to minimize those periods. One thing that’s helped me a lot in this long journey has been advocacy work. Coming out of the shadows and telling people parts of my story because there are a lot of us out there living with mental illness who are L-I-V-I-N (Dazed and Confused, anyone?). Times when I have come out, so to speak, have generally been win-win situations: people have approached me saying that my story helps them on some level, and for me, telling some of my story makes me feel more in control rather than it having control over me.
To give a quick preview of the kinds of things I want to talk about in this space, here is a video that I put together this summer as part of an application to an MTV special on depression, suicide, and self-injury.
Have you ever been awake and on the computer later than you should be and done something impulsive that you typically would have thought about a little more? Bought something expensive or totally unnecessary? Made a comment on a social network site or sent an e-mail? My application to MTV began as just that – late night, on Facebook, and someone had posted the call for auditions. I sent an e-mail of interest with some information about myself, and ended up getting a response with a request for an audition video where I needed to answer a set list of questions. I didn’t get any further responses after I sent in the video. Most of me was fine with that (who does MTV at 28?!), but a small part of me was still a little disappointed because I felt like I did have some important things to say on the issue. So, in my first attempt at video editing, I spiced up the video and put what I thought was the most important message on YouTube for anyone to see.
My hope for this blog is to have a space where I can tell pieces of my story, and talk about relevant mental health issues, with an eye on anti-stigma and the importance of advocacy. (Though, really, my biggest hope is that this isn’t 100% self-serving and someone out there gets something out of this.) The reality is there are still a lot of negative images and messages about mental illness, and I know I’ve been guilty of applying some of them to myself, so I guess this is my battleground against all of that.
At the moment I’m living in Boulder, Colorado getting my Ph.D. in sociology. Time from my adolescent experiences and my education has allowed me to look at my own mental health and interactions with mental health systems very differently than I did as a teen, which has generally helped me, but has also gotten me into trouble at times (more on both of those later). So I hope you pop in from time to time, get something out of my musings, and enjoy some of these stories (I do have some good ones).
About Tracy Deyell
Tracy Deyell is a Ph.D. student living with major depression and bulimia. Follow her story on HMC's Supportive Minds'd blog, or follow her on Twitter.