In grade 12, my brain seemed to slow down so much that I felt like I was trying to think through a brick wall. I remember trying to read a book for an English assignment (I love books) and I spent an hour reading the same sentence over and over. I couldn’t focus. It was that bad. My thoughts felt so…slow. And then sometimes so fast! Too fast, I couldn’t keep up with them or remember them or put them on the page. A lot of my writing didn’t make sense. I couldn’t study because I couldn’t concentrate. I ended up going from having eight courses to only having three, not nearly enough to graduate. I felt ashamed and embarrassed.
I hid from my friends, and so I spent all my free time (and by dropping almost all of my courses, I had a lot of free time) in various classrooms belonging to teachers I felt comfortable with. I would seek out teachers I liked who I knew had prep periods, and spend my time just sitting in their classrooms writing, crying, talking with them, or napping. When I wasn’t with a teacher, I was napping or writing in the stairwell, or talking to the guidance counsellor. (I saw the guidance counsellor almost every if not every day). And at first, this was okay. I felt safe and supported. My teachers were happy to be there for me, and I was grateful for their support.
Eventually, my neediness began wearing down many teachers’ patience. But my need seemed never-ending. I bounced from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom, and panicked when I had no one and felt that I needed someone. And when I got to that state, I cut. Every day was painful. It felt painful and pointless to exist.
I was beyond caring what people thought of me. In the early days of the depression, I would bolt from classrooms in the heat of anxiety, tears streaming down my face, and I hid from all of my friends. By January, I just avoided my friends because it seemed easier. I just couldn’t be myself anymore. I lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was.
My only purpose was recording my daily moods in my journal so my psychotherapist and psychologist could track how I was doing. A lot of my records didn’t make sense. My thoughts were either slow or way too fast. I was either empty or angry. I glared at students passing by, whispering to themselves as they gave me a once-over. They had no idea what pain I was in. Sometimes I was angry for no reason.
I really thought that I was insane.
I started to categorize my moods by colour. Blue was sad, Red was angry, and Grey was empty.
“Blue” moods were characterized by typical depression symptoms. “Red” moods had me restless, irrationally and suddenly irritated and angry, energetic, impulsive, reckless and wanting to jump out of my skin. “Grey” moods were the worst – they were like severe boredom – nothing was fun, nothing was enjoyable, nothing was even sad, just pointless.
Soon, the guidance counsellor made a plan with me: if she was busy and couldn’t speak to me, I would go to the Vice Principal’s office and the Vice Principal would see if any of my “safe people” (teachers on a list I wrote) were available. I was okay with this.
One day, when I was feeling anxious and ran from class, the guidance counsellor wasn’t available so I went to the Vice Principal’s office. But when I got there, instead of following the plan, the Vice Principal (who I was not at all comfortable with) tried to pry my feelings out of me, told me not to visit the teachers anymore, and said that the next time I ran from class because of anxiety I would be taken to the hospital.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I found out later that the Principal and Vice Principal believed I was suicidal, and that I was a liability they didn’t want to be responsible for. They even met with my parents and suggested that I switch schools.
I was terrified of going to the hospital, and shocked that I was presented with this ultimatum. I was scared, and angry. I was angry because the Vice Principal took away from me the one thing that was making me feel safe and comfortable in the midst of my depression. I didn’t know if the teachers were aware of her new plan or not. I felt abandoned and alone. I also felt guilty and full of self-loathing, believing that I had pushed all of the people who cared about me away. I spent the rest of the year counting down the days until I could leave my high school and never return.