I know this is my third post in almost as many days, but I feel I am on a roll, and there was really something I wanted to share.
I was on the phone with a friend, and my iTunes library was on shuffle when a Lights song came on (Canada, represent!). This song has has a very special meaning to me, and it all goes back to my most recent psychiatric hospital stay.
I’ve largely refrained from talking about my mental illness on here, save for some of the anxiety I still have from the Dawson shooting, but I feel it is time to delve into it:
My last psychiatric stay was my longest, from 2014-2015. I was there for six — yes six — whole months. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s… all the big ones.
There was a piano on the floor, three of them actually, and I never took a piano lesson but we had one in our house growing up so I would play around with it. I found comfort in the piano during my psychiatric stay, and in music in general. My most prized possession there was my iPod shuffle, and my brother would fill it up with music for me and bring it back and forth to and from the hospital. I listened to Lights’ “Siberia” album over and over, and one thing I love about Lights is that for her last two albums she followed-up with an acoustic album of most of the songs on each record. Unwittingly, I learned to play a melody on the piano that sounded very similar to her song Cactus In The Valley.
I learned the lyrics, and would sit at the piano, day in and day out, learning to play the melody on one hand and pausing the song accordingly to follow along. After much laborious playing, and resistance from other patients to “stop playing that damn piano”, I knew the whole thing.
I met a friend in the hospital’s step-down program who heard me play it and wanted to film it and put it on YouTube but that never did happen, and I should probably be thankful for that, haha.
The lyrics just hit so close to home. I was so ashamed of having lost my apartment, lost my car, quitting my job, and feeling so purposeless. “If my yesterday is a disgrace, tell me that you still recall my name”, she croons. I don’t want this story to scare people off. Yes I was very mentally ill, and yes it took a long time to get me stable again, but I have taken great strides in my recovery, all that I am very proud of. When I meet people now I want them to know that I struggled, but that I persevered and got better. I don’t want them to be frightened by my past or my story, because it is a part of me that I hold very dear.
I’ve had a couple of manic episodes and as crazy as this sounds, they are special to me. For me it was a time where everything happens for a reason, everything makes sense, and fighting off that mania and staying on my medication is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I crave it. Both relapses I’ve had were from ceasing to take my medication, and I actually had a Superior Court Order to stay on it that ended this December. I know now that medication keeps me healthy, and hope to keep this perspective for a long time to come.
So I hope all this doesn’t scare you, but these are the realities of mental illness that so many people are too afraid to talk about; the guilt, the shame, the stigma.
I hope my voice helps bring perspective to people who haven’t encountered mental illness, or comfort to someone dealing with one. It’s a hard thing to talk about, even for me who prides myself on being very open about my experiences, and forsure a hard thing to put in writing on the internet.
I reiterate what I have said in previous posts. You are not alone. You matter. Don’t suffer in silence. If you are in and around Montreal and Quebec, or even in Canada, here is a list of numbers you can call if you’r struggling with a mental illness:
And if you are elsewhere, Google a talk line service for somewhere in your area. Help is only a phone call away. People care, and sometimes you have to take the first step in reaching out.
Love you all,