Journal Entry: Sat Aug 16, 2014, 2:30 PM
So, I decided to share this with you all in light of recent tragic events. I do NOT like opening up to people, in fact, it is my least favourite thing and it makes me feel unwell and unstable even doing so. But, I do feel that honesty is extremely important and that comments about suicide and depression need to come from a first hand experience, as someone who suffers every day. I am sorry if the following material is unsavory or triggering to you, and I apologize, but also understand: I live(d) this.
I cannot tell you the exact moment when I first fell into Lake Depression or hacked my arms into ribbons, but I can tell you it started from an early age. I was severely physically and sexually abused by my biological father, and after my parents were divorced, had to deal with the very real terror of my father either trying to kidnap me after school, or breaking in and trying to kill us. I suffer from anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They (as in the Great Powers That Be) have thought that I have a “light” version of borderline personality disorder, which is marked by fearing “real or imagined abandonment,” “issues with self-injury,” “intense emotions and unstable ideas of self or others.” Also, They thought I had post-traumatic stress disorder. These are nothing more than fancy ways of saying that fucking shitty things have happened to you, and you do not have a society-appropriate reaction. How dare you be maladjusted after extreme trauma. Shut up and fall in line.
These are all examples of what is called “inter-generational trauma” and are very, very common in Native households. You’re born into poverty, alcoholism and violence and, frankly, you as a Native child stand a very little chance, because it’s so, so easy to accept this as just the way things are. I had to fight until my fingertips were raw to escape clichés and not be a statistic. This is hugely in part to Colonialism, but also the acceptance from others that that “is just the way things are.” “your father is an Indian, that’s just the way they are.” Domestic violence is NOT a Native traditional value. Rape and incest are not Native traditional values. Neither are drugs, alcohol, or other forms of self-abuse or violence.
I had tried, even as a child, to try and tell people what was happening to me, or what had happened, and I was silenced very quickly and dismissed almost immediately: I “imagined” it, or, and this one of my favorite, “don’t embarrass your family.” I had a lot of deaths of friends who were very close to me and grieving was made very clear to me that the people around me were not going to tolerate this being anything extended.
I turned inward and the outcome was self-injury. Suicidal thoughts were quite normal, and I seemed to surrounded by people I had no emotional attachment to, or who were unkind. Killing myself seemed an ever viable option. I am not being dramatic, I am being honest. Mind you, this really started to get into effect when I was 7 or 8 years old. My earliest self-injury exercises were related to obsessive-compulsive disorder: hair pulling and skin picking. Both of these relate directly to control: self-punishment, being able to control at least one thing, —even if it’s ripping fistfuls of hair out, —and the after care (soothing the wounds, methodically unwrapping the band aids, etc.).
I also had a strong art presence in my life. I had very, very few friends growing up because of the stuff with my dad, and I was maliciously teased and bullied. I couldn’t relate to other kids. So I listened to a lot of cassettes and I drew all of the time. I created a whole world of friends that I drew and cut out and kept in a book. Robert Smith, Tori Amos, The Smiths, David Bowie—these were all people I was closer to than any friends I had ever had. I had music, and I had the friends I had drawn.
I did my best to catch things early and I read a lot into self-injury, OCD, causes, etc. Mind you, I have very little faith in Western psychology because when I was in high school (which was only 10 years ago)—they didn’t know what caused Borderline Personality Disorder; it was just a mark of wayward girls. Now they know it’s caused in large part by childhood trauma. Which, sorry, seems rather obvious to me. I didn’t want to be a cliché, or another case of the tragic and vanishing Indian.
I spent a good decade hacking myself into pieces, hoping that I would die. Puking, bleeding and crying. At one point in early college, I had bled to the point of passing out and had cried to the point of puking. I woke up in Lake Depression: blood and vomit. I was so goddamn mad because I thought all I wanted to do was die and then I was certainly Not Dead. You know, they say that “insanity is doing the exact same things again and again and expecting different results.” Obviously, this wasn’t working and I was pretty fucking exasperated at that point.
That’s when I started to take my art very seriously; I started showing in galleries and my first true professional work was for the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN.org). By the end of college I had started recording myself (on cassettes, mind you!!!). So, here I am, 4 years later after graduation, and I am an accomplished visual art and I self-published two EPs, two singles and an LP (music all within the past 9 months). Art and music didn’t replace self-injury, I just got tired of self-injury not working. So I busied my hands with collecting computer skills, working as a professional illustrator and piano instead.
I get a LOT of emails from listeners, or people who like my art and know my work with RAINN.org, or sometimes even my friends, and they generally say the same things: you are so strong, you’re my hero, you make me feel like I can do anything, what you do means so much to me. Are you sure we’re thinking of the same person? You mean me? This giant jackass? They never fail to surprise me, because I don’t think am very special or what I do is special. I never feel strong. Most of the time I think I am a giant loser. Obviously, people have a strong emotional connection to what I do, and for someone like me who has felt isolated for most of their life, it’s still shocking.
So, am I crazy? I guess. I have been reassured it is the “good crazy.” Do I still cut myself? I admit: yes. Rarely. I have gone years at a time without, and then furiously for a block of 3 months, and then not again for years. Relapses are not failures. That was a hard one to learn, too. It was really hard to learn to not beat myself up and punishing myself for, well, punishing myself. They’re very rare, and I have a very high threshhold. It’s a far cry from 10 years ago when it was a regular, scheduled, part of my day.
Am I a good person? I would like to think so. I know that I am a giving and loving person, who doesn’t really know how to not be who they are, even if sometimes, I am still ashamed, or made to feel ashamed, of who I am, a person who loves very deeply and gives very freely, even if it triggers me and I get hurt. I am a loving and loyal friend, and I am always willing to jump in there and help or be there for someone else. I love children and animals, because they are the purest and most honest of us all, and don’t know how to be ashamed of who they are yet.
There is a saying my tribe, “with great power comes great responsibilities,” which, well, typing it out makes it seem like goofy, cliché Lord of the Rings shit, but it’s the truth! I obviously didn’t die, and I do have a few gifts, I guess, so I have a responsibility to use them to help others.
What I can tell other people who are suffering from unwellness:
• + Get the help that is appropriate for you. Medication is a blanket, band aid “treatment,” that doesn’t work for everyone. I had adverse reactions to meds, and had to be taken off of them almost immediately (hives, even further suicidal tendencies, dissociative episodes, waking up outside). I find that acupuncture and running work for me. So does watching those funny home video shows where people fall off ladders or smash themselves in the face stepping on rakes. Laughing is so important.
• + Avoid drugs and alcohol. I am so, so lucky that I made an active choice to do both of those, even in my nastiest suicidal states, I was never a drunk. So there’s something!
• +Also, removing things and people from your life that aren’t good for you is perfectly acceptable. If you are finding yourself surrounded by people who don’t give you the support you need, fuck them. It’s not you, it truly is them. Show them the door. People who call you names for frequently washing your hands or who belittle you for having an anxiety attack and crying on the floor— these people are awful and you need to get the hell away from them. They don’t deserve to be in your life.
• +it does get better. I know I have a hard time saying this one, because I don’t always believe it myself, but it does.
• + Heal on your own time, and fuck anyone else who thinks you should be further along.
• + you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to for anyone else. If YOU want to stop cutting, stop. But you do it for you. Don’t ever, ever, place your healing on someone else and give someone else credit. I had to learn this one recently the hard way, and it hurt. And I cried. But ultimately, you deserve healing and wellness.
Be KIND to people. Really, truly be there for them. I know it hurts me, sometimes, because I am always there for other people and I find that it’s not always returned. But know that you should rather be that person who cares too much as sends cards that aren’t deserved and sends encouraging text messages and calls people just to tell them you love them. Because you’d want someone to do it for you. I really don’t think there’s a whole long wrong with people who are depressed; I think the world is a fucked up place, and I think we can alleviate so much by being there for each other.
I wish you all a long and happy life.
And, before you ask: no I don’t think my depression is in any way intrinsically akin to my love affair with sad British pop music.
Listening to: They Don't Know~ White Sea