This was originally posted as a blog entry and has been reworked to reflect current circumstances.
In January, Bell Canada did a Twitter campaign where for every hashtag #BellLetsTalk the company donated 5 cents to mental health care. The goal was not only to raise money but also to raise awareness and help to shed some of the stigma that comes with mental illness. I was thrilled for the opportunity to talk about some of my experiences, but once my fingers hit the keyboard, I froze. I was kind of still scared to share. I’d been really trying to change myself for the better, and I was finally starting to attract the kind of people I wanted in my life. I didn’t want to chase them away. But then I realized that that was selfish of me. There are so many people out there who shared their stories, and if I held onto the idea that it would be wrong or negative to share, then I was just just perpetuating this idea that it’s not OK. And that was not OK.
So, let’s talk about the past few years.
To understand how I got here, all you need to know is that after my parents divorced, my home life became massively unstable. I learned how to keep a wall up around me and to distance myself from people, and I became hardened. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and anxiety, and it’s an understatement to say that I had been unraveling over the past few years. In keeping up with the way I was raised, I did not talk about my feelings. I shoved them deep down where nobody could reach them, and I drank to numb the constant hurt.
When it came to other people, I was cold, and I took pride in that. My friends started dubbing me the “robot girl” because of how unfeeling I was and how easily I could shut off my feelings. I had very few positive traits, least of all empathy. I bragged about my mental state, claiming that feelings were a weakness, and I felt pretty fucking smug that I had risen above them. Most of all, I was angry. I was angry at the ex who turned violent, I was angry at my mother who convinced me I was worthless unless I could shed 30 pounds, and I was angry at the world for being a shitty place where only the strongest survived. The news was a tool I used to justify my loathing, reinforcing the hatred I felt for my fellow humans. I was angry mostly at myself, but I took it out on everyone around me. For about four years, I let my rage fuel me.
I was mean. I didn’t seek out people to hurt, but I was not kind or sympathetic at all. When friends lamented about their problems, I would think to myself, If I can suck it up so can you; stop being a baby. And then I’d go on my way, wondering why the rest of the world wasn’t as strong as I was. I talked down to everyone, save for the precious few who stuck around and kind of got to know the real me. For a long time, the only people who really knew me outside of family were my best friend and my husband. I think they both just resigned themselves to love someone who would never be described as kind. The kind of person who relished her resting bitch face. Who felt flattered when she left a lasting negative impression. I didn’t realize I was pushing everyone away on purpose, so that they wouldn’t have the chance to fuck me up like people in my past. I became so detached that I started dissociating, which both frightened and thrilled me. It felt simultaneously like sinking and floating, and I felt untouchable because I did not feel connected to my body. The first time it happened, I was confused for three days because I didn’t know if I was awake or if I was dreaming. Nothing felt real. I also knew it was a sign that things were really bad. My therapist later told me it was a coping mechanism for handling stress. I was actually so angry that I was sending my body into self-defense mode.
Finally, my anger began to burn itself out. After a four-year rampage, it’s like I just stood there, looking back at all the destruction around me. After what felt like back to back catastrophes in the middle of last year, from multiple deaths in the family to estrangement from my bio-mom, I finally reached out to a friend. I knew I was sinking. I felt like I’d put too much weight on my husband, and I wanted an outsider’s perspective. I told him about my dissociation and that I needed input.
He told me to stop being so Tumblr. This, from a friend of eight years, who knew me better than a lot of people, made fun of me when I asked for help. When I told him that the way he reacted was hurtful, he sarcastically said, “I’m so sorry I triggered you.” The condescension blew me away. He continued to be passive aggressive and then finally, a couple days and several arguments later, disappeared from my life completely, as though we’d never even known each other.
I was hurt, but more so, I felt an awakening. I realized that that is the way I had been treating people. I doubt that I ever made people comfortable coming to me about things that hurt. I had also walked away from several long-term friendships without a second glance. And that broke my fucking heart.
I decided to change things. It kind of kicked off when I discovered Can’t Talk. They were open about themselves a lot more than I was used to, but there was a strength in it that came by owning it. These were the kind of people I wanted to emulate. They were not ashamed of who they were, and that fascinated me. I wanted their confidence, so I began surrounding myself with it, starting with my Twitter feed. I pruned the negativity and instead started following all of the strong people I could find.
Everyone at Can’t Talk is amazing, but Bell was the first to reach out to me. It’s like she knew I was hurting and fragile and in desperate need of guidance. We bonded over a late-night chat about BPD, and she started working on convincing me that I needed to forgive myself, and more so, that I was worth that forgiveness. She helped me come to terms with my past angry self, helped me realize that at the time, I did the best I could with the tools I had. Bell was the first hand that reached out to pull me out of the pit of self-loathing. I was at a crossroads when I met her, between growth and falling further into denial and isolation. Through her patience and almost sixth sense for reaching out to give me reassurance when I needed it the most, she helped ensure that I took the right path. She’s argued in the past that I would’ve made it here with or without her and Can’t Talk, but I’m skeptical. Even if I had, it would have been a much longer, convoluted path and I’m glad I didn’t have to go through it alone.
A couple of months after discovering Can’t Talk, I realized my world was growing and for the first time in my entire life, I began to make friends not by bonding over a mutual hatred of something or someone, but by simply being a good person. I reached out to someone I followed on Twitter when they were having a bad day, and she called me nice. It was the first time someone had ever called me nice, and I cried. I had never thought it would be possible to come back from how far I had fallen. It was like going from seeing in black and white for years to being able to see in color again.
I’m definitely not saying that overnight I changed from an outwardly mean person to some sort of perky happy person all the time. It takes constant effort and re-learning to change habits that were formed over decades. I have to constantly remind myself to think positively, to project love instead of hate, to be accepting rather than intolerant. My mantra is “Inhale peace, exhale joy.” What I am saying is that if it weren’t for Can’t Talk being open about things I always imagined would push people away, I would never have found the courage to change.
Since my original posting of this, I have been made a staff writer for Can’t Talk. It seemed fitting to revisit this entry and rework it as my first official staff writer post. I want to reach out and influence people’s lives for the better like they have done for me. This group of people is unlike any other I’ve had the pleasure of knowing let alone working with. They are selfless and compassionate and have taught me so much already in the time I’ve known them. Because of their influence I am a better friend—and a better person overall. So thank you. Thank you for this opportunity, to pay forward the respect and kindness which you have all shown me. Thank you for the chance to pursue my dream of writing in a safe place where I’m able to be myself. Thank you for not giving up on me when it felt like the rest of the world had. You guys barely knew me, but you accepted me, built me up, and loved me when I felt I least deserved it. I can think of no better group of people to emulate, and I am seriously so grateful. I really love you guys. <3