I asked Angela about her journey. Her medication struggles, stigmas, opinions for objectivity, even resources for those who suffer the same?
"I have always had depression. Even though it was evident, it wasn't something we talked about in my family."
Danielle: "Tell me about when you first began taking medication."
Angela: "I have been on meds since I moved to England around 2001. It was a long process of finding the right one. You take one and it might cure one thing but begin many other negative side effects. For instance, I used to have terrible social anxiety. I was prescribed a medication to calm the anxiety but it caused obvious hand tremors. I felt as though I was constantly exchanging one issue for a dozen more. I was truly desperate to lead what I thought a normal life was. Since I moved back to the US, I've willingly been a patient in the (RMH) outpatient program several times. It's been a long process to get to the point I am today. What I hope people learn by knowing is that it's not just about making a choice to get better; some of it is out of our hands. Every day has to be a new day and it's important to have supportive people around you.
I have a mood disorder; its not like I’ve broken my leg and I am stepping on it all the time. No one is going to understand unless they are going through it or has witnessed a loved one fight the battle. Nothing could ever describe the feeling when you get when you feel all alone. Regardless of the reality, you feel that people are so annoyed with you, you can’t keep anyone in your life, and you are afraid to allow people into your life because you might lose them. Depression causes a fight or flight sort of livelihood, and it's incredibly tiring to live.
At this point in my life, I am the healthiest I have ever been. I take medication several times a day. Sometimes I feel resentful that I need to rely on it to be well, but I've learned to feel gracious towards it, just as a person with a broken leg would do a cast.
It's unfortunate that I've lost many people throughout my life because they were not willing to come to terms with who they are, or want to be face to face with "realness" and I may have reminded them of that. Depression has been tiring, but not as tiring as trying to hide it out of shame. There is still a huge stigma about mental health. I used to blame myself for every mishap in my life."
I sometimes have to limit social media; I am too sensitive to take it all in. I do not get a manic side that is typically associated with Bipolar Disorder. Instead I do get regular bouts of depression. On the other side of the spectrum, I have intense creativity. I sometimes cannot sleep. I will create. It's how I win."
Each of us probably looks strange sometimes because we are all coping in our own ways. I don’t expect people to always understand how I cope. The difference here being, now that I am healthy, I don’t really care whether people do or not. That's the wonderful part of being healthy; it's something I haven't had the opportunity to feel for most of my life. The people that matter are the ones that want to understand, even when they don’t.
December 2014 was the drawing line for me at that point. I thought, this is it. I lied in bed thinking this thought. I remember that I went in public to an art show opening, and I could barely talk. People kept asking me 'are you okay? They could see how much I was struggling. I didn’t think anybody cared. I thought to myself, I am not who I want to be and I don’t think I can make it into becoming that person I always hoped I would become.
There was a pivotal moment...reality hit me, on one particular day, when my daughters came into the room while I was lying in bed one morning. They came close to my face, looked into my eyes and something just clicked inside of me. I chose to go into the hospital within days of that and it was a game changer for me. After that, I learned to let people go--anyone not relevant to my health. I stayed in the hospital program for a week. I was honest with myself and realized that I probably would never be that "normal" that I always dreamed of, but I finally realized that I had a lot to offer the world.
I was fighting for my life.
They brought a harpist around to play to patients and I was apprehensive but it resonated with me. I've always enjoyed instrumental music but it encouraged me to listen to classical music daily. It's cleansing for me.
The difference is that now, I post photos about the before and after during depression. I'm open about my journey because I don't want another to feel the way I once did. It's okay not to know what to say to someone who is depressed. The most helpful thing you can do or say to someone to show support and love is just being there. You'd be surprised how many are unwilling to do that; it's why it's so important.
I will have it (depression) forever. I am surviving.
To wake up and look in the mirror some days and hate yourself so much when you have two children and a husband in the house..he’s seen me at my worst and has loved me all the same, because he knows I am not my illness. He knows it's separate from me. When you actually feel this way, it feels like there is nothing worse than this.
Angela stated, “I do not fear it, I have been there” an excerpt from part of a poem by Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath is one of Angela's favorite poets.
"I don’t fear people who are suicidal and have depression because I have been there. I do fear that they don’t have the support that I do right now, that scares me. You have to have support. I cannot imagine waking up, feeling that way and not having anybody. Even with support is difficult.
I just don’t want anyone to feel that way. That is why I am as open as I am, that is why I use my writing to get the message out there. I don’t care what people think about me personally. I do care what people think about these topics. I've gone my whole life wanting to be someone else and, finally, I'm just happy to be consistently me, faults and all. Living is not a simple task.
I hid these things from my friends as long as I could. I knew if I chose to be open about my struggles I would lose so many friends, and I have. They couldn’t handle the moods or if I tried to talk to them about their own issues, they just were not ready to address it. That's stigma and that's real life. I couldn't go on living in the way I was. Like many with depression, I used to have a very black and white mindset. I had it in order to protect myself. For example, if a person called me "crazy" and said negative things about me, I couldn't speak to them anymore. It was my only power in a time I felt I had no power.
Angela goes on to speak about receiving messages from people not yet willing to be open and speak out about their issues but find comfort in reaching out to Angela and thanking her. She receives hugs and affection from those who resonate with her story and appreciate her being open.
"Stop looking at depression as us and look at it for what it is. It’s a serial killer stalking us.We see depression as the people it inhabits. When I am depressed, its not me. People still judge others based on the color of their skin! I see us (the world) as having a long journey to go to reach acceptance. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, how rich or poor you are, where you are from…depression can effect us all and you have no idea how long it will come for. Days? Weeks? A year? In a depressed persons mind, its as if someone is holding them captive and yelling in their ear “there is no reason for you to get up! And even if you want to, you can’t!”
Danielle: "What is the most helpful thing to make you feel supported from the people you love during your season of depression?"
Angela: "Everybody is different in what they need. I would tell new friends 'Listen, I’m good until I’m not. Then, you won’t hear from me.' That again was that black and white issue I had. It was me saying that I am going to pull away when I am like this because I do not want to be hurt by you not being here. I am comfortable in asking for help now. Sometimes, when the depression reappears, I'll post 'it's back' on Facebook.
I can feel when its coming on, the doubts set in, I start to get really creative. Negativity heightens.
Hell, half of me is relieved that some people have no clue what I am going through and never will."
Angela: "Writing, photography, painting. Painting is huge to me. It's starting to be something I am very serious about. I think at this point in my life, my coping is 'less noise'. It used to be that how I coped, I would place myself in situations where I felt most loved. So I would place myself with as many friends as possible as I could. I had to be involved in everything. I had to be liked and accepted. I am very much an introvert now. I am embracing a chosen solitude, and I feel much more grounded. My outreach is growing. I'm more artistic.
And, more time outside is helpful. I have chickens now. You gotta get a photo of me holding one!"
Danielle "Heck yeah!"
Angela: "I want a quiet life. Less events, more creation. I was pushing myself to do too much and it wasn't healthy. I needed balance and I feel as though I've found that.
I am constantly creating.
I think anything constantly in movement doesn’t mean it's going anywhere. That was me. I had such a huge insecurity in me that I wasn’t lovable, so I had to prove to myself that I was.
When a stranger texts me and tells me that my words have changed their life..I don’t know what more the 9 or 10 year old that I used to be, could ask for.
"I do this because this topic is dear to my heart. I truly believe that one person can make a huge difference."
That voice that we have that says we aren’t good enough, that runs through my head, I offset with these reminders that I have. This room, my tattoos, my kids. We have to have reminders and I wish more people would be reminders for people."
Danielle: "Would you like to read a poem?"
Angela: "Everything I just described to you is in this poem called Architects. This (poem) describes when I was talking about lying in here and the kids came in and peeked at me...this described the whole thing.""
"For its last trip, it packed three bags instead of its usual one,
This visit made every few years,
Whether I have a place for it to stay for it or not,
Along the hills in stone of Somerset, England,
Through the forgotten tobacco lands of southern Virginia,
Years after the last listed address,
Through the door of my home,
It studied every place I had run away from,
It walks in,
Takes my seat,
Stares through my children as they stack blocks and asks my body,
If its ever witnessed an obstacle so tall?
It carried a photo of my smiling face,
Memorizing the rivers of aging along my forehead,
It hunches an inch from my eyes,
To see the backdrop of my children inside of pupil,
My children call for me and they ask if I believe if the toy car will make it across the bridge they built,
Will it hold?
Will it make it?
Build me a church world,
One that can hold me up to the light.
My bones turned into mosaics of discarded church windows,
And even pain needs sanctuary.
I go to the only places I know to hide,
My body now still wills,
Too many pills and a heart that reluctantly keeps it all warm.
My children built the minutes of missed time like large blocks,
They leave no peep hole between them and me,
Where my mind has been borrowed.
Their bridge sits in the corner waiting to be used.
There’s a toy car on one side,
Parked and patient.
My children’s words,
Sharp shards of light,
Each night they tip toe by my visitor,
And I give as many 'I love you’s' as my lips will allow.
And then one day,
Small eyes return,
Peeking into mine,
They call me mommy.
And I answer to my name.
My children’s lips kiss my forehead and for a moment,
I am a child running towards them,
On the shaky bridge that they built.
Desperate to meet them completely on their side.
And I answer them,
The bridge holds me.
I will make it back to you."
Architects, Angela M. Carter
Thank you for reading friends.