Demi's Diems: Of Monsters and War
A friend's personal battle with mental illness
Demi Lawrence is a freshman telecommunications journalism major and writes "Demi's Diems" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: The following story features details of an attempted suicide. Much of the content involves themes of mental illness. If you or know of someone struggles with thoughts of suicide or mental illness, call 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. For further information regarding these topics, please visit visit nimh.nih.gov.
I hadn’t talked to you much that day, and I won’t lie, I was a little worried. You had been sending me very troubling text messages about how you “couldn’t cope anymore”, and when I reminded you of all the beautiful things in the world, you said it still wasn’t enough to not make you want to die. Still, I sat and talked you through your episode. Because I love you and I’d done it many times before.
It was about three hours later and you still hadn’t responded. I texted you to please respond to me so I knew you were safe. Nothing. My mind didn’t jump to the worst case scenario right away, this had happened before and you were just taking a nap. I didn’t panic.
I panicked when you sent me a picture of yourself in a hospital gown several hours later.
When travesty hits, at least for me, it doesn’t hit right away. It drips like a leaky faucet into a plugged sink; it collects over time. So when I saw that picture, it hit me in the gut. I continued to walk out of the doors of the UML, because I didn’t know what else to do. As I walked past the photography display cases to my right, my world began to spin. My head became light and my chest heaved. I collapsed onto the ground and laid my head on the glass case jutting out from the wall.
My sink had collected all the water it could hold. When I collapsed and broke down, I took out the plug, and it all rushed out.
It was mental illness that nearly took my best friend from me. You, mental illness, is what makes her life so difficult. You have no rhyme or reason, all you do is ruin peoples’ lives. Innocent people with friends and family. Innocent people with jobs who take the same public transportation everyday and see the same faces everyday. Innocent people who eat, sleep, read and write. Innocent, innocent people.
It’s you, mental illness, that controls her life. She never asked for you to ruin relationships or to make simple daily tasks such as riding the tube to work nearly impossible. She never asked for her brain chemicals to be so far imbalanced she needs to take 60mg of Prozac daily in order to function. She never asked to be kept up at night with only her racing thoughts taking over every inch of her mind, invading what should be a peaceful time to relax.
She never asked for the clinically diagnosed depression, panic disorder and paranoid personality disorder. She never asked to be constantly second guessing everything everyone tells her, or to somedays be convinced the world has conspired against her. Why, mental illness? Why do you control her?
I know I can’t answer those questions, and I know no one else can either. Not with a satisfying answer, at least. Doesn’t mean I still won’t ask them.
When I saw the photo of you in the hospital, I didn’t know whether my tears were happy or sad; happy you were simply alive, but sad that your mental illness once again took too much of you away, almost all of you this time.
I’m not mad at you though. I know I have to separate the monster from my best friend. I know it’s not you who made the decision to attempt to leave this earth that night. You didn’t want to take those 20 pills, or maybe you did at the time. But I know that desire was not inherently you, it was your illness. So when I say I’m angry, upset, torn apart, it is not your fault. It never has been and it never will be. I love you, but I hate your mental illness. And if there’s one thing you are not, friend, it’s your mental illness.
You are so much more than that. You are a lover, a dreamer, a laugher, a shelter, a traveler, a listener. Though they may have failed this time, your medication keeps you from becoming your mental illness. Paranoia, depression and anxiety may have waged war, but you are winning that war. You are getting up everyday, you are living a life that some days you are scared to live. You are breathing, you are talking to people. You are laughing and smiling even though it pains you heavily sometimes. You are doing it.
You hear that, mental illness? She’s beating you. And for that, you have no power. She will have ups and downs, but she is beating you by not letting you take her down completely. She is alive and breathing, she may be struggling but she always perseveres. You don’t stand a chance.
And as for you, friend, you always tell me to look at the stars when I miss you. No matter how far you are, we’ll always still be under the same stars. As I looked at the stars that night and battled with this idea of why mental illnesses existed and why the world allows it, I was simply grateful. Grateful for those stars that connect us, and grateful that they symbolize our bond. I’m grateful your illness did not take you from me that night, and I pray daily it never will. I know you can continue to win this war, I just wish the illness would let up. Even if it's just a touch.
If you or someone you know suffers from severe mental illness, help is around. You are not alone. To learn more about mental illness, visit nimh.nih.gov. If you need to talk to someone, call 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.