It is said that one in four has some form of mental illness. Look around you; if it’s none of your friends, it’s probably you. The easiest to ignore, when there is so much to do, to achieve, to learn, to perfect, is yourself. What you need and should have around you to be that perfect person you long to be.
A while back I began a project for my MLitt studies together with Saila Turkka, for the lack of a better word – my “cousin” (my mother’s best friend’s middle daughter whom I more or less grew up with, so as good as a cousin, right?). The project is to show off the MLitt students’ abilities in all the things we’ve gathered in our knowledge and skill baskets over the length of our studies.
Mine became a sample for a book that is in planning (and in making as soon as a sponsor/financial backing/commissioning is secured) on Saila’s first hand experience as a mother with post-natal depression.
I was lucky to have such a fantastic project partner in Saila – the back and forth with us was continuous, ideas were flying and the project was changing weekly, if not even daily. From humble 16 page plan into the final 28 pages it was a journey of learning and exploration.
Saila is an inspirational woman. She is a woman, a mother, a wife and a survivor. The way she openly discusses her journey from succumbing into post-natal depression, with links to her past depressive phases, through her struggle to find proper care into her current life as an artists and a chairperson of HELMI, non-profit mental health organisation that “wants to attack prejudices held against psychiatric patients and those who are not in the mainstream of society”.
The project was my chance to explore and use CS6 that I had no previous experience with (and I have to say, it is a wonderful creative program, a must-have!) and to be creative again. I missed that. I don’t think I have delved so deep into something creative in years. What made it an exploration was how all the discussions, all the research and how close I was with the project, how it made me look back inside the pits of my own mind.
I have always been a loud, non-stop speaking, hyper personality (overwhelming in my excitement) – at least out on the open. But in my own mind there are recesses and pathways that I prefer not to wander about too closely. Remembering how some years ago it had a very adverse reaction when I did. I like to be in control and I like to fill any silence with noise, either with my actions or incessant blathering. I have had many a teacher, professor, friend and family sigh and roll their eyes at my out-of-controllness. Perhaps it is all combined or symptomised with my ADHD, but surely part of it is just me. Just me not really being comfortable in my own skin at times. And this causes marked times when I cannot function.
On top of that, the past couple years a lot happened that had my head spinning, made me work nearly non-stop and despite people I love telling me to slow down, cut back and take some time for myself I couldn’t and wouldn’t. I was afraid to stop moving. I believed that I would crash if I stopped. But what actually happened was that because I didn’t stop, I crashed. I cried randomly, and not that sweet few tears that you just can’t hold back – but that big ugly mess of a wallowing in my own inabilities kind of blubbering. But naturally only when no one could see or hear me. I would also collapse on a few occassion on my way home, literally down to my knees, as I couldn’t breath, couldn’t comprehend the street in front of me and my body literally came to a halt. Panic attacks settled in.
Ultimately I got yelled at by my mother to actually take some fricking time off or else… And what I did – as a 28 year-old in charge of my own life who doesn’t need her mother to tell her what to do, right? – was go see my doctor and she immedialtey signed me leave for stress, anxiety and symptomatic insomnia.
The first week I would still wake up very early, as I was used to it, but all I had enegry for was move from my bed to the couch. And watch TV all day. Second week I still woke up early, moved to the couch but would even read books now (good books, great books, interesting books). Third week I started seeing and talking with people again, and realised all I needed was time off for my body to function again. What comes to the functions of my mind, well, that is a whole other matter that is yet to be determined.
The project had a profound impact on me. It got me thinking. It got me wondering. It got me to admit perhaps, just perhaps, my emotional turmoils do need more attention than I allow them for, before they are to swallow me up as a whole. It is never, ever easy to admit there might be something wrong, there might be something that needs looking after, that you are not perfect and invincible – especially when that something is not palpable.
What Saila has taught me is resilience, to learn from what we go through to become who we are meant to be. Pursuit was and is for me much more than an university project. I am now stronger and happier, I am ready for my future and I am my own person.