By Jesse James
I am a person dealing with depression.
This makes up a large part of my experience day to day.
This is something that I no longer want to have to hide and pretend about though, so I am sharing it because I feel that not doing so does me a disservice and contributes to the stigma around experiences such as mine. And that keeping silent about such a big part of my life only works to further disconnect me from both the people, and the resources that are there in order to provide help, love, and support.
My depression is something that I have to manage daily. Sometimes it is so severe and debilitating, that I am overrun with multiple daily painful visits from suicidal thoughts.
I am suicidal, and while that is not an easy thing to admit—and something that comes with a lot of preconceptions and triggers alongside it—I feel that knowing this about me will help others to understand the struggle I am facing.
And this is why I am forcing myself now to take several steps back; to do things slower, to ask less of myself and to give myself permission to be still when desired and needed, too. Because these are the things that keep me from drowning, and it’s taken me too long to acknowledge and prioritize that this is okay for me to do.
Society has put a lot of pressure on doing and accomplishing enough—on keeping busy and on going it all alone. But I’m not afraid to admit that I am no island. I am strong and I am a fiercely dedicated and a hard worker, but I get so caught up in keeping up those traits at times, that I get tunnel vision and forget that this is not the only way.
I forget that being vulnerable and light in my work at times—that relinquishing control and looking to others for help when I need to care for myself—is okay to do, too. That it is necessary, and that I need to do that. That I need to keep up with my boundaries and check in with saying no from time to time.
And so that is precisely what I am doing today.
I am saying no to all of my current work, my clients and my volunteer commitments—at least for a little while. In their place, I am saying yes to myself, to my health, to my overall well-being, to adventure and exploration.
I am developing my routine again from the ground up, navigating the creation of spaces for a life that works once more for me.
I acknowledge that doing so may seem to some as an action taken in selfishness, but the same is often said about suicide; so the truth is you can never win. All I can do is what feels right for me. And this my friends is it.
Thus I am leaving for several days of rebelling, rebuilding and rewilding; taking time for eco-anarchist workshops and camping. For this is something I need—to immerse myself in that which I love and which makes me thrive.
Not that I mean the work I have committed to does not, (it really, really does) but I need a change of pace in all of this.
When I return I will be re-evaluating what I can commit to again from there, but it will be a process that I will be taking slowly, so don’t expect me to have the answers to all of it anytime soon.
Please note though that while I have admitted that I feel suicidal day to day, that this does not mean I have any intention of ending my life. Meeting and coming face to face with my urges to do so—giving it an honest name—does not mean that I will be giving up the fight. It simply means that I have acknowledged that it is a daily battle; one that requires the need for a larger more enlightened and reinforced community of support.
One which is aware to the actual circumstances and so I am sharing this with all of you.
So for those of you interested, here’s what you can do in terms of support:
1. Respect my “No’s” and don’t guilt me for laying out boundaries. Know that no matter the circumstances, that I likely experienced immense amounts of anxiety and internal conflict in building up the confidence to say no and set that boundary for myself. Saying no is incredibly hard for me, so just respect it, please.
2. Ask me what I need, and don’t assume. I have anxiety and depression, PTSD and fibro, and a myriad of other obstacles to navigate. This means that I have become accustomed to other people assuming that they know what is best for me, but contrary to that belief, I still know myself better than you do.
I appreciate the desire to be there in love and support, but consent and autonomy are important to me. Ask. I’m almost always open to discussing these things, because I prefer being able to advocate for myself and to educate others about my own needs and care.
3. Please don’t feel the need to walk on eggshells or assume I am some fragile being now that you know. I have been dealing with this for 13 years (longer than the majority of you have known me) so approach me as the same person you knew before reading this.
4. Hugs and friendly conversation are welcome, but understand that there may still be times that I need to respectfully opt out. This is nothing personal, so I hope you can understand. While hugs are healing, and I find great resolve in a kind word, my body is not always the kindest place for me to be in, and I don’t always want to be touched. Again, asking is a good way to navigate this one. It will allow us both the opportunity to know where each of us are at.
5. Checking in with a simple, “How are you doing?” is great, but only if you are prepared to leave space for the raw answers on days when the response is something other than “fine.” Pretending is exhausting and it drains me of energy that I already hold in limited reserves, so if you’re not prepared to show up in that way, that’s totally cool!
I respect your boundaries and I understand. But I don’t need you to ask if you’re not. If I ask someone that question, it is because I genuinely want to know, so I assume that others are aware enough of their intention to do the same. Neither of us needs to pretend.
6. Please don’t ask me why I feel this way, or try and justify to me as to why I should not. In 13 years of navigating through my depression, I’ve come to know it pretty well. That being said, I still can’t tell you why I feel this way. It’s not situational, it’s not even environmental.
Granted, some points of my life have been easier to manage due to my environment and situation at the time, but it still does not resolve it. My depression is always there. This is something that I have come to terms with, but it doesn’t mean I have any answers for you as to why. I understand that it can be absolutely uncomfortable to acknowledge it as unknown, as most of us do not like loose ends. This is something however that simply needs to be allowed to be, as it is.
7. Understand that I can simultaneously experience immense amounts of joy and love for life, while waging an internal war against depression and feeling suicidal. It’s a thing. I know that through the two-dimensional way that we often view humans as absolutes that this doesn’t make sense, but it happens. It is just one of the messy things to navigate in life.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve miraculously rid myself of this pain because I’m smiling, but I do make a conscious effort to enjoy life in the many ways that I have found that I can.
8. Please make every effort not to police or invalidate my experiences, nor my feelings and the ways that I express them. This fucking hurts every time it happens, so just don’t do it. While I understand that it may not make sense to you why I feel the need to cry during some moments and laugh (and swear, heh) during others—especially when they are ones that you might not have reacted to in the same way—I assure you, my reaction is based entirely on what I need.
I have my process just as you have yours. You are free to express that you are uncomfortable by it, but don’t try to tell me that there is something wrong with me. I have my shit to deal with as we all do. That doesn’t mean I’m broken.
Which brings me to…
9. Don’t try to fix me. This is the most important one. If you’d like to suggest something, you can put that energy towards coming up with something fun for us to do together and occupying my headspace with something else. You can hold me, or laugh with me (or cry) but please don’t tell me how to fix this. It’s not warranted, or needed, as this is just a part of my life experience and I work with managing it in the ways I choose to do.
Again, I know that the intention comes with love, and it is appreciated. but my speaking to you of it is only with the expectation that you hold space for me to exist as I am. I am not asking you to resolve my problems for me.
There are likely other aspects to this, but these are the main things that come to mind. It’s always best to ask though.
With all of that being said, writing this, makes me feel hopeful. Writing this, even if no one else reads it, makes me feel more reaffirmed and strengthened in knowing what I need.
I know I’ve got this, but I appreciate the extra hands that are there to catch me during the days where I feel that I don’t.
I thank those of you who stand beside me in love and support. You are wild rocks providing stability, inspiration, comfort and much needed humour in my life, and I am forever grateful for the ways you hold me up and allow me to grow.
So much love to all of you.
Jesse James (pronouns she/her or they/them) has been called an old soul living in a young body. At 24 she is a storyteller and Creatrix of many things; an equal blend of mystical, myth & science. As an activist and advocate, they work with groups like Food Not Bombs and make a point of speaking out about the causes they care about; poverty, full-spectrum equity, environmentalism, as well as the violence/politics of Birth. Jesse takes on the role of Reiki Practitioner, Tarot Reader, Placenta Alchemist, Birthkeeper (labor, postpartum & abortion support), Sexual Health Advocate, Artist & Writer (among others) through their business Artemisian Artes. She loves working with herbs in making natural remedies and concocting up delicious kitchen alchemy is a second nature after breath. They worship the Earth, thrive on art, and on forming meaningful connections with others. Their mission is to make that around them more beautiful, or at the very least, to help others see things that already were, in that way. Connect with Jesse here.
Editor: Dana Gornall