leslie nikole
photo taken by the one and only ghost


leslie.nikole at icloud dot com


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Despite a horrendous trip back across the border and an inconvenient "random" search (why is having two phones to avoid excessive overcharges from my Canadian providers such as suspect thing?), I'm back in New York for a little bit. It's raining on and off in Washington Heights, and I'm still not sure what I want to do today. I was scrolling through my e-mails when one from a National Recovery Month focused organization popped up. Today is September 1st, and that didn't really mean anything until I saw the e-mail. September is National Recovery Month, an entire month dedicated to awareness and promotion of addiction treatment and mental health services to assist those with mental and/or substance use problems with seeking help. It's been a little over eight months now that I've been clean and getting help, something I wish I could have done a very long time ago. In a dark way it is really funny how many different associations and dedicated months there are in North America with the sole goal of the improvement of quality of life, in ratio to how many people actually have access to them.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with an immunity disorder. My entire life my parents and I knew something was wrong, but I only got a break in late 2008 when I became the project of sorts for a medical student, who was able to pinpoint the rare problem. In comparison to her data, I'm actually really lucky. Initially I thought knowing exactly what was wrong would make me feel better, but eventually that novelty wore off. I got sick, had to be hospitalized, and began missing school. Then all of a sudden, I was depressed. Trying to explain what you're feeling after that roller coaster ride at fourteen is already difficult, but then slowly not wanting to go outside or see people when there's nothing physically wrong? Impossible. I had and still do have a hard time expressing that I do have a problem with depression, and since I was no where near of age to start with any sort of therapy, I only brought it back up when I turned eighteen. In Quebec, once you turn 14 you are able to receive treatment on your own without your guardian consent, but anything with mental health seemingly didn't fit under this category. Trying to explain feeling depressed to my family was another problem all in itself. Despite how real it was to me, how much sadness was lumped up inside of me to the point where I didn't want to do anything, no one seemed to believe me. "Depressed? Depressed what?" was basically the response I got. I don't know if this is what it is, but anything along the lines of mental health and disorders (from depression and anxiety to bulimia and anorexia) seems to be a foreign concept that would never apply to the child of Caribbean parents. Recently when I talked about getting real help with a few close friends of the same background, I noted that they all had the same experience more or less, either ignored or shushed when they finally mustered up the courage to speak on it. With that, I feel as if the lack of validation pushed me further into myself. Unable to sleep and with therapy not working like I hoped, I started taking sleeping aids. Anything that I could get to help me sleep, I was taking. I wasn't taking mass quantities of it, but regular usage did occur. It became a cycle, sleeping aid at night, and then because I didn't have the other symptoms associated with need for the pills, I hopped up on energy drinks to cut the grogginess. I couldn't function without it. Once I turned eighteen, I quietly took it upon myself to move to more vigorous plan involving Prozac, Adderall, Valium, and diphenhydramine.

After the two weeks of initial wooziness, everything was fine. I wasn't cured, I wasn't having "the time of my life", but I was able to get through the day. I was watching an interview with Jim Carrey on 60 Minutes, where he mentioned that while on Prozac "it feels like a low level of despair [you're living] in….you're not getting any answers, but you're living okay. And you can smile at the office." That resonated within me like crazy. A month into my routine, I was stuck. I went from being completely down all the time, to completely moderate. Excitement and anger were rare, and apathy took their place. It took a while for me to realize it, because I did feel better in comparison to how I used to feel, but I had to get off of it. Like Carrey, I was also on Prozac for a good while, and it did as he put it "[help] me out of a jam for a little bit", but the constant feeling of just being okay wasn't what I considered improvement. With help I did move away from drugs slowly, but it was difficult to not lean back on them when problems much bigger than I arose.  It wasn't easy. There were lots of tears, lots of inversion, heavy therapy sessions, and lots of writing. Throughout the past five years, the one thing that I've consistently done is write, but it was definitely one of the last things I thought would help me with my problems. Sleeping still doesn't come easily, but it comes a lot smoother if I've exhausted myself all day surrounded by good people and healthy environments. Yoga and a few self-help books also really made an improvement in my life. The cocktails I was on served their purpose; I'd be the last person to say that they didn't work. When it came to things I didn't know how to deal with or how to put into words, they did make it a little easier to get out of bed and at least try to brave another day. The problem was only when I became hooked on them and actually started thinking that the state of stasis you fall into was normal. 

Looking back, I can acknowledge and accept that now. I was depressed for a long time, and I still have a hard time with leftover bits of it. It effects me everyday, and I'm still learning to deal with that. There is no magic pill for me and I don't know what will make me "better",  but at least I do know that it's possible.

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