Recently, I have had a friend who is struggling. Perhaps they do not even realize they are a friend. I tend to sit and listen to people when they need advice or a good ear. I do not do it because I have to, but I do it because I love humanity and I have been down dark roads. My friend is struggling, so today I wrote this post dedicated to them and to anyone else out there that is struggling. My love goes out to you all.
My name is Jolene Cannady. I am almost 43. I am a rape survivor. I am a PTSD and major depression survivor. I am a suicide survivor. During my journey with my dark friends, my nickname for PTSD and depression, I had three suicide attempts. Two of them I think were more attempts to be “happy and back to old me” because I took a ton of my anti-depressants; I thought that the more I took the happier I would be. Funny how the brain works when you are in a dark place. The last attempt though, that was a real one. It was 14 years ago, and I took a bunch of my blood pressure medication, which led to the emergency room and charcoal. My daughter was only about two-years-old at the time. I used to be ashamed to talk about this. I had people, even ones I loved, tell me “don’t tell people, don’t talk”. I felt dirty, broken, hopeless. Everyone around me appeared to be smiling and happy, I did not want to “bring them down” telling them my dark thoughts. Mental health disorders create an environment of loneliness, one that those who have not walked their paths cannot understand. Your mind tricks you into believing you are not worthy and no one cares. You feel like the world would be better without you in it. You feel shame. It is a painful and lonely place.
Here I am now, a nurse practitioner who works beside Veterans and a student working toward my Doctor of Nursing Practice. My research is focused on educating healthcare providers on mental health disorders and aiming to increase their comfort treating them, as well as decrease some of the stigma that exists in the realm of healthcare. I survived. Yet, there are always remnants. Small pieces that remain and always will. Recently, I tried to get my eyelashes tinted. Did not happen, it required me having my eyes taped shut and lying down. A vulnerable position that makes me feel very afraid. This year I had to go for a breast biopsy. The doctor who saw me the day before was a female and she said, “I will see you tomorrow”. So, in I went the next day and a male doctor was present. I had to go in a smaller room, be in a vulnerable position, and bare my breast to him for the biopsy. Even though there were female technicians there I had an anxiety attack and had to do my deep breathing/counting out loud to get through that experience. I almost passed out. The technicians asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I am a rape survivor, this scenario is not good for me”. I felt no shame in saying that, I was advocating for myself. Younger me would never have spoken up.
Mental health disorders are difficult. They are journeys with long paths, paths that curve in many directions. The greatest gifts my journey brought me were true loved ones, strength, my voice, and the honor of working beside Veterans (they take me under their wings and treat me like one of their own). So now I give you the opportunity to speak up. Speak loudly and without shame. Who are you? What mountains have you climbed? I am Jolene and I am here for you.