NOTA (Scritto da Francesca Fontanella): Valorizziamo qui l'autenticità di questa lettrice che parla apertamente delle sue esperienze come vittima di abuso sessuale e rispetto al tema del suicidio. Se sei o sei stato/a anche tu vittima di abuso e questa lettera ti ha colpito/a, cerca aiuto senza attendere. Puoi contattare 02 2327 2327 o mail@mica TAI. Ci auguriamo che i contributi di persone coraggiose che scrivono le loro storie possano, tra le altre cose, costruire la strada per la salute di tutti.
Oggi ti parlo Depresione. Sono un poco scomoda perche ti devo parlare in una lingua che non domino propio e mi sara difficile raccontarti tante cose.
La prima volta che mi hanno parlato di te avevo dicianove anni. Ho voluto finire con la mia vita dopo di vivere una tristezza che non finiva mai. Il psichiatra ha detto che ero depressa e che mi sono fatta male perche avevo bisogno di piu attenzione. Ricordo che pensavo che il dottore era insoportabile, che era pieno di se stesso e che non aveva nessuna conessione con me o con quello che vorrei aver detto. Ma non potevo dire che sonó stata stuprata per anni per mio fratello e I suoi amici.
La prima volta avevo 8 anni, non ho capito niente, soltanto sapevo di aver sentito tanto dolore che mi sono fatta adosso e cuando arrivai a casa mi hanno sgridato perche ero una sporca che non era neanche capace di andare al bagno. L’ironia piu grande e che tutto e sucesso nel pavimento di un bagno cosí piccolo che appena se potevo muovermi. Non ho capito il stupro cuando avevo 8 anni, neanche dopo cuando continuo per due o tre anni piu, incominciai a capire cuando avevo 12 o 13 anni. Cuando sono arrivata a 19 e ho avuto il primo fidanzato e stato cuando ho capito veramente quello che mi e sucesso e mi sentivo sporca e mi odiavo a me stessa, non volevo uscire del letto, sentivo che tutti potevano guardarmi con schifo, non volevo incontrarmi con mio fratello perche l’odiavo cosi tanto che avrei potuto anche svelare il segreto.
Ma cosa sei deppresione? Credo che non esisti veramente, non sei idee nella mía testa, non sei paura di vivere, non sei neanche la tristezza, non sei il vuoto che sei stata cualche volta. Non sei. Non so nemmeno cosa sei, sei questa fatica di vivere? sei questa difficolta di lavorare, di alzarmi del letto, di parlare? sei questa solitudine? sei questa colpa perche sono nella mía stanza invece di stare con le mie maravigliose figlie, invece di alzarmi a lavorare per procuraré I soldi? Al meno prima avevo la scusa di avere troppo lavoro, ma, da cuando incominciai la cuarentina non ho ancora potuto lavorare neanche un giorno.
I farmaci non mi hanno fatto mai niente, l’efetto e ancora peggio perche perdo anche quella piccola parte di me che e ancora lucida e sa ridere, parlare, piangere, incazzarsi, amare. I farmaci mi levano tutto e divento una cosa che cammina senza sentire niente. Ho provate tutti I farmaci e anche me li hanno levato tutti in tanti anni di raccontare lo stesso a psicoanalisti, humanisti, condottisti e cualche altra terapia in gruppo.
Veramente mi ha fatto been la terapia, stavo molto molto meglio, ma non so cosa e accaduto in cuarentina che sono arrivata di nuevo in fondo.
Anche ce qualcosa che voglio ringraziarti deppresione, per te ho conosciuto la morte, ho tentato di arrivare li 3 volte, fino che sono arrivata all’ospedale senza polso, avevo 23 anni. Non mi e piaciuta la morte, ero ancora viva e sentivo tutto anche se il mío cuore non sbatteva piu, mi hanno fatto male per poter ritornare e li ringrazio. Non mi e piaciuta la morte e non sono andata mai piu. Qualche giorno dovro ritornare e ho la speranza che questa sia una morte diversa di quella che ho vissuto prima. Tante volte ci ho pensato sopra e credo che non si puo morire apposta, devi morire cuando devi morire, non prima, non dopo. Forse cosi la morte sia diversa. Anche Devi vivere, la vita e la morte sono una stessa cosa che sono io, qualche volta morta in vita, qualche volta vita nella morte.
Ho molto da fare e voglio alzarmi dal letto.
Fémina, Età 54
NOTE & CONTEXT (from the Author): I thought that diagnoses were intended to help those of us in need, by providing resources, support, and proper health care. My experiences, though, suggest the opposite. These labels overshadow a person’s true identity; they can become dehumanizing; they can actually prevent a person from accessing resources, places, and activities that might otherwise be most helpful. Most prevalent among mental health diagnoses, the associated stigma that accompanies the use of medical labels is beyond detrimental - it can actually prevent the healing from occurring, itself. I wrote the poem below in a flurry of anger felt toward this stigma and the lack of support I have battled to make sense of for most of my adult life. Ignorance and bias in not only the general population but also within healthcare, makes it hard to feel safe and supported. The words and actions of others have and continue to impact my ever-changing self-perceptions, which hinge on the incongruent ideas of what these diagnoses mean to others. A diagnosis can be frightening but, also, a relief. My experiences suggest that it’s a complicated mixture of both…
While a list of the diagnoses seen atop my medical charts follows my signature line, I would like to explain three of them now, as the healthcare practitioners assigning them didn’t know much more than I did at the time of diagnosis. Thanks to my own research, here is what I’d like to offer as context:
I was first diagnosed with PTSD back in 1989, when I was 18 years old. Back then, health care practitioners had even less of an understanding as to what this actually meant and how best to treat the whole person. I had a particularly complicated form of the condition and the treatments that they offered then were useless to me. Fortunately, in the last 6 years there has been a surge in public interest on the topic of trauma; more funding, published research for me to read, and the development of empirically supported treatment protocols for me to explore. Scientists and doctors understand the brain better and how trauma affects it. Most seem to agree that PTSD results in a lot of sub-type illnesses (AKA comorbid conditions) and that is a there is a dynamic range to them. Some specialists (but not all) now acknowledge the resultant diagnoses of anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, chronic suicidal tendencies, and insomnia. Some understand that physical conditions result, too, like (for me) heart palpitations & tremors, albeit there are many more likely candidates.
C-PTSD (C for ‘Complex’) was added to the DSMV-5 only this year, which gives voice (finally) to the complexity of conditions resultant from exposure to long-term abuse. Not at all specific to soldiers and persons living in warzones, but a condition that can result from sustained &/or repeated exposure to all sorts of trauma (big T and small t-types). This is the dynamic difference between PTSD and C-PTSD: There exists long-term, repeated trauma that creates complexity in mind-body states and given that each individual is entirely unique, the symptoms can manifest very differently in each of us…
(AKA Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder)
I also carry a diagnosis of DID, whose previous name continues to elicit images of mass murderers, serial killers, people to fear in the minds of most – thanks to movies like Sybil that undermines the curiosity and compassion necessary for an evolved understanding of this delicate condition. Today, most trauma-informed interventionists agree that people with DID were likely traumatized as young children to a point whereby the condition evolved as a means of coping - as a means (for some) of mere survival. Yet, this is new age knowledge and most Americans continue to operate in states of ignorance and out of fear, which breed’s hatred, contempt and biases. Let it be known that many of us lead successful, productive lives with careers and families; operating alongside everyone else. Like me: I have four children and was a Montessori Educator for 20 years. But, unlike most of you, we had childhood trauma and it caused our brains to develop differently - to think differently, too. The trauma that I endured interrupted my development, so my brain did what it needed to do to adapt and to survive. I have a legitimate brain injury as a result of prolonged exposure to trauma. I have different modes of consciousness and emotional reactivity - my thinking process is likely and largely different than yours once I’ve entered into a different ‘dissociative’ frame of mind. I have “spaces “ in my thoughts and in my memories. Functioning as an adult is challenging in these moments, since I am literally thinking like a child – stuck in a developmental state of mind and body. I even write with different handwriting when in these different mind states.
There are statistics and logistics to consider: Only some 20% of people who experience trauma, end up with a diagnosis of PTSD. Twice as many females than males are diagnosed. Doctors don’t know why. Only about 1% are believed to develop DID, but I personally believe it’s more than this because it’s very difficult to identify. Meditation can help. For me, it connects my mind states and retains memory. I also use sticky notes to track myself on a daily basis and make sure I am recalling things. I often admit to having a “fuzzy” memory.
Some people experience complete disconnection or separation from these respective mind states, which makes it impossible to remember what they did in one mind state when operating in a different one. I had complete amnesia about most of my childhood (and respective trauma) for 30 years. It took me a long time to realize that this wasn’t “normal”. Traumatic events experienced in adulthood, however, triggered my brain to recall much of it through what most might call ‘Flashbacks’. I called them “Time Travels” before I knew the term. During this period of my life, I suffered two years of chronic suicidal depression, insomnia, and constant dissociative issues. I am relieved to say I have healed enough – at this point in my life - through trauma therapy to not have suicidal ideations or daily flashbacks, now.
There’s nothing wrong with my personality or a flaw in my identity - or in my identities (plural). My core is not wrong, and I am not a danger to society, nor am I harmful to others. I don’t walk around in a constant state of psychosis, although I have experienced psychosis before. I am not without intelligence, even though I don’t always have connected thoughts or sequential memory. How I think and who I am should matter, just as someone’s diagnosed illness (like diabetes, cancer, heart disease) – matters. Mental illnesses shouldn’t be separated from physical illnesses in the way that we trend towards doing. Your brain and body are intimately connected with one another, which is why my mental health conditions affect my physical health directly. It is my goal to hold my mental & physical health states out in front of me – like a sphere, where I can continue to see my whole self from all angles and perspectives. This is the key ingredient to living in peace with it all…
Fibromyalgia is another very complicated disease with which I live. It has no cure and its cause is largely unknown. People of ANY AGE can acquire it - even children, yet many doctors don’t know anything about it and some (even) refuse to acknowledge its existence! My own doctor doesn’t know what to do to help manage symptoms. She suggests a lot of things and has me taking pain medication, but there’s not a lot of information out there beyond pain management; and pain is only a small part of the actualized condition. It’s not an arthritic condition (although I have that too, which complicates all things in discussion). Many doctors seem to think that it’s an arthritis-related condition, but I’d like to argue otherwise: It’s a neurological illness that directly impacts the nervous system and causes widespread nerve-pain. Some doctors believe it has to do with swelling or inflammation in certain parts of the brain, which may be why it impacts so many things: The body’s ability to regulate temperature; energy levels (causing fatigue); sensory issues; problems with balance (so much so that I was tested for MS at one point); muscle weakness; disruption to executive functioning (attention & memory); swelling all-over; burning sensations and other inexplicable skin pain. It gets in the way of the brain’s ability to recognize pain. It impacts the internal organs, also, making my insides feel “bruised”. The condition impacts my ability to work, to go out, and to be able to do things so many others take for granted. Its symptoms are impacted by the weather, stress, and other environmental factors so go figure – it’s never the same and always changing… Just as with all chronic conditions, Fibromyalgia impacts the whole person and (inevitably) their families and friends. Compassion and patience are necessary ingredients, which is why I offer this insight AND this heartfelt poetic letter – in the name of justice:
Wow it’s been a year and you still do a great job of ruining - and making me feel terrible - almost every day of my life. Why can’t you just leave my brain and leave me alone? I guess that is too much to ask considering you are used to consuming my life no matter what.
Life with you has changed me for the better and to others for the worse. I’ve been told that you are common in lots of people, but honestly - I don’t think so. I have yet to meet another person on this planet that has to put up with you like I do. That day would be amazing! Being able to relate to someone who experiences the same things I do because of you…
I don’t exactly blame you for anything, though, because what’s the point because its not worth the energy. I do hold you responsible for most of my bad days, my incredibly painful thoughts, and my reactions during those moments that I seem to lose control. Can’t you just hide somewhere deep inside where nobody else knows and it is not obvious that you’ve got such control?? I guess you can’t…
Let’s go back about a year and a half - the first time I heard your name. I was relieved and confused to know you. Finally, figuring out it wasn’t just depression or anxiety; your diagnosis made me feel like I had more control by giving me a chance to learn and research more about you and try to find things out for myself that might help. Unfortunately, though, all of the research I’ve done to understand you hasn’t felt helpful. Most sites say things like “you’re incurable” or “BPD is a chronic illness”. Leading me to believe that I will have to suffer you forever… I don’t know who to believe (researchers or therapists) or what outcomes to expect!
All I know is that I have you in my brain 24/7 without any relief, except when I can figure out how to use my own energy to create distraction. I wish all the questions people asked me, you could answer for yourself. Why are you so tired? Why don’t you just get up and do something? Why don’t you focus on the positives instead of the negatives? Can you answer all the questions, BPD?? I didn’t think so, because you’re an illness and don’t have a voice, which is extremely sad...
To be honest, this world would be much more understanding if each mental illness had a voice to share. I often think why it had to be me out of everyone in my entire family and all the people I know. Why couldn’t it have been something else or something not at all? The fact is that I have just gotten used to feeling down, wanting to self-harm and hurt others; ball up and cry, operate with less motivation and energy, and under more and more stress/anxiety over trivial things. In daily life I might appear like I’m making it but not without great strength…
I thought you were supposed to give me some hope through this journey by at least telling me there was a cure and/or you were more common than I thought. I guess that was a naive assumption...In ways you have caused me to hate most people. You have convinced me to only trust certain people - not everyone, for the most part. I guess that’s a good thing? But, considering the pain you’d have me endure, there should be some prize I win for just putting up with you. Tell me BPD, what is the ultimate prize I have been waiting for? Is there really relief from you out there, or is that just what people believe will happen if I don’t give up??
My life has forever changed because of you. Some parts I regret and others I don’t. When do you think you can give me a break? I am beginning to think never or, at least, not anytime soon…
All I wish is that someday you will make me realize I am not the only one; because I know that for sure, but I often feel like I am… One thing you could also do for me is to reveal yourself to the world. Advocate for those that have you living in their brains. Let others realize that you do exist and we are not just making things up. Help others understand that it’s you who messes with our brains - it’s not just us. If I had one wish that would be it! Just to be able to help others understand that you exist and those who struggle and fight against you are being real - not fake…
I am not mad at you, BPD, I don’t even hate you because you’re an illness of the brain, but daily life with you is often a struggle just like with people I have daily contact with. BPD, I thank you for at least giving me some purpose in my life - allowing me to educate others on the subject and sharing my personal experiences with them. It’s not all bad I promise. I just want you to know that even though each day is technically a new day, it isn’t with you, despite the fact that I wish it were… I thank you for shaping me into the person I am today despite what others think. That’s one thing I can say with full honesty.
Female, Age 18
Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, ADHD, General/Social Anxiety, Major Depression
I hate you. I hate you for what you’ve done & continue to do. I hate you for who you’ve hurt & continue to hurt. I hate you because you are you – an invisible weighted cloak; an off-radar, black storm cloud; a high-frequency cry for help that most humans cannot hear; a mythical diagnosis… Your elusive essence is what upsets me the most! Why me? Why them?? Why only a select few???
You first appeared in early adolescence – I was only in middle school and in the throws of puberty. My developmental state & the particular life events that forced me to face my own mortality at too early an age caused the lot of us to believe that you were ‘circumstantial’.
If only I… improved my physical state of health; changed schools; made the ‘right’ friends; built a stellar college resume; had a boyfriend; got rid of my acne; got reconstructive surgery; was happier with my appearance; got into the ‘right’ sorority; partied harder; took more risks; did more traveling; went to a ‘better’ college; had ‘better’ friends; put my attention elsewhere; was more selfless; was able to help more people; was able to save more money; had a ‘better’ job; moved someplace else; was closer to the one I loved; was dating someone else all together; invested in counseling; found the ‘right’ counselor; invested in self-help; worked harder at self-help; invested in supplemental healthcare; admitted my mistakes; figured out how to be a ‘better’ person… If only I changed , my life would feel better; & you would be gone! Or, so I thought… and, at times, still like to believe.
The sad truth is that most folks that know me don’t really know me, because they don’t know you. If they did, they might run the other way! You’re wrought with stigma. You’re often seen as the result of a weak will or character deficit. Those of us that claim you are made to defend your very existence, so as not to be branded by our inability to independently manage you – to simply ‘get over it’; ‘look on the bright side’; ‘stop the melodrama’; ‘suck it up!’
Good thing I know how to keep you hidden or (at least) how to disguise you. You live behind the masks that I wear & the anger I have come to wield. I’ve worked hard to prevent you from ruining my reputation, yet, your very nature oftentimes prevents me from being seen & heard. You encourage isolation & withdrawal, self-doubt & self-harm. You feed a vicious cycle that, in turn, feeds you:
(FEELING) You cause me to feel sad & (ultimately) hopeless. (THOUGHT) You fill my mind with doubtful thoughts - ‘What’s wrong with me? My life is horrible. I can’t stand feeling this way!’ (ACTION) You encourage me to stay in bed, distract, numb, & avoid all that requires effort. Under the spell of this cognitive-behavioral catch 22, my brain chemistry worsens; I’ve got even fewer endorphins in my court. So, this downward spiral perpetuates: (FEELING) I am genuinely fatigued - feeling run down & lacking the energy necessary to invest in self-care. I’m irritable, confused & ashamed. (THOUGHT) I reason, ‘Will I ever feel any better?? This is hopeless…’ (ACTION) I keep to myself. I skip meals or binge on unhealthy foods. I’m largely sedentary. I discontinue efforts toward a wholehearted life & aim to stay numb… Work performance suffers; relationships suffer; self-image suffers; biochemistry suffers yet, you thrive!
The worst part about life with you is that despite all of this insight – all of the logical solutions to minimizing your effects, not to mention the degree in psychology I went in search of – you have literally infiltrated my mind & my body. You have reinforced unhelpful schemas & harmful behaviors for years on end. You’ve been a part of my life for so long, in fact, I fear that you truly have influenced my character & my will. You’ve certainly seized my idealism & rose-colored glasses…
Depression, hear me when I profess that I will never give-up the only life I’m certain to have as a result of the garbage you put in my mind’s eye, nor will I allow your physical weight to keep me down & out. I would never give you an excuse to take host inside of those that my suicide might harm, because I hate you. I hate you for all that you’ve done & all that you do; and I refuse to let evil prevail.
Female, Age 35
Clinical Depression, among other things