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ARTIST I will have mental illness for the rest of my life just like some people have arthritis, diabetes, or macular degeneration. I take three antidepressants daily. It took me years of trial and error to find the correct medication. It’s a combination of medication and therapy that’s helping me heal.

ARTIST If you end up going the medication route, you play the game of finding something that works for you, and there’s always a trade-off with side-effects. At times, I feel like the side effects of the medication are harder than the illness itself.

ARTIST Medication is nothing to be ashamed of. Would you be embarrassed and humiliated if you had cancer and had to seek treatment? Would you refuse the needed chemo? What if you were diabetic? Would you deny taking insulin because people would think you were weak? Well, what is the difference if something is wrong with your brain?

DAUGHTER Taking medication wasn’t always easy for me, and I wasn’t always great at it. Sometimes I forgot to take it, and I wasn’t on it as often as I should have been. Sometimes when I was really upset my family would ask:

SIBLINGS A + B Did you take your medication?

DAUGHTER When my younger siblings started asking that, I wanted to scream. I don’t think they meant it, but when they asked me that, what I heard was:

SIBLING A What you are feeling isn’t valid if you haven’t been taking your medication.

SIBLING B You don’t have a right to to feel what you feel.

SIBLING A It’s just your depression.

DAUGHTER And sometimes they were right. Still, it’s difficult to hear that you have to reach their criteria before your feelings can be considered "real."

ARTIST

Medication is fine. It does a great job of numbing everything I feel. Yes, it takes the edge off of

worthlessness, but it also makes the sun, grass, curtains, and chairs look anything past the fog. All color and urgency have been stripped away.

less. I can’t see

ARTIST

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Given the challenges - what if you stop taking medication?

GIRLFRIEND

I was 16 when my boyfriend suggested that I stop taking my medication.

BOYFRIEND

I don’t think you need it anymore.

GIRLFRIEND

So I quit, cold turkey. That was a mistake. I was physically ill from quitting so abruptly. I couldn’t get out of bed; I was nauseous, tired, and often had a very bad headache. I went back on my medication to relieve those symptoms. Eventually, I weaned myself off of them and felt okay about doing so.

ARTIST

But medication can be helpful. It allowed me to start on a more level playing field, instead of feeling like I was starting in a hole.

ARTIST

For me, medication helped cure my symptoms, but only self-acceptance and making healthier choices helped cure my depression.

PHYSICAL TRANSITION HERE SFX: School Bell

SCENE - SCHOOL COUNSELOR

STUDENT

My sophomore year in high school, I wanted to die every day. Suicidal thoughts bled into everything I did and thought. For example, I would think: “yeah it would be great to go get pizza, but you know what sounds better? Dying.” I don’t know what stopped me. I guess I just had no motivation, and that included motivation to kill myself.

I always showed up to school every day because it was the path of least resistance. I showed

up, didn’t pay attention, and got terrible grades. But I was there. I would walk in circles around the school hallways every morning: come in the front doors, walk down the main-level hallway, walk up the stairs, walk back down the second-level hallway, walk down the stairs, and start the circle again. Again and again until the bell rang.

Every time I passed a bathroom, I’d think about the possibilities. There weren’t cameras in there.

It usually wasn’t busy. I could go into one of the stalls and hang myself with my sweater. I’d get

the same thought every time I walked the stairways, too. There were railings there. I could bring

a rope in my backpack and pull it out when no one was around. It would be easy, just to tie it on

and hop off.

I thought what people would do. I wondered if they would see it coming. I wondered what people

saw when they looked at me, doing the same thing every day. Was it all in my head or did some of it spill over? Did someone notice? I guess not. No one ever said anything. They didn’t notice or they didn’t care and, either way, that didn’t help.

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Along with the bathrooms and stairwells, I walked past the counseling office a couple times, too, and a new idea started to form in the back of my head, and it was different from ones that I’d had before. I could go and see the counselor. It would be something interesting. At the very least, it would be a change of scenery. I figured that I could kill myself any time—I might as well go for help first and see if that does anything.

Without thinking about it too much more, I walked into the office. I didn’t stop in the waiting room; I just walked straight back to her office. Her door was open and so I just walked in. She had familiar, kind face and a build like a rock climber, lean but strong. She looked up at me and smiled.

COUNSELOR Hi Charles. What can I help you with?

STUDENT I’d never been good at beating around the bush, and I just came out with it. “I’ve got a problem. I’m suicidal.”

We sat down across from each other and we started to talk. We talked about me, what I’d gone through, how she thought she could help. And I did feel something as we spoke. I felt relieved, relieved that something was changing. Whether or not it actually would, I had no idea at the time, but it was just nice that something was happening because up until that point, nothing had ever changed.

SFX: 5 Seconds of Summer “Hey”

SCENE - THE ARTS ACTOR My name is Taylor. I will be 16 soon. This year I play the role of Macbeth in the play of the same name by William Shakespeare. This will be my 9th show.

I first felt depression somewhere around the 9th grade. School has been hard at times, but when I’m on the stage, things aren’t so difficult. Shakespeare and words I just get. I understand them. I like acting because of the feeling I get when I come off stage after the final scene when my friends and I have given our bows and run off yelling and cheering. This is the best feeling in the world.

I’m not sure if the depression came first or getting bad grades came and then the depression, but I want people to know it does get better. When I get depressed and am crying I listen to my favorite band, 5 Seconds of Summer. I love 5 Seconds of Summer almost as much as I love acting.

Although music doesn’t make the depression go away, I know it helps me. This band most likely doesn’t even know I exist, but when I hear their music, I feel that they know me. They know what I’ve been through.

SFX UNDER FOLLOWING: 5 Seconds of Summer “Hey”

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When I need support, I talk with my best friend Kayla. I met her in piano class, and she introduced me to 5 Seconds of Summer. Having a friend or someone that can help makes a big difference. Kayla helps me a lot. Although depression can be hard, I know I have ways and things I love to help me through it. I have many more lines to learn and lyrics to memorize and know that depression can’t keep me from that.

SCENE - THE HIDING YEARS HIDER My journey with depression began when I was 7 years old, during what I call The Hiding Years. At that time, my 14-year-old brother began to molest me, to abuse me, and to make me satisfy him sexually. This lasted for 5 or so years. The depression came to me, but not how you would think. I never actually related it to any of the abuse. I dealt pretty well with the depression, or so I thought. I was a resilient little girl, and I had friends: books.

I would come home from school each day, and while I waited for my mom to get home from her shift as a nurse, I hid in the storage room. Two hours a day, five days a week, I sat between shelves, nestled on a beanbag, with a frog quilt. There, I met new friends: Anne Shirley, Mary Lennox, Jo March, Ramona Quimby, Kristy Thomas, and other strong, mighty girls in literature.

As an adult, when I found myself a young mother, walking through the heartache of four consecutive miscarriages, I found that my depression had come back. Those days were so dark and intense. I didn’t even try to silence the inner voice that told me to end it all. I didn’t even feel the pain of it all. I just wanted to bleed.

My faith saved me. I am religious, and in the scriptures that I somehow managed to cling to, I found solace for a few minutes each day. It was as if the sun showed slightly through the haze of smog and pollution that otherwise filled my life’s skies. And thank heavens, I had the sense to write. I wrote through the pain. I wrote everything. I wrote horrible, ugly, frightening, unattractive things.

My words slowly began to reference my faith, the scriptures I had read, and what I started to call snapshot moments. A snapshot moment, I told myself, is when I saw a flutter of bliss in my life. They were rare, bookended on both sides with depression, but the more I noticed them, the more I wrote about them and the more there seemed to be. The snapshot moments that I captured on paper became beacons that led me back to a life with color:

Two of my children, sitting at the table, helping each other with math homework. Click.

The golden October sun hitting my daughter’s caramel-colored hair as I walk behind her. Click.

The thick, black lashes of a sleeping baby, resting gently on her flushed cheeks. Click.

The hottest shower that my skin can stand. Click.

A passage in a book that seemed written for me, as if the author knewthat I would be looking for it. Click.

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A little voice from behind me, saying sweetly: “Frank you for dinnoe, Mommy.” Click.

These moments became oases in a dry, parched wilderness. I am learning that my faith, my writing, and my love for learning are some of the keys that allow me to stand in the light. I have learned that I can and should share my voice and speak about my experiences. Because the light? It feels amazing.

SCENE - ENDING

ARTIST

We all want to find that light, but there are different ways of getting there.

ARTIST

I found I had to have enough courage to say, “Well, I need to do something about it. Keep working. You can do something about it.”

ARTIST

My solutions

People, Talking, Medication, Awareness, Reading, and most importantly: Love.

ARTIST

I got a wonderful dog, Smiley. She helped me go outside for the first time and has helped me not have panic attacks in public. She helps me wake up in the morning and get started. I would do anything for her, because she is my companion while I learn how to take care of myself.

ARTIST

For me, it is about the grace of Jesus Christ, and that He came to reconcile humanity with God. Even though I had made a lot of poor choices and even though my actions were what I did, they weren’t who I am. Those actions did not define me. Jesus came to separate me from all that garbage. Because of Him, I could recreate my life. I could enjoy myself again. I learned I could love myself again.

ARTIST

I am a lesbian and always have been. I decided to embrace my sexuality. Almost immediately, I

felt myself conquer my depression. I truly loved myself for the first time, and I still do. My family and closest friends have all accepted me. And, most importantly, I love myself. There is light in my life now.

ARTIST A Take hold of life, cherish it, never take it for granted!

ARTIST B Value your health, esteem your loved ones.

ARTIST A Life is so short! Love is the key. Love is the answer.

ARTIST B Cling to it, harbor it. Never lose sight of it!

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ARTIST A Hold fast to the simple things: fresh air, flowers, and sunshine.

ARTIST B And forget not the value of a friend!

ARTISTS A & B And forget not the value of you!

ESCAPEE

I am far from the only person in this valley to struggle with depression. But I’m also far from the only person in this valley who wants to help.

ARTIST

I have learned to never give up and to keep searching for answers. I have also learned that it is important to refrain from judging others or comparing yourself to them. Each day is a new beginning—something to be grateful for.

ARTIST

My body is just the vase for the flowers that are my soul. To protect my flowers, I promise not to shatter my vase. After all, I am enough, and I will always be enough.

ARTIST

“With help, there is hope!”—that is my motto.

ARTIST

My life is worth living and so is yours!

ARTIST

I am learning to love myself.

ARTIST

Today is the beginning of all my tomorrows.

ARTIST

Within

I have a little spark that lights up the dark, A spark that will ignite a fire To burn all the pain and suffering From the forests of decaying self-esteem And bitterness that live inside me. Glow Spark, light the fire within, Free me from the darkness.

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