Cara Wood

@cara-wood | contributor
Student blogger, music-maker, F1 fan (blame the husband), Jesus freak and general crazy person.
Cara Wood

The Most 'Embarrassing' Part of My Mental Health Recovery

For the first time in a long time, it feels like I’ve pulled my head above the waves. During the late teenage and early adult years of my life, trauma was a prominent companion. I’ve survived an ardently toxic relationship, which left me a shell-shocked shadow of my former personality. My skin is mottled with scars I carved to cope with an intense self-hatred and a kaleidoscope of wayward emotions. I’ve been overwhelmed by psychological pain to the point of seeking death, only to “fail” and be left under a thick cloud of shame and mortification. I’ve experienced panic potent enough that I believed I was dying. In the intervening years since I realized I needed help, I’ve lost count of the number of appointments with mental health professionals, changes and tweaks to medication, and flavors of self-help strategies I’ve employed. Hope that I’ll someday feel “normal” again dimmed and slowly I settled into a new routine. Each day was a colouful cocktail of psychotropic medications; each week brought on a new round of psychotherapy that feels more distressing than empowering; each month I strategized with the GP again as to how to tackle this omnipresent melancholia. This is my life now. I couldn’t have pinpointed to why it suddenly changed. Maybe I lucked out to exactly the right medications at exactly the right dose. Maybe it was the net of loving people I unexpectedly fell into when I thought I was plummeting towards the rocks. Maybe it was a rekindling relationship with God, who I believe heals and restores. Suddenly I stopped fighting through each hour and instead savored life. I was bewildered to find that I didn’t express the desire to die, then giggled at the absurdness that I find it strange to want to live. The scars on my skin matured into pale, faint streaks — mere reminders of days I never want to revisit. I no longer found being around other people to be breathtakingly draining, and came to value the minutes I spent sharing life with another. I made plans to the future and looked forward to them. Through all the welcome changes, logically I knew I should be delighted. However, it slowly dawned on me that there was another emotion thrown into the mix: I was terrified. My identity had been for too long entwined with the trauma I’d experienced and the struggle that had ensued since; I didn’t know who I was anymore. With my early adulthood taken up by trying to stave off mental health crises, I didn’t know how to be well. It was embarrassing to realize I had used trauma as a crutch. I was reluctant to admit to the very people that had helped me heal that I was doing well; even the thought of planning to taper off psychotropic medications generated some anxiety. I was ashamed when it dawned on me that I benefited from being in the sick role and, when that’s no longer part of my psyche, I am left adrift. To dive into recovery in earnest, I am letting this fear go. I am acknowledging that I’m having these thoughts, and I will discuss these anxieties with my ever-supportive circle of friends. I will ask my friends and mental health professionals to look for the insidious signs of self-sabotage and be held accountable for them. I will get better. It’s time to start living.

Cara Wood

A Letter to the Person Contemplating Suicide Right Now

My dearest, I don’t know you. I’ve never met you and I probably never will. But let me say this to you: I love you. I accept you as you are. I understand. I understand because, for long periods of time in my life, I’ve contemplated the same thing. I’ve been torn between knowing that I will hurt the people who love me the most and thinking they’ll be better off without me. One voice in my head screams for an end of the emotional torment and another whispers at me to just hold on. I’m so, so sorry you’re in pain. I’ve heard the demons in my head, too. I’ve heard them say I’m not good enough. I’ve heard them say I’m not worth it. I’ve heard them say I’m not worth life. People have tried to help. People have pointed out how good our lives are. People have said there’s no reason for us to feel this way — that these thoughts are just thoughts. Let me refute them: your feelings are valid. Your thoughts are not silly. What you’re going through right now is horrible. Even I can’t completely imagine what you are going through. You might have been told you have depression — you might not have. You might have abstract thoughts about the possibility, you might have made concrete plans. You might have been thinking about it for a long time or a thought might have crossed your mind a few moments ago. You might have attempted suicide before, you might never have entertained the notion. You might be absolutely determined, you might not even care whether you lived or not. Whatever your situation right now, I’m afraid the only thing I can tell you is something a doctor said to me once. “There is no magic wand someone can wave or a set of words someone can say to you that will make you feel better.” I can’t propose a solution. All I can tell you to do is wait. I know it’s impossible to see from where you’re standing. But your feelings will change. I know it seems like there is no end to the torment. That’s part of the lie. That’s part of the lethal deception that those demons feed you. That’s part of the blanket that smothers away hope. But hope is still there, even though it’s out of sight. It might take a long time. You and I don’t know when the day will come when you catch sight of that hope again. But that day is coming — I promise. I wish I could gather you in my arms and just hold you. You’re still here. You’re still holding on. It’s a battle just to get to the end of each day. It’s hard —I acknowledge that. I cannot begin to imagine the strength and determination it takes. Remember: you are loved. You are immeasurably valuable. You are worthy of life. All my love to you. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Archv.

susie b cross

Why Depression Makes Me 'Ghost' My Friends

There are at least six of you. That’s the number I have settled on. I am talking about those of you I retreated from quickly, without explanation — even at a time when our friendship was robust and fulfilling for both of us. That’s right. I ghosted you. I know this doesn’t make sense. But it also offers a clue to my mental state each time. Here’s what I have learned about my depression. First of all, I can become self-absorbed. Typically, I am a caring, empathetic person. When depression comes into play, I stop thinking about you and begin thinking only of me. I worry about having something to add to our conversation and that you’ll judge me when I pause and stumble over my words (since a stutter is an early sign that I am getting sick). I am mad that this is happening to me and I obsess about what what will happen if I dip further. I start hearing your complaints and struggles as trivial compared to mine. I start to wish my life were so simple and predictable. Next, I start to shrivel. You walk down the street with ease. You read books and are able to concentrate. You make eye contact and you are witty. You can find joy in a tennis game or a movie or gardening or a hug. Your normalcy becomes painful for me. And your triumphs?They kill me, and I’m embarrassed by this fact. I used to be like you and now I’m not. And because I am starting to feel hopeless, I don’t think I’ll be able to spring back to my typical self. I begin to hate the fragment of a human I feel like, now. Finally, I isolate. I know you can’t understand my mental health. I don’t want to go to parties or for coffee or discuss books. I can only think of curling up in a silent, distant ball on the couch and binging on “Girls” episodes. You will probably grow tired of me canceling plans, because really, how often can a person have a migraine or stomach flu? I want to be left alone, but I desperately don’t want to be left alone. This is when I stop returning your calls and texts and Facebook messages. I am the first to pull away, because you leaving me would be unbearable. If you search “effects of ghosting a friend,” you will find many, many internet hits. Jennice Vilhauer, in Psychology Today, writes, “One of the most insidious aspects of ghosting is that it doesn’t just cause you to question the validity of the relationship you had, it causes you to question yourself. Why didn’t I see this coming? How could I have been such a poor judge of character? What did I do to cause this? How do I protect myself from this ever happening again?” Strangely, I try to have a smidgeon of sympathy for my depressed self, because I was injured too. I know I missed out on laughter and camaraderie. And to be honest, I have lost so many dear friends to my “pathological ghosting” that I feel lonely too much of the time. Regarding you, I can try to rectify these abandonments with explanations and apologies. Sincerely, I am sorry I acted this way. I feel selfish and callous. My actions might have been the product of a sick mind, but I sometimes feel they were cowardly and shouldn’t have been an option. I’ll never have an excuse for my behavior, just a reason. However, no matter how hard I try, I feel I will again exit your life, or someone else’s, inexplicably. And, again, it will be my fault. When this undoubtedly happens, try to remember one thing: It’s not you, it’s me. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via freestocks.org

Cara Wood

When Depression Actually Makes You Feel Safe

“I’m your friend,” Depression said to me one day. “I’m comfortable,” Depression said. “I’m a place you can fall into when you’re overwhelmed with fatigue. Why the constant battle against me? Lean into my embrace, and soon nothing else will matter.” “I protect you,” Depression cajoled. “That rejection you fear so much — that pain — you will never have to deal with it when you come close to me. I hold your best interests; I don’t want you to be hurt.” “Shut them out!” Depression commanded. “They will let you down. Your friends are human, after all. I am the only one who will stay with you. I am the only one who will understand. I am the only one who will never question you. No one else must have a hold over your heart. I am your jealous mistress; no one else may have you.” “I’m you,” Depression declared. “I am an integral part of your identity. Without me you don’t know who you are. Without me it feels uncomfortable; without me you feel naked. I think you won’t admit it to yourself, but you like being around me. I’m safe.” “I can help you cope,” Depression wheedled. “A little bit of pain here, and soon you’ll forget about your emotional woes,” she promised. “There, you feel better now. See?” “You’re good for nothing,” Depression murmured. “You deserved that pain you inflicted on yourself. No! I said to shut them out! Shut your friends out. They can’t help you. They’ll only judge you. Stay… with me.” “You’re good for nothing. Nothing! And you know I’m right,” Depression said relentlessly. “You’re a bad friend. You’re a bad partner. You’re a bad daughter. No one can stand you. You don’t even like yourself,” Depression cackled. “You’re good for nothing.” “Listen to me,” Depression commanded. “You’re inflicting pain on everyone you love. You can see it in their eyes. No, listen to me!” she snapped. “You don’t deserve their care. You don’t deserve their friendship. You don’t deserve their love. You’re good for nothing. No! Stop fighting. I have power over you.” “You don’t deserve this life,” Depression mused. “Can you justify your existence? Can you justify the time, money, food, water, and oxygen you take up? You’re good for nothing. You know I’m right: you’re telling yourself that more often than I’m telling you.” “I can promise you an end to this torment,” Depression smiled at me. “It will end soon. Trust me.” *** “I don’t trust these doctors,” Depression muttered. “I don’t trust these counselors. I don’t trust their medication.” “Stop fighting,” Depression pleaded. “Stop fighting me. I’m your friend.” “You’re shutting me out,” Depression protested. “Please… don’t shut me out!” *** “You used to listen to me,” Depression lamented. “We used to be friends.” “I’ll be back… you know I will,” Depression whispered. “I’ll be here for you. I’ll always be here for you.” If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Adkasai

Saskia Milne

Things Preventing My Mental Illness Recovery

Having dealt with mental illness since a young age, I have lapsed and relapsed more times than I can count. Each time I ended up in the hospital I felt like an enormous failure. I felt hopeless; it seemed like no matter how hard I tried – and I did try — I couldn’t seem to stay better. It made me begin to ask what the point of even trying was. During my most recent and most intense relapse, I discovered three things that had prevented me from making a true recovery, and hopefully won’t again. 1) The fear of feeling uncomfortable. As is part of human nature, we are most comfortable with the familiar, even if it is unpleasant. Unfortunately, for those who are mentally ill, what we know is a world of depression, anxiety and unhappiness – living in a state of constant emergency. In a way, the illness becomes an addiction. It became my identity. Living without it, although amazing, is scary. When things start to look up and calm down, it is far too easy to self-sabotage and go back to the comfort of the rubble because at first, happiness is uncomfortable. Time and time again, I found myself holding onto the past, unable to accept things for what they are. Even though it was torture, I didn’t know what to think if I was overanalyzing. Finding the courage to be my best friend instead of my own worst enemy is harder than one might think. I like being my own worst enemy because it’s what I know. Staying strong even when the unknown becomes overwhelming, or the temptation to self-sabotage builds up, is one of the most important conscious decisions I’ve made. In time, the new becomes the old and the unfamiliar the familiar; the hardest part is waiting that out, but with patience, it does happen. “ You think you look strong because you can hold on, but strength lies in letting go.” — Alan Mandell 2) The want to be right. When we are given a new fact that is conflicting to one we already have, it leads to a feeling of mental discomfort called cognitive dissonance. To remove this feeling, we have one of two options; either change our belief to match the new fact, or alter the fact so it no longer proves our belief system wrong. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a core belief I’m worthless, unlovable and a burden to those around me. When those around me did something to prove me wrong, I dismissed it or twisted it until it proved my self-hatred right. Selective attention meant I dismissed kindness and grasped on to the smallest amount of doubt or exasperation. It was a constant test with no right answer. Despite it keeping me miserable, I wanted to continue believing my core beliefs, so refused to accept evidence to the contrary. It also meant I had a tendency to create self-fulfilling prophecies. The pressure it might come crashing down meant I made it. I believed I was a burden and everyone would leave me, so I created situations where I was a burden and in the end, most people couldn’t cope and had to leave. I took these as signs I was uncared for or unloved, when in reality they simply felt they helped all they could and were looking out for their own well-being. To truly maintain recovery, I’ve realized the importance in changing my core beliefs, allowing myself to be proved wrong, especially by myself. Only when I am able and willing to see the worth in myself will I be able to see I am worth something to others. Only when I begin to like myself will I actually want to help myself – and the first step towards doing that is to let myself be proven wrong. 3) Giving the control to others and avoiding responsibility. One of the lines that stuck with me from the hospital was, “You suffer because you’re not prepared to go through the pain.” I knew all there was to know about how to improve — I can recite the unhealthy thinking patterns, the strategies to deal with distress and how to problem solve, without blinking an eye — but I never properly tried to use them. It was painful, it was uncomfortable and it was hard. Despite saying I wanted to help myself, I truly didn’t. I talked the talk, but I didn’t walk the walk, which is the only part that matters. I was in the habit of passing on the responsibility of my actions to whoever was “in charge” of my emotions. When someone hurt me, I blamed them for the consequences. I didn’t realize I was the one in control of myself; that behavior and emotions were two different constructs. No one was in charge of what happened to me, no one could dictate what I did or how I felt – except for me. Realizing that was the hardest and most freeing thing I’ve ever discovered. To take the responsibility of myself on board for the first time in 20 years was intimidating, but it meant I could fix myself. It was no longer in the power of others. It’s clichéd but it’s true that happiness and contentment come from within. Nothing external can affect them – they’re just excuses. There’s a saying: “Life will keep giving you the same test over and over again until you pass it.” I feel guilty for the mistakes I’ve made but I’ve learned the more guilt you hold onto, the more likely you are to repeat the mistakes. I did what I could with what I knew, and now I know better, hopefully I can do better. Taking responsibility for myself whilst being open to the help of others, and the idea I may be wrong, means I’m more perceptible to moving forward, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Alexandr Ivanov

Cara Wood

When Depression Actually Makes You Feel Safe

“I’m your friend,” Depression said to me one day. “I’m comfortable,” Depression said. “I’m a place you can fall into when you’re overwhelmed with fatigue. Why the constant battle against me? Lean into my embrace, and soon nothing else will matter.” “I protect you,” Depression cajoled. “That rejection you fear so much — that pain — you will never have to deal with it when you come close to me. I hold your best interests; I don’t want you to be hurt.” “Shut them out!” Depression commanded. “They will let you down. Your friends are human, after all. I am the only one who will stay with you. I am the only one who will understand. I am the only one who will never question you. No one else must have a hold over your heart. I am your jealous mistress; no one else may have you.” “I’m you,” Depression declared. “I am an integral part of your identity. Without me you don’t know who you are. Without me it feels uncomfortable; without me you feel naked. I think you won’t admit it to yourself, but you like being around me. I’m safe.” “I can help you cope,” Depression wheedled. “A little bit of pain here, and soon you’ll forget about your emotional woes,” she promised. “There, you feel better now. See?” “You’re good for nothing,” Depression murmured. “You deserved that pain you inflicted on yourself. No! I said to shut them out! Shut your friends out. They can’t help you. They’ll only judge you. Stay… with me.” “You’re good for nothing. Nothing! And you know I’m right,” Depression said relentlessly. “You’re a bad friend. You’re a bad partner. You’re a bad daughter. No one can stand you. You don’t even like yourself,” Depression cackled. “You’re good for nothing.” “Listen to me,” Depression commanded. “You’re inflicting pain on everyone you love. You can see it in their eyes. No, listen to me!” she snapped. “You don’t deserve their care. You don’t deserve their friendship. You don’t deserve their love. You’re good for nothing. No! Stop fighting. I have power over you.” “You don’t deserve this life,” Depression mused. “Can you justify your existence? Can you justify the time, money, food, water, and oxygen you take up? You’re good for nothing. You know I’m right: you’re telling yourself that more often than I’m telling you.” “I can promise you an end to this torment,” Depression smiled at me. “It will end soon. Trust me.” *** “I don’t trust these doctors,” Depression muttered. “I don’t trust these counselors. I don’t trust their medication.” “Stop fighting,” Depression pleaded. “Stop fighting me. I’m your friend.” “You’re shutting me out,” Depression protested. “Please… don’t shut me out!” *** “You used to listen to me,” Depression lamented. “We used to be friends.” “I’ll be back… you know I will,” Depression whispered. “I’ll be here for you. I’ll always be here for you.” If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Adkasai

Cara Wood

When Depression Actually Makes You Feel Safe

“I’m your friend,” Depression said to me one day. “I’m comfortable,” Depression said. “I’m a place you can fall into when you’re overwhelmed with fatigue. Why the constant battle against me? Lean into my embrace, and soon nothing else will matter.” “I protect you,” Depression cajoled. “That rejection you fear so much — that pain — you will never have to deal with it when you come close to me. I hold your best interests; I don’t want you to be hurt.” “Shut them out!” Depression commanded. “They will let you down. Your friends are human, after all. I am the only one who will stay with you. I am the only one who will understand. I am the only one who will never question you. No one else must have a hold over your heart. I am your jealous mistress; no one else may have you.” “I’m you,” Depression declared. “I am an integral part of your identity. Without me you don’t know who you are. Without me it feels uncomfortable; without me you feel naked. I think you won’t admit it to yourself, but you like being around me. I’m safe.” “I can help you cope,” Depression wheedled. “A little bit of pain here, and soon you’ll forget about your emotional woes,” she promised. “There, you feel better now. See?” “You’re good for nothing,” Depression murmured. “You deserved that pain you inflicted on yourself. No! I said to shut them out! Shut your friends out. They can’t help you. They’ll only judge you. Stay… with me.” “You’re good for nothing. Nothing! And you know I’m right,” Depression said relentlessly. “You’re a bad friend. You’re a bad partner. You’re a bad daughter. No one can stand you. You don’t even like yourself,” Depression cackled. “You’re good for nothing.” “Listen to me,” Depression commanded. “You’re inflicting pain on everyone you love. You can see it in their eyes. No, listen to me!” she snapped. “You don’t deserve their care. You don’t deserve their friendship. You don’t deserve their love. You’re good for nothing. No! Stop fighting. I have power over you.” “You don’t deserve this life,” Depression mused. “Can you justify your existence? Can you justify the time, money, food, water, and oxygen you take up? You’re good for nothing. You know I’m right: you’re telling yourself that more often than I’m telling you.” “I can promise you an end to this torment,” Depression smiled at me. “It will end soon. Trust me.” *** “I don’t trust these doctors,” Depression muttered. “I don’t trust these counselors. I don’t trust their medication.” “Stop fighting,” Depression pleaded. “Stop fighting me. I’m your friend.” “You’re shutting me out,” Depression protested. “Please… don’t shut me out!” *** “You used to listen to me,” Depression lamented. “We used to be friends.” “I’ll be back… you know I will,” Depression whispered. “I’ll be here for you. I’ll always be here for you.” If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Adkasai

Cara Wood

When Depression Actually Makes You Feel Safe

“I’m your friend,” Depression said to me one day. “I’m comfortable,” Depression said. “I’m a place you can fall into when you’re overwhelmed with fatigue. Why the constant battle against me? Lean into my embrace, and soon nothing else will matter.” “I protect you,” Depression cajoled. “That rejection you fear so much — that pain — you will never have to deal with it when you come close to me. I hold your best interests; I don’t want you to be hurt.” “Shut them out!” Depression commanded. “They will let you down. Your friends are human, after all. I am the only one who will stay with you. I am the only one who will understand. I am the only one who will never question you. No one else must have a hold over your heart. I am your jealous mistress; no one else may have you.” “I’m you,” Depression declared. “I am an integral part of your identity. Without me you don’t know who you are. Without me it feels uncomfortable; without me you feel naked. I think you won’t admit it to yourself, but you like being around me. I’m safe.” “I can help you cope,” Depression wheedled. “A little bit of pain here, and soon you’ll forget about your emotional woes,” she promised. “There, you feel better now. See?” “You’re good for nothing,” Depression murmured. “You deserved that pain you inflicted on yourself. No! I said to shut them out! Shut your friends out. They can’t help you. They’ll only judge you. Stay… with me.” “You’re good for nothing. Nothing! And you know I’m right,” Depression said relentlessly. “You’re a bad friend. You’re a bad partner. You’re a bad daughter. No one can stand you. You don’t even like yourself,” Depression cackled. “You’re good for nothing.” “Listen to me,” Depression commanded. “You’re inflicting pain on everyone you love. You can see it in their eyes. No, listen to me!” she snapped. “You don’t deserve their care. You don’t deserve their friendship. You don’t deserve their love. You’re good for nothing. No! Stop fighting. I have power over you.” “You don’t deserve this life,” Depression mused. “Can you justify your existence? Can you justify the time, money, food, water, and oxygen you take up? You’re good for nothing. You know I’m right: you’re telling yourself that more often than I’m telling you.” “I can promise you an end to this torment,” Depression smiled at me. “It will end soon. Trust me.” *** “I don’t trust these doctors,” Depression muttered. “I don’t trust these counselors. I don’t trust their medication.” “Stop fighting,” Depression pleaded. “Stop fighting me. I’m your friend.” “You’re shutting me out,” Depression protested. “Please… don’t shut me out!” *** “You used to listen to me,” Depression lamented. “We used to be friends.” “I’ll be back… you know I will,” Depression whispered. “I’ll be here for you. I’ll always be here for you.” If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Adkasai