Dear Diary

Darkness to Light // An Introduction

*Trigger warning- this post deals with mental health and self harm*

When people talk about my blog, they always use the same words: bright, colourful, happy, and fun.

And for the most part, they’re absolutely right. I have such a happy, magical, exciting life, and I’m constantly pinching myself in case it’s a dream. But just like everyone else, I also have darkness in my life, and though I generally keep that part of me under wraps, I’ve decided to bring more of myself to light.

I’m going to be sharing more honest thoughts and feelings on social media with the hashtag #RAOPrealtalk, but I thought I’d start off with a proper introduction here. I’ve just decided to begin working on a project that’s very near and dear to me- a partnership with CAMH to help promote their new Darkness to Light fundraiser. Created to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, and to help raise money for awareness and research in the field, Darkness to Light is a one night no-sleeping marathon- a challenge that aims to shine a light on mental illness. From their website:

“Mental illness can take some people to the very edge of darkness. For the most fortunate, family members and friends are at their side, often staying up all night to provide comfort and support—a bright light amidst the chaos and despair.”

Basically you assemble a team, try to raise money for this important cause, and stay up overnight (no matter where you’re located) to show your support. You can throw a pj party, a board game night, go camping, anything really, and in the morning everyone participating all over the world will post a #sunriseselfie. I’ll be up all night with my team (more on my plans later), but if you can’t manage, you can always sponsor a team, or “buy” a night of sleep instead.

It’s obvious why this challenge is important, but why is it so important to me?

So here’s where that honesty part comes in: I’ve personally spent some time in a mental health facility similar to CAMH, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, it saved my life.

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Just like every other teenager, I always felt odd, out of place, and not quite right. As the years passed by I became more sensitive, more controlling, and ultimately more depressed. I felt like no one could possibly understand me, like everyone around me was fake and living life on the surface, and I had nowhere to turn. I started sneaking into my parent’s alcohol cabinet and taking swigs before school, and I stopped wearing shorts to ensure the cutting marks on my thighs were always kept hidden. I felt constantly let down, and like I would never be anything but alone. I even started seeing an expensive therapist, but all she did was sell me her book and suggest my issues were just related to “the plight of being a woman”.

In the end, being the hopeless romantic that I am, it would be a heartbreak that would push me over the edge from self harm to something more permanent. I fell in love with a boy in my final year of high school, and we had an amazing couple of months together hanging around the skatepark, meeting up at the mall, and driving around his neighbourhood in my car with Postal Service blasting on the stereo. The day before high school graduation, he broke it off- I was moving too fast, and what had once enchanted him had suddenly, inexplicably, scared him away. I was left with no date right before what (at the time) felt like one of the most important days of my life, and all of my plans for the future melted down into a sloppy puddle before my eyes. I was absolutely devastated.

I just barely made it through prom- in fact if memory serves correctly I ended up sleeping on the table at the after party between bouts of calling the boy who had broken my heart over and over again. I got home safely, had a good night’s sleep, and the next morning when my parents had left for their biking excursion outside the city, I decided I couldn’t take the pain any more. All the years of struggle, heartbreak and disappointment caught up with me, and suddenly cutting and drinking wasn’t enough. I didn’t think I could physically live with it anymore, so I decided not to. I assembled all of the prescription pills I could find in my house, a bottle of pine sol, and called my best friend at her boarding school to say goodbye.

I don’t want to get too heavy into the details, but needless to say my best friend called her mom who lived nearby, my mom was contacted, and later that day I found myself being checked into the psych ward at a local hospital. At the time it was the single most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me. I was in a room with a woman who constantly told me her ex boyfriend was coming to kill us, and I was taking so much medication that I half believed her. I wasn’t allowed to wear slippers because they might help me run faster if I got away, and as friends and family filtered in to pay me visits, the same look of horror registered on every single person’s face. I can still remember my cousins repeating over and over, “You don’t belong here lyss.” I even missed my final exams, which meant I could not longer attend the creative writing program that I’d been admitted to in Montreal.

I told myself I would pretend to be better, get out, and try again, but without any phone calls this time. I was determined to die.

But a few days in, I experienced a shift. With the help of a team of therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists, I was finally diagnosed with OCD, a disorder that had been pushing me into a pit of depression and anxiety without me knowing it for so many years. Suddenly my need to control my friends, to never set clocks to an uneven number, and my inability to cope with changes in plans or disappointments all started to make sense.

I left the hospital with a proper care plan in place, with a better understanding of myself, and with medication that would help me get to a healthy state. Flash forward a year, and I was attending Journalism school on the opposite side of the country, exploring my sexuality, and learning to cope with OCD. Push forward a few years more, and I was completely off medication, and learning how to use my “illness” as an advantage. Flash forward to now, and you’ll find me living my dream, building a career, and living a life filled with joy and glitter amongst inspiring friends and a whole bunch of cute animals. While OCD had once plagued me, it now helps me be what I am- a hyper curated dreamer with a very specific idea of what I want reality to be. I harness my anxiety into energy that drives me forward faster and better than ever before, and when I feel depressed I try and do something healthy instead of self destructive, like going for a run, taking a bath, or cuddling my pup.

Even now, it’s not all rainbows and confetti. Sometimes I still have lows that I can’t get past, and days where nothing seems to make any sense and I just need to shut down for awhile. I’m extremely awkward in social situations, but I’m trying to get better by forcing myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. I know that exercise, alone time, limited caffeine, and healthy eating make me feel better, so I am prioritizing those aspects of my life. The difference is that now when I struggle, I know what’s going on in my head, and I have that tools to cope with it, and that awareness makes all the difference. Without that team in that psych ward all those years ago, I honestly don’t know where I’d be and what my life would look like, and though I was miserable at the time, I am so thankful I was able to get the help I needed in that moment. That week helped to shape the rest of my life, and that’s why safe spaces with trained professionals are so imperative- to bring those lost in darkness with nowhere else to turn back to the light.

This post was sponsored, but all opinions are my own. To inquire about sponsored posts, please send me an email at alyssa@randomactsofpastel.com

*top image via myself, bottom image via Pinterest

9 comments

  • Dear, dear Alyssa: thank you for this post. I too became mentally ill due to a break-up. I’m doing better but still trying to recover, years later, as my illness is severe. Hearing stories like yours gives me hope that one day I too will be cured. Thanks again <3

  • What a brave post! I definitely know the OCD battle and I can totally relate with seeing it as almost a blessing now. Beautifully written.

  • This is a wonderfully written post and it is truly moving. It gives me hope.

  • You are a brave soul and one I am happy to know. Someone that can turn their life around to inspire others on a daily basis is an angel in my book. You are an angel! I am so glad you are doing well! Thanks for sharing your journey.

  • Thank you so much for this post. It’s nice to know that the people I find inspiring and full of life have dealt with their own darkness. It makes mine seem more universal and hopefully, I’ll find my sparkle soon!

  • Alyssa,

    First of all, thank you for being so honest about your experiences. Mental health needs to be more of a priority in our society, it’s way too important to not be! I have depression and anxiety, so for me too, it’s such a personal issue. It feels like the hardest thing I’ve dealt with, but it’s the most important battle to win, I think. The more we hear about experiences like these, the better! Thanks again for your honesty about this! <3

    PS I'm a Vainer and I really like your work there, and on Jane, and here!

  • Thank you so much for being so open and honest about your experiences, and for promoting this amazing cause. CAMH saved my life when I was struggling with PTSD, so my best friend (who stood by me when things were at their absolute worst) and I are going to participate.

    PS: If you’re also participating, I would love to sponsor you as a thank you for introducing me to it. Feel free to email me the link or your team name at the address I provided above.

  • It’s sad how many suffer in silence, and how easy it is for our inner experiences to cause us to tether on a dangerous edge. I am so happy you chose to share your story, and the project you mention seems like a fantastic idea. 1 in 4 people go through some sort of mental illness in their lifetime, and it is important to raise awareness and to prevent the stigmas of diagnosis. I really enjoy reading your blog and following your aesthetics, and it is inspirational how you can turn something difficult into a positive force.

  • I will never forget that day. The fear, confusion, panic, helplessness and the absolute heartbreaking pain of the psych ward door being shut behind us with you on the other side. I do believe you were saved by the professionals that worked with you that week and sent on the road to recovery. I am very proud of your honesty about your own battles and will support you in this campaign any way I can. I will stay up all night, I will sponsor you, whatever you need.

    Mom

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