can you hear me over there?

sophia mihailidis

I was sixteen years old when I first attempted to take my own life. I was depressed, anxious, anorexic and lost. I had left high school and spent my days in my bedroom alone, in the dark, refusing to talk to anyone or leave the house. I wasn’t eating or sleeping; I wasn’t functioning. Everything hurt all the time, physically, mentally and emotionally. I was on medication to try and numb the pain. I was turning to alcohol, drugs, self harm. Nothing was working. I had to find a way out.

Writing was the only solace I found. I couldn’t say the things I wanted to say out loud. Mental illness carries a heavy stigma, and people who don’t understand tend to shy away from the conversation. I spent most of my time in the offices of doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, becoming increasingly frustrated by my inability to verbally express what was happening inside me. It was turbulent, aggressive and eating away at me. Depression became the rotting carcass I unwillingly dragged around, weighing me down and exhausting me. The only way I could make sense of how I was feeling was by crafting metaphors and visions out of the pain, chiselling away at it slowly until I had my own gallery of sculptures.

I feel like screaming at my reflection in the mirror. And the other version of me on the other side, in the other dimension, it can fix me. Fix me and give me back.
Shake the mirror, can you hear me over there?
No. You’re just crazy.

Writing was my sanctuary. It was the only time I felt like I was allowed to be vulnerable, honest and raw. I didn’t have to sugar-coat anything. I started keeping a journal at the request of one of my psychologists. The act of writing alone wasn’t enough; I had to create something, a form of art, something to capture the seas inside me as they crashed over the rocks. As my pen glided, the waves within me settled. I had to allow something to fill the hollowness in my gut. I had to untangle the knots in my throat and vomit them on to the page.

Writing was a well-kept secret for many years. It was just for me. It was my therapy, my guiding light and my saving grace. It was the only thing I felt like I could connect to. My second and final suicide attempt was when I was nineteen years old. I was trapped in the bowels of a manipulative, toxic relationship; the metaphoric whale that swallows you whole and keeps you alive in its belly. I’d stopped writing, because there was no light in the belly of the beast.

After ten years of misdiagnosis, regular blood tests, rehab, weekly therapy sessions, missed appointments, on-and-off antidepressants and frequent anxiety attacks, I received a diagnosis: bipolar disorder. This was simultaneously the worst and best thing that happened to me. I had just freed myself from the clutches of abuse and was feeling as lost as I felt found. As the brick of realization sank in my stomach, the weight of uncertainty lifted off my shoulders. I could walk again. And, most importantly, I could write.   

Sharing my work was not something I took lightly. My work was private, used as a tool for me to better understand myself. Following my formal diagnosis I decided to share some of my pieces with my closest friends, to help them better understand the things I couldn’t find the words to express out loud. One thing led to another, and I am now proud to share my work as I embark on my journey to become a mental health advocate.

Writing saved my life. It was a dialogue with myself, when I felt that my spoken anguish would fall on deaf ears. There have been times when I’ve stabbed the page with the pen out of sheer frustration. There have been times when my ink has bled through the page from my tears falling on my words. But these words, these stabbed pages, these blurred ink stains, remain my saving grace. They gave me purpose, comfort and connection. They gave me the life I so fervently craved.