In the Bones
It’s like lying under a pile of rubble, understanding and feeling how heavy the boulders are but also knowing how damaged you’re going to be once you get out so you’d rather just lay there. It’s like walking outside but only bringing one sweater because you know you’re going to be cold regardless of how many layers you wear. You accept that the coldness is in your blood, running through every vein, artery, bone, all the way to the very core of your soul. Seeing the beauty in everything but knowing it’s only temporary so you don’t allow yourself to get attached to anything. When it’s bright and sunny out but the first thing that crosses your mind is to find shade because that’s where you take refuge in fear of getting burnt.
Sitting there in my school uniform as my feet hung off of the bed, I answer her questions as honestly as I possibly could without saying too much that would win me a free trip to the hospital with a handful of Zoloft. I didn’t quite understand why she was asking the questions she was, but I answer like any little girl would. Just over 30 minutes, the case was closed and the jury had to come to a verdict – sentenced to life. She scribbles some notes onto a small piece of paper with her autograph at the bottom. I look up from the ground and directly into the eyes of my father that were now swelling up with tears. It was like watching your favourite super hero as a kid, drop to their knees in defeat, except this time it was real. It was also the first time I was able to physically feel my worth diminish as guilt took over, although I don’t know why. All I could think about was how I have to get to science class. She hands my dad the piece of paper that defined me entirely and we silently made our way out of the building and back to school.
I was 14 when the word was first used to describe these constant thoughts that flowed through my body and to my brain like the blood in my veins. I had just entered high school and suddenly my whole life was set in stone because of one person. I had barely gotten my period and already was being told to pop 3 pills a day just to feel happy – or stable at the least. As I tried to understand my mind after that fuzzy day, my daily routine began with my teachers telling me about how my grade 9 courses actually mattered (because learning to colour in the map of Canada is a requirement for any possible future career) and ended with my sister informing me about how there are more negative side effects than good to these pills. This tiny little orange bottle contained either my complete happiness or my self-inflicted death – it was very hit or miss – and at the age 14, that was a decision I was not ready to make. Talk about teen angst.
As word got out to various friends and family members, every conversation began with either a lot of piteous head tilts followed by words spoken to me as if I didn’t understand English or smug eye rolls followed by, “It’s just your teenage hormones. You’ll be fine.” I don’t know which was worse, knowing that this thing was inside of me and growing at a terrifying pace or thinking that it was all made up. Well I am here to reassure you that it is indeed alive and well and still enveloping every thought in my mind. Some days I feel at home with it, some in prison, and others I feel like it’s made up completely by some twisted part of my mind. At the ripe age of almost 19, I still don’t know which is worse.
Maybe this thing is genetically rooted from my mother’s personal tango with it as well as being married for several years to a man who suffered from schizophrenia. Maybe it’s from years of being ridiculed and tormented by classmates and older siblings on a regular basis growing up. Maybe it’s from standing by and watching live as my brother used and abused drugs for years. Maybe it’s all of the above and more. I don’t exactly know the how, what or why of it, I just know it exists and that alone scares me enough put me into an early grave, or worse, a hospital – because the only thing worse than being a dead dead person is being a living one.
Mental illness is not something that should not be glorified nor be taken lightly. It is a very real thing that many people suffer from. Why is that we show sympathy towards people who experience the pain of having problems with any other organ(s), but scoff at the brain? You wouldn’t tell someone with problems with their lungs to “just breathe”, so why do we tell people with depression to “just get over it” ? Mental health, like any other health issue involving an organ, is a chemical imbalance that the individual has no physical control over. A person doesn’t choose to have schizophrenia, a heart condition, depression, anxiety and so on. Yes, there are specific ways to balance out the chemicals for each individual illness, however, alienating these people because of something they have little to no control over does not help them. If you wouldn’t shun a diabetic, then you have no reason to do the same to a person who suffers from depression. Before you point fingers and mock, educate yourself. Don’t let ignorance be your justification.
Depression is just a mere glimpse of my life. It does not define me as a whole and it is not okay to categorize me simply as a depressed girl. I am a human being before I am my illness. There are no limitations to depression, no requirements, no qualifications: there just is.
The Other Side
My feet dangle approximately 93 feet above a bed of lucky green trees that are in full bloom. I focus on listening to the sound of the birds in the sky as I look down and share the same view. The sun is kissing my skin as the warm breeze hugs me. I think about how rare it is to find something that moulds your resting face into a gentle smile without really realizing it. I smile even bigger. A perfect array of clouds form just before me and showers everything in sight, including me. As I watch nature run its course, I feel overjoyed that I am present to participate in real time. The clouds begin to pass, as expected, and the sun emerges through, like the opening of a theatrical play. Another day has come and gone and I am still alive. I continue to stare into the bright rays of the sun. I embrace being alone.
My feet dangle approximately 93 feet above a bed of jealous green trees that are in full bloom and will begin to decay next month. I can’t focus over the sound of the preying birds in the sky as they look down for something to devour. The sun is burning my skin as the wind eagerly nudges me closer to the edge. I think about how rare it is to find something that’s worth smiling about anymore. I frown even more. A miserable array of clouds form just before me and spit on everything in sight, including me. As I watch nature run its course, I feel regretful that I didn’t just stay at home and look at a picture of it on Instagram. The clouds begin to pass but it doesn’t matter because I’m still soaking wet. The sun still bothers me and I can’t wait for another cloud to come by and cover the sunshine. I continue to stare into the bright screen of my phone, as it displays 0 new messages. I hate being alone.
One Life by Josh Busuttil
My life has flashed by my eyes when I almost took my own soul
I have beaten myself up for things I cannot control
How can I restore the pieces of my mind that are torn?
I will rise when I fall to the ground
I have been through it all from the dark into light
The echoes that I yell from the bottom of my spirit have turned into sceams
I will never pull the blade on myself anymore with the faith in me restored
This is all I have with the courage and strength on my side have
I will scorch my identity no more with all us having One Life
A Poem by Josh Busuttil
I come to the library
I walk up the stairs to the second floor
I come to a place called Nexus
I ask a friend to come along
They ask what is Nexus?
I say Nexus is a place of comfort, it's where you can be yourself
Nexus is a place that will make you feel at peace
Nexus is where you want to go
Nexus is a place where you can play games, have fun, and make new friends
Nexus is for you
Nexus is with you
Nexus is what I describe as a second family
Come to the Nexus Youth Centre
It is one place, but it is a unique place
Imagine if you will,
It’s the year Nelson Mandela rejects freedom from prison, the same year interracial marriage is no longer outlawed in South Africa, the same year Tetris is released to the general public. Something else of equally monumental proportion was happening,
Nexus was born.
Today marks another great day in history, March 21st 2013, the day the entire scheme changes.
We're no long the dull green you're so accustomed to. Now we're vibrant red and passionate blue that practically screams "I'm here to stay!" This momentous occasion isn't just the change of our look, it’s a cornerstone of our existence.
The new brand being a symbol of what could happen when youth and staff come together and work as equals to better a place they all equally care about. I'd love to tell you it was easy…
I'd love to tell you that the road wasn't rocky and the climb was a piece of a combination of flour, eggs, milk, sugar, baked at 350° for about 30-40 minutes then framed with a coat of delicious icing, that is to say cake, but I'd be lying,
I will tell you it was worth it.
Seeing it all come together like this is more satisfying than words could express.
We are Nexus changing the lives of everyone that walks through our doors.
Giving youth a platform to stand on. Pushing them forward like an older sibling would.
Ready to listen whenever they're looking to talk.
And even just be their friend if that's what it entails.
Because we believe that who they aspire to be isn't out of reach, it’s just on one of the higher branches.
So we never want them to be afraid to stand on Nexus' shoulders.
As you've probably realized that this space is alive.
It’s breath of life being the youth and staff alike that surge through its doors excited to be here.
And it’s ready to greet anybody that crosses its threshold,
Not with eyes swimming with judgment that the world is so accustomed to giving,
But with a smile that says:
"Welcome. Please stay as long as you like".
And when they're leaving, "Thank you for coming I hope to see you again soon."
Cause Nexus is like the older brother that doesn't mind you hanging out with him and his friends, matter of fact he encourages it.
He always wants to see you, see you happy, but won't shy away if you aren't.
He'll sit you down, make you a cup of piping hot chocolate and talk it out with you.
Cause you see our brand’s changed,
But our values our beliefs and our mission are exactly the same.
Welcome to the new and improved Nexus
Where we work For you. With you.
C.J. Eboh. Spoken Word performance at the launch of Nexus Youth Services' new brand, March 21, 2013.
Engage MeWe gather, not so different from a storm but our power is blinding and we’re a force to be reckoned with,
That is if we can make it past the drama,
We might not be fully developed as people, But demand to be treated like a person,
We are youth, and what’s a youth centre with youth…
Just a centre, a space waiting to be filled while we lose what’s left of our chance,
We lose the belief that we aren’t all bad,
But we’re not looking for babysitters to tell us what we need,
We get enough of that at home…
And at school and everywhere else for that matter,
We have ideas too, we want our community to be better too,
But we’re not gonna be part of the band wagon,
Nor are we going to be used as eye candy,
The age where the young should be seen and not heard of is over,
And now I want to get my hands dirty,
I wanna be involved as well as reap the benefits,
But don’t just include me… Engage me.