This Is My Story: Elise Schicker
(Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and The Smoke Signal asked Pascack Valley students that struggled with their mental-health to tell their stories, some of which may contain sensitive content. This is the first article of an eight part series.)
My name is Elise Schicker. I am a student-athlete, high honor roll student, have plenty of friends, go to parties, and have an amazing, supportive family.
I am also depressed, suicidal, and self-harm. That’s one big oxymoron you probably have not heard.
Depression can happen to anyone; It does not matter who you are or where you are from. Your feelings are never invalid.
There were many things that caused my depression. The primary cause was a traumatic event that happened to me fairly recently. After the situation, I rode out some of my trauma through anger, but it did not last. I was shoving my problems down inside.
Eventually, I started to realize and discover the trauma and how it was worse than my prior belief. However, instead of getting help, I ended up hating and blaming myself for what happened. I saw myself as weak and unworthy.
I continued to push my feelings away, unconsciously setting up a “wall” or “barrier” in my mind. In other words, the barrier made it easier for me to be separate from my emotions.
I could not feel happy, sad, or angry. I could not love or hate. Everything felt as if I was in a dream. Looking back on it, I now realize that I was in a depressive state.
I stopped showering, eating, drinking, sleeping, and taking care of myself in general. My grades plummeted. I stopped talking to my friends and family, and everything seemed bleak and boring. And yet, I didn’t care that these things were happening; I just wallowed in them.
Then, I met a guy named Kevin.
Hanging out with him allowed me to associate with myself again. I stopped isolating myself from other people and began to feel better.
We started dating on Sept. 25, 2018, and I could say that these were the happiest times of my life. Unfortunately, this was also an unhealthy coping strategy. A boyfriend or girlfriend is never the answer to depression, trauma, or anything remotely close. A relationship will not make your problems go away, although it can really help to have someone there to support you.
Although, Thanksgiving of 2018 was one of the worst days of my life. The way I felt that day is indescribable. It felt like some part of me was missing. I had a hole inside of me that I could not fill. The darkness I felt that day manifested.
For the first time in my life, I did something I’d believed I was not capable of. I self-harmed. I cut myself many times that day and the days following, but I did not tell anyone. I minimized the situation.
Soon after Thanksgiving, I began getting nightmares. They were reoccurring, typically involved a male stranger torturing, killing, and raping my loved ones or myself.
It took me a long time to get help.
One night as I was doing my homework, I came upon Kayla Barry’s article about her journey through depression. After reading her story, I realized I really needed to get professional help. The same day, I came clean to Kevin about my depression and self-harming. I watched his face change drastically as I continued talking. Seeing how worried he was gave me a sense of how bad my condition really was.
I finally got help.
I left school on Dec. 7, 2018, and was enrolled in a partial hospitalization program. I had four hours of therapy and two hours of school every day. Gradually, I started getting better, but my nightmares were not.
My psychiatrist then prescribed me a medicine called Prazosin. Prazosin is a blood pressure lowering medication that has been found to have side effects of preventing nightmares. Unfortunately, Prazosin did not help my nightmares. Instead, it caused vertigo numbness, disassociation, fatigue, nausea, and worsened my depression. My body did not work well with it.
There was a huge drop in my mental health. I self-harmed severely and became suicidal. One day, in my partial hospitalization program, I told my clinician that I could not contract for safety. In other words, I said that I would not be able to keep myself safe. She sent me to the hospital to be evaluated. At the hospital, the only thing I could think of was ending my life. This was the worst I have ever felt in my life.
I got sent to an inpatient facility — a place with the main priority is to keep its patients safe. At the facility, there were suicidal and homicidal patients. Anything that you could use to hurt yourself or others was taken away from you. There were very strict rules and consequences put into place in order to ensure the safety of all patients. Nearly everything is provided.
I met people from all different situations. I learned there that feelings are never invalid. While at the inpatient facility, I was prescribed Zoloft and Vistaril. Zoloft is an antidepressant and anxiety medication and Vistaril is an anti-anxiety and histamine medication. After being prescribed these medications, I began to feel a lot better.
The medication was there not to cure me, but to help me just enough so that I could deal with my situation.
Today, I still struggle. My experience has left me with mental and physical scars that will stay with me forever. Although I am doing a lot better, I am not close to where I was before. Although I have a long journey ahead of me, I wanted to share my experience. There are so many people in this school who have struggled with similar feelings.
I want to be their voice until they are ready to talk about it. I want to show everyone that it does not matter who you are, what your background is, or how perfect your life may seem.
Depression can happen to anyone.
You are not alone.