Teddy Syrette (Ozhawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman) is a 2-Spirit Anishnaabe queerdo from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation. Their short stories and poems have been published in various blog posts, anthologies and washroom stalls. Teddy currently lives in Toronto, but travels around Ontario and Turtle Island as a storyteller, artists and advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Teddy’s background in social work, theatre and bingo. They enjoy poetry (theirs), pugs (others) and polyamory.
Ahead of their appearance on July 10, Teddy shares a deeply personal essay on living with addiction, depression, and mental health.
Asking for help with addiction can feel shameful and make you question the value of your personhood. Add on the complexity of having ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ and you could feel very insignificant. That is how I feel. Not most times, but many times I feel inadequate. My social media presence can make it seem that on the surface I am, okay. But deep down I’m not. I haven’t been in a while. These feelings haven’t changed since I was a child. As a teenager, I denounced any form of prescribed antidepressants. I didn’t like the way they made feel. Instead of feeling all the feelings all at once, I was left feeling nothing.
Some days I feel nothing. Not the breeze creeping into the room I have sublet, in Toronto’s busy Annex area. I can barely feel the warmth of the sunshine as I sit in the park with a buddy. Everything even tastes bitter. The joy of eating the foods I love and that bring me comfort now taste muted. As a foodie, I should feel more alarmed. But I am not. My brain is coming out of the fog. That’s how it feels. I feel relieved to be out of the darkness that clouds me often. But now I am left with reflecting of my actions and inactions of this recent depressive episode.
This blog is very personal. But mental health and mental illness is personal. Our mental well-being is easier managed by others. Not me. I do my best to cope without a pill. But as someone who has lived with mental illness for almost 18 years, I am becoming open to the idea of more assistance with managing my emotional and mental parts of myself. The one thing that is helpful, is talking to loved ones and friends about how I am feeling. What causes me to be depressed and what helps me clear the fog.
There are folks who don’t understand the daily struggle of living with depression. Some days are better than others. Some days are better, but spent on recovering from the fog. When the good days are really good days, I do my best to spend them doing what I enjoy doing. And not just doing what helps me cope through depressive episodes.
I miss deadlines and don’t respond back to messages. I’m rarely on time and know that I’m not organized. I also don’t ask for help and would rather just crash and burn. That isn’t helpful and I’m aware of it. It is a tug of war, deciding if how I cope is harm reduction or enablism. Substitution of behaviours and avoidance are common themes in my makeup. But if I can account for the misgivings of my actions, why do I continue to make mistakes? Once you acknowledge a cycle of violence or harm, one should do their best to correct or stop it. Sometimes I just watch my situation get worse, like a fire, slowly burning away anything that it touches.
Taking the steps that are needed to get back to feeling worthy is slow and stumbly. Remembering what you do for work and how you get work and how you get to work becomes evident. People waiting to hear back from you are still people. Folks waiting to hear from you are family members, friends, clients and helpers. Don’t take them for granted. They very important people. Ask them for help. Apologize to them. Apologize to yourself and make a plan now, before the fog rolls back in.
Recovery is difficult. But working towards those goals can be so beneficial. They can be life saving. I apologize to those who don’t appreciate this blog. But for those who are also struggling, I feel you. I know how alone and isolating it is when we feel trapped in our mind. Please know that there are others out there who want to help. You just need to want it.
Teddy Syrette visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Jenny Yuen, Terry Favro, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring the topic, “Worlds are Made of People.”