“As much as I wind my mind back in time I’m unable to locate the start of a downward spiral. And every well-meaning therapeutic discussion I’ve attempted to dredge childhood trauma proves futile and guilt-inducing. I’ve never been subject to anything awful enough to warrant this mind-swallowing badness. I have a supportive, loving family, had a happy childhood. I’m a very fortunate person. Only problem is, I hate myself and want to die.” – Anna Mehler-Paperny
I’d like to say that I identify with Anna, but I know that my depression is nowhere near as severe as hers. I’ve had stretches in my younger days where I no longer wanted to be alive, but I never once thought about killing myself. Mine was more in line with Allie Broch’s (Hyperbole & A Half) depression comic. However, in 2017, I was able to finally meet with a psychiatrist who was able to help me a great deal in getting me off of one medication and onto another, at the same time monitoring my process and asking me the important questions I needed.
In Help Me I Want To Die Please Fix Me, Anna details her suicide attempts in 2011 and 2015 and the shitshow she went through to try and find treatment that would help her to lead a “normal” life. Through dozens of interviews with professionals in the field of mental illness – as well as her own experience – Mehler-Paperny paints a picture of the mental minefield of depression analysis.
Through the years, Anna was subjected to rounds and rounds of various medications (the first of which was Escitalopram, which is what I take) in an effort to find what combination truly works. She breaks down and discusses what each one is meant to do and the science behind them. Just like the rest of the book, Anna does this in a conversational way, so the constant barrage of medical terms and jargon does not come across drier than kindling. This greatly helped to make this such an accessible read for a wider audience (me included). I’m sure her journalistic background went a long way in establishing the tone of the book.
The book also takes a hard look at the mental health system in place in Canada. She discusses lack of health-care for those who had admitted suicide attempts in the past, experimental treatments and public awareness campaigns by big companies. The most difficult moments in the book involve shining a light on the treatment of people of color and those in first nations communities. The suicide crisis among indigenous youth is especially troubling given that they receive very little – if any – assistance from the federal government. The politics between governments on a provincial and federal level when it comes to funding comes across as petty in the face of bodies dropping like flies due to anything from drug addiction to death-pacts amongst teenagers. It is absolutely disheartening.
I think this is an important book and I’m glad Anna wrote it the way she did. Hell I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a raw, unflinching look at the harrowing nature of mental illness and why it is often misunderstood by those lucky enough to not be afflicted by its debilitating process.