I’ve been reading depression stories and depression recovery stories and stories about the impact suicide has had on other people’s lives since I had to dial into the world wide web with my mother’s 56k modem. I’ve been battling my own depression for just as long. Some days I thought I was “getting over it”. Others I came home from work and sat in the car too exhausted to even move, wondering if I shouldn’t just end it all.
At my lowest point in college with student loan debt piling up and a C average in a major class, when it was looking like I’d have to borrow another $10,000 and change my major just to graduate a semester behind, I made a dozen suicide plans a day. I took steps to go through with a few of them but hesitated at the last minute. I typed anguished entries in my journal and sobbed until I couldn’t see the screen. I laid in bed and didn’t want to get up, and when I did get up I sat at the computer and wasted the day — not even bothering to change my pajamas — until one day I woke up and felt hungry. I went to the kitchen and made myself breakfast and sat down to tackle the bills and knew that the worst was over.
I don’t talk about those few months. After that things were “better” but rarely great. I cycled up and down. I didn’t make plans with friends because I knew that when the time came I wouldn’t feel like going out. I would get cabin fever and plan a garden in the spring only to be overwhelmed later by the effort of making it through an 8-hour day. I would have a string of late arrivals at work followed by a week or two of perfect punctuality. I would stumble through days on autopilot, angry at everything and everyone, coming to my senses occasionally to realize that I didn’t remember driving the last five miles of road on my way home. And there were rare days when things would go well and I would think “It’s going to be ok. I can do this.”
I kept reading stories, more every year. “Depression is ok to talk about! Mental illness is a problem we need to face!”, they said. I started to believe them and to share the articles and found that my friends liked them. I looked closer and realized a lot of those friends were also posting articles and updates that sounded a lot like mine. We were all “tired”. Many of us were frustrated or angry or just sad. More of us were talking circles around our depression than I would have ever guessed.
A few months ago, with my job performance tanking during the latest episode I admitted to a few others what I was going through. The response was better than I could have hoped: support and love all around. No lightweight inspirational floof, but real true friendship. It felt uplifting, and it was the push I needed.
Last month with the urging of a friend I finally found the courage to schedule an appointment.
Two weeks ago I started therapy and medication for Major Depressive Disorder. One tiny pill is changing my life, one day at a time. A doctor/therapist team are on my side now. Several friends are my safety net. And this is my public declaration: I am going to survive this depression.
It’s not all sunshine yet. I doubt it ever will be, but I already feel better day-to-day than I have in years. There is a winder range of feeling now, a sense that all of the human connection I was missing is suddenly available whenever I want it, and most of all the repetition of “you’re not good enough” is receding to a dull ache in the background. An emotional wound I never thought would heal is finally scabbing over.
I am by turns elated and terrified. What if it keeps working? What if it doesn’t? What if I run out of pills or my insurance coverage runs out or something else happens and I slide right back down that shadowy slope?
But mostly I am alert and alive, and very, very glad.
I am a survivor, like you. And we are not alone. And talking about it can help in a very real way.
Without others who talked about their mental health, I would not have held on this long and finally gotten the help I need.
There is hope.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call 1–800–273–8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.