On Joey de Leon and Depression

I remember the first time I ever felt depressed. I had just arrived in school and I saw how everyone was busy walking around, going to their classrooms, talking to their friends, getting ready for the flag ceremony, and I just suddenly felt so alone.

It was a cold feeling, like this knife of ice just appeared out of nowhere and cut me off from everyone. I suddenly wondered what was the point of everything, why I had to go to school, why I had to take tests, why I even had to wake up in the morning then keep doing the same things again and again every day, and I saw a glimpse of an empty future that was as meaningless as my present and I just didn't understand why I had to go through any of it.

I was 11 years old.

Of course, I didn't know then that I was depressed. I just thought I was sad for no reason at all, and it made me feel guilty and anxious. Why was I sad when I had nothing to be sad about? What was wrong with me that I just couldn't be happy? I didn't understand any of it, so I got sadder, then I got angry that I was sad, and I hated other people for not feeling the same way.

Then I tried to kill myself when I was 12.

It was a very lame suicide attempt. We didn't have Internet access back then, so I looked up stuff in encyclopedias and my uncle's medical books on how I could kill myself. The brilliant solution I came up with was to swallow as many iron pills as I could because I reasoned that too much of anything is usually bad so maybe the pills would poison me and I'd die. I don't know how many iron pills I took, but I remember I took them with two glasses of water. Once that was done, I went to bed and fell asleep almost instantly.

Then I woke up the next day and I was still sad.

I didn't try to commit suicide again for about two years. When I tried again, I was 14 and everyone in high school knew I was 'troubled'. By 'troubled' they meant I was stubborn, opinionated, impulsive, and short-tempered. And no one still seemed to notice that I was sad all the time.

My second attempt at suicide was a variation of the first. This time, instead of iron pills, I took all the pills I could find in the house---and there were a lot of them because my uncle the doctor left samples everywhere. I think there were about 20 of them, all with exotic names I couldn't pronounce for conditions that seemed to be more treatable than mine. I drank them all then felt sleepy. And I thought that was it. I was finally going to die. And like any high school girl, I was just spiteful enough to wish that everyone would blame themselves for my death.

Obviously, the sleepiness was a false alarm. I woke up at some godawful hour of the night and my stomach felt like it was staging a revolt. I bolted for the bathroom and puked my guts out in the toilet. Then I brushed my teeth and went back to bed. And no one in the house knew that something had happened to me. And I was still sad.

Somehow, I got through high school and went to college. In college, I was no longer 'troubled', which was good, I guess. Instead, I became 'weird'. I was 'weird' because I would cut my arms with a razor blade or a box cutter every time I felt overwhelmed by my feelings. And I felt overwhelmed by my feelings a lot. It felt like the air itself was this heavy, oppressive thing around me and I couldn't breathe properly. So I would cut myself.

People thought I liked the pain of cutting myself. What they couldn't seem to understand was that I wasn't doing it to feel pain. I was cutting myself to feel relief. Because I couldn't handle how intense my feelings could be at times, how sad I could feel, I had to cut myself so I could feel something else.

Before I graduated, I felt so bad that all the cuts couldn't make a difference. So I tried to kill myself again.

I knew that there had to be something wrong with me. I knew that I needed help. But at that point of my life, I didn't know who to ask for help. And there was always this thought at the back of my mind that if no one around me seemed to think that I needed help, then maybe it was all just in my head, that I was just being dramatic. And I didn't want to live like that anymore. I didn't want to live in a world where I mattered so little to people that they thought self-inflicted wounds were things to be ignored even when they could see the blood running down my arms.

So I tried to commit suicide again, and it was yet another variation of my first attempt. This time, I did it more slowly and deliberately. I kept increasing my intake of iron pills day by day because I had read that if enough iron builds up in the bloodstream, it would eventually cause organ failure leading to a coma, then death. It was probably the longest and stupidest suicide attempt ever because I was slowly trying to poison myself. I don't know why I didn't just slit my wrists or grab my father's gun to shoot myself. Well, I actually did get my father's gun one time and aimed it at my head. But I couldn't pull the trigger. Of course, now I understand that I didn't really want to die. It was all still just a cry for help, hoping that someone would finally, finally notice this time.

One night, after weeks of swallowing God knows how many iron pills, I woke up feeling like I was dying. I barely made it to the bathroom before I vomited blood. And I just kept throwing up blood until I couldn't throw up anymore. Once I stopped feeling dizzy, I got up and cleaned up after myself. And, as usual, no one at home had a clue.

This time, though, the aftermath was a bit different. Maybe my brain finally broke, but I thought I finally figured out why I couldn't seem to kill myself properly. I believed it was because I was already dead. I believed I had actually managed to kill myself when I was 14, during my second attempt, and that everything that had happened to me since that time was a punishment. I believed I was in hell.

I thought my punishment was to live a completely unremarkable, meaningless life. I thought this for years. I graduated, I moved away from home, I found work, I made friends, I even fell in love, and all the time, I kept thinking it was all part of this hellish plan to make me suffer from the futility of my existence. I believed that ultimately nothing mattered because I didn't matter. And I was still always so sad.

I don't remember what exactly drove me to finally go see a psychiatrist after years and years of living this way, but I eventually did, and in our very first session, she said something that immediately changed me. She told me it was okay to feel the way I did.

Can you imagine how relieved I felt to finally hear someone say that to me, to hear someone tell me that my feelings were valid and I wasn't just being dramatic? It was like the weight of years dropped off my shoulders and I could breathe again.

I wish I could say that was the end of my story and I felt normal ever after. But I'm still going through this shit every day. The only thing that's different now is I know I'm never going to be 100% okay and that's perfectly all right.

TL;DR - Fuck you if you think depression is just something people make up.