It has been an eventful few months. I have had to face the music with a few different challenging situations in my life, and the amount of work that it has taken to get to where I am today has been damn near insurmountable. That being said, I am by no means out of the woods yet, or even near the halfway point of this journey. My heart, my mind, my body and my soul have all been in what seems to be a constant battle not only with each other, but also with an all-too-familiar feeling. It is a feeling that I could never truly define for nearly half of my life. The feeling defines my true self: the girl who hides behind the smile, behind the laughter, behind the makeup, behind the hair. What is behind this unshakable feeling? It is the cloud that ruins a perfectly sunny day; the sneeze that triggers an avalanche. It is the bird that defecated on a freshly waxed car; the raindrop that yields to a damned tsunami. The culprit behind this unshakable feeling is an all-consuming, regretfully familiar acquaintance of mine; Major Depressive Disorder.
In the midst of my most recent binge-pinning sessions on Pinterest.com, I came across a pin that caught my attention. It was nothing more than a hand drawn semicolon, but the message alongside of it took that one small symbol and redefined it. The message: “Your story isn’t over yet.” Something so simple, yet it spoke volumes. For me, as I sat with my phone cradled in my hand, I found myself in the midst of a defining moment in my life; the moment that I chose to move on from depression and chase my dreams again.
Every single day is a struggle, but I’m trying to hold on to the hope that after surviving the battle day in and day out, I will eventually win the war against depression and relearn what it means to love my life and experience happiness. Therapy helps. Medication helps. Having a confidante when I’m ashamed helps. Having support when I’m vocal, helps.
I know there is such a stigma surrounding this topic and I truly wish there wasn’t. Perhaps if more people were more accepting or more open to starting the discussion, than fewer of the people who are hurting would shy away from seeking treatment. Society needs to start seeing this for what the medical community knows it truly is- a disease. Just like hypertension or diabetes, depression is a disease caused by a combination of environmental and biochemical factors. It’s not something that anyone chooses; it is an illness.
Yet, those who are hurting somehow feel dirty, ashamed, or pathetic when admitting it when with a physician or with their own families. I was one of those people. I remember the first time I dealt with the flood of feelings that derail and overwhelm you until you lose the ability to function. Those soul-crushing and all-consuming feelings of pain, worthlessness, sadness, hopelessness, tiredness, and anxiety. I was age fourteen and had just learned of the death of another young person- a life cut short by his own hand, because his parents disapproved of his sexual orientation. We were not friends, and if not for a few fleeting moments wherein our eyes met in the halls of our high school, we may have never met at all. However, for whatever reason, that event to me was as a spark is to a flame. All at once, it ignited all of the emotional hurt that I had buried deep within myself. Hurt from a broken family life, hurt from the loneliness that accompanies being a social outsider or the “different” girl, and hurt from coping with being treated or looked at differently because of the color of my skin. Finally the day came when I mustered the courage to ask for help. However, instead of receiving the response I had hoped for, I was only told that I was “too smart to kill myself.”
It was not at all the bent-ear that I had hoped for, and the experience as a whole caused me to draw further into myself, submerging as many feelings and emotions as I could deep down into my pool of darkness. When I was angry or anxious, some feelings would escape, and I endured the random angry outbursts, quickly sweeping up my hurt and stuffing it back down into the pit of my soul where it belonged after it was done. My best kept secret, was my secret pain. I prided myself on looking better than I felt, no matter what. I poured myself into other people, sometimes, to a fault. But as the years went on, playing the part- the happy, successful daughter, the loyal friend, the ambitious student, all became too much to handle. Slowly, like a sweater snagged on a tree limb, I unraveled, and once at the end of the string, no amount of effort could mask nor misread the heaping pile of lint that my life had become.
Ten years ago, I found the courage to ask for help. It would be another ten years before I finally found that courage again. And so here we are in the present day. Presently, I am participating in psychotherapy. It has been the best and the worst experience of my life, all-in-one. I have found admitting weakness and letting someone into a part of my life that I’ve blocked off for so many years to be incredibly difficult. On some level, I had had a certain level of pride about myself and my ability to stay strong and not admit that I had any faults, let alone the temptation to end my life. I have now come to know a new kind of strength; the ability to truly wear my heart on my sleeve and love myself as I am. I am nowhere near the end of my treatment process. There are still moments or days or even weeks when I feel consumed with unwarranted anguish. On those days, I do not always succeed in trying out the latest coping mechanism the therapist recommended, or at least putting on a brave face and look better than I feel. Sometimes I fail. But I am trying. These days, I try to look at every new day as a victory, even when I spend half of it on the floor crying, because at least by the end of it all, at some point, I stand up. Having someone objective that I can confide in and talk to and trust, gives me such a comforting sense of hope for the future. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am grateful for the chance to redeem myself. More than anything, I am hopeful that at the end of my journey, I will be able to look back on the life I leave behind and be proud of the challenges that I’ve overcome.
My story isn’t over yet.
It would be irresponsible of me to talk on this topic without offering anything more than my own sob-story. If you or someone you know is battling suicidal depression, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your doctor and ask for the help that you deserve. I have assembled a few links to websites that can be helpful for anyone looking to learn more about this disease and available treatment options:
I hope that these resources will prove to be helpful to you or to one that you love. If you have any other resources that you have found helpful, please feel free to post the link in the comments. I am always looking for new information about this disease as I venture down this road, so please do share!
Until next time,