The shadow of depression has haunted me for so much of my life. The first time I remember feeling it was shortly after my grandpa died. I was 11. I remember thinking that what I was feeling was so much more than just being sad, but I didn’t have a word for it. I tried to hang myself from my curtain rod. The rod broke, and I fell into a heap, so upset because I couldn’t even kill myself without failing. I don’t believe that I was truly suicidal at that time…I just wanted to see my grandpa again, and I didn’t know how else to make that happen.
That wasn’t the last attempt, unfortunately. I met with a therapist who was AWFUL and actually made me feel worse instead of better. I tried countless amount of meds before I finally found one that worked. I was on that anti-depressant for several years, until it started causing scary side effects. I started getting really bad thoughts that I couldn’t push out of my head… wondering how fast I’d have to drive into a tree to die, wondering if I drove my car off the bend at the parkway if I would die or if I’d make it to the road underneath safely; things that constantly swirled through my head that really started to scare me. I eventually took myself off of the meds and was okay for awhile. One year ago today, my best friend in the entire world, my sweet Oreo, passed away. The depression that I had been struggling to push away for so long became too much. I started self-medicating with alcohol as often as I could, learning to function at work every day despite being hungover or having had no sleep from being up crying all night. I was falling apart. Eventually, I mentioned it to my doctor, who immediately put me on meds. She realized that in addition to depression, I was also suffering from anxiety – something that I had never been diagnosed with before. She put me on a combo of Wellbutrin and Sertraline, and I gradually started feeling better. Slowly I felt myself wanting to get out of bed in the morning (late morning, but morning none the less) instead of sleeping all day my entire day off. I am even slowly starting to deal with my extreme fear of fire – I used my stove to make an omelet. That may not seem like a big deal to many, but it was the first time I’ve gotten the guts to use my stove since I moved in 2 years ago.
Hearing that earlier this week Kate Spade died from suicide, and later this week that a young boy from Greece also committed suicide, my heart just broke for them and their families. It feels more critical than ever to talk openly about mental health. Suicide can seem especially confusing and disorienting when you’re at a young impressionable age. With Kate Spade, so many people would never see that coming – what could someone so rich possibly have going on in their lives that would drive them to that point?
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
― David Foster Wallace
Depression is a disease, not a personality trait. Depression is an ILLNESS. It’s not weakness. It’s not your fault. Should I say that louder for the people in the back? For some reason, mental health still seems so taboo to talk about. Something that I heard a lot when I would mention to someone that I had depression was “Oh, you don’t seem sad”. I couldn’t seem to explain clearly enough that it wasn’t just that I felt sad…I felt empty. I felt alone, no matter how many people were around. When around friends, I always felt like I was invited out because of pity. When someone would cut me off mid-sentence, or when I was talking and it was clear that no one was listening, my mind would practically scream “SEE?! They don’t want you here. No one cares what you have to say. Why do you even bother?” I’m in a much better place now, but those voices still creep back in every now and then. I still can’t help but walk into a room with new people and be convinced that everyone there hates me and doesn’t want me around – even if they have no idea who I even am.
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
Depression isn’t just sadness. Depression is hopelessness. As far as you can see, there is no “getting better”. There is no hope. Your mind will constantly convince you of that. There is a huge difference between someone who says that they are “depressed” because they’re going through a divorce, or got fired from their job, or lost too much money at the casino. Those events can certainly trigger sadness, maybe even hopelessness. However as each passing day goes by, those people start to feel slightly better, until finally, they are back to their normal selves. The divorcee is dating again, the person who got fired finds a job in a field that they’d always wanted to work in, the gambler decides to stop wasting money at the casino and start investing. With depression, you don’t usually have that trigger. There are no feelings behind those experiences…you are empty, you feel like a shell. At least that’s how I felt.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
― Stephen Fry
Talking openly about depression and mental health does help reduce the stigma–little by little. Sadly, the cost of excellent mental health treatment is rarely covered by insurance. The very best practitioners are private-pay, which means that only the very wealthy can afford the best care. How is that fair? Another example of how the world revolves around money, I suppose.
“When you’re surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you’re by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don’t feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.”
― Fiona Apple
People who attempt suicide don’t do it because they want to escape their family, friends or their lives. They do it when their need to escape the excruciating pain and anguish is so extreme, so overwhelming, they can no longer see any other rational options. What makes it even more difficult is that no two people are affected the same way by depression and there is no “one-size-fits-all” for treatment. It may take some trial and error to find the treatment that works best for you. It made me feel so broken when I’d get put on a medication that friends had told me worked wonders for them…and I felt nothing. Or when it was suggested that I try meditation to clear my mind of the negative thoughts, and the exact opposite happened…being left alone to dig through my mind brought out the worst thoughts.
Sending so much love to anyone who needs it today. You are not alone. Things can get better. <3
If you’re suffering, please call 1800-273-8255, and someone will be glad to talk to you. Or text TALK to 741-741, if you prefer texting.