Caution: Triggers Ahead
The most amazing blogger out there, The Bloggess, often reminds her readers (and herself) that depression lies. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that fact, but it’s always true. She’s very brave and is quite open about her own struggles with depression and anxiety.
I too struggle with depression and anxiety. While I’ve found it helps people to talk about it when they ask me, I’ve also found it really challenging to put those experiences in writing. Recently, someone that I knew decided that his only option was to kill himself. As far as I know, he didn’t talk to anyone about it ahead of time. If only he had known that he was surrounded by people that understood exactly what he was going through! We understood, and we had survived. I wish we could have told him, but I can still tell you.
So here goes.
When I was a teenager, I spent a couple of years with my dad and stepmother. My stepmother had a lot of emotional and mental issues that I wasn’t aware of, but even if I had been aware, it probably wouldn’t have helped. Day by day, she tore me down, telling me that I was worthless, that no one would ever love me. At first, I stood strong, but after hearing the same litany every day for two years, I began to believe it. I used my last ounce of emotional strength to move back to my mom’s, and then I was empty.
I wanted to die. I thought I didn’t matter. Most of all, I thought I’d be doing everyone a favor by killing myself. I knew it would hurt my family a bit at first, like taking off a Band-Aid, but in the long run, everyone would be better because of me being gone. I slept with a knife by my bed and would cut myself, but I never went deep.
Those last two years of high school were a struggle to live through. Then college happened, and things got better. I met people that thought the same way I did. I got a social life. Things improved.
The way I envision my normal state of being is like standing on a wide field. At the end of that field is a chasm. It’s dark, it's deep, and it hurts. That’s where I dwelt for my high school career, but I clawed my way back up to the field. Then it was time to move away from my hometown and community college and onward to a place that immediately felt like home. It felt like home, but there was a lot of anxiety in all of the uncertainty. I fell down the chasm again, just a few months before moving, and it was worse this time. Eventually, though, I climbed back out.
Just before graduation, the chasm beckoned. I understood what was happening and went to a therapist, got on Prozac. As my brain readjusted itself, we readjusted the dosage. Things leveled out, much like my field, but I wasn’t yet back there.
I graduated. My roommate stole my identity, didn’t pay the rent, and got us evicted. I no longer had a savings account, no longer had good credit. I began dating an emotionally (and who ended up also being physically) abusive man. I couch surfed for months, living on his couch and others. He tore me down, as did my situation, and things got very, very bleak. I was no longer going to school. I could no longer afford my medication. My therapist was through the college, so I couldn’t see her anymore, and even sliding scale was too much. After two and a half years, I weaned myself off of Prozac, without a doctor’s help, and it almost killed me.
One night when I thought I just couldn’t handle the agony of everything, I put on a red nightgown, filled the bathtub with hot water, and slipped inside with a knife. I went for a major vein, but my knife was very dull, and I realized what I was doing and that I was scared shitless.
That awful night seemed to be the tipping point for my brain’s chemistry. After that, I was again on my golden field, but I could no longer get to the drop. I knew where the chasm was, but I couldn't see it. It’s still there, inside of me, but it’s like there’s an invisible wall that protects me from getting too close. In the end, the medication did what the doctors said it would do – it retrained my brain. But it was a dangerous training.
I still get depressed, just not dangerously so. Anxiety still prevents me from being able to handle large crowds most of the time. I know my triggers and try my best to avoid them, and I no longer dance with Death. In the end, antidepressants saved my life. It was a difficult path to take, and I should have traveled with a therapist for the entire way. Now, though, I know how valuable being alive is. It truly is a gift. There are so many fascinating things just waiting to be discovered, so much beauty just waiting to be seen.
Please don’t give up. Depression lies. Things will get better. To remind myself, I got a tattoo that I found in a library book. The design is in the Book of Kells and represents renewal and rebirth. Two dragons face each other, intertwined by a representation of the tree of life. I look at it and remember that life is sweet, and while it can also be incredibly dark, a new day always dawns, containing experiences that will thrill me, inspire me, make me so glad I’m alive.
Stay alive. There’s so much in the world worth celebrating – especially you.
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