I have always fancied myself a bit of a writer, but just thinking about writing this is making my blood run cold and my heart pound faster. This isn’t something I’m open about; this isn’t something I share with most of my friends or my family. This has always been something that I wouldn’t even address within myself. But about ten months ago, I hit the breaking point. I had fallen to pieces plenty of times before, but this was different. I was drunk, alone, sitting in my car in a parking lot and I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew is I was sobbing so hard I could barely breathe. I just wanted everything to stop. I didn’t want to feel anything ever again. I was past desperation and had just settled into extreme hopelessness. My phone buzzed and it was a text from my boyfriend who was hundreds of miles away. It read something about how I was scaring him. I didn’t even know what we had been texting about. My first thought was “what have I done now?”.
Nothing had happened. It had been a perfectly normal day of grabbing some drinks with friends. Nothing catastrophic was going on in my life. All of this was repressed feelings escaping from the place that I had stuffed them down into myself. It’s a cycle – stuff the feelings down, pretend they’re not there, fake having a good time, repeat over and over again until they come up like vomit.
Have a breakdown.
Apologize the next day to whoever was forced to deal with me, then start shoving those feelings away again.
Repeat until those feelings win.
Repeat until you lose.
I couldn’t take it anymore. The next day, I sat down and had a good long look at myself, my actions, and finally allowed myself to believe the cause; I suffer from depression.
It was hard to admit because I’ve never wanted to play into the stereotype of my generation that we’re all diagnosed with something. I had overcome all the shitty things in my past and I didn’t want to be weak enough to be considered ‘broken’. But when you’ve considered throwing yourself off a building, or taking every pill you have more than a handful of times in your life, and it’s consistent but not seemingly derived from a particular event, it’s time to face the facts. Something is wrong. I needed to get better for myself and for the poor people closest to me who I kept putting in the position of having to pull me back from ledges. I watched myself hurting them and it made me feel even more undeserving of their love, which just fueled the cycle more.
Accepting something I have always feared and avoided was like facing a seemingly unending set of stairs. It seemed like a battle with no end.
But then something I didn’t expect happened. I realized, as I was forcing myself to stay looking forward at my challenge, that I was already on the second step. The weird sense of pride I felt was overwhelmingly unexpected. I hadn’t ever considered the courage it took to admit to myself that I needed to address the issues. But once I did, some part of me felt like it could finally rest. It was like I knew, in that moment, that I would be okay because I was finally willing to do anything to stop the cycle. It felt like lacing up my boots and getting ready to start my day.
Don’t get me wrong, the depression is still here today. I still spend whole weekends on my couch praying my phone doesn’t ring and I don’t have to make up a lie about why I can’t go out. But since that day, I have climbed stair after stair, flight after flight, sought medical help, had the hard conversations with those in my life, and made myself constantly aware of how my depression and anxiety are affecting the moment that I’m in. And I am finally able to recognize the things that tear me apart and counter or correct them. I have stopped considering booze medicine and try my damnedest not to let myself drink if I feel a bad head space coming on. I write myself love letters and make lists of things that break my heart and things that make me uncontrollably happy, and I focus on finding balance in everything. I let myself spend the weekend on the couch if I constantly remind myself that it’s just a moment, it will pass, and I will be happier when it does. But I also always prepare myself for the storm to roll back in out of nowhere. Some days I climb the stairs two at a time. Others, I just sit down and wait for the drive to keep going to return to me.
I am not here today because I made one choice not to die, but because I made that same choice hundreds of times. This is not a how-to letter for anyone who struggles with depression or any mental illness. Each and every soul is different and requires different nourishment. This is simply my beginning and a kind of love letter to all of you. This is my encouragement to face your monsters. Face the stairs. Take the first step. And be proud of yourself for the incredible amount of bravery it takes to do so.
I love you all – JaK