On July 27th of this year, I had the biggest breakdown of my life. For the two weeks following, I was completely suicidal. My family was scared. I was scared. I went to work, unable to concentrate on my job but thought instead of the different methods I could utilize to carry out what every cell in my body screamed for.
I hadn't been that close to death in seven years. Even so, I didn't really want to go; I just didn't want to be in pain any longer. It's hard to describe a pain that is caused internally and cannot be seen - not by a blood test, not by an x-ray, maybe a brain scan, but I don't know of any doctors who have actually shown a depressed person what their pain looks like on a chart or film.
Drowning isn't a strong enough analogy for how I was losing myself. Maybe drowning in lava, but without the instantaneous death, just the searing, never-ending pain filling my chest and my throat and my head. Then suddenly I was out of the lava but back in the deep end of the ocean, my soul and mind charred and fragile but heavy as a planet. I learned early on how to hide my disease, so the masks went back up and off I went to work, my brittle self flaking away with every breath and no one noticing except those who already knew.
Then on August 11th I woke up, and the second my eyes opened, I felt different. I don't know what it was. My brain has had a mind of its own - quite literally making me feel how it wants me to feel - since I was ten. Since I'd been prescribed my latest medication, I never missed a pill, and I hadn't missed any of the previous prescription either, but that hadn't stopped the disease and the stress of my life from eating away at me. But despite this, that particular Monday dawned a little brighter than the fourteen days preceding it, so I clung to that and didn't let go.
A couple weeks ago my doctor suggested I try a new medication. I shrugged and agreed because it couldn't hurt. That bit of hope I'd grasped was nearly gone, and I didn't want to go back to those suicidal two weeks. In the past, a new medication meant feeling ill and strange for up to a week, then feeling better, a little clearer in the mind, a little less heavy around the shoulders. Eventually though, it also meant relapsing back into my depression, a depression that scored a 20 on the depression scale my doctor uses (meaning severe major depression).
Eleven days ago I began taking a daily half dose of this new medicine. The initial weirdness was strong in those first three days, but by day four, I didn't feel like myself - the self that has been severely depressed for a decade. But now it's day eleven, and my improvement has been incredible. Yesterday I had a follow-up with my doctor and instead of scoring a 20 on the depression scale, I scored a mere 2.
I relate all this because I survived my disease this summer. I'm not done fighting it, but by grasping at whatever little bit of hope I could and getting help from those that loved me and from others that wanted to help me, I've made it to a place I never, ever thought I would be. I'm still cautious about the new medicine, but people around me already see the difference, and I feel the difference, so I'm staying this course for as long as it works.
I know most people who have never struggled with depression and anxiety find it hard to believe that something so invisible can be so devastating. For those of us who struggle with it, we know what it is like to be exhausted by having to take a shower or having to answer the phone. Our work suffers, our relationships suffer, people call us lazy and pathetic, we're told we don't have a real disease like cancer, or that depression isn't really a mental illness but just a phase.
And we can't prove them wrong if we aren't around to do so. I am done being quiet about what I have been through. In places like Twitter and here on this blog, I've felt that I can be more open about it, but on sites like Facebook where my internet life and my physical life intersect, I've said very little. But no more silence or veiled posts. I've always liked the mantra "Fake It til You Make It", but for those of us with depression, we are usually only able to "Fake It til We Break It," the "it" being ourselves. No more faking it.
I have severe major depression.
I have recently been suicidal.
I have smiled at you when I wanted to cry.
I have laughed with you when I wanted to die.
I have said, "I'm great," when I really meant "I'm in hell."
I am now on medication.
I am doing better.
I refuse to let it kill me.
Please don't let it kill you or anyone you know.
I have been acquainted with people who have committed suicide, and if one thing kept me alive while I was suicidal, it was knowing that the relief of my pain by suicide would be the cause of so much pain for those I left behind. You don't always know what you mean to the people in your life or how many hearts you will break by your decision. So go ahead and believe me when I say it will be more than you think.
You and your story matter, and I truly believe the motto for TWLOHA's 2014 NSPW campaign: No One Else Can Play Your Part. If you are struggling, talk to someone. Anyone. Let it out and then get help. During my breakdown in July, the only thing keeping me from breaking apart and tearing the whole house down with me was the fact that I had my husband holding me so tightly that I could do nothing but breathe. Sometimes it takes that; sometimes it only takes a listening ear.
All of us, those with depression and those with the luxury of never experiencing it, can do something to prevent suicide. Spread the word. Be the listener. Ask for help. Hold somebody's hand. We all matter.
If you would like more information on depression and suicide prevention, please follow the links below, and please share. Whether you think you do or not, you know someone struggling with this. Show them that you are on their side.
an interactive (non)fiction about living with depression