We all have the stories we don't tell.
I've been thinking about this one a lot this week. I told myself that I'd write it down, and then if it wasn't utterly mortifying on the page, I would share it with you.
Utterly mortifying. To this day, that is still how I regard the fact that 4 years ago, I was ready to kill myself.
I've struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time - I can probably remember as far back as 10 years old, even. This isn't a new song. I dealt with it in high school, in college, when I moved to LA - usually periods of a few weeks or a month where I wouldn't be able to get out of bed, or answer the phone without a panic attack. After enough time, I had become adjusted to trudging through quietly until it lifted. Hardly an enjoyable process, but I had school and then a job and my family so it was what it was. I just...managed.
Sometime late in 2012, though, it stopped lifting. Weeks turned into months turned into six months and I just slipped further and further into a cycle of total despair. I left my bed only to go to work, because I was so afraid if I didn't I would prove myself to be more of a failure than I already was. Even there, I was useless. On the weekends, I just didn't leave bed. At all. Every day felt like another reminder that I would always be this broken husk of a person, until I just couldn't handle it anymore. After 7 months of it, I was done.
There's a scene from the movie We Bought A Zoo where Matt Damon's character talks about needing "just 20 seconds of insane courage." It makes me nauseous now, because to be completely frank, that's all I was waiting for. I had spent months staring down the middle of 10-story stairwells and wondering just how to aim so I'd miss the banisters on the way down. Looking up the concentrations of OTC sleep aids to see if they could get the job done. I knew what I needed to do, I knew how I wanted to do it, I just needed my 20 seconds of insane courage.
It's difficult to write that now. Remembering what that felt like ties my stomach in knots. It's not romantic, it's not beautifully tragic, it's absolutely terrifying. It's still the monster under my bed.
Because, see, when you sit in that depression for too long, your ability to rationalize things completely evaporates. Logic twists into something you don't even recognize and you can't control your own thoughts - there was just a constant news ticker in my head declaring "YOU ARE WORTHLESS. YOU SHOULD BE DEAD. YOU DON'T DESERVE THIS." The thoughts of who I'd leave behind - the one thing that always made me swear I'd never leave - couldn't even make a blip on the radar anymore. It felt hollow. It felt like my soul had shut down, like all of the lights had gone off, and there was nothing I could ever do to turn them back on again. I was just born weak, born incapable of handling life on this Earth like everyone else. I did not deserve to live. It was time to go.
I got lucky. One particularly late night at work, I had a panic attack. I ran from the room to try and ride it out in the ladies room, but when I returned unsuccessful, my best friend and co-worker at the time was standing in the doorway. I was so ashamed of being seen like that that another attack slammed into me with twice the force. I shut down, right there in the lobby of our offices, her holding my hand and waiting for me to remember how to breathe again. "I just want to be dead," I coughed out between sobs, and that was it. She never made me ask for help.
She took me to my apartment to pack a bag, and made me stay on her futon that night where she could see me. She picked out a list of doctors I could see, therapists and psychiatrists, and sat behind me while I called them. She was the only one who knew, and she made me talk. Every day. Every time I lost my nerve to show up to therapy, every time I re-realized just how big of a mess I was, every time I begged her just to give up on me because I had to be ruining her life, she just listened and nodded and offered to take me out to pancakes. We ate a lot of pancakes. My rock bottom was basically sponsored by IHOP.
This is why I point out so often, to anyone who will listen, how lucky of a girl I am. Luck saved my life. Because eventually, I got a little better. And then a little more, and a little more after that. I learned how to get a grip on the bad days and found myself with less of them. There's no actual cure for depression - I still have shit days here and there, where I need to disappear into my bed for a day or two, but I survive them just the same.
More importantly, I don't want to die anymore.
But every year, we lose 800,000 people who do. That's one every 14 seconds. People that look like I did, that forced out awful dad jokes at their desk like I did, that hid their certainty that they were too broken for this world and not worth being saved. People who weren't lucky enough to run into a best friend who didn't make them ask in order for them to help.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, which is why I am telling you this story, as really, really uncomfortable as it still is for me. Because prevention begs awareness, awareness begs a conversation, and a conversation begs honesty. We have to be able to talk about it. We have to be brave enough to share even the ugliest of our stories. We have to be able to see past the shame in weakness and understand that there are so many people around us fighting battles we can't see, but may not be that different from our own. Only light can drive out darkness, and it's up to us to open the windows. Lives depend on it.
There's a poem I found a few months after I started treatment by one of my favorite spoken word poets, Sierra DeMulder, that's titled "Today Means Amen." In it, she writes:
Dear you, the word today means amen
in every language. Today, we made it.
I still think about that almost every day.
Today means amen.
Today means I believe.
Today means that just by waking up in the morning, I believe I can make it through one more day. I believe there is still the possibility of change. I believe that I have made it this far, and I will make it to tomorrow.
I wish I could go back to that girl 4 years ago, and shake her by the shoulders. I wish I could tell her that if she just stuck around, she would get to see the Patriots win the greatest Super Bowl in history live in person. She would get to see her baby sister get married. She would have a Bloody Mary in Temecula that would completely change her opinions on Bloody Marys. That there would be moments, sooner than she could imagine, where her heart would want to burst with love and gratitude and joy. I would tell her to find that 20 seconds of insane courage and instead use it to scream, at the top of her lungs, for as long as she can because there ARE people who would hear it. It WOULD matter.
She wouldn't listen to a word of it, though. Like I said, logic gets so twisted it's hard to believe anything other than the lies you're feeding yourself - that news ticker on loop in your head. So then I'd tell her just to go to sleep. To wake up tomorrow. That's all.
Because we do get better. Our weaknesses do make us stronger. And now, when I go to sleep, I know with every fiber of my being that tomorrow is exactly what I was made for.
September 10th-16th is National Suicide Prevention Week, a week dedicated to discussing suicide, mental illness, and how we as a community can help stop suicide in our communities. For more information, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
I love you all.