In honor of World Mental Health Day, I feel like it’s important I talk about who I used to be. This is not a stigma or a trend, this is real, and it’s scary to talk about. It’s taken me a while to find the right words. I’ve been writing, deleting, and rewriting this for a long time, so…yeah. Here you go.
Reality will break your heart, survival will not be the hardest part. It’s keeping all your hopes alive. All the rest of you has died, so let it break your heart.
26 // Paramore
I feel like I’m at such a strange point in my life. It’s like I’m constantly on the verge of discovering or creating something wild, but after a few seconds I realize this thing I’ve discovered has been part of me for a while. I realize I’m going to be okay when I can close my eyes and see my 15 year old self, and in that moment we’re the exact same. We are the good parts that survived the things that killed everything else. Parts of who I used to be before everything happened are still alive, and knowing that reminds me that I’m okay.
This past year has been actual hell. These past 12 months have been some of the worst months of my life. I had to work so hard to be here right now. I had to wake up everyday and try so hard to make myself better. And all the while, every single day, I think of the person I was a year ago. And while these 12 months might have been hell, it was the best year of my life so far. It was the best because I finally saw that I deserved to be happy. Like, actually, genuinely, truly happy.
The person I was a year ago was pretty much gone, and I feel like I need to tell you about her because she represents what so many people feel. She is important, and parts of her are still here. I hate saying this, but I think it took me wanting to die, to help me realize how much I wanted to live.
It was surreal. Even thinking about it now, it feels like I’m remembering a story someone else has told me. I’ve come so far, and have healed so well, and I feel so complete. Sometimes I feel like this wasn’t me at all, but it was, and I need to remember that. I had washed my sheets of the mud, vacuumed up every last blue pill that had fallen between the wall and my bed. Threw away the empty flask that still smelled like apple pie moonshine. On my bed, I gently placed every I.V bag, needle cap, and plastic bag I found on the floor onto my clean sheets. I mopped the floors of their dirt and unfamiliar footprints. Then I stared at the pathetic collection of garbage on my bed. Everything was so still. I had no idea who I was in that moment, and I didn’t know how long it was going to take until I found the answer. Everyday since then, I think about it.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the feeling I got from cleaning up that mess. How I felt knowing that just days before, I was on that bed, deciding to die. How I felt waking up in an ambulance to a paramedic pounding on my chest telling me to breathe. How I felt when my mother and sister walked into the emergency room where I was, and I couldn’t look them in the eyes. How I felt when I learned that it was my sister who found me, and how she didn’t deserve to find me. How everyday since, I think about it. I think about the darkness that surrounded me in my bed that day. I think about how easy it was for me, and how scary that is.
The worst part about it was how fearless I was. Not being afraid is something that is usually admired, but on that day I wish I could have been scared. I had felt everything so deeply for such a long time, and for the first time in my life I had felt nothing. I wasn’t scared to die because in that moment I truly believed that I no longer deserved a space on this earth. I get scared when I think about how painless it was. How I was so tired and finally my mind stopped racing and nothing hurt.
What I think about most is how wrong I was. I was so wrong.
I felt that I had no other option. I thought that I truly would never be able to bounce back from it. I felt so deeply that I did not matter, and, as cliche as it sounds, everyone in my life would be so much better off without me. I was so, completely, undeniably wrong. Killing myself was not my only option, and it shouldn’t have been an option in the first place. Out of everything that I had felt, the feeling that I did not matter was the one that didn’t need to be put into action. Feeling that way is valid, but there is no acceptable reason for dying. I had so many options that day. I could have screamed until I couldn’t anymore. I could’ve punched another hole in my door. I could’ve gotten help. I could’ve called someone. I could’ve done so many other things, except for that. But I was so far gone into that darkness, that I let myself drown. I was so numb. I was so empty and the shell that somehow kept me together for so long was broken. But I did not have to die.
I’ve told very few people about this. Those few I told could not believe it. Every person said to me “I would have never guessed” or “you seem so happy”. They’re not wrong, I am a very happy person and I am healing and love my life, but at that moment, I was miserable.
This is the exact reason why I feel like I should say these things. Because people had no idea. Because depression has no face, because most people with depression are “high-functioning”. Because these people keep it a secret. Because mental illness is not a trend. It’s not a means for attention. It’s not an excuse to stay in bed. It’s not click-bate, or a headline. It’s not beautiful or romantic.
Depression destroyed me. Completely and utterly destroyed me.
It took every ounce of innocence I had and crushed it. It stole my childhood, it stole my happiness, it stole my ability to trust, and it took so much of everything that I am. I tried so hard to forgive the people in my life that had caused hurt, but depression ruined any chance of letting them back into my life. It made me believe that I was a ruined person, and it made me feel so much anger and hatred. I tried. I really did. I promise. But depression literally destroyed me. It tore me to shreds and left me with nothing.
These are pictures of me with depression. These are the “faces” of depression. While these photos were being taken, there was always something saying to me in the back of my mind “this won’t last”. But not a lot of people knew. I barely knew exactly what it was.
This is so real. It is happening all around you. Your teacher. Your friend. Your sister. Your classmate. Inside of their minds is a real, serious, life altering illness. It is not a fad. It is not a beautiful, quirky flaw in your favorite character. It is so real. It destroys everything it touches, and it deserves to be talked about. No one should have to hide it because it’s too “sensitive” or “just gonna make it look like you want attention”. I shouldn’t hide it just because Chad from cross-fit says depression isn’t real and it’s all about “choosing to be positive”. I have been through hell because of it and if it were as easy as “choosing to be positive” I wouldn’t have had to kneel over toilet bowls night after night while testing out different medications. I wouldn’t have to pull my shorts down every ten minutes to hide the scars on my thighs. I wouldn’t have had to lie to people I love and hurt alone. I wouldn’t have wanted to die. I wouldn’t have to heal. Because nothing would have torn me apart in the first place.
I think the worst part about depression is that it affects the people you love. As much as people want to help, to understand, it is so close to impossible. It’s so difficult for people to actually get it. I became a burden to my family, my friends. I felt that I would only cause problems, so I backed out of friendships. Relationships. Opportunities.
But there is one instance that stands out. After this, I knew I had to heal, because no matter how hard I relied on others, I was the only one that could fix me. After I got out of the hospital, I told someone that I loved. I finally let go of the concept that I would be a burden to them, I trusted them with this knowledge, and hoped they would understand. I loved this person, and I backed out because it wasn’t right, but I still loved them. They were my closest friend. But no matter how I wished they would understand, I became a burden. He revealed to me that I was just too much. Too much to handle, too dramatic, too problematic. That I used my childhood and my depression as an excuse. And the worst part is that I believed him. If I had the ability to hurt someone I cared about with something I couldn’t control, I had no place attempting to rely on others. I realize now that I did not deserve to feel that way, but at that moment I thought they were right. Even still I sometimes believe I’m too much. I’m scared to trust people. I’m scared to love people because the ones I loved couldn’t handle me. I thought it would be better to be alone than to pull others into the mess that I was. This moment, the moment my trust was ripped apart by this person who I thought was so special, was the first real feeling of hurt, feeling at all, since that day in my bed. It was the actual worst. As terrible as it was, it was the first time in a while that I had hurt, but realized that I didn’t deserve it. It was the first time in a long time that I knew I didn’t have to do this. I realized that I would survive. I would get over it, somehow. In a way I’m almost grateful for it, because it forced me to look at the people in my life that were worth it. It gave me hope to find better people. It’s when I knew that so many people were going to be wrong about me, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
I sit here. Writing this. I am alive. I can breathe, and I can walk and talk and hear, and I am so alive. My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. I still rely on medication. I still get sad, and I still cry in my bed at night sometimes, but that’s usually when I’m listening to some vintage Taylor Swift and looking at wedding dresses online. I’m still coping. I left behind family, friends, and other people because they were not good for me. But I am so happy. It took a year. Life is okay, and I am okay. I remember the way I felt a year ago, and it frightens me.
To think that the darkness that surrounded me that day will never fully vanish, is scary. But I’m not afraid. It’s not the kind of fearlessness I talked about while I was lying there in my bed, but the kind that pounds in my chest when I decide to let it go. I feel that sense of fearlessness when I remember that at any moment, that darkness can hit, but I do the things that make me happy anyway. I feel it when I let myself be loved by the people around me. I feel it when I remember that I made it.
I made it. I love saying that.
I made it. I made it. I made it. I made it. I made it. I made it.
At first, I felt like I was so homesick. I lost every part of who I was and I didn’t know where to start. I had left home, left the family and the people that I loved, that had hurt me, and I didn’t know where I was going. I couldn’t talk to my family about it, and I still can’t. They just wouldn’t talk about it and I don’t know if they ever will. I would get worried that I wouldn’t be able to find home again and I would go back to where I was. Then I realized that no where I go will ever be home.
That night, in the ICU while I laid in that bed, hooked up to machines, staring at the ceiling in the dark, I was so alone but I felt someone there with me. And I know not everyone who will read this is religious, and they might roll their eyes, but I felt Christ with me. He was there. That’s all I can really say about it. He felt exactly what I had felt, and because He did, I wouldn’t have to deal with this forever. He bled with me, He cried with me, when I felt like I was dying, He had already done it. I can’t describe exactly what it was like, but I knew that I was going to be fine. I was going to find what I needed. Home comes after this life, it’s not here. Home is that feeling I get when I’m reminded that I’m still somewhat the same as I was before depression. As long as I keep moving towards that, I can feel tiny pieces of that home in me. That is my home. It’s not a place I can find here, but it’s in me when I remember that I am not alone. Home is in the healing.
Life still sucks. People are jerks, and I’m still working on being decent myself. I’ve had to cut people out of my life so I could heal. People that I love so much were not good for me, and it was so hard accepting that. But I did it. I crawled out on my hands and knees, bloody, beaten, and bruised from head to toe, but I frickin made it. And when I think about that, I feel proud. And I don’t care if other people aren’t proud of me, or if they don’t care, or if they think I want attention, or that I want likes on Facebook or views on a website, because I’m proud and that’s all I need. I think of how broken I thought I was, and how I had to strip away everything and rebuild everything that I am, and I say “f**k you” to depression. I yell it back to the voices in my head that tell me to give it all up. And I yell it back at that darkness. And I yell it back into the hole from hell I somehow crawled out of, and I know I am going to be okay. Because I know I can’t just “be happy” and get rid of depression, but I can keep going. I can keep going, and I can keep getting better, and although it will never be gone, that voice will get quieter.
I keep going. And that is enough. I lost myself for so long but I think I’ve almost found me. And the scariest part about it is that I can’t stop, cause I know that if I do it’ll go dark again. On days when I want to lay in bed and cry, not brush my hair, and not eat, I know I have to keep going. When I’m out with my friends and suddenly feel that darkness hit, I have to keep going. When I am happy but can still hear that tiny voice telling me it won’t last, I keep going. On days where the only thing I can think about is that day a last year in my bed I just gotta keep frickin going. And it’s so hard, but I do it.
There are people who are so lost, confused, and are feeling those same things I felt. I want them to know that they are not selfish. They are not a burden, and they deserve a place on this earth. And it will never be easy, and that voice might always be there, but it will get quieter. And I know they can’t simply choose to not be depressed anymore, that’s just not how it works, but everyday they can choose to push through it. Everyday when something reminds them that life sucks, they can keep going to see another day that might suck just a little less.
Here’s the thing that I realized that has been one of the few things keeping me from losing it: everything terrible that has happened to you, everything that made you want to give up, everything horrible in your past that made you miserable, will never happen to you again. It is never, ever going to happen. Ever again. If you accept that, and accept the fact that the people who have caused those things are not always going to take responsibility for it, or validate the things they made you feel, you will begin to heal. For some reason it took me 7 years, but at least it happened. You have to make that choice to heal, to let it go.
You have to let it go.
If you go the rest of your life deciding not to take the initiative to heal because you can’t let go of the things that are never going to happen again, then your suffering becomes your doing. It’s no longer anyone else’s fault. The people who broke you will always be responsible for breaking you, but they’re not responsible for putting you back together. You have the option to accept the hard things, and to make that effort to be better, to get rid of the things that keep you from it, and you have to do it. This is not the same thing as simply “choosing positivity” as much as it is taking back control of your illness, and your life. It’s taking yourself back, and realizing that you belong to no one else. People are assholes, and they’re not going to apologize for it, or regret the way they made you feel, or repair all of you that they broke, so you have to do it yourself. You have to repair yourself, and it’s going to take a long time, and it’s gonna be hard, but you have to do it.
And every time you make that choice to heal, it could be the hardest thing you do, but you have to do it. No matter how bruised and bloody your hands and knees get, no matter how dark or empty you feel, you have to keep crawling. You have to crawl until your knees are raw and you see bone, because crawling out of that hole is the only way you’re ever gonna get out. No one is going to come and pull you out of it. No matter how hard you wish, or hard you try, not everyone is going to understand.
You’re gonna be too much for people. You’re gonna be a handful. People are going to tell you they can’t handle it, and that’s okay. Just let it go. Just keep pushing and crawling until you’re out. It’s so hard, and it seems impossible, but there is literally no other way. So, please, for me and every person that loves you, keep going. For everyone that has hurt you, for every person who never took your feelings seriously, everyone who thought you were a burden, keep going. And, please, for everyone that will someday come into your life and make it less sucky, keep going. Because it’s going to be worth it.