****This story could be triggering to those who have been suicidal. Please be advised of the sensitive subject matter****
In September of 2007, I sat on the floor of my parents’ bedroom and I tried to explain how bad my depression had gotten. Although I had had two suicide attempts before, this was the first time I had ever tried to articulate my descent into depression. I described the feeling to my parents’ as watching darkness creep in from the corner of my eyes. The darkness started as spots in my peripheral and as the depression grew more intense, the darkness began to fill my vision. This description has been the most accurate way for me in describing how my depression overtakes me. What I didn’t realize until my tenure in inpatient mental health that I detail in the article, What I Learned in the Psych Ward, was that the darkness is not outside of me working its way in, but rather it is inside of me working its way out.
For the majority of my life, I have suffered from depression. During that time, I had always assumed that the depression was separate from me, something that was invited in during the harder times in my life. What I hadn’t realized was that it was always there because as the brightest days cast shadows, the same is true for my brightest moments. Wedding, births, graduations-all visited by the shadow of my unending sorrow. A deep ache marred every endeavor, calling me to question if I deserved that happiness/that achievement/that peace. I always believed that I pushed it away and I had never acknowledged that because it was a part, I was only pushing it down farther inside me.
After my return from inpatient care, I had some hard truths to face. The most daunting is that this thing I had been trying to fight off was not outside of me but within. I felt like someone who had been haunted their whole life and tried to cleanse their house only to find out that they were possessed. Run as I might, there is no escape but there is hope. I know my demon’s name. If you have ever watched a movie about exorcism then you know that the only way to exorcise a demon is to find out its name. My exorcism will not free me of my demon but it will give me the power to fight it. By naming my darkness, I own it. In owning it, I take back my life. It is a daily battle. I fight for my life every day that I breathe. Not a day goes by that I live without addressing and naming my demon. For 24 years, my depression has been beside me, an untiring foe and an unyielding companion. There is never any comfort in its familiarity. Some days, it is unbearable and hopelessness is consuming. Other days convince me that this is a war I can win. So many have died on this battlefield that it’s hard to believe that I am still in the fight. But I am.
On October 5, 2007, I attempted suicide. Seven months later I completed counseling and the therapist asked me what was something that I learned from my time in therapy. I thought about it for a moment and I said (I’ll never forget), “When you can’t be okay, just be.” Some days, I breathe and remember to be. The being hurts but I keep being. I live for the days when I can be okay but on the days I fall short, I just “be”.
Be until you are better.