Depression told me many lies. First, it told me that I did not have depression. It convinced me that I was not truly in pain, I was just seeking attention. It made me believe that I was a terrible person for being so sad. After all, so many people have it worse. What right did I have to be sad?
Depression told me that I was useless. That I was never meant to be here, that my existence was a mistake. It told me that the world and every person in my life would be much better off without me here.
Eventually, I gave in. I believed the lies. And I did exactly what my illness wanted me to do – hurt myself.
Once I started cutting again, there was no looking back. Those who struggle with self harm know that it is like an addiction. It is a vicious cycle that continuously repeats itself. Self harm becomes your coping mechanism. It becomes your best friend. It is who you turn to when you’re sad and even when you’re happy.
A few months into 2015 and I was quickly becoming a shadow of the person I used to be. The light was drained from my eyes. I never smiled anymore, I never laughed. I wasn’t living, I wasn’t even existing. I felt dead. It was not an easy thing to witness. I was very, very sick. And I was hiding it. Or at least, I was trying.
I remember the first time I called a suicide hot-line. I was on break from work and pacing around in the parking lot, crying. I was so tired. So tired of fighting, so tired of feeling the way I was. I just wanted it all to stop. I didn’t attempt suicide that day, but I did a few weeks later.
Suicidal thoughts had taken residency in my brain. They were all I thought about. I was like a ticking time bomb. I knew that I was only one bad day away from attempting suicide.
I sat on the floor of a bathroom stall at work. I was on the phone with one of my friends, crying like I had never cried before. I went over my plan in detail with him. I was really going to do it this time. There would be no looking back. My pain was going to end here. My story was going to be over.
My story didn’t end that night. Instead, it began. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the first time. From that day in March to October, I was hospitalized six times. I survived four suicide attempts. I spent a month at a residential facility. I tried over fifteen different medications. I saw four different therapists. I tried so many different treatments. But I was still feeling sad. I was still empty. I was still completely broken.
And I still am. I am still broken. This isn’t a story about how I went through depression and healed from it. I don’t think depression, or mental illness in general, will ever be gone from my life. And I am okay with that. Why? Because depression has shaped me into the person I am today. It has made me stronger, it has made me more compassionate, it has given me the opportunity to save multiple lives, it has given me a sense of purpose. Mental illness will not have the final word in my life. It may hurt me, it may take my joy from me, it may even eventually take my life from me, but it will never take ME. It will never take my soul. It will never take my heart.
I know, this is supposed to be inspiring. And I just said above that I may die from depression one day. That isn’t inspiring. But I want to be real, I want to say what’s on my mind. I want to share my story, I want to use my voice to help others struggling with mental illness. Throughout my journey with depression, I’ve been unsuccessful at finding many stories that are honest and true. I don’t want to sugar coat what this journey has been like. It has been hell on earth.
I like to think that the more broke we are, the more light gets in. Broken people are beautiful people. It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to admit that you are drowning amongst your illness. It’s okay to admit that you don’t feel strong. But I want you to know that you are fighting something so intense, so hard, so unbelievably painful that I am so proud you are still here. Giving up is easy, holding on is not. So whether you feel strong or not, you are strong. You are so, so brave. You are incredible. I am amazed by you.
Please don’t ever, ever, ever give up. Mental illness does not define you. It never has and it never will. I love you, my fellow warriors.