It’s been over a year since I have fallen into a major depressive episode.
I’ve dealt with depression most of my life, but I thought I’d licked the worst of my depression. I truly believed I had done the work necessary to keep myself on an even keel for a lifetime. My mood had been mostly stabilized. I had ZERO anxiety. I had put myself through school (again – at age 40+), gotten a great job, had an active social life, had a good marriage, engaged in a an active and fulfilling social life and was happy more often than not. That is to say that more than 50% of the time, I felt comfortable, good, peaceful, settled. Sure, I had bad days. Yes, things still happened to derail me…. the car would break down, my cat would get sick, someone would die, a loved one went into the hospital, I forgot to pay a bill… Life happened. But even if I lost my footing for a moment, I felt I had the ability and tools to right myself again and keep on moving. And I did.
Until I didn’t.
This depressive episode came out of nowhere. It crept up slowly, infecting different parts of life. I knew that I wasn’t able to handle things as easily. I started feeling more anxious. My emotions started bubbling over at times when it was inappropriate. Small things started to set my mood off in a negative way. I just couldn’t seem to stop it. And soon I became buried.
I quit my job because I truly could not trust myself any longer with the responsibility. What a heartache! I had spent many years upgrading my education in order to switch careers from a job to a passion. But because the symptoms of anxiety and depression (such as fogginess, lack of focus/concenration, overwhelming emotions, to name a few) were interfering with me accurately performing my job, I couldn’t continue – as it might be the difference between life and death. Health professions are like that.
And I was lost. I spent a few months trying to right myself, but nothing was working. And then I lost hope. I felt SO BETRAYED. I had done the work – therapy, 12-step recovery, self-help programs, group therapy, exercise, good nutrition, volunteering, education, personal development. – and yet depression still took over.
So I gave up.
I gave up hope. I didn’t care if I lived or died. I was done. In fact, if I died it would be a blessing as I would no longer be a burden.
- My mother said to me “You give up? You’ve never given up.”
- A sentence arose in my mind, “The thing I’ve always admired about you is that you never quit.” My brother had said this to me at some point in my 30s, and it once swelled my heart as I never knew my brother admired me at all, let alone that he admired me for that particular trait.
- Two words: Resilience and Tenacity. Those two words were attributed to me by my peers in an exercise after participating in a 6-week work training program.
But no longer. I couldn’t do it. My mind had betrayed me and I couldn’t see a way out. I thought to myself “if I do ALL THIS WORK and FINALLY achieve a modest degree of happiness, depression shouldn’t be able to come back and live here in my head”. I was mad. So mad. And that anger turned into resignation.
People around me were stunned. My mother’s words “You never give up” was the echo from those who knew me. But I kept saying “I’m done”. I was too tired. I told the people around me, in either action or words, that I didn’t want to live anymore. That statement was met with a myriad of responses. Some people walked away. Others sat in stunned silence. One person said “That makes me very sad that you would feel that way”, and that day she asked me for something.
I made a promise to someone I love dearly that I would not take my own life.
And that’s the only reason I’m still here today.
On the worst days I would see this person in my mind’s eye, the expression on her face, and I would remember the words I spoke to her. The promise I made. And it kept me alive for many months.
Until there was a glimmer.
I saw a glimmer of hope. I don’t even remember what it was. But it started a chain reaction in me where I started to try again. I started performing actions that I knew would help my quality of life.
It’s been about 70 days since that glimmer. Some days since then, the glimmer actually disappears entirely and my entire day is filled with darkness. But I try my best to continue whatever small actions I started so I don’t completely lose course.
Today is a day of darkness. I hope the glimmer returns soon.