I don’t really know how or why it all started. I can barely remember when it even started. I was so confused as to why this was happening, but for some reason it did. And now, here I am.
I didn’t understand why I could possibly be feeling this way.
Nothing was wrong in my life, after all.
Before, and even during my depressive episodes, I always thought that depression could only happen after some sort of serious traumatic event. But that’s not the case. I could go on and on about the stigma of mental illness, but that’s another story that could be discussed forever. The stigma, and the belief that depression isn’t something that just happens, prevented me from getting the help that I needed. For years, I beat myself up over feeling depressed and being suicidal. I told myself that I should just suck it up. After all, I had no reason to feel that way, right?. I lived in a stable household. I went on frequent trips to incredible places. I went to private school and had lots of friends. I had more than enough opportunities to do whatever I wanted. So why did I feel so hollow and numb, with my only desire being to kill myself?
I don’t remember much from 9th grade onward besides the overwhelming darkness, fog, exhaustion, and the constant stream of thoughts in my head that just wouldn’t go away.
There were occasional times where the fog would clear, but only long enough for me to gasp for air before being dragged back down into the dark pit.
For a while, I thought that it was all normal- that everyone dealt with this stuff and I just couldn’t handle it, while everyone else could. It made me feel incredibly isolated. While my friends were singing in national competitions, winning state tournaments, and setting their aim on Ivy League schools, I could barely get out of bed each morning.
I spent every single ounce of energy that I had attempting to seem normal to the people around me, and I succeeded. None of my friends had any suspicions about my mental state. I did tech for all the school productions at my school. I also played Ultimate Frisbee before I couldn’t muster the energy to participate in practice. But as soon as I got home from my extra-curriculars, I collapsed, completely drained of all energy. I would just sit there pretending to do work until it was an appropriate hour to go to bed.
I don’t know how I ever made it through high school because I don’t remember ever actually doing homework. Granted I barely passed with B’s, C’s, and even a couple of D’s. These grades were pretty much F’s at my school- which was the second best school in the state. We were only beat out by the school Bill Gates went to. I always find it funny that most of my friends thought that I was a straight A student. Lucky for me, the energy that I put forward to seem normal during school meant that teachers always loved me. I was always met with comments of my diligence, that I was a joy to have in class, and how I lit up the room. This was pretty ironic considering there was nothing but darkness inside.
I started cutting myself during sophomore year. By that time, I felt so numb and hollow. I needed to feel something. I cut to try to release all that was pent up inside. It was also a way for me to release some of my anger out on myself, rather than other people. I also did it to have some sort of physical representation of what I was feeling inside. I craved the physical pain and found ways to make it even more painful, focusing on the almost excruciating burning sensation.
Hiding my feelings was one of the only things that I was good at; no one had a clue. My teachers, parents, and even friends did not notice a thing.. Eventually though, I slipped up. One of my best friends caught a glance of the cuts on my arm. He and my other best friend soon became the two people who I could, and still can, be natural around, who I didn’t have to hide from. They saw my cuts, they understood that sometimes I didn’t have the energy to talk, and helped me do things that I couldn’t do on my own anymore. They were the only two people that I could confide in and feel safe with. They also started slowly pushing me to get professional help. It took them two years to finally convince me to ask my mom to see a therapist. If it weren’t for these two friends, I don’t think I would be alive right now.
But with my friends’ finding out came fear and guilt. I was afraid that they would abandon me, that they would soon grow sick of dealing with my problems, and would hate me. I was also afraid they’d tell other people.
But they never did.
The fact that they knew everything also filled me with guilt. I was mad at myself for letting them find out about my cutting, and was afraid that I was bothering them too much. I was worried that my problems would ruin our friendship. To this day, I still feel guilty whenever I talk to them about my problems. I hate myself for what I have made them deal with.
Sophomore and Junior year were hell with the pressures of college, the SATs, taking too many classes, not being able to stop my racing brain, and trying to stay alive as the air strangled me.
One night, after spending the day with my friend, I was feeling especially depressed and quite suicidal. On the way home, there is a straight flat road that goes across the valley. It was late at night, raining, and no one was around. I stopped my car in the middle of the road and got out. I walked across the yellow line for a while in the pouring rain, not really sure what I was doing. I got back into my car, and started driving. My speedometer kept going up, 20, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80. My desire for death took hold of me, and kept pushing my foot further and further down. I thought about how easy it would be to just jerk the wheel and be done with it all. I dreamed of being done with all the pain.
But right before the corner on the other side of the valley, I hit the brakes.
That was the closest I ever got to a suicide attempt, but I wouldn’t really call it an attempt at all. Lucky for me, my fear of death prevented me from actually killing myself.
Last fall I finally started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, with significant pushing from my friends, and was originally diagnosed with Depression, Social Anxiety, and General Anxiety with obsessive traits. Going into therapy, I already pretty much knew what it was going to be due to my obsessive researching during my sophomore and junior year. Through all my researching, I had come to the consensus that I had Bipolar II instead of depression. due to the mood swings that I had, but I wasn’t very certain. So I took the diagnosis that they gave me and began taking medication alongside weekly therapy.
My first anti-depressant didn’t make much of a difference, the second triggered some very bad depression for me, and the third sent me into rapid cycling depressive and manic episodes. After the third medication my psychiatrist decided to try a mood stabilizer which seemed to help much more than the anti-depressants. So we then concluded that I have Bipolar Depression (or, Bipolar II).
When the anti-depressants didn’t help I thought that there was no hope. I thought that I would just have to suck it up, and for a little while I thought that I didn’t actually have mental health issues because the medications weren’t helping. Eventually I found a medication that helped for a little while, but not long ago I realized that I had to make an adjustment
Recently, I’ve realized that this will be a constant struggle for a long time, and will require lots of care on my part. I know there will still be ups and there will still be downs. There will be days when I will want to die. There will be times where I won’t be able to see myself living another day. But there will be days where I can’t imagine being dead- where I will live life till the fullest.
With that realization in mind, I think that I can survive now.
I won’t let this illness kill me.
This submission comes from Matt who runs a blog From The Tips of The Evergreens. Be sure to check out his blog and give him some love.
Always remember you’re not alone.
You are loved.
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