(No) Mistakes


The other day I went through the first photo album I ever made—like an actual album with the glue and plastic covers. I made it sometime in the early 2000s and it is filled with pictures from my freshman year of high school through the first half of my senior year. They are fun and cute generally—lots of plays and dances. But that was high school for me. That and church choir. 

One picture stood out to me though. I was at my friend’s house sometime in the fall or winter of my senior year, so 1999. She took a picture of me sitting at her computer (a dinosaur). You can’t see what I am working on, but I remember very clearly. I was filling out an application to Baylor University. I hadn’t told anyone I was going to do it.

It had been in my mind that I might because the friend whose house I was at was planning to go there, although I’m not sure that she had made that public knowledge either, and my best friend was going to go there. Everyone thought that I was going to go to The University of Oklahoma. I had already been accepted, but I didn’t have any friends going to OU. I was afraid to go off on my own. I was already depressed. I didn’t think that I had it in me to strike out on my own. I felt too weak.

My parents were quite surprised when I said that I was going to attend Baylor, but they let me make my own decision. I thought that I would be happy because I was going to room with my best friend. At OU, where my sister had gone, I could never do and be all that she was, and I didn’t really want to anyway. But I felt that I would be expected to be like her. I would join her sorority and everyone would expect me to be her all over again. And if there is one thing I am not it is my wonderful sister. So I went to Baylor. 

If I thought of myself as having made mistakes in life, this would probably be at the top of the list. I felt like I was suffocating there. Everyone felt fake. I remember people from my hometown talking to me that had completely ignored me my entire life. It felt weird. It felt unreal. I was already losing touch with reality, so rushing to join a sorority was practically surreal. It was a bad trip. It felt fun at times, but it always had the worst come down. 

I remember being in physics class and a boy who had never talked to me turned to me the first day I had on my sorority shirt and started chatting me up. I wanted to punch him. I hadn’t existed without those greek letters. And it made my life seem so meaningless. I felt so alone. I would sneak out behind my dorm and smoke cigarettes, which I wasn’t supposed to do (sorority rules) along with chewing gum, walking on grass, forgetting to say hello to people I didn’t know. It was ridiculous. It was a game that made me want to kill myself. Literally. I chose death over that life. 

Some people love that stuff. I don’t. But I was born into it and too young and unsure to step away. I thought that that life was my only option. I hated all the rules. I hated being required to be friends with people because of a social organization. 

After my suicide attempt—which happened the week of our initiation, I received one message from my “sisters.” It was a small card with some generic flower or pleasant phrase mailed to my parents’ house. Inside were 2 sentences. 1. They hoped that I felt better soon. 2. Could I please return all of my sorority stuff so it could be given to someone else?

I doubt I need to analyze or explicate that for you. People are strange. Priorities get skewed and reputations become more important that people. But some people love that stuff. 

So when I look at the picture of me applying to Baylor, I wish so desperately that I could scream at myself, “Stop! Don’t do it! It’s the beginning of the end! Run away! Stop!” But I can’t. I can’t do anything about the past. 

But I have to remind myself that I might have missed some good things if I hadn’t been in that situation. I met a couple of people then who have made very happy at different times in my life, and I don’t know if I would have met them if I hadn’t been so miserable where I was. I also wrote quite a bit during that time as a way to escape how miserable I was. I read a lot, and I listened to a lot of music. I found ways to escape until I felt I wanted to escape forever.

I’m not quite sure what this post is about. It’s about me. And what should you take from it? Maybe that high pressure social constructs can drive a depressed person over the edge. Maybe that sometimes we get so caught up in the game that we miss an opportunity to see people who are in need. And maybe some people just don’t care. And that’s okay, I guess. I had enough who did care, and I certainly learned a lot about friendship and truth. 

I look at this picture of me willingly asking to walk into the darkness without knowing that it would be so dark. I didn’t know that this was a mistake. I didn’t know that things would get so terrible that I would lose my mind. And so I don’t think of it as a mistake. I think of it as a turning point. The moment where I took a steep path down into a shrouded valley. A valley that I came back out of. A valley I try my best to stay away from but I don’t always succeed. And this picture is when I took the quickest path there. 

No regrets. No mistakes. Just choices and consequences. Just life. Good and bad, keep moving forward. 

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Just a passing thought…

 

There’s this Cure lyric that I laugh at, which goes “the way the rain comes down hard/that’s how I feel inside.” It’s from the song “Open.” I laugh because it is so dramatic, but at the same time I get it, too. Today has been beautiful outside, but I have felt rainy inside. And I’m working and doing the things I’m supposed to do, but I don’t want to do anything. Because I’m more concerned with the existential matters of love and purpose. Dishes and dinner seem unnecessary, but the joke is that they aren’t. I have to do them anyway or deal with the undone consequences. So I go and I do, but inside is not only a creative deluge but also an emotional downpour.

“Madame Bovary c’est moi”


I’m in the process of transcribing old (16+ years old) poetry I have handwritten in a journal to my computer so that I have digital copies of everything I have written. I started at the beginning; the first poem is about a heartbreaking encounter with my crush at 18. The second and third are about 2 other crushes (is one love ever enough?). Finally, though, something interesting comes out in the fourth poem titled “Roses and Shoelaces.” The poem is as terrible as the title mostly, and I remember writing it. I began by just writing about what I could see in my room, but it developed into something more introspective. In the fifth short stanza I write, “Oh, Emma—how adamant I was out of fear/ and truth made me silent with realization/and who is more miserable/the person who makes mistakes or/the person who never has the opportunity to?/…/sometimes I wonder if my/blood still pulses/only my unsatisfied and unacknowledged/passion proves my existence.” 

This was after my Madame Bovary epiphany (which you can read about in my post “Art at 18: Three Vignettes here). It was a big moment for me–my first adult epiphany. Maybe it was depression; my epiphanies often feel ephiphantic only because of depression. This one took place in my senior English classroom in highschool. And I can still see the room in my mind, but only set up in the specific Socratic circle we were working in that day. If my teacher was sitting at 12 o’clock, then I was at 4. And it hit me so hard. I wanted to cry. I was Emma Bovary, too. 

In the poem above I cover it all–I was adamantly, vocally opposed to everything that she represented until I felt like I was slapped in the face by the truth that I was everything I hated about her. And then I shut up. I was stunned into silence. 

But then I get to the real meat of the poem: “and who is more miserable/the person who makes mistakes or/the person who never has the opportunity to?”

I felt like I was Emma Bovary–I had so much that I felt that I could not express. I wanted to experience the world rather than stay stuck in the bubble of my hometown and upbringing. And I felt like I couldn’t. I couldn’t go out and live. There were already too many rules holding my back, and I would have to break them to live as myself. And I felt that I was more miserable than Emma Bovary. I should have known then that I was headed for dark times. I felt that I was as miserable as she was, despite all the “good” things that I had in my life. I was so unfulfilled. I felt so empty. I had friends, family, comfort, and yet I didn’t have happiness. 

Not long after I read Madame Bovary, I read another book that was very important to me: Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow. A quote from that book does a better job of describing how I was feeling than I can: “My soul is like a pawn shop. I mean it’s filled with unredeemed pleasures….” I felt like I had collected so many dreams that I could never fulfill. I knew that they “broke the rules,” but they were my dreams. And even if they were mistakes, I thought that I ought to be able to make them.

And I felt so stiffled–I felt like I was being smothered to death. I questioned if being alive was enough to feel alive. I wondered if I was living or just walking around dead. But my heart longed for more. My dreams of living my passions kept me going, just like my music and my online friends kept my going for the next 9 months. I felt like I could be my Emma Bovary self with them. I felt like I was accepted. And it felt so wonderful, but I was also secretive and guilt ridden. I felt like I was living a double life–the life that made me happy and the life that I was supposed to live. 

And when I felt like I could no longer keep up the charade–when I felt like I also couldn’t have what I truly wanted–I went full Emma Bovary.

I guess I write all this because it is like putting together a puzzle. There were so many clues about what was happening to me. There were so many opportunities to see the pieces and get help, but no one could see the finished puzzle. No one knew what all those pieces would be when they were all put together. And one different piece could have changed everything. One change and the outcome could have been different. Or maybe not. There is no way to know now. 

Now I can only work with what I have. Now I can piece together my story, but I can’t change it. I can only change the future by making change in the present. But I can also look to the past to determine how to act in the present in order to get to the future I want. I am still an Emma Bovary, I think, as awful as she is. I try to be less selfish, but my heart is still like a pawn shop. 

Live the life you want. Make the change you need to be happy, but also know that if depression is lurking in your life, then it will overcomplicate everything. It will lead you down dark paths. It will offer you what you want and then take away everything you ever had. Don’t let depression control you. Take control of your life and your dreams. And maybe you won’t be an Emma Bovary.

I also wrote a poem on this topic. You can read “Mistakes” here.

Using Music

You all know that I listen to a lot of music; many days I listen to music almost all day. I take off my headphones for conversation only. I have about a dozen playlists that I cycle through plus lots of old and new albums. But I am not great at writing about music. I don’t play any instruments. (2 years of piano; I was terrible and hated it.) I sang in church choir, but I didn’t like singing solos. I was always self conscious about singing. I love to sing though. When I lived alone in college and grad school, I sang a lot. Loudly. At all hours. But my husband is a good singer, and it put me back in my shell. He’s the singer. So I dance foolishly. That’s my musical “talent.” 

But recently I have been singing more. And it is an emotional feeling to sing. Especially if you feel some—even insubstantial—connection with the song. It’s not easy to sing. It’s a deep feeling sometimes. But I listen to a lot of music. That is emotional, too, but not as deep as making music. I think it’s why, in my daydreams, I often fall for musicians. If I feel moved by listening to their works, how much feeling must they be capable to make such music? 

Music is powerful. All kinds of music. I tend to listen to pop music to feel happy, hip hop to feel powerful, R&B to feel sexy, alternative rock to feel moody, acoustic rock to feel sad, indie rock to feel “special” (ha!), and The Cure every moment in between. I don’t like all kinds of music, but I do like a variety of music. And I used it purposefully. If I don’t, then it uses me. Music directs my feelings. It is why I use it as a tool. When I need to feel elevated, I just put on headphones and let happy music carry me away while I dance like a fool. (Dance break; no, really, I just took a dance break.) 

And not all music makes everyone feel something. I recently asked my facebook friends what their current favorite songs were. And I got at least 20 different songs. A few I already loved, a few I had heard of but didn’t care for, but most I hadn’t ever heard. So I made a list and went to youtube. I didn’t listen to every song in it’s entirety, but I tried each one. And, honestly, most of them were not really my thing. But I was so fascinated at how so many cool people could love such a wide variety of songs. How so many people’s favorite songs did nothing for me, but were favorites for them. And it was cool. I didn’t feel like I needed to judge other people’s taste; I already like and respect all of them. I was interested, though in how many people were ready to share their favorite song and how different they all were. Music is funny that way.

One song suggested was from a musical theatre piece. And it was beautiful. And I couldn’t make it through. I loved it too much, and I loved the person who sent it too much. It was so moving. So emotional. So touching. Sometimes it’s lyrics; sometimes it’s music; sometimes it is a perfectly wonderfully woven combination of the two. But music makes us feel things. And we use it to enhance or change our feelings.

I have a few feel good playlists, and a few moody playlists, but no sad playlists. I can’t do that anymore. I can only get moody. Sadness mixed with anger and discontent. Sadness that does more than wallow. I used to wallow, but I can’t do that anymore. I usually use music to change my mood. If I feel sad then I decide if I want to feel happy, strong, or thoughtful. How do I want to use music to work with the sadness. If I want to feel happy then I go to pop and dance. If I want to feel strong I go to hip hop. If I want to feel thoughtful and moody, I go to alternative rock or, of course, The Cure. 

I don’t really like to tell people what to do or what to listen to, but I genuinely believe that what you put in will come out in some way. It is why I blast positivity into my head all day sometimes. I put in messages of love and strength and emotional intelligence to help me handle my depressed feelings with those messages. It is good to use music to help you process what you are feeling, but it is also possible sometimes to tip the scale with something to change your mood. Sometimes freaking Ke$ha makes me feel so happy because she sings stupid songs about feeling free and in love and young, and it makes me dance. Sometimes I am blown away at Frank Ocean’s ability to say such beautiful things about love and loss at such a young age. Sometimes I feel like Robert Smith is talking about my life and breaking my heart. Sometimes I feel like Adam Duritz is reading my mind. Sometimes I think that Kanye West is a creative genius. And what matters isn’t whether any of those artists are really great or not; what matters is that music has power, and we can use it. 

We can use music to enhance or change our moods. We do it already, but putting more purpose or intention into making music a tool can be useful. Have playlists or cds ready for whatever mood you might find yourself in. Make youtube playlists or subscribe to a streaming service (most have free trial periods). But make a project out of it—a mental health project—to use in times of crisis. Find good music that makes you feel calm. As a teenager I used James Taylor. Now I prefer Angelo Badalamenti. But make different playlists for different moods. And get headphones or earbuds. Then you can listen wherever you are. 

The most recent song to make it on one of my favorite playlists (titled Feel Good) is “Glorious” by Macklemore. It just came out last week. And I’ll leave you with some lyrics and a link. Happy listening!

“You know I’m back like I never left

Another sprint, another step

Another day, another breath

Been chasing dreams, but I never slept

I got a new attitude and a lease on life

And some peace of mind

Seek and I find I can sleep when I die

Wanna piece of the pie, grab the keys to the ride

And shit I’m straight

I’m on my wave, I’m on my wave

Get out my wake, I’m running late, what can I say?

I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave

And the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name

So when I leave here on this earth, did I take more than I gave?

Did I look out for the people or did I do it all for fame?

Legend it’s exodus searching for euphoria

Trudging through the mud to find the present, no ignoring us

Got 20,000 deep off in the street like we some warriors

My mama told me never bow your head, woo!

I feel glorious, glorious

Got a chance to start again

I was born for this, born for this

It’s who I am, how could I forget?

I made it through the darkest part of the night

And now I see the sunrise

Now I feel glorious, glorious

I feel glorious, glorious”

Glorious

Falling


Everything I really want to say is below, but I imagine that it requires a bit of an explanation. I wrote a post in January called “The Depressed woman” where I talk about how I feel like 2 people. But lately I have been feeling in between my two separate characters, and I feel like I’m falling. Here I reimagine my journey from me to the depressed woman as a fall from white to black.

White:
In the white. Up high. In heaven. I feel so good. Playing fetch with my dog while my daughter sings on a beautiful summer night. I feel glorious. Every day is a new chance to make something beautiful. So make change. Every day the sun rises and I can start over. Smash up the day before and make something with the pieces. Make new pieces out of the old. Take something small and make it important. 

Gray:
But as I start to fall, the light changes. It’s so much prettier. Colorful. Not just pure. But watercolors that fade into a swirl of oil paints. And when I fall slowly I get a chance to see them. To look closely and see how beautiful everything is. And nothing is static. I’m falling ever so slowly so everything changes as I go. Fading from light to dark. From translucent to opaque. And I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to create beauty. It spills out like blood. 

I can’t say I’m not scared. I’m scared of falling. But I’m scared of being up high, too. Up in the white. It’s so clean. And colorless. And I know that all I have to do is jump. To be enveloped. 

I never jump. I trip. I stumble. Into this purgatory. The gray. Not sick. Not well. Just right in the sliver of brightest color. It’s such a dangerous place to be. But I love it here in the gray.

I won’t stay though. I can’t stay. Gray is just between the white and black. It’s just what I see while I fall. The in between days. The possibility days. 

(Looking into the) Black:
One of the biggest lies she tells me is that it is warm in the black. That because I feel warm in the gray I will feel warmer in the black. But I never do. When I get there it is like a vacuum. No air. No heat. No light. Emptiness. All that seemed clear becomes smudged. Noting makes sense except darkness. 

And I have it in me to be the woman in the black. I have it in me to die as the woman in the black. And no matter how glorious I feel as I fall, there is no soft landing. Nothing will catch me. I’ll just fade into the black. If I stay, it will all fade to black.

Gray:
Maybe I can stay a little longer. Just for a moment. Or maybe I can leave just a part of myself here. Maybe I can visit more often. Maybe I can take a piece of this with me when I return to heaven. Bring some color to the light. Bring some dirt back to the clean. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go. I want to stay. I’m not good enough for heaven. I can never be all white. I can’t escape the black. I keep her locked away, but she keeps ripping open old wounds. And I trip. And I fall. And then I feel like I’m home. In the color. So why can’t I stay? Why can’t I stop falling and just stay?

Passing through Beauty


2 hours awake and I still haven’t shaken the fog. I didn’t fall asleep until after 1 last night. I got 6 hours of sleep, but I generally need 8. And I spent the last 2 hours of my day writing. Delving into a question that feels strange to the narrative that I have created. When I woke up, I reread yesterday’s post over my first cup of coffee. It’s fine. Definitely fine. But I doubt that it is satisfactory. I can’t answer something that I don’t want to think about. Or something that I am afraid to think about. What could have stopped what I tell myself was inevitable? Can I even handle the idea that something could have happened differently? That someone could have saved me? I can’t go there for more than a brief moment—only long enough for flashes of an alternate future, never long enough for words to capture it. Maybe someday.

I feel icky. Not quite right. I think it has something to do with my new haircut, but I don’t feel myself. I have a mirror in my bedroom where I see myself often, and the last two days have been hard. I don’t like what I see because it isn’t quite right. My hair is too short. I don’t look like I looked before. I look more severe, less soft. And it isn’t bad but it is not what I expected. It isn’t as easy to pull of and isn’t as natural for me. I feel like I look older, and at 35, I don’t really want to look older. I am old enough for now. And I look it. I feel gross because I do not feel like I look like I am.

And I can’t wash the feeling off like the make up I wear. I can’t push it back like my bangs. I can’t take it off like my glasses. I feel it on my skin. Or under my skin. And I just have to wait until it goes away. I can play with makeup, pose just right in good lighting, and throw a filter on a crappy iPhone picture, but I can’t shake the feeling. I can’t get rid of the bleh, the ugliness, the discontent. The wishing to be more. The wishing for things to be different. Wanting things to have happened differently and for things to be different now.

The self-loathing is difficult today. My brain tells me that this stupid haircut is proof that I’ve been hiding behind something false all along. I was always this ugly. I was always this frumpy. I was always this stupid and crazy. I was always every bad thing I have ever thought about myself. And I’m fighting. Telling myself how stupid that is. It isn’t true. It’s a damn thought cycle. I’m caught in a loop. It’s a trick. It isn’t real. But the mirror I am sitting near is making it difficult. 

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite if not my very favorite literary quote is from Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King: “Somehow I am a sucker for beauty and can trust only it, but I keep passing through and out of it again.” I love it because I always kind of felt like that was me. Beauty kills me. If I find something beautiful, then I am in heaven—art, kindness, the human body, nature, poetry, love, friendship, possibility—I am just a sucker for it. But it feels like too often beauty passes away and we are only left with an imperfect memory. And I feel that way about myself today. I was beautiful at some point in time—I was good and kind and lovely—but now I’ve faded. Now I’m just a shell and it is finally starting to show on the outside.

But it is just nothing. Beauty is subjective. It is just a reflection, and my dissatisfaction with what I see will pass. I am still me even if I don’t look like it or feel like it. 

Maybe I’ll feel better when the sun comes out. Maybe I’ll feel better if I put on makeup. Maybe I’ll wear a pretty dress. Maybe I’ll put on headphones and dance. Maybe I’ll feel better when I adjust. Maybe I’ll feel better when my hair is longer. Maybe I’ll pull it up or change the style. Maybe I’ll figure something out. Something so that every time I look in the mirror I don’t see something jarring. Something that doesn’t feel like me. Maybe it will only take a moment. Maybe it will take a week. Maybe it is just the hair. Maybe it is the sleep. Maybe it is the rain. Maybe it is more. Maybe it was what I read in my journal last night. Maybe it was the heartbreaking pain I was feeling, and how well I remember. 

I just want to feel beauty. I want to look in the mirror and feel like I like the person looking back. Not just her hair and her face, but her posture, the look in her eyes. Her smile. I want to see the things that remind me that I am strong and happy. And now I see dissatisfaction and fragility. I see unhappiness. I see the depressed woman, not me. And to me, she is ugly because she feels so ugly. She feels like a stain. And I feel like I am just a cheap shell that she is about to break through.

But not today. I know that I am strong enough to hold her at bay. I know that this is just some little imbalance and a hair cut. It is just my depression using anything it can to bring me down. It uses my own reflection and skews it in my brain. It makes me believe that my real dissatisfaction with my appearance—something that is truly unimportant in the grand scheme of things—is proof that there is something even uglier under the surface. It makes me believe that the ugliness I see with my eyes is just a small taste of the real ugliness in my soul. That no one loves me. No one likes me. No one wants to see or hear me. That no one really cares. And if they do care then I have misled them. 

Depression works how it works and it can use anything. Anything. A bad hair cut. A late night writing session. A night of poor sleep. An unanswered message. A rainy day. Anything. Anything. And I just have to deal with it. Just stop looking in the mirror. Do things to make me feel pretty, smart, kind, wanted, cared for. I have to do the work to get through this because if I do nothing then it won’t stop. And maybe I can save today. Maybe someone else will save me from myself today. But one thing is certain—it won’t be like this forever. Oh, and one other thing is certain—my hair will grow. 

What I Needed

When compiling a list of post ideas from some friends, one suggestion was based on the question of what could have helped me before diagnosis? What could have helped me avoid getting as sick as I initially did in 2001? I find this one interesting, because as much as I think about my life and my depression, I try not to look at it with regret, and, thus, I don’t often think about alternatives to what actually happened. For me, I have to accept it all, and so I don’t think about how it could have played out any better. It played out well enough. I’m here and I’m doing something good with the bad stuff that has happened to me. But it is both an interesting and also perhaps useful question to ask.

I have talked about my main journal a few times. It is a brown leather journal that I bought and started on February 3, 2000. I have kept a lot of journals in my life, but I consider this “the journal.” It is the most important one. It is the proof that I was getting sick. It is the evidence that something was happening to me. It is a record of my intense emotional and mental suffering. To me it is like scar. It is the visible evidence of my wounded mind. There are maybe 50 pages of entries from February 3, 2000-January 31, 2001. I attempted suicide on February 14, 2001. It is almost a full year of pain and sorrow. But is also full of love and happiness and dreams and hope.

Inside the front cover, the first thing I have written is a Counting Crows lyric from the song “Speedway” off of the album This Desert Life. I can’t remember how long after I bought the journal that I decided to write it inside the front cover, but its placement (and my memory) proves how important it was to me and how representative I thought it was of my journal. The lyric is “I’ve got somethings I can’t tell anyone. I’ve got somethings I just can’t say. They’re the kind of things no one knows about. I just need somebody to talk to me.”

I thought about going through the journal and making a list of things that I thought I needed—things that I thought would fix me. Mostly I thought that I needed a guy to fix me. I thought love would fix me. Up until the end, I thought that love was the answer. Love is good. Love is great. Love fixes many things. And maybe I did need love. Maybe I wasn’t completely delusional. But that is not all I needed. And love alone couldn’t have saved me. I don’t think.

Because as much as I wanted a guy to love me, what I needed was exactly what I put in the front cover of my journal. I needed someone to talk to. I needed to tell someone all the dark stuff that was going on in my head. I needed to tell the truth to someone. I needed someone to know what was happening to me. I needed to write the journal, but I also needed to be saying those things to someone who could help me. I needed to talk to someone who knew something about mental health. I needed to talk to someone who had some understanding of depression.

And I didn’t talk to anyone like that. I tried to talk to some people, but I was generally met with pity or misunderstanding. I just seemed melodramatic probably. I don’t know how I seemed. I don’t know why no one helped me. I don’t know. I had friends online who I could talk to more openly about my suffering, and some of them really tried to make me happy. But it wasn’t enough. The only thing that could have helped me before diagnosis was an earlier diagnosis.

And now we’re back to my inability to be hypothetical. I don’t want to think about having actually avoided the suicide attempt. It changed the course of my life. I would have to reimagine everything if I imagined not attempting suicide. It was the turning point after which I began taking control of my own life. Once I reached rock bottom, I knew that I had to change. I couldn’t try to live up to other peoples’ expectations. I had to do things that made me happy. I had to live a life that made me happy. Because depression makes me unhappy. I have to get as much happiness as I can whenever and wherever I can because sometimes I can’t remember what it feels like.

On January 31, 2001, my last entry before my suicide attempt 2 weeks later, I wrote: “There aren’t any stars out tonight and I can’t stop shaking either—but now I am fine for a second—now not—how symbolic. I don’t want this.” I knew. In my own way, I knew that I was off balance. I knew that something important was wrong. And I knew that I couldn’t bear it much longer. It was almost laughable how hopeless it was. I was in so deep that I knew that I didn’t have much longer left. And I didn’t tell anyone how bad it was. I was so afraid of being ostracized or rejected. I knew that I was different. I liked being different, but I was afraid to admit it.

There are very few people who I showed my “true self” to at that time, and fewer who accepted me as broken as I was. And I fiercely clung to anyone who would accept me as I was. I felt so unloveable, and the kindness of a few kept me afloat longer than I could have made it alone. But kind words weren’t enough. No one knew how bad it really was. And no one who did have and idea about what I was going through ever thought that it might be an illness. At least no one talked to me seriously about that possibility. And I was terribly afraid of being crazy.

And that in itself is a big part of the problem I was facing. I was afraid of being “crazy.” I was afraid of being insane. I thought that it was all black or white. Sane or insane. Safe or unsafe. Normal or dangerous. I didn’t really even know anything about depression. I didn’t think about mental health. I never considered that what was happening to me was chemical. I didn’t understand how the brain works and the trouble it can cause when it isn’t working correctly.

But I know now. What I needed then was what I have now. What I needed then was what I give now. I needed someone else who was going through what I was going through to clue me in to the fact that it was depression. I needed someone who wasn’t afraid of being stigmatized or rejected to tell me the truth. I needed to read my own damn book. And it is the whole reason that I do what I do now. I think that the only thing that could have prevented my suicide attempt was medical intervention. Early diagnosis. Knowledge about mental health. I needed other people who suffer from mental illness to talk openly about it, and I needed those stories to be more widely known than they were.

But I have no regrets. I had to go through what I went through to become who I am now. I don’t think about what could have saved me. I don’t think about what could have gone differently. Because look at what I have done with it. When someone thanks me for saying the things that they cannot say, I know that it is all worth it. When I say the things that others think no one else feels, I know that I am doing something right. Because I don’t want to change what I have been through, but I want to prevent anyone else from going there. Because I barely survived. My writing is my way to talk to you. It is my way to tell you that you are not alone. You are not strange. You are not wrong. You are not worthless. You are sick. You are hurt. And you deserve healing. You deserve relief from your pain.

I remember once meeting a man who has depression at least as severe as mine. And we were discussing a certain therapy. He asked me if I still had “the thoughts” after the therapy. And I remember that I didn’t need any other information. I knew exactly what he meant. He meant suicidal thoughts. And he was embarrassed but tormented by them. I knew it. And he knew that I knew. That is why he felt comfortable asking me. It was the first time I knew that just being open could do a lot. It felt so good to say what we could not say. It felt so good. It was so painful, but good. And that is what we have here on the blog. A place to say the things we cannot say. I don’t mind saying them. I’m not afraid any more. No. I am afraid. I am so afraid, but not of rejection. I am afraid of depression. I know the real enemy, and it isn’t the petty or ignorant reactions of people who don’t understand. Words hurt but depression kills. And silence gives depression free reign. I won’t let someone else suffer in ignorance. I want to be everything I needed. Because I don’t want anyone else to do what I did. I can’t stop depression. But I can fight stigma. I can speak loudly and often about depression. I can say the things that others can’t say yet. And maybe someone will listen. Maybe someone will hear me. And maybe it will help them.

If you think you might be depressed or that someone you care about may be depressed, check out the Mayo Clinic page on depression. Don’t wait to contact your doctor about discussing your mental health. If you are in crisis, don’t wait to reach out for help. You can always call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone. I am here, and I will keep talking, saying the things that I once thought I could not say.