Tag Archives: Depression

Steel

Darling, I used to say that you were made of stardust, that galaxies and supernovas that have come before you have all collapsed and crumbled and come together to make up what you are, but now I know that all of that is not enough to describe you.

Darling, you are more than stardust, you are reforged iron, your blood is steel, men have waged war with the very strength in your veins for centuries, and it is the men with your blood that win.

Darling, do not be ashamed that our body is the battleground that shows the war waged between you and your mental illness, the scars – the trenches where vicious battles have been fought and the battle wounds they have left behind, the dark under eye circles – the remnants of rumination bombs that affect you longer than anyone can imagine.

Darling, you yourself – the fighter and victim both in this war that has been longer and harder than anyone could have ever imagined, military men and women would salute and stand at attention as you walked by if only they knew what a fighter you have been and what a fighter you still are, Odin and the Valkyries themselves would welcome you into Valhalla for this war you have fought so desperately.

Darling, you are the strongest steel in this war, you are titanium, and you do not have to fight alone.


I want a tattoo

Stranger: “It’s your birthday? What are you wishing for?”

Me: “I don’t know. Maybe to finally get the tattoo that I want?”

Stranger: “Oh, what tattoo do you want?”

Me: “An awareness ribbon with butterfly wings.”

Stranger: “I get the awareness ribbon, but why the butterfly wings?”

Me: “Butterfly wings usually represent rebirth, new life, change, and transformation.”

Stranger: “So, let me guess, you overcame some adversity?”

Me: “Something like that hahaha.”

I laughed it off because I had no desire to explain further. I did not want to explain that the awareness ribbon I wanted to get would be half-yellow and half-orange because those are the colors of self-harm awareness and suicide prevention. I did not want to explain the butterfly wings as representative of overcoming self-harm and surviving suicide.

“Adversity”? Accurate, but my god, what an understatement. I overcame years of severe depression. I have self-harm scars and mental scars (from all the thoughts of suicide plans).

I want this tattoo to remind myself of where I’ve been and of how far I’ve come. I want the world to see that I am one of so many survivors, and you would not think it just by looking at my face. I want a permanent mark on my skin that will last long after all those self-harm scars have faded.

I want a reminder to myself that my story still has a long way to go.


Numbers

  1. It’s 1am when I tell you that I self-injure, when I tell you that I take sharp edges to my skin and etch in bright red lines up and down my legs. It’s 1:15am when I tell you that I have a butterfly drawn in in on y thigh because that’s how I remind myself that self-harm hurts me. It’s 1:30am when you ask me how many people I’ve told, and I say you’re the only one. And you thank me.
  2. It’s been two days since I’ve told you my darkest secret. It’s taken two days for it to finally sink in exactly what I’ve done. And all I can do is lie in bed and think about every word I’ve said to you. Before I know it, it’s already two hours past midnight, and I’m still crying in fear of rejection and abandonment. I send you a text about how much I regret telling you my secret, and you send two back telling me that you care about me and that you will always support me.
  3. The longest I’ve gone without self-harming this year is three months and three weeks, and I’m actually so very proud of myself. I tell you, and you look just as happy and proud. And you show me the depth of your feelings in three ways: a caring a smile, a tight hug, and a whispered “thank you.” It’s three hours later before we finally get back to studying. We were too distracted celebrating with my favorite movie and my favorite chocolate (which you bought because you knew me better than anyone else).
  4. It’s the fourth time I’ve called you in the middle of the night, but this time, it’s so much worse. Because I can’t keep going. I can’t anymore. I just can’t. I’m terrified and broken and sobbing and I’m this close to ending it all right here, right now. I can’t breathe but I’m breathing too fast, my thoughts are racing, my heart is pounding, I can’t feel my fingers or toes, my blood is ice, and my eyes are wild. But you do your best to ground me, and after of four hours, I’m okay to let go of your shirt and pick my head up from your chest.
  5. You end our friendship in five sentences. One, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” Two, “I’m sorry that all of my promises turned out to be lies.” Three, “All of this was my fault.” Four, “I’m sorry I can’t give you more closure than this.” Five, “I hope this doesn’t affect our work relationship.” Everything we’ve been through together, destroyed in five simple sentences. Five minutes later, I’m still standing in the courtyard sobbing, uncaring of all the staring strangers.

But you know, what we’ve been through can’t be reduced to simple numbers. We were more than that. We were hurt and heartbreak, love and healing, life and close brushes with death. We were life, and life can’t be reduced to numbers.

But that’s the only way I can cope. Because if I don’t trivialize it, I wouldn’t be able o stand. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I wouldn’t be here.

Because I burn your things, your possessions, every bracelet or jacket that reminds me of you, but that won’t be enough. Because I know that memories don’t burn. Because I can try to walk around campus and avoid your usual haunts, but I still have to work with you, and I can’t trigger warning your very presence. Because I would have jumped on a fucking grenade for you, but now you’re the one who threw it at me and shattered me into more pieces than I can find and collect.

I’m broken and all I can do is tell myself to breathe in, hold for five seconds, breathe out, and repeat. I’m going to be okay.

Suicide did not defeat me one, two times, and neither will you.


Transcript of My Story

(If you want to see the live performance of this, please go here)

Hi everyone. I’m a university psychology major, and I’m here today to share my story of depression, self-harm, and suicide. Now, these are some pretty heavy topics, so if anyone feels that they need to leave at any time for any reason, please feel free to step out. Your well-being is far more important than anything I could say.

I’m currently in recovery from depression, and I want to share my story to show all of  you a first-person account of really serious depression. Depression is a very individual mental illness in that each person’s experience can be way off from what is typically considered “depression.” But it’s also universal because it can affect anyone at any time. Like me, I’m just your average student. I came from a supportive family, didn’t really get bullied, and I know I’m so grateful to be at this university. But demographics don’t determine depression, and neither does your personality. And people who know what I’ve gone through have told me that I always seemed so happy and chipper and outgoing, and that it seemed impossible that I could’ve experienced depression.

But I did. Behind that public facade of peppiness and cheerfulness, I was struggling with seriously heavy stuff. For me, depression hit really sudden and really hard. The beginning of January 2014, I started feeling off. Really sad and down, and I thought it was just a phase. Just a bad day, just a bad week. But then it kept going worse. It wasn’t just a bad week. It was a bad month of consistent negative mood.

And it wasn’t just feeling sad, it was not enjoying time with friends or time doing my hobbies. It was not feeling the motivation to go to class or study or do homework, and then  it was not feeling the motivation to get out of bed or eat or shower. And that sounds ridiculous right? Eat when you’re hungry, shower once a day. But it really became this inability to do all of those basic things. Because I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t think the effort of a shower was worth it. And it eventually became this fight in my head of my brain saying “Go eat, go shower. These are healthy things.” And the rest of my mind saying, “No, stay in bed.”

And then I was just so tired all the time, so I just slept. And I was still tired but I couldn’t sleep anymore. And with all of this lack of motivation turned to actual inability to take care of myself, I started feeling worse. These thoughts of “I’m stupid, useless, worthless. I can’t even do these really basic things.” And as much as I hated myself for not taking care of myself, I honestly couldn’t do it.

At this point, I realized that I needed to do something about it. Because things weren’t changing, if anything it was getting worse for me. And again, depression doesn’t take this course for everyone, but it did for me. It was worse, ad part of me had this really reasonable idea of reaching out to people and getting support from friends and family and also professional help. But even though this part of me knew how reasonable it was, it was one of the most difficult things for me to do. Because how do you tell people this giant secret that you’ve been hiding? How do you tell people that you’ve been hiding how you’re really feeling behind this mask? And at the time, I had no idea how to answer those questions. I still don’t really know how to answer those questions. Because telling people is really hard. Because you have to find someone that you trust and shatter their perception of you. And that’s essentially what I did. I was studying with my best friend one night, and then during a break in our studying, I just flat out told him that I’ve been struggling with some really dark thoughts. And he was surprised but he was also really supportive. He convinced me to check out CAPS on campus, and I got connected with some really helpful resources.

But even though I had the options of regular counseling and therapy, and even medication, the part of me that was still feeling really pessimistic about my situation turned to a much unhealthier option, which was self-harm. So at the same time I was reaching out, I was also hurting myself. I’m not going to say what it is that I did, but I will say that I have scars on my legs, and they’re still here after a year. And this is a really difficult thing for most people to grasp. Because why would I hurt myself? What’s the point? What does it help? And the simple answer to those questions is that it’s a coping mechanism, a really harmful and destructive one, but still a way to cope. And everyone who has self-harmed  has their own reasons, but for me, it was a combination of things.

It was a way to release this huge storm of emotions that was building up inside of me, it was a way to make physical and tangible all these really negative thoughts and feelings, it was a way to be able to fix at least some of the pain I was going through because I could put a band-aid on my own skin but I couldn’t put a band-aid on my heart… And it was a way to feel something, anything, because on the days when I wasn’t feeling so sad and broken, I was feeling numb, you know just nothing at all… And it was a way to ground myself, to remind myself that I was a living, breathing person who was still here. And it was a way to punish myself for being useless and worthless. So lots of really dark reasons, and I would never wish any of them on my worst enemies because it takes a toll on you. It really does. And today, even in my recovery from depression, I still struggle with self-harm.

And when I was going through all of this, I knew self-harm wasn’t really helping. It was just a way for me to get to the next day. And it wasn’t as if it was my only coping mechanism. I had a whole arsenal: counting breaths, sketching in charcoal, finger knitting bracelets (hey, I’ll make one for you if you really want one), journaling and doing spoken word, solving rubik’s cubes, holding an ice pack in my hand, drawing butterflies on my skin, and there are tons more. But even with the support system and the healthy coping and the not-so-healthy coping, it was starting to feel really pointless and hopeless, like I was never going to feel better or get better. And then, feeling like I was at the very end of my road because I was just so tired, I started thinking about suicide. And I want pause here to say that people always say that suicide is the selfish, easy way out. But it’s really not.

Because I thought about it and argued with myself over it for months. Because I knew there were people who cared about me and I wanted to stay for them. But depression makes it really hard for you to actually want them. Because you just see all this darkness around you, at the end of every pathway, and you can’t escape it. And you’re just so exhausted of fighting your own mind at every single thought, so exhausted of having to fight yourself. Because your brain is being logical and trying to tell you to keep fighting, but your mind and your depression is trying to tell you that it’s not worth it. That it’s never going to get better and fighting is pointless and useless, and life is really not worth it anyway, and everyone in your life would be better off with you.

So at this point, it just felt like suicide was my only option, my only way to finally escape from all this pain and hurt, a way to finally get some relief. And it’s not that I wanted to die, it’s just that I wanted some relief. And when I was writing my notes and making really serious plans, I always felt so guilty because I knew I would be hurting the people who loved me, but I couldn’t anymore. I just, I couldn’t.

But I didn’t. And I will be forever grateful to all the people in my life at the time who helped me make the decision not to go through with that last step of dying by suicide. Because I’m here today. I am here, standing in front of all of you, as living, breathing proof that depression is real and serious and absolutely terrifying. I am here as proof that depression is not something that you can just get over through willpower, and I am here as proof that suicide isn’t the “easy way out” that the media portrays it as.

And really, I am here as proof that it gets better. That no matter how hard it is, no matter how absolutely awful you feel, no matter how much you feel it’s not worth it, no matter how much you feel it’s useless to keep fighting, It Gets Better. I am proof that anyone can go through some really dark times and come out the other side, you know maybe scarred but still okay. Still here.

And I am still here because I realized that it’s really important to reach out, to build a good support system of people you trust and feel comfortable with, to get professional health and to not shy away from therapy, and  to maybe try medication of some type. And there’s a lot of medications that are really affordable.  Personally, I had to try a brand that was a little bit more expensive, and it was really intimidating for me. You know, I’m a college student, I’m here on scholarship, I didn’t have a job, and I just really wasn’t sure that I could afford it. But that’s where your support system comes in, and they really did help me. So again, it’s really important to reach out, and it’s really, really hard, but I did it. Somehow, I did it. And you can too. For the people in the audience right now who are struggling, you can do it. And you’re going to make it. It gets better. I promise.

And for the people in the audience who know someone is struggling, if you can do so safely and without sacrificing your own health, please stick by them. Please support them and encourage them, and please try not to get too frustrated and try to understand that this stuff is really rough on them. And I know it’s rough on you too, it’s definitely rough on the supporters, but if you can be there for them, they will be forever grateful. And really, you don’t have to do al l that much. Just be there for them. If they want company, maybe do your homework in their room? Or if you’re going to eat lunch, invite them with? Or if they’re really not okay with being social that day, shoot them a text that says that they’re going be okay and that you care for them and that you’ll leave your phone on in case they need you. It’s little things like that, just reminding them that you care and that you’re going to stick by them. And you I am forever grateful to the people who stuck by me and saw me through to where I am now.

Because where I am now, it’s better. I have scars on my legs and I can’t always tell the truth about why those scars are there… Because I wish recovery and it getting better was this upward linear trend, but it’s more like this wavy line full of ups and downs. Because there are still days where I feel like I did, and there are still days where I have to use every coping mechanism in my arsenal, but I still struggle with self-harm. And you know what, that’s okay.

Because it’s okay to struggle with depression and self-harm and suicide. Because it’s okay to reach out for help and go to therapy and take medication. Because it’s okay to experience everything that I’ve gone through. Even if it doesn’t feel okay, even if it doesn’t feel like it will ever be okay, it’s okay to struggle, and it will get better. Because it gets better. I promise, even if it takes months or years, it gets better. Thank you.


Coldness and Warmth

There’s no reason for it, no cause. There’s only the effect. And you can try everything you can think of to make it go away, but nothing works. The only thing that can make it go away is time.

You wish you could fix it, but you can’t. You don’t understand it. You don’t understand why you suddenly get cold sometimes. One moment you’re fine, and the next, you’re not. You’re just cold. You have goosebumps all over your skin, and shivers run up and down your spine. It can be warm and sunny and bright outside, and everyone can be wearing tank tops and shorts. But you? No, you will be cold. You will hurry back to your room (and it’s empty, no one is there, and that just makes you colder), and you rush to pull on a hoodie and warm socks.

[And you’re very specific about the hoodie. It’s not the warm one you bought for yourself. No, it’s the one given to you by someone who loves you, someone who cares enough about you that they want to help you stay warm. It’s not the thickest hoodie you have, but despite that (or in spite of that), it’s one of the warmest. There is something about it (probably the personal meaning attached to it) that just makes you feel warmer than you should when you wear it.]

But no. Even that hoodie doesn’t work. So you curl up into a ball as tight as you can, knees folded in against your chest, hands held under your neck, and you hide underneath your giant next of blankets. Because that is the warmest place you can find, and it’s the warmest position you can find. But even then, you are still cold. And you know why you’re still cold even with all of this. You wish you didn’t know, but you do. This cold that you’re feeling, it’s not physical. Oh no, it’s mental. And you hate that.

This chill in your veins is the unspoken, unacknowledged symptom of your depression. It’s always there, a current running throughout your body, from your heart and mind out to the very tips of your fingers and toes. You are always aware of it, as it is a sign of your ever-present depression, and sometimes, you don’t know how to deal with it. Sure, there are moments when it goes away. The feelings recede without you having to do much, and then you’re fine again.

But other times, it takes another source of warmth to come find you, to pull you out of that dark space, to let you bask in their care and love, and those are the best times. Those are the warmest. You don’t really need anything from them other than for them to be there, to stay there. You are perfectly content to listen to them speak (about whatever, they could complain all about their day if they so wished, and you wouldn’t care). You are perfectly content to do nothing but sit with them. And before you know it, you’re warm again. You might not be as warm as you could be, but you’re warm enough.

And you’re thankful to those who love you and care for you because without them, you fear that you’ll be stuck in that feeling of coldness. Hell, even knowing you have them, you fear that you’ll get too cold for them to help.

But they will always help. They will bring you in close, let you cling on to them as much as you need. They will hold together the broken pieces that make up your composition. They will hold you together, physically and mentally and emotionally. And you wish you could stay there always, in the arms of every single person who cares enough to do that in the first place. You wish you could listen to their heartbeats (almost like a child because that’s how vulnerable you feel) to hear how alive they are, to hear the sound of warmth traveling through their veins and into you. You wish your heart (not cold or dead but it feels like it is) would emulate that and do the same. But wishing will get you nowhere. You know that.

So then you pull yourself together, gather the broken pieces of you that have fallen away, and solder everything into as much as a whole as possible.  At least, until you crumble and shatter because you get too cold.

But until that point, you have the warmth of your loved ones. And you hope that, maybe, one day, you will have your own warmth to give them in return.