After reading about Robin William’s passing away today on Twitter, I immediately started crying. I cried because it’s a terrible tragedy to lose such a talented comedian and beloved celebrity, but I also cried because I immediately thought, “That will be me someday.” Not with the millions of tweets and support that his well-deserved fame earned him, but with a similar police support, a similar cause of death, and the similar tragedy of a life ended too soon.
I am a troubled young woman. I’ve struggled with everything from self-harm to eating disorders to anxiety over the years, but the depression has been my most constant and crushing struggle for over a decade now. At first, I wrote it all off as part of being an angsty and hormonal teenager, but as the years went by, I started to realize that it was just getting worse. I never wanted to wake up in the morning, I struggled to find any meaning to my life, and I couldn’t understand why I never felt as ambitious or motivated as my friends and peers. I would get panic attacks thinking about how unfocused and directionless my life had become, and the stress was crippling.
I hated when people would tell me to just cheer up or get tougher, so I stopped talking about it. I tried to cheer up by spending time doing things I loved (like writing creatively and playing videogames) or surrounding myself with family and friends, but it never got better. I just couldn’t get happy no matter how hard I tried to force it. And I had nothing to be sad about. My parents were loving and supportive in everything, my sisters were my best friends, I did well in school and in work, and I hadn’t yet suffered any kind of trauma or tragedy. I tried and tried, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just be happy.
So I stayed silent, kept everything to myself, and tried to just make it through each day. I thought talking about it would be admitting a weakness of character I didn’t want to have. I didn’t want my family to worry about me all the time, I didn’t want my friends to treat me differently, and I really didn’t want some stranger in a doctor’s office telling me I needed some medication to get happy. I thought I was stronger than that, and I was so sure I could take care of myself on my own.
But as the years went by, things only got worse. For seemingly no reason at all, there were so many times while I was driving that I thought, “It would be pretty easy and quick to run my car off the bridge right now.” I didn’t like getting too close to cliffs because I was afraid I’d have the compulsion to jump. My thoughts about killing myself had gotten so flippantly morbid and unprovoked that I found myself constantly thinking things like, “That way would be the quickest”, or “This way would be the cleanest.” When I went to sleep at night, I confused the thought of, “Well, I survived another day” for some kind of victory even though I just never wanted to wake up in the morning.
I started scaring myself with how often I thought about suicide. I knew it wasn’t right, but still I kept silent. No matter how afraid I was that I would do something horrible to myself, I was still more afraid of what people would think of me. I was terrified that people would just laugh and tell me I had a good life and had nothing to be sad about or that they would think I was disturbed and weak.
In December 2013, my best friend killed himself in our apartment. It was the worst night of my life. I still remember everything like it was just last night – racing down the freeway at 2am with panic and desperation in my chest and unstoppable tears in my eyes, the ambulance driving away from our apartment because there was nothing they could do, me telling the police grief chaplain to get the hell away from me because he kept telling me that this wasn’t an end but a new beginning, a new beginning without my best friend.
I didn’t eat or sleep. I don’t even know how long I stayed awake. All I could think about was that I wish he had said something to me. I felt like I had failed my best friend, no matter how many times people told me there was nothing I could have done if he wasn’t willing to seek help. He had always joked and seemed happy, so I had never even known he was suffering so much. I realized that outwardly I probably seemed the same way. I always seemed happy and upbeat to people around me, and that’s the scary thing about depression. It hides and lurks and crushes a person until they either seek help or until it’s too late.
I have relived that night so often in eight months – in nightmares, in waking thoughts, in writing. It was the worst night of my life, and it will continue to be the worst night of my life until I lose a family member (hopefully peacefully in their beds at a very old age).
And today I realized that I never want to be the reason for someone’s worst night, but that that was the path I was currently going down. I don’t want to be my parents’ worst night or my sisters’ or my friends’.
So I have decided to make a change and not be silent any longer. I’m determined to seek the help I need not only for my sake but also for the sake of the people around me that I never want to have to grieve over me. I can’t keep quiet about this anymore, not if I want to survive it. I need help.
To anyone reading this and also suffering from depression: you are not alone, you are not weak, and you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. Take it from someone who has spent too many years silent and afraid. There is nothing weak or shameful about seeking help for a disease, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Reach out to family and friends. They love you and never want to see any harm come to you. And if you don’t want to or can’t reach out to them, call the free national suicide hotline (number below). There are people there ready and waiting to talk to you anytime. You never have to go through this alone; don’t make my mistake by keeping it bottled up until it’s too late.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline