January 16th is my rebirthday. It’s the day I didn’t die.
But I’d meant to. It was planned.
I’ve blogged about this before, and I’ll blog about it every year because I think it’s important not to sweep mental health things under the tattered covers. Because when we don’t talk about things, people feel alone. People feel like they’re the only ones going through this, that it will never end, and then they become even more hopeless…
And then they make the kinds of plans I did.
“Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression.” source
What does depression look like? And, when you attach it to anxiety, that lovely beast that makes your pulse race, what then?
It’s knowing you’re not good enough. For anyone or anything. It’s the worry that comes with that knowledge; that you’re ruining other people’s lives by being in their space. It’s imposter syndrome. It’s thinking everyone would be better without you around. It’s the worry, the gut-wrenching certainty, that everything is going to go wrong at any second, and not only is it your fault, but you’re powerless to stop it.
It’s not wanting to go out but not wanting to be alone, it’s not wanting to be around people but not wanting to be left out, it’s not wanting to talk but needing desperately to tell someone that you’re breaking apart inside. It’s not having the words, but being full of all the wrong ones.
It’s the words, the vile, ugly, tar-slick words that fill your whole being, telling you you’re nothing, that you’re ugly, that you’re stupid. It’s behaviors that manifest while you try to stop the cycle, try to stop the words, try to stem the volcano of self-loathing. It’s self-destruction under a slow moving magma trail that buries you alive, stopping just long enough to let you breathe but never long enough to let you escape.
It’s different for everyone, and yet strangely similar for everyone too.
Where am I, five years on?
I have chronic depression and anxiety. There is solace in being able to state something so big, so simply. There is self-kindness in being able to say it honestly.
There isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t think about dying. When I don’t think, at least briefly, that my wife and family would be better off without me. That I’m a burden, a headache, an issue they don’t need. But there are days when I don’t think about it, and that’s progress. I can laugh, and be silly, and smile. I can email friends without thinking I’m bothering them, that they’d rather I go away.
And there are the other days. Like today. When the gray skies are a part of my soul, when I want to curl up on the couch and immerse myself in a silly movie so I can distract myself from the double-over-it-hurts-inside loathing that coats the essence of who I am.
It does get better
One thing I’ve learned is to be gentle with myself. I’m no longer as bad as I was, and I’ll probably never get that bad again, thanks to the fact that I understand my disorder now. I know that I can ride it out, that it will pass, as it always has in the past. I have to trust that my wife knows how to take care of herself, and she’ll do what she needs to do while I’m ‘away’. And I wait. And it passes, and I can breathe again. Yes, living with this condition is tough. But there are wonderful things in life I want to experience, and I can only do that if I stick around.
So, if you’re in a similar boat, remember this: you’re not alone. There are literally millions of other people who feel much the way we do. And it will pass. Hang in there. Reach out if you can. When you’re having a good day, think of things that help, so that you’re ready when the bad days hit. I use basic distraction like movies to help throw walls in front of my thoughts. This article has some good advice, too.
One thing is certain: the world is better with you in it. Really.