September is Suicide Prevention Month. That’s not why I’m writing this post but it was a happy temporal coincidence. I’m writing this because it’s important. It’s important to destigmatize mental illness and I am willing to show off the skeletons in my closet if it means someone else can feel that they’re not so alone in their fight against depression. I’m writing this because I’ve reached a milestone in my own battle and I wanted to both celebrate it and hold myself accountable to it. First, some long-winded backstory.
Flashback to 2012
As I’ve stated in my blog before, I have been dealing with depression since 2012. A series of challenging events ranging from a break-up to a toxic work environment seemed to trigger my first ever bout with depression.
When it first hit, I did not have the tools to deal with it; I was woefully unprepared. I had friends from college who had suffered from depression and back then I had no idea what to do to help them other than attempt to cheer them up and listen. When I was faced with it myself, I didn’t know what to do to make it better. For a long time, I didn’t even realize it was depression. It took weeks and months of feeling numb, calling in sick from work so I could just lay in bed all day, avoiding meals, and neglecting hygiene habits to realize that something may be amiss.
It reached a tipping point in the summer. I let slip to one of my friends that I may do something drastic. He must have called my mom in Dallas and my mom must’ve called my aunt who lived in Austin because during my lunch break—when I had gone to buy a bottle of Tylenol for pain relieving reasons in that being dead meant no longer feeling pain—my aunt’s van came barreling down into my work parking lot so she could check on me. I waved her away and said I was fine. I wasn’t, but that simple act jarred me and made me reconsider following through, another person now involved and another person’s life I’d have to be guilty of ruining if I went though with it.
Hours later, my mom arrived. Based on her timing, she must’ve dropped everything she was doing just to make the 3-hour drive from Dallas to Austin. Seeing her at my doorstep made me furious. What the hell was she doing inserting her life into my decisions? Why was she adding in factors that would make this harder for me? Why couldn’t she see I was in a burning building and wanting to jump out was perfectly reasonable from where I was precariously standing? At the time, I hated her. I knew she just made a 3-hour trip but I wanted her to just leave and go back home. She was the last person I wanted to see. (Looking back, I of course see that my friend, my mom, and my aunt made the right call. Reaching out and checking on me was exactly what they should’ve done in that situation. I am forever thankful to them for being there for me.)
She had me call a hotline. She said if I wouldn’t talk to her, could I please, please, talk to someone else. So I did, begrudgingly. The man on the line asked me some questions, checking on my and my mom’s immediate safety.
I don’t remember the rest of the call. I don’t remember the rest of the night. What I do remember was the next day telling my mom that the best way she could help me was by finding me a therapist in town that would be in-network.
I went to one twice. It was not like anything I was expecting. I felt like I was expected to do way more talking than I was ready for. I didn’t like the way the therapist looked at me. I bailed.
My mom found another one and that one didn’t help either. She was the polar opposite of the first therapist. Where the first therapist’s office was sterile and cold, the second’s was almost too sensational. There was a room that was dark, full of bean bag chairs and abstract paintings. Calming music was always playing and the smell of incense filled the air from floor to ceiling. I had a breakdown from what I can only imagine a person with autism may experience from overstimulation. I cried in her office and had no way of communicating what the hell it was I was feeling. While crying made me feel better, I didn’t think that having this triggered with each session would help me. So I bailed on that too.
I can’t tell you exactly what got me better. It wasn’t like a light switch, it was something more gradual. And to be honest, I feel like a lot of the things that made my life better were things I didn’t even have control over. I got laid off from my toxic job and was offered contract work at another office. That job became a full time job. Those coworkers became like family. I started dating again. I started losing weight. I met Jason.
Now, 5 years later, I’m trying therapy again. Two days ago, I went to a doctor here in Richardson who specializes in depression as well as marriage and family counseling (thought I could go for two birds, one stone and see if she’d be a good fit for Jason’s and my premarital counselor). This time it went so much better.
I don’t think it was necessarily the doctor that made it better, but me. I had 5 years of dealing with the bullshit that is depression under my belt. I was more aware of how it affected me and what made me feel better. I was more aware of how my behavior affected others and was finally mature enough to take responsibility for my own actions.
I will admit that it took a very drastic set of circumstances to finally accept I needed therapy, but I won’t go into the details of that. Just know that I had hurt someone. I had been hurting someone. And I did it one too many times. And they were now refusing to continue to enable my behavior. It was a wake up call I’d been needing for years.
Drastic catalyst aside, it’s a milestone for me. Thursday was a very important day to me. I’ve now scheduled my next appointment with the therapist for next Thursday and will continue to see her on a weekly basis until she thinks we can go to every other week. I’m actually ready this time. I want to fix myself. I want to be better. I want to keep myself from hurting those closest to me.
I’m proud of myself but I’m not done yet. It’s easy to go to a session when just two days prior you were crying your eyes out scared that you may lose the person you love most in the world. It may not be as easy down the line, when that event is far behind you and daily life has you starting to take things and relationships for granted. So I’ll have to keep at it.
Discipline is doing the right thing, not when it comes easily, but when it’s difficult and you really don’t want to do it. It’s going to the gym when you say you would, even though you just went yesterday. It’s saying “no” to free donuts in the break room when there’s no one around to see you cheat.
It’s going to therapy when you’re feeling “fine.” It’s also going to therapy when you feel like garbage and don’t want to leave the house. It’s going to therapy in general.