My freshman year of high school was rough. I wasn’t interested in anything anymore. I used to love to play music but due to unforeseen experiences that no longer was able to be an outlet for me. I dealt with life by sleeping. I would go to school, come home take a nap, eat dinner, do homework, and go to bed by 8:30. The problem was the next morning I couldn’t get out of bed, my sweet mother did everything she could to try and get me out of bed but nothing seemed to work. Eventually I would get up, get ready and go to school. I was late to school more than half of the school year. I felt drained. I didn’t feel like there was any purpose in my life. On top of that I was super irritated about everything. And I was sad, but I didn’t really have any reason to be sad – I had a pretty perfect life. I was a straight “A” student, had a terrific family, really awesome friends and was really talented at the piano and trumpet. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was experiencing common symptoms of depression.
Things seemed to get a little better as I went through my sophomore year. I sought help from the school psychologist for my anger issues, and began controlling my irritation better. I was doing well, but still felt no real joy. I felt like I was emotionally flat-lined. Near the end of my sophomore year I began experiencing suicidal thoughts. I even began making plans. I didn’t feel like I deserved to live and was in a really dark place for a while. I began taking prescription painkillers recreationally. I found that it numbed the pain I felt and made life a little more tolerable. Initially I was prescribed them because I legitimately needed them, then I kept lying to keep getting prescriptions filled. No one knew. NO ONE.
When a friend started piecing things together she told me that I needed help and that thoughts of killing yourself are not normal things to be thinking. That thought ruminated in my head for several hours. Eventually, I decided that she was right, and mustered up all the courage I could so that I could talk to my mom about what was going on. I remember standing in the kitchen and saying “um, mom… I think I need help. I think I might have depression.” My mom asked me why I thought that and I told her of some of my symptoms but not about the suicide. My mom didn’t say anything back. Doesn’t she know how hard this was for me to tell her – does she think I’m lying to her? What’s going on? Say SOMETHING! I walked away and was later informed that I had a doctor’s appointment for my depression.
Going to the doctor was super scary. I’m not sure why – I’ve been to the doctor before. I think maybe this time I was worried that they would put me in a mental institution or something. He asked a lot of questions and then diagnosed me with major depressive disorder. He prescribed me some antidepressants and said to come back in a month. It took me a long time to find a drug that worked for me. I went on multiple different antidepressants at different dosages. By the middle of my junior year of high school I had stopped taking prescription pain pills and was regulating my emotions. It was during this time that I experienced joy for the first time in a REALLY long time. I didn’t know that it was even possible to feel that happy before.
The depression was mostly gone for a while, but then there was a time during my senior year that my antidepressants weren’t working anymore, so I stopped taking them. I stopped eating; I felt like a robot going through the motions. I remember during the month of February I lost 32 lbs. This was completely unhealthy! I then began experiencing suicidal thoughts again. Finally I knew something had to change. I went to the doctor and changed my prescription. I began eating again little by little and began to gain weight back. Additionally, I began to find reasons to live and the suicidal thoughts dissipated.
I came home one weekend during my freshman year of college and was taking my medicine as my brother walked into the room and stated, “You shouldn’t have to take drugs to be happy.” Over the next few weeks that phrase played over and over again in my mind. He’s right, I shouldn’t have to depend on a pill to be happy. I stopped taking them and went into the deepest depression I had ever been in accompanied by a plan to commit suicide. My mom called a day before my plan was to take place and after talking for a little while I told her that I had stopped taking my meds and why. I’ll never forget what she told me, “you have a chemical imbalance, you need to take your medicine just like a diabetic needs his insulin.” Something clicked and I realized that my brother was so very wrong. I began taking my medicine again and tried to see a counselor on campus for additional help. I didn’t click with him and ended up not going back.
During my sophomore year, I had a roommate who worked in the counseling center and told me that they got a new therapist in and that I should see her. I decided to give it a shot. When I walked into Diana’s office I said, “Hi my name is Emily*, I hate therapy, and I don’t trust anyone.” And then I sat down. Counseling was hard but it made a world of difference. Within 4 months I was the happiest I had ever been. It was like my world had suddenly changed from black and white to HD color. I really learned what I needed to do to take care of myself to ensure that I had the energy that I required in order to live mentally well.
I continue assessing my self-care needs and continue to make changes in order to keep living a mentally well life. I still experience bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts here and there, but I cope with it in healthier ways now. I still take antidepressants and probably will need to for the rest of my life, but if that’s what I need in order to keep myself alive, then I’ll do it. I am now finishing up my degree and plan on working in the mental health or substance abuse areas.
I choose to live so that I can accomplish my dreams of being a good wife, mom, sister, daughter, and social worker.
If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of depression or is having thoughts of taking their own lives, then please reach out and get help. Don’t stop reaching out until you/your friend gets the help you/he/she need(s).
National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
*The author wishes to remain anonymous and names have been changed for this purpose.