Welcome to the first era of my life! You’re here either because you’re curious about my story or because you struggle with depression, despair, and/or suicidal ideation.
Let me begin by stating that if you are currently suicidal, PLEASE GET HELP THIS INSTANT.
The world is truly a better place because you’re in it. No matter how dire your situation appears to you at this very moment, I promise you that your life is worth fighting for.
The fact that you are here and reading this is evidence enough that a part of you believes this could be true. Suspend your disbelief long enough to get the help you deserve. Please.
If you need help, please check out one or more of these resources:
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- A trusted parent, relative, friend, friend’s parent, etc.
- Your therapist (if you have one)
- A faculty member at your school (if applicable)
- A clergy member at your place of worship (if applicable)
- A 12-Step meeting that resonates, such as Alanon or AA
- 911, your town’s police station, or the closest emergency room
Not all of these suggestions are equal. My intention is to steer you to someone who can step in and either help you directly or help you find the help you need.
The backstory: a decade of depression
I was nine when I first experienced depression.
Looking back, I can’t really articulate why I was depressed. I just was.
My first suicide attempt was around this time and involved an overdose. I took 10 aspirin, thinking that taking five times the suggested dose would surely kill me. I was maybe 10, so go figure. My naivety would be laughable if I hadn’t been feeling such deep despair.
Not long after, I began making poor choices in other areas of my life. By middle school, I was no longer a good student – I didn’t apply myself – and spent much of my time with friends who struggled as much as I did. We smoked, snuck around our parents’ backs, and messed around with unsavory guys who were several years older. At least I did. I remember running away one night. This scared the hell out of my parents. I probably got grounded forever for it. I was always getting grounded.
Throughout middle school, I was self-conscious about my acne and weight gain…I felt ugly and fat in a school filled with beautiful, skinny girls. There were times when I would actually feel suicidal because I was so hideous. Fast-forward to freshman year. My boyfriend told me that if it wasn’t for my body I could be a model. That “compliment” really stung.
That guy and I dated for maybe nine months, and it was not a healthy relationship. While we were dating, a guy at my church who reeked of cigarettes molested me at a youth group event. I felt very violated…and very guilty.
The next guy I dated was very conscientious of his image and I never felt “good enough” for him. It was clear that things weren’t working out – there were rumors that he was cheating on me with a beautiful gal from a neighboring town – and my solution to end my relationship pain was to kill myself.
I devised a plan, which I was going to carry out after school. For some reason, I confided in a classmate and she reported me. I was pulled out of class and spent the next 2 weeks in a psychiatric hospital.
Upon my release, I began therapy. My therapist was a compassionate person but I did not get better. He was convinced after a hypnosis session that I had multiple personality disorder (or MPD, which is now called dissociative identity disorder) and had me join an experiential therapy group comprised of women who had been raped. We beat things and role played and burned effigies of our rapists and abusers. Mine were mostly ghosts – I was there primarily because it was assumed that as someone who (allegedly) had MPD, I had to have experienced horrific and repeated sexual abuse as a young child.
It’s important to note that I wasn’t depressed 24-7, but that I did spend much of my time ruminating on how unhappy I was, how unfair life was, and how “If only [x], my life would be better.” It’s also important to note that I had some great things going on for me, including being co-captain of the swim team and having some solid friendships. But the memories that burn brightest are the hardships I endured – mostly the depression, despair, and suicidal ideations and attempts.
My poor parents.
I went away to college. For the record, my MPD symptoms magically vanished after I stopped seeing my therapist.
After spending a semester partying and making a series of terrible choices, I dropped out of college and moved back into my parents’ home.
I went back to school the following fall. Same deal, except that my parents had to bring me home mid-semester after I had intentionally overdosed and was brought to the ER.
When I turned 20 the following summer, I was working at a donut shop and interviewing to be an EMT. I remember getting into a fight with my boyfriend, which led to me getting drunk with my girlfriend, and which resulted in me getting into an even bigger fight with my boyfriend.
That night – July 31, 1996 – I took three bottles of sleeping pills and went to bed.
I came to briefly in the ER. I remember the ceiling tiles. And the glimpse I caught of the heart monitor told me that I was in some serious danger.
They inserted a catheter, IV, and shoved a tube down my throat. I hardly felt any of it. Again I lost consciousness.
When I finally came to I was in the ICU. A day or two or three later, I was released to my parents.
I went back to work at the donut shop and enrolled in a class at the community college. That only lasted a few weeks.
I got drunk one night while hanging out with a classmate. We watched Showgirls. An hour or two later, I was walking down the on-ramp onto I80/I94. I was hitchhiking to Vegas to be a stripper.
My first ride was really sketchy, and I feared for my life. After a night of hitchhiking, I decided to buy a Greyhound ticket for the rest of the trip. By now I was sober and somewhat second-guessing the sanity of my plan. I called my parents. They were freaking out. I promised to call them again when the bus stopped at the next station.
No one answered when I called back. But then I saw my dad staring at me from the other side of the station. It was a very long car ride home.
I was again admitted into the psychiatric hospital. And, I found out that I was pregnant. I was an absolute disaster.
After being released, I had an abortion. At the time I felt conflicted about it, but my psychiatrist warned me of the terrible birth defects my baby would endure due to the cocktail of mood stabilizers I had been prescribed.
I was back in therapy and hated every moment of it. I remember playing games with my psychologist, including recreating the leg-crossing-sans-panties scene from Basic Instinct. I had gotten access to his session notes and learned that he did not think highly of me. My parents then brought me to a specialist who determined that I had bipolar disorder. And my psychiatrist seemed to agree. Everyone was looking for the chemical explanation behind my behaviors.
It may have been my last weekly or bi-weekly session with the psychiatrist. He was pleased with my “progress” and told me that as long as I stayed on my cornucopia of meds forever I might be able to live a “somewhat normal” life.
Are you fucking kidding me?!
I was miserable, and the thought of this being my best prognosis was too much. Something inside of me surrendered.
And then, from seemingly nowhere, I heard a voice say:
“You are responsible for your own happiness.”
From that moment on, everything changed. I saw for the first time that I had the power to change my life.
I began to take baby steps. I quit the donut shop gig for a better paying service job, where I was quickly promoted to shift supervisor. Less than a year later, I returned to the community college and earned a spot on the Dean’s List.
I was no longer a victim of my circumstances. My depression vanished, and I began to see life as a bundle of opportunities.
To be clear, things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Life was still hard, and I still made plenty of poor choices. But, when I did make a regrettable choice, I was able to see my part without condemning myself as a pathetic excuse of a human being, and I grew from those experiences.
Today, I view this decade of hell as one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I know that it sounds crazy, and it took a long time for me to get to this point. But had it not been for the transformation I underwent once I surrendered my will, I wouldn’t have taken the unconventional, nonconforming path that I did. And that path has brought about incredible spiritual growth, compassion, and love. #mindblown
Experience, strength, & hope
Depression and despair are persistent. People talk about there being “light at the end of the tunnel,” but all I saw when I was in this miserable place was darkness. There was no light.
It took hitting rock bottom several times before I allowed myself to surrender. But as soon as I did, I was able to receive the guidance that I so desperately needed to transform my life.
To feel good again is your birthright, but no one can give it to you. Happiness is an inside job.
You have choices. It may not seem like it, but you do.
On a final note, I am a huge proponent of 12-Step programs. While my recovery from depression long-precedes my 12-Step work, I have seen mind-blowing miracles happen in those rooms. Please consider attending a meeting if you need a proverbial kick-in-the-ass in order to pick yourself up. Click here for an extensive list of 12-Step programs.
Era #2 of my life is about discovering who I am…who I am not. Click here to read round 2 of my experience, strength, and hope.