no. i shouldn't.
no, it's not mine to write about.
but i can relate. i should write.
i want to write.
i don't want to. it's personal.
it's too much.
but it's real.
okay. i will.
this is a conversation/battle i've had in my mind for a few days now.
not because i knew Robin Williams personally or had ever even met him.
i guess i was mostly sad because i loved his work. in fact, just about a week before his death, garrett and i were discussing movies from our childhood and adolescence and i realized that so many of the movies we loved (in fact, some of our very favorites in the world) were Robin Williams' movies.
so it was sad for me to think that someone whose work i loved was gone.
and then i read the news articles. and words like suicide and depression made my heart sink. and like most everyone, i was confused. i was shocked at how someone so full of life and laughter, someone whose rich talents were centered on humor and comedy and entertainment could also be someone so severely sad, so deeply depressed.
how did no one stop this?
how did no one see this?
how did it get to this?
and then i remembered an interview i once watched with one of Kurt Cobain's close friends. i don't know exactly what he said, and i don't even know how i would go about citing the reference, but it was something along the lines of this:
no one wants to be the downer friend. no one wants to be the reason everyone else is bummed out. so he acted. he pretended he was fine. and that's why it came as a shock to everyone. because no one ever saw anything but the Kurt Cobain who wasn't depressed.
and then i read this. and tears filled my eyes and my heart broke knowing that this was the case for the late great Mr. Williams. i was sad for him. i've been sad for him.
because it hurts. i know it hurts. because i've been sick like he was.
on february 13, 2009 i was diagnosed with depression.
real, chronic, major depression diagnosed by a real doctor of psychiatry.
i had been struggling with a lot of negative feelings for months.
(in fact, looking back, i had struggled with negative feelings for years.)
but on that day, it was real. i had depression. i wasn't just having a hard time. i wasn't just sad. i was sick.
the night before, february 12, 2009 i hit a low i rarely talk about.
not because i'm embarrassed of it. not because it's humiliating. but because it's heavy. but despite it being almost 6 years in my past, it's still hard to talk about. going back to that night still grips my heart and forces me to remember just how much pain i am capable of feeling. and now, now that i'm out of that dark place that i was in, it kills me to know how much pain i was bringing to others by thinking i could stop the pain on my own.
at the forefront of my pain was a breakup from a relationship i thought would lead to marriage. and to those who didn't/don't know the whole story, to those on the outside, my depression could look like an overly dramatic response to a fairly common, albeit sad, situation.
and for a while i was sort of on the outside, too.
i believed the boy i loved broke our relationship and he consequently broke me. i thought it was all his doing. and i thought that he could fix it. and if we could fix us, if he could love me again, then he could fix me.
i thought that it would all go away if he would just love me again.
i was wrong.
in a lot of ways i was wrong.
because behind the breakup was an actual illness.
and behind the illness was a history of sadness, eating disorders and feelings of total loneliness and emptiness.
and no relationship, no boy, no person could cure it from me.
at that time, i was done with cosmetology school but had not yet begun classes at BYU.
i had a little over a month before i went home for the holidays.
i had no responsibilities, no demands on my time. nowhere to go. i had nothing to do but lay in bed and cry. and so i did.
several months went by and i was still crying daily.
i laid in bed and tears filled my ears and i cursed the boy who had broken my heart.
day after day i still hurt.
it was just a break up. why couldn't i snap out of it?
(for the record, 'snap out of it' is pretty much my least favorite phrase ever.)
i tried to do normal things. i tried to spend time with friends. i tried to distract myself.
nothing worked. and feelings suppressed always break out.
on february 12, 2009 they broke. i broke.
a harsh reality became real to me. for months i had lied to myself, convinced myself it would all get better. that these couple months were just a trial but they would end soon. but that night i knew it wouldn't get better. i couldn't pretend anymore. this was no longer just a broken heart. there was something wrong with me.
pain came rushing, gushing, hemorrhaging out. i couldn't suppress it. i couldn't stop it. no amount of pressure could lessen the flow.
i hurt so much that night. sadness. an overwhelming sadness words could never adequately describe washed over me and threatened to drown me. i floundered. i thrashed about trying to get my head above the waves of pain but they were relentless. i couldn't breathe. tears mimicked my sorrow and flowed easily and without hesitation. i felt only pain and sadness. every part of me hurt. and the longer i felt it, the worse it got. it wouldn't subside. i could find no immunity. and i was desperate to not feel it anymore.
i was desperate to make it stop. i had to make it stop.
the rest of that night is a blur.
at one point i managed to find enough clarity to grab my phone and send one small text to my best friend and roommate.
she was there in seconds. despite the panic that must have come over her as she took me in, she stayed calm. she picked me up like an injured child and rocked me. she put me in bed and stayed with me until i fell asleep. and then she called my mother. she told her i was sick. she told her i needed help. and to this day i know that had to have been one of the scariest phone calls she ever made. because i'm sure she felt she was risking our friendship.
i woke up the next morning to a phone call from my mom.
i knew what was coming.
"sweetie, you need help. someone is coming to get you to take you to a doctor. you're sick. "
i didn't fight. i didn't resist. i didn't protest. i rolled out of bed. my body hurt.
i put on my jeans from the night before and pulled a sweatshirt on over the shirt i had fallen asleep in.
i'm still not sure what i was feeling that day. numb? i don't know. something like numb. i know it was cold outside and i didn't care. i know i looked like hell and i didn't care. i know the people around me were sad and concerned. and i wanted to care. but the numbish feeling was too strong.
in the basement of the Wilkinson Center at BYU there is a place called the Counseling and Career Center. there i met with a counselor. she asked questions i didn't totally want to answer. but i'm not a difficult person so i did my best to talk. my mind was hazy. i was tired. i was drained. i didn't want to be there. i didn't want to be anywhere. i just didn't want to be.
being was painful. being was exhausting. being was heavy and i was just too weak.
where was that option?
it's hard to explain.
as i left that meeting with my counselor i had to walk through the Wilkinson Center as it was bustling with people between classes. they laughed. they spoke to each other. they held hands. they talked on phones. they ate food. they read books. i was standing in the midst of hundreds of people living their life and i just kept staring at them as their lives swirled around me. and i wondered how they could go on living like that when my life was falling apart.
for a second i broke out of that numbish feeling and i wanted to scream at them. i wanted to stand on a table and tell them all what had happened, what i felt. i wanted them to know that their living life like that wasn't fair. that other people were hurting, that i was hurting. i hated them for their indifference. i hated them for pushing their happiness in my face. it was rude. how dare they be happy like that?
it wasn't fair.
why was i cursed with this dark cloud, this emptiness this ceaseless exhaustion?
thinking about the injustice of it all, even though it was only for a second before the numbish feeling came back, made me tired. so i went home.
but it was a kind of tired that sleep couldn't fix.
still, sleep became my drug of choice. a place of non-reality.
but my sadness eventually crept into my sleep and some nights my nightmares were so real i would wake up crying.
and still tired.
every part of me ached and for months i hated myself for being so weak.
i was so ashamed.
somewhere in my mind i wanted to be happy, i wanted to go out and do things, to be with people. but i couldn't. i was paralyzed.
i prayed a lot during that time. and for a long time it seemed like i got no answer. it felt like my prayers were falling on deaf ears and i assumed God was just as sick of me crying to Him as my closest friends and family were.
i was sick of my crying. how could they not be?
i withdrew. i stopped answering phone calls and texts. i didn't want to see people. i knew i couldn't be the person they actually wanted to see so i ignored them. i couldn't even fake it anymore. i couldn't remember how to be the old me. and i knew i would bother them less, hurt them less if i just faded out of their lives. i let myself turn cold. i let myself be hard to love.
i walked with my head down. no eye contact. no conversations. my headphones were in to be sure no one tried to speak to me. i couldn't speak to someone. because conversations usually involved the question "how are you?" and they didn't want to hear that answer.
one day one of my best friends i had grown up with saw me in the testing center on campus. she stopped to talk to me, to see how i was doing. i'm sure i hurt her that day. i was cold and withdrawn. i don't think i even smiled at her. if she hugged me, i'm sure i didn't hug back. i didn't want to talk to her. but it wasn't just her. i didn't want to talk to anyone. still, in the back of my mind i was yelling at myself. this is one of your best friends. she cares about you. stop being so cold. but i couldn't stop. i didn't know how.
i felt sick. but i had no physical symptoms. i just felt sick.
i had no appetite. i forced myself to eat triscuits, the blandest food on earth.
i met with the same counselor a few more times.
i guess i wasn't making much progress because she referred me to a group therapy and suggested i talk to the psychiatrist about maybe starting on some anti-depressants.
group therapy was for squares.
and anti-depressants were for crazy people.
but i'm not a difficult person so i agreed to the group therapy.
i would have to think about the medication for a while.
i laughed for the first time in a really long time when i was in group.
it was a weird sound, a weird feeling and i know to anyone outside of group the source of my laughter would have been considered twisted and sardonic. i don't even remember what it was. but we all sat there and laughed at the same joke that only the eight of us could understand. it was small but it meant something to me.
after talking to my new group friends (if you can call them that. i knew nothing about them except their first names and the most devastating parts of their lives.) about the possibility of medication, i talked to my mom. she was in favor of them, but she told me to pray about it.
prayer had not been working for me lately. but i hadn't given up completely. so i took this one to the Lord.
a few days later i found my answer. the topic of depression came up in one of my classes.
in contrast to the views of my group, the opinions and thoughts on depression in that classroom were cold and callous.
they hurt me.
they're just trying to get attention.
they're being selfish.
it's all in their head.
if they wanted to be happy, they would just choose to be happy.
i was grateful to be sitting in the back corner by myself. i was insulted. i was angry. but more than that, i was embarrassed. i was ashamed.
and then my professor shared his thoughts. they were merciful and kind.
and they went something like this:
the human body is remarkable. but it is also fallible.
there is an immense number of illnesses and diseases that can befall a human body. among them is depression. it is just as real as MS or kidney failure. but people don't really judge others for having MS or going into kidney failure. but mental illness provokes judgment. a lot of it.
depression is tricky.
the mind is the place where we go to meditate, to reason, to find understanding.
mind over matter is the mantra, right?
so what happens when the mind is sick?
there's no reasoning. there's no meditation.
the one place we go to find peace within us, to organize thoughts, to think clearly is the very place that is causing the unrest.
the mind is also a place that no one can see. depression does not manifest itself in any tactile way. and when they can't see it or feel it or smell it or hear it, it's hardly real to those who don't know what it's like to have to fight against it.
there was a lot he said. but it was years ago and i don't remember it all. but it moved me.
i read this recently and it summed it all up almost perfectly.
"depression is such a cruel punishment. there are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just the slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer. and like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience; a room in hell with only your name on the door." -martha manning
i used to really hate people that didn't understand.
i hated their ignorance.
i hated their judgment.
i hated the way they would tell me that it would all go away if i would just read my scriptures or say my prayers. i think after a while i actually began rolling my eyes in front of them. it's not that i didn't believe in the power of scripture study and prayer. i did. i do.
but comments like that frustrated me and belittled the severity of my illness.
i think Jeffrey R. Holland said it best in his talk Like A Broken Vessel when he said,
"If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation."
this was real. and prayer and scripture study would not take it away on their own.
i talked to my professor after class one day. he took me in his office and we talked. i told him my story. i told him how hard i was trying. because i was. i was trying so hard to get better. but i was still so stuck. so lost. where i was and how hard i was trying were at odds with each other.
he asked if i was on medication. i said no.
he asked if i thought it would be helpful.
i said maybe.
he asked what was holding me back.
i told him i was afraid. i was afraid of being dependent on a pill to be happy. i was afraid of more people judging me for being dependent on a pill to be happy. i was afraid to admit that this was all real enough that i actually needed to be medicated. i was afraid it wouldn't work and i would have to accept that i was even more broken than i thought.
and i was afraid it would work and i would change. and that scared me because i honestly couldn't remember what it was like to not be that way.
he talked to me for a long time. he helped me work through each fear. and by the end of the conversation i was ready to give it a shot.
and i did.
one bottle of prozac. with my name on it.
it sat on my bathroom counter under a note i wrote to myself on my mirror that said "it's okay."
it didn't work right away.
but it's not supposed to.
but a month later i was actually doing a little better.
i still cried. but i cried less.
i still hurt. but i hurt less.
one day my friend kendyl came over. she came up to my room and the first thing she said was "well look who got out of bed today!" and it made me laugh. like a real laugh.
some days were bad. some days were good. most days were fine.
i have had so many ups and downs since then. i've had dark days that were all too similar to that february night. but i've had really great days, too. days where i've laughed until i cried. (hey, let's play a game where we count how many times i've used the word cry or any of its derivatives.) i
i've learned a lot about this illness.
i've learned to not hate the people who don't understand it. i've learned that not everyone who doesn't understand it is ignorant. i've learned i wouldn't wish for anyone to be able to understand it. it's terrible. but i am grateful when i meet and talk to those who do.
i've learned that i can do hard things.
i've learned that suicide is not the answer.
i've learned that suicide is not a sign of weakness either.
("suicide was not a choice he made, but rather a choice he happened onto when his pain was greater than his ability to cope...suicide was not a choice to die, but rather an expression of the deepest human desire to survive."<-- span="">source) -->
i've learned that everyone has a struggle. this is mine.
i've learned that every single time i think i'm okay to come off my prozac-i'm not. not yet, at least. (still learning that one, actually.)
i've learned that my happiness is not dependent on my relationship status. because 4 years into a happy marriage with a man i can honestly call one of my very best friends, i still struggle.
i've learned that depression sucks. a lot. like a whole lot.
i've learned that it's okay to cry. even if it's while you're standing in the grocery store staring at bags of rice. (yes, that happened..)
i've learned that it's okay to cry to people.
i've learned that people really can love me in spite of my depression.
i've learned that this battle is real. and it is grueling at times.
i've learned that my depression is a part of me. it has shaped me.
i'm learning how to communicate before things get out of hand.
i'm learning that this might not end for a while..if ever. (and sometimes that's daunting.)
i'm learning the importance of speaking kind words to others. and not just posthumously.
i'm learning that there are more people like me than i ever knew.
and i'm hoping more people will speak up. because i think we could do a lot of good for each other.
it's not easy to talk about. it probably won't come easy. i know that.
it took me 4 days to write this post. but i take comfort in the words of Robin Williams when he said, "no matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."