I wanted to start this letter with “you are loved” and “it will get better” but those are messages you read all the time and right now it doesn’t matter how many times you read them you will not believe them, it’s not just hard for you to, it’s almost impossible for you too. That is what illness does to your brain. It makes it impossible to see the good.
I’ve been really depressed twice in my life, both for different reasons. The first time was in middle school, after three years of social torture and a ton of bullying I was so depressed my parents pulled me out of the 8th grade because I was suicidal. Then again, when I was 16, because my medication for my bipolar disorder was bringing some serious health issues along with it. I was removed from the medication and fell into depression because of my disorder. So, one was triggered by events and one was triggered purely by my brain. One kind is not better than the other.
Instead of telling you about your situation I’m going to tell you about mine. I would have missed proms, weddings, graduations. I would have missed reuniting with one of my past best friends. I would have missed saving three different lives from taking themselves. I would have missed two different years that at the time I proudly proclaimed “I’ve never been happier in my life.”
That’s right, two different years that I was happiest, they both came after depression. I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me. I would have said that I would have never been happier then I was at eight, or whichever joyful year of childhood I wanted to pick. I would have never in a million years told you that at 22 I believed that the best years of my life are definitely those yet to come. I couldn’t have wrapped my head around the idea that there was any joy in my future at all, because all I could see in every direction was darkness. The kind that invades your soul and drains your energy and will.
I’m going to tell you what saved my life the first time. I was in the dark and I could see the dark, so I saw what my death would create, which was more darkness. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that my death would destroy my mom and the rest of my family. In fact once I started seeing it all I could see was the fact that killing myself would just transfer my depression to everyone I loved.
You want to talk about dark? That’s dark.
So I did something unthinkable, as I did it I didn’t want to do it. I told my mom. I didn’t tell her everything, but in some way I did. I told her I was depressed and I told her I wanted to kill myself. It didn’t magically fix it but it gave me something I hadn’t had before, a hand reaching down into the pit, that wanted with everything in it to pull me up out of it. It got me help.
Help came in the form of love, support, professional treatment, and medication. That help took months to save me, but it did, it pulled me out of that pit, it pulled me back into the light.
If you’re reading this in your darkness and you think that your death wouldn’t effect anyone and that nobody would care. I want you to realize that everyone who has killed themselves have thought the same thing, only to have hundreds of people say “I wish I had known” or “They were such a good person, this shouldn’t of happened.” When I told people years after the fact that I had been bullied in middle school, girls I hardly knew in my old classes went “I didn’t know, I would have stood with you.”
I want you to try something. I want you to loudly announce: I’m depressed. I need help. Just those five words. Say them to family, put them on Facebook, say them to a teacher you like, say them. Say them to me.
I want you to face the darkness and I know how hard that is, I know how impossible it seems, and I know that some people do it alone, and they defeat it. But I want to know that you don’t have to do it alone. You are not alone, there are people in the light who want to help you and there are also a ton of people there with you in the dark. 300 million people are suffering from depression at this very moment. That giant pit your in is too dark for you to see everyone else in there with you. Depression isn’t something to be ashamed about. You feel like it is, but it isn’t. I felt like it was, but it wasn’t. It’s actually, by the very definition of the word, normal. A lot of terrible things are normal and all of them shouldn’t be.
But the one good thing about terrible but normal things, is that there are a lot of people who have come out of them to say: Hey, you can survive this and overcome it, and if you need my help to I will give it.