When I was 17, during my senior year of high school, I woke up one day and everything was grey. I was confused about how I was feeling given that I'd never felt that way before, but I thought maybe I was just having an "off-day." That day turned out to be the beginning of a 2 year long bout of depression for me. It was awful, to say the least. I was terrified of being in my own head, I felt like I was broken and unraveling and I'd never be able to dig myself out of the spiraling black hole I was falling into. I was so scared to be by myself because I didn't want to be alone with my thoughts. I developed an irrational fear of vomiting (which I still have) and I was nauseous all the time (my intense anxiety went straight to my stomach) so I couldn't eat very much and as a result lost a lot of weight. I became extremely attached to my dad during that time. I slept in the same bed as him, I would ask him to come straight home after work every day, I made him sit in the bathroom with me because I didn't want to be alone, and I went with him everywhere he went. I felt like I was going completely crazy, totally losing my mind. At school, I would take breaks to go to the bathroom and cry and I was scared and confused constantly because I didn't know what was happening to me. I was looking for anything, any reason that this may be happening. Was it the birth control I started a month ago, but only really took 3 pills of? Was the chemistry in my brain changing because I was getting older? Am I upset that my parents got divorced 4 years ago? Was I pregnant?? Looking back now, there was nothing that set it off. I was generally content and no big life event had happened to trigger this. And no, I was not pregnant. It just happened.
If you've never had depression, or maybe you experienced it in a different way than I did, I was not just sad. Everyone gets sad sometimes, and sometimes people get sad for long lengths of time. I've been sad so many times! About many different things! Even this past year has been mostly sad for me because I've been very homesick and lost a career I loved. But that's just sadness. I can deal with that. Depression is different. Depression hijacks everything in your brain, it makes everything bleak and grey. You feel like you're in a dream, a nightmare really, where something terrible is about to happen... but nothing is happening. That anticipation and fogginess just stays there and you can't snap out of it.
After about a year of this, it really started to wear on me, and I began to lose my will to live. If nothing was ever going to be bright again, if this pit in my stomach was going to follow me around day and night and sometimes even into my dreams, I didn't think it was worth living. I used to think suicide was really selfish and stupid and could not conceive how someone could possibly kill themselves! Are they crazy?? They're just sad. We all get sad and we all cope! They're just weak. Why couldn't they just stick it out for their families and then they'll get better one day. These were my thoughts when I heard about other teenagers, rock stars, celebrities, etc. taking their own lives. I really had no idea what they were going through. That is until it happened to me. It really seemed like the only way out was to die. So one day it got too real, my mind starting tempting me to think about how I would go through with it, and I looked at this pole I had in my room at the time and thought about how easy it would be to just hang myself off of it. This other part of my brain, the real me that kinda hung out in the corner and came out once in a while, went into panic mode. It sounded alarms and shook me.
I ran to my dad and asked him to take me to the emergency room. I didn't want to tell him what I was thinking because I didn't want to scare him, but the fear on my face was palpable. Off we went. When someone was finally able to see me, they asked me to describe what I was feeling. I had described what I'd been feeling to my parents, friends and some family members, but they didn't understand, but when I finished talking to the nurse, she brought me a piece of paper that explained what an anxiety attack was and what it can feel like, on it were two bullet points that stuck out to me: 1. "feeling of impending doom" 2. "feeling of being stuck in a dream" Now these were very specific descriptions, but they were exactly what I was feeling. This flimsy piece of paper became my lifeline! To know that enough people had reported feeling this way that they put it on a piece of paper was the validation I needed to know I wasn't going crazy! Well, maybe I was going crazy, but I wasn't alone. I would honestly pull this piece of paper out multiple times a day to read and re-read it. Anyway, the hospital signed me up for medicare and the first thing they asked me to do was find and make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
A few days later, I was on Prozac and feeling... better? I don't even like taking Advil because I hate feeling like I'm not feeling my body. So it was weird to take drugs that were making me feel better, but I wasn't sure how I was really feeling... if that makes sense? Anyway, I did that for about 6 months and then my prescription ran out and I decided not to get a refill. A few days later I started to feel it all over again: the grey, the panic, the impending doom. But I wanted to ride it out and see if maybe I just needed to adjust. And I did! I gradually felt better, until one day it just went away! God knows what the hell that was. Why I got it in the first place and then why it just went away. All I know is it was terrible. It kept me from going to a university (I had my pick of San Francisco or San Diego), it kept me from enjoying milestones in my youth, I didn't go on a school trip to Egypt, it freaked my parents out, it kept me isolated from friends and family. It just sucked.
I write all this because it's cathartic and I'm in a panic. I think that it's coming back and I don't know what to do... At this point I'm just begging my brain not to betray me again. And for God to have mercy on me because more than anything, I don't want to go there again. It's coming back in waves and it usually kicks off when the sun goes down. I'm getting myself set up with a mental healthcare provider now so I can start seeing someone right away. My mom reminded me that I've been through this already, so I have the advantage.
I hope I look back at this little online journal of mine and think, woah, that was scary, but it didn't last long and I made it out okay. Just like I look back on those couple of years I described.