It’s my birthday tomorrow: reflections

I’ll be 28 tomorrow. I’m at the age where I’m not really excited about presents anymore. I went to visit my dad yesterday and spent the night at his apartment. We went to the mall so he could buy me a present, but they’d shut down the only bookstore and it took forever to find anything I didn’t have too much of already. Finally he bought me some tank tops. The weather has been way too hot lately — we will pay for it later — and so people are still wearing tank tops, but because it is October they were on sale for only $6 each. I suppose I’ll get more gifts tomorrow, on my actual birthday.

I think I am lucky to have lived as long as I have. It’s kind of a long story, but basically, on July 17, 2007, the knowledge hit me like a bolt of lightning — that my depression was so severe it was probably going to kill me. I figured I had a year, two at the most. You might ask why I did not seek treatment at the time; well, I just didn’t think it would help. The last time I’d tried to get treatment for my depression was at college in Arkansas, and I got no help at all and the situation just got worse. (Another long story. Basically, the people I sought help from were, if not exactly incompetent, at least completely unprepared for a case as severe as mine.)

And so, in midsummer 2007, I resigned my self to my fate: I didn’t know exactly how or when, but it was likely that within the next year or two I would take my own life. I genuinely believed there was nothing I could do to prevent this. I viewed it as something that would happen TO me, like a heart attack or a stroke, and not something I would DO.

And in a sense, my premonition was correct: my mental illness, left untreated, WOULD have killed me during the specified time frame. In late June/early July 2008 (that is to say less than a year after I realized how serious the situation was), I had a proper nervous breakdown. I became to all intents a corpse, shuffling zombie-like, talking very slowly and in whispers, staring at the floor, etc. I desperately wanted to die, more than I ever had before in my life. If I hadn’t been hospitalized then, I would not be here right now. And only then did I start to climb out of the pit. It was an arduous journey and a few times I slipped and slid back into the dark, but now I’ve “made it” so to speak: my mental illness is being adequately treated and I’m functioning at a much higher level than before.

I only wish it had happened sooner. I look back at that time before, all those years of unnecessary suffering, and I think about what might have been, and I get angry. But I try not to think about it because there’s no use in getting upset over something you can do nothing about.

I’m VERY glad my mental health was kept more or less under control during the Great Headache Crisis of 2010-2012. I don’t think I could have handled the double burden of depression plus severe and unexplained chronic pain. To let you all know how bad the depression was: given a choice between my depression and that unrelenting, horrific headache, I would have chosen the headache without even thinking about it. Horrible as my physical pain was during that year-and-a-half headache, my emotional pain from before had been worse. Although I admit, sometimes the one could not be separated from the other.

Although some people may hold my depression and other health problems against me, I think being frank about them is more beneficial than not, both for me and for others. I’m just doing my part in trying to rub out the stigma associated with mental illness.

So here I am — twenty-eight, when I didn’t expect to see twenty-three. And I am glad of it.

21 thoughts on “It’s my birthday tomorrow: reflections

  1. Holly October 4, 2013 / 2:59 pm

    Happy Birthday, Meaghan! Hope you have a great day!

  2. Michael October 4, 2013 / 4:48 pm

    Happy birthday. I hope it’s a great day for you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. NH October 4, 2013 / 7:18 pm

    Congratulations on climbing out of the pit!. It is a rough road

  4. Jose October 4, 2013 / 7:39 pm

    Happy b-day, you are almost reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

  5. Christine October 4, 2013 / 8:08 pm

    Happy Birthday! Your Amazing!!!!!

  6. Doris October 4, 2013 / 8:36 pm

    Happy Birthday! You are awesome!

  7. Shannon October 4, 2013 / 8:56 pm

    Happy birthday! We’re all really glad you’re still here!

  8. Julie October 4, 2013 / 9:18 pm

    Happy Birthday! So thankful you got help. You are a blessing.

  9. perl October 4, 2013 / 10:24 pm

    So happy you are still here! Thanks for sharing your story so openly – I really hope that we will see the destigmatization of mental illness during our lifetimes. Hope you enjoyed your special day!

  10. M86 October 4, 2013 / 11:56 pm

    Happy Birthday Meaghan! I’m 27, and I’ve been there… I really have… It started in junior high school for me. Medication helped me so much.
    About 2 years ago, I tapered off of them, because I had changed my life for the better and had a new love… Then, I went through a slightly rough time, and had my first panic attack in a store… It’s not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. I know I’ve told this story in your blog comments (probably word for word… Thanks, OCD),
    but for anyone out there… If you’re experiencing any mental illness… There is so much help out there… I’ve become a great counselor for it.

    • M86 October 5, 2013 / 12:00 am

      And Meaghan, you are simply amazing! I think I mentioned my autistic brother in past comments from way back…
      You are both great people (even though I have never met you)… I just know. Take care!

  11. Pamela October 5, 2013 / 12:09 am

    Have a delightful birthday! Thank you for all the work you do.

  12. marycarney October 5, 2013 / 4:55 am

    This old world is a better place with you in it. Happy Birthday and thank you for your honesty and transparency regarding your illness. I have learned from your experience.

  13. steve October 5, 2013 / 11:39 am

    Happy birthday stranger 🙂

  14. Robin-NH October 5, 2013 / 1:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story and for all that you do. Happy birthday!

  15. danielle October 5, 2013 / 2:22 pm

    hope you enjoy your birthday! I know you are a stronger person now b/c of your past…. enjoy the day

  16. gaetano October 5, 2013 / 2:24 pm

    happy birthday!!!

  17. Kat October 5, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    Happy Birthday!!!!

  18. jaclyn October 6, 2013 / 12:04 am

    Happy Birthday, and I am glad you are alive!
    I just had this conversation with my daughter about depression. I suffered with it from about 20 to 30 years old, and I too thought I would eventually die from it. Although, if pressed, I would tell people I thought it “wrong” to commit suicide. I just said that because I thought it sounded morally right to say. If people tell me that they want to take there life now, I empathize with them and share my story about my road to getting help. Anyway, I recognize the signs of my daughter going through depression, and she is really pissed about it. She said she doesn’t want people to think she is “mental.” I told her that it is nothing to be ashamed of and that the stigma should NOT be surrounding something that so many people suffer from! Ironically, she is a Psych major, and she said it exacerbates her depression because she applies every illness she is learning about to herself! We had a good laugh about that! After we talked for a while, she realized that it truly is something she can get help with, and she calmed down more and felt good about facing it proactively. Fortunately, there is more and better help for mental illness. I am so glad you are transparent about your life. You are truly a great soul, and you are loved and needed in this world.
    Enjoy your birthday week!

  19. Judy Mahoney October 6, 2013 / 7:15 am

    Meaghan….a very happy birthday to you !!! Hope you have a happy, peaceful day. Judy

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