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.