I remember the day I first became ambitious.
It was around 4pm on an overcast Saturday. The dog was barking, mum was crying on the phone, and I’d just swallowed an entire box of Zoloft pills.
Having struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life, I’d finally decided on making a red-hot go of escape. But as the nausea began to hit, so too did something else: the realization that should I succeed, I’d be dead. Not only would I be dead, I wouldn’t be around to experience the aftermath. I wouldn’t be at the funeral, I wouldn’t see the impact it had on my family or friends or teachers or those who bullied me at school.
I’d be dead — gone. Just like that.
It wouldn’t be the victory I’d somehow imagined it, but the surest of all defeats. It might sound obvious, but I recall it being an epiphany.
You see, while caught in the relentless grip of depression, attempted suicides are rarely so much about death as they are about life. They’re a desperate cry for help; a futile attempt at drowning out the anxious personal narratives which run on a manic loop inside our heads. The only appeal of death, as I remember it, was a break from life as I was experiencing it.
Life as a proclaimed “loser.”
It was right there and then, as I lay sprawled across the cool tiles of my bathroom floor, that I made a decision. If I was to stay alive, which was fast becoming the more appealing of two options, I’d have to live a life worth living. I’d have to achieve things. I’d have to succeed in my creative endeavors. I’d have to accomplish something worth accomplishing. It was as though a proverbial switch had been flipped, compelling me into the offensive for the first time.
Since that day, depression and ambition have remained standing as the two core pillars to my ever-swinging pendulum of emotional health; one always dictating the other, neither truly existing in the other’s absence. My ambition is anchored in the fear of succumbing to depression, just as my depression is anchored in the fear of not fulfilling my ambition.
Forever ricocheting in silence between soaring hope and aching hopelessness.
When we think of depression and suicide, we tend to think of those who’ve given up, those who feel defeated. We think of those living in all-encompassing darkness; unable to grasp hope or light in the same way others might. My experience with depression has been a little different. It’s been a screaming awareness of great potential, but the fear of not reaching it. The experiencing of true, honest love, but the fear of one day losing it.
It’s having happiness lie just up ahead, forever in reach — but running on sore, tired feet.
When people see me, I’m sure they see someone with everything to live for. Firstly, I’m young, and nothing ignites a resounding “suck it up, princess” quite like youth. I did well in my studies, I’ve just written my first ebook, directed a successful short film, have a loving partner, and make (just) enough money to pay the rent. I’m social, am known for my ability to land a decent punchline, and smile at work more than I care to.
People see the happiness, creativity, and ambition — but not the darkness that drives it.
While it might be impossible to definitively articulate or summarize depression as a word or an illness, I think it’s important that we’re aware of the different forms it adopts around us. It doesn’t just settle in those who stay home on the weekends. It doesn’t favor the poor, nor the overweight. It doesn’t only find home in the unemployed, or those without career direction.
It’s relentlessly random, and I think that’s what makes it so terrifying.
So the next time you find yourself scrolling through the newsfeed of your Facebook or Instagram accounts, spare a thought for the smiling ones — the ones presenting a Valencia-filtered life worth living. Because sometimes it’s those people — the ones who seem to have their shit together, the ones who seem to be doing well — that need help the most.