I’ve suffered quite a few lows in my life. Hardly as much as most, I know. There is probably a disturbingly large number of people who have experienced horrors I cannot comprehend, things that would break me a dozen times over if I myself were to go through them. However, I still have my own pains to bear. A wise man once said, “pain shared is pain lessened”. I hope that by sharing my pain, I can be rid of it once and for all, and help any who read this to be rid of theirs as well.
So, as I already mentioned, I’ve had my share of lows.
My parents never had a happy marriage; they wouldn’t fight often, only every six or seven months, but it was never pleasant. They never sought counseling, were always talking past one another. Even though I realized that they both loved me dearly, it still hurt me to come to grips with the fact that maybe my mom and dad shouldn’t have gotten together, they were just too incompatible.
They separated right after I finished high school, which didn’t make my transition into adulthood any easier. What followed was a long string of loud arguments, false accusations, lots of tears, for about six months. It wasn’t as juicy or as dramatic as reality TV, but it would’ve made for a decent soap opera
I was afraid that my dad was becoming suicidal, because he was having so much difficulty sleeping in the last few weeks before he left our house, that he turned to alcohol to knock himself out. He began to break down crying more and more as he realized the situation was beyond his power to fix. I had never seen my dad cry before then.
My dad died very suddenly from heart failure four years ago. I had just started my third year at university, and it was my brother’s 14th birthday. Thankfully I had schoolwork and a future career to think about, so I managed to shove my grief aside temporarily and focused on moving forward.
However, something happened shortly after I graduated that ruined my life for more than a year.
In February of last year, when I waking up one morning, I felt my my breathe slow down, then stop, for no apparent reason whatsoever. I panicked. I tried to scream for my mom and brother, but I couldn’t move, I was completely helpless. After what felt like an eternity, I felt my breathing start up again. I went to my mom immediately. I did a bit of research, and discovered that I was at risk for sleep apnea. The results from the sleep test I took were mostly positive. But this trauma had hurt me more deeply than I realized.
My dad had died at 54, my mom’s dad at 51. Both from heart problems. I was scared that I would follow in their footsteps. I was terrified. What would happen to me?
I had wanted to be a writer my whole life. I was done school at 25, I had a debt I had to pay off, and I had no idea what to write about. I felt unbelievably stupid.
Who goes to school for twenty years and doesn’t know what they’re going to do with their lives? How come I hadn’t made any friends, or made any contacts, or tried to get an internship? I started going into a panic.
When I went on Facebook to network, I began to feel worse; all my former classmates from high school seemed so happy, so content. Not only were all their moms and dads together, healthy, happy and supportive, they had even started families of their own. I began to fall deeper into despair.
My mind was caught up in a never-ending merry-go-round of misery. It was like having your own personal bully or Marine drill instructor, like that guy from Full Metal Jacket. I started criticizing every character flaw I had. I discovered that I have lots.
Your too fat, too slow, too emotional. Little crybaby, your daddy’s gone, and now you want your mama to protect you from the mean, cruel world. You’re pathetic! Your gonna die at 33 from an aneurism or a brain tumor, and you’re not going to leave anything behind. No books, no kids, no friends, nothing. You’re gonna leave this planet, and no one will remember that you ever existed.
You’re no Tolkien, or Ray Bradbury or Neil Gaiman, so why bother?
Despite advice from family, neighbors and one kindly therapist, nothing helped. I began to become suicidal. Once I thought about cutting my wrist with a kitchen knife. Another time I thought about overdosing on prescription drugs. These periods for mercifully brief, lasting only a few minutes. But all it takes is a second for the brain to act on an impulse, good or bad.
Then, just a week before my 26th birthday, I was told that my grandfather was dying.
I should’ve known it was coming, just like with my parents’ separation. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for most of my life, and had started showing symptoms of dementia shortly after my dad’s death. I went to go see him for the last time on May 21st. His skin was paper thin, he was suffering from a fever. I took his hand and spoke comforting words to him even though he knew little English, and I very little Italian. He had had to bury his son, and now me, my aunt, uncle and cousins would have to bury him.
I would like to take a minute to debunk one of the biggest myths about depression. It is not something you just get over. Yes, many people who suffer from depression like after losing a loved one, or unemployment, and they eventually get over it; but my case went beyond that. I couldn’t sleep, and when I was awake, I was restless and couldn’t concentrate. When I tried to read, I could take no pleasure from it. I felt that I was ignoring my problems. I couldn’t have fun or do anything productive. And when I messed up, that drill sergeant would be right there waiting for me.
So I’m telling everybody here and now: if you know someone who is suffering from depression, get them help immediately! Don’t tell them to man up and get over it, criticism is the last thing they they need. And don’t just think you can through drugs at the problem. There’s no guarantee that the drugs will work; you have to remember that everyone’s brain chemistry is unique. There has never been a cure ’em all when it comes to this sort of thing. And if you’re going to bring them to therapy make sure the fee is within your budget! I was lucky to find help that scaled the fee to my very tight financial situation.
Above all, people with depression need love. They need to be reminded that they’re not alone, that their lives can get better. They may try to hide their pain, thinking that their issues are too small in the grand scheme of things, that they don’t want to bother their loved ones. Don’t let them! Remember what I said about pain shared at the beginning? Get them to open up at all costs!
I cured my depression by remembering that I’m a premie; I was born at 27 weeks. I’m lucky to be alive at all. And that thought triggered all my happy memories: all the baseball games I went to, all the Disney movies I’ve seen, all the trips I’ve been on. When I got my legs fixed and went through three months of rehab; when I got pneumonia at 16 I thought I was dying, but after a week in the hospital I was fine.
So I realized something. I’m not my dad. I’m not my grandfathers. They made their choices, now I must make mine. I will learn from their mistakes, and be a better person. I will die, 20, 30, 50, who knows how many years from now, with a smile on my face. I may be buried with my family, but my life shall go down a different road. And I never took one Prozac to get where I am now.
Too many people are not so lucky. Don’t let yourselves throw your lives away. I lost over a year of my life to despair. I could’ve lost the rest.