In the wake of a recent tragedy, I feel the need to explain some of my own darkness in order to shed some light on the effects of depression.
Depression is a mental virus or cancer that decays from within. I cannot pinpoint when my struggle began. I suppose it began when I was introduced to the classrooms at school.
This was where I learned about my differences from other people. This is when I realized I was different in size and strength. I learned about the different structures of popularity and I struggled to fit in.
But let me pause here . . .
Before I go on, I will explain that I am not licensed on this subject in any way. I am not a therapist or a doctor.
This is only an account of what happened to me and my survival. . .
At a young age, nothing seemed easy or reachable to me, and whatever did come easy was fleeting.
Like most young boys, I wanted to play. I wanted to fit in and of course, I wanted to be happy. Like anyone else, I wanted to be cool, but being cool is not always easy and it is often open to interpretation.
I learned about the different branches of the crowd. It began with the cool kids, then came the unpopular, and in my head, then came me.
Sure, I laughed. I played too. I had fun as well, but nothing seemed real or lasting.
I compare my feelings to an emotional form of sensory deprivation, which meant I felt, but not really. Color was dimmed from my perspective and so was my surrounding life. I never felt the truth in my laughter. Instead, I always waited for it to end.
Nothing seemed as vibrant to me as it did to others. I was easily disappointed and easily frustrated.
In addition, my frustration with learning disabilities leaked into my behavior, which became a voice for the feelings that I could not express.
I never knew anyone thought or felt the way I did.
I thought I was alone.
I thought no one could understand, and even if someone was willing to try, I didn’t have the words or the ability to explain myself.
I saw me as a burden, which left me feeling valueless.
At a young age, I was often ill. At eight, I was hospitalized for two weeks with gastroenteritis. I could not keep food down and I could not stand the pain from the Intravenous needles that were stuck in my arm. I underwent testing and I endured different treatments.
After leaving the hospital, I was home on bed rest. I was better, but not well enough to go outside or play with my friends. And as for my friends, I never believed in any of my friendships. It seemed to me as if I was picked on most, which caused feelings of rejection, and I often felt uncomfortable in social settings. I was easily intimidated and I became angry because I could never properly or successfully defend myself.
At an age when I should have been thinking about action figures or playing in the dirt, I began to think about the alternate. I was too sick to go outside and my food intake was limited.
Again, I use the word “Burden.”
Rather than feel this way, I made a decision. I walked downstairs from my bedroom. I said goodnight to my father as he sat in the den, which in my mind was, “Goodbye.”
I said goodnight to my mother because she was sitting next to him, and then I proceeded into the kitchen.
After swallowing as many Excedrin as I could, I thought to myself, “That should do it,” and then I returned to my bedroom.
Next, I turned out the lights. I climbed into my bed, and I closed my eyes with the hopes of falling asleep and never waking up.
However, this was not the case.
In my young age, I did not know I could not overdose on Excedrin. Instead, I became violently ill and I was returned to the hospital later that night.
I failed in my attempt, but this does not take away from the fact that I still attempted such a desperate act at an age when life is supposed to be fun and easy.
I was not unloved at home. And though I believed I was disliked in many cases, this was not always true. I felt as if everything I wanted was always slightly beyond my reach. I could come close to my dreams, and I could see them, but I could never get what I wanted
Another frustration came from my lack of ability to communicate.
I did go to therapy; however, I was never honest with any of my therapists. I was afraid to speak out because I was afraid of what would happen. And same as a baby cries because they lack the language to explain their needs, I acted out of frustration because I not only lacked the language, but I lacked the courage to speak out and explain myself.
It is my experience that my destructive behavior was a result of this frustration, and as I grew older and into different levels of social atmospheres, so did my destructiveness.
In truth, I saw this as justified. I saw my rage and my outbursts as justice, and since I lacked the voice to explain myself, I exposed my emotions through explosive behavior.
I exposed my emotions, but at a young age, I learned to mask them with alcohol. And since drinking was something everyone did to feel “Good,” I decided to find out why.
My first attempts with alcohol did not work out as I planned. I did not enjoy the taste, which I believed was my fault.
“Everyone else likes it . . . so there must be something wrong with me,” I thought. So rather than limit myself because of the taste, I forced my way through the barrier by closing my eyes and drinking as much as I could and as quickly as possible.
At best, I enjoyed the first few minutes. Then the room began to spin. Then the nausea came, and then I was face-planted inside the toilet bowl until there was nothing left to vomit.
I believe my depression and alcoholism are parallel. I was able to mask my fear with a false sense of bravado. I was able to be brave and I was able to speak my mind. Drinking seemed like another justice until drugs came along,
I will not go into the depths of my use or experiments. I will only say that I ran as hard and as fast as I could. I tried every which way to mask my feelings and ease my thoughts that spun in my head. I tried to cover my insecurities and quiet the internal questions that narrated in my thoughts.
But as high as I could get myself, I eventually fell.
Eventually, I had to pay for all of my explosive behaviors, and it was not until I was sitting inside a small jail cell, waiting to see the judge that I somehow felt relieved.
“Maybe I won’t have to do this anymore,” I thought to myself.
Perhaps the court system thought the same thing, which is why I was remanded to a long-term inpatient drug facility.
As far as I ran from myself, my depression followed. But without anything to mask my feelings or hide behind, I was faced with my own reality. I was faced with my fears and insecurities. I was painfully aware of my inadequacies, and again, I lacked the ability to voice my concerns, so inevitably, I returned home with many of the same issues
I was 18 years old . . . I was not home very long when I chose to exchange my sobriety for a night with my most dangerous drug of choice.
I willingly gave away whatever dignity I reclaimed. In a word . . . I lost.
I knew something terrible was going to happen so I put myself in rehab. I went back to my first facility, which was only a 28 day program, but I saw it as an excellent place to hide.
At least I fit there. I knew what the program was; I knew the scheduling, and I knew the counselors. I also knew how to get over, but that too did not go as planned.
Midway through my time at the program, I was confronted with my dishonesties in group.
I felt enraged . . .
I wanted to punish everyone in the room. I wanted them to feel a glimpse of my pain. Maybe then they would know how it feels to live uncomfortably.
After the group let out, I quickly walked to my room. I walked fast so no one could stop me. I knew if anyone did, I would speak to them, and they would talk me out of my next move.
One of the acts of teenage stupidity with my friends was to force each other to pass out.
It began with bending over and breathing in and out, really fast, and as deep as possible. Then once someone felt lightheaded, they stood up straight as someone else pushed on their chest or throat, keeping them from breathing, until fainting.
I used this idea with a pair of jeans. I wrapped one pant leg around my throat and the other pant leg was tied around the sprinkler pipe in the ceiling of my bathroom. I leaned down and began my deep, quick breaths. Then I felt the lightheadedness, then I stood, and then I let my weight fall in an attempt to hang myself.
However, part of this results with the body convulsing in spasms. I suppose I shook hard, or too hard for the knot around my throat, which caused it to slip over my head, and I came back to consciousness while lying on the bathroom floor with my jeans still tied around the sprinkler pipe.
Many ask why?
It does not matter how well I was liked by others. It would not matter how much money I had or fame. I wanted the feelings to stop. I did not want to die as much as I wanted the confusion to rest, and since there was no rest, and there was no way to mask my emotions anymore, I saw dying as my only option.
Many ask about those I would have left behind.
I did have feelings about this. But the internal narrative of my depression was too loud and drowned the voices of my better judgment.
I did not mean to hurt my family or loved ones, but my pain was too great, and I could no longer overcome it.
What I remember most about this time are those that flocked to me afterwards.
I was overwhelmed when I learned (at last) that I was not the only one to feel this way. And at last, I was able to get help and learn the language I needed to explain myself. I was also moved by my roommates in the facility because they stayed up while I slept to make sure nothing like that would ever happen again . . .
I was most touched by a man I will only name as Matthias. He was big and strong. His hands were the largest I had ever seen, and his life was filled with toughness, pain, and loss. I saw Matthias as the true definition of what a man should be. It was his voice that I remember most, and it was his advice that helped me.
Unfortunately, it is easier to give advice than it is to follow it. Years later, the man who in my eyes helped save me from myself decided to take his own life.
In all, I wish I could have been there moments before Matthias chose this. I would have told him the same things he told me. I would have showed him is own beauty and I could have repaid the same kindness he showed me . . .
Yesterday, a man killed himself. He was loved and famous. He was seemingly on top of the world. But in his head, and in his heart, I suppose he felt no different than I did.
Too bad I couldn’t have reached him.
One of the most saving things that was every said to me is, “I understand.”
Depression does not care about financial status or popularity. A person could have everything but still feel as though they have nothing. In fact, having everything only makes things worse because it leads to the question, “How can I have everything I want and feel so terrible at the same time?”
It is as I said: Depression is an emotional virus or cancer that decays from within.
But know this . . . There is a way out.
Suicide is not the answer.
Please talk to someone before you make the worst choice possible.