I wrote an article about suicide prevention for work a few years ago. I put myself in the lead, talked about how familiar I was with suicide ideation. I’d thought about how easy it would be to turn the wheel of my car into a drainage ditch when I was a new driver, age 17. I slept through most of Saturdays during the fall of my junior year of college, saved by a friend who pounded on my door on those weekend days, making me join her in the dining hall.
My lead of this article wasn’t as graphic as the words above. Still my husband wondered why I wrote a first person lead. “You were never going to do that,” he said. “Why’d you put yourself in there?”
The only reason he could say that I was never going to do that was because I didn’t. But he hadn’t lived inside my head all those years ago. How I wanted a safety valve out of life, an escape away from my dark mind. The truth is, some of those months were so dark during my senior year of high school and my sophomore year of college that I don’t even remember the minutes of those days.
Still, every time depression calls my name, knocks on my door, sits on my couch, I remember every step it took to drag myself away from spending time thinking about suicide. The getting out of my head and into my body: exercise, as much as possible. Eat: stop forgetting or not bothering to eat. Meditation: do it, especially when you don’t want to. Breathe: when you gasp because you’re sobbing, slow that breathe down and breathe as deeply as you can. If every tool under the sun doesn’t lift that veil of darkness, make an appointment with a therapist.
I used to think my young foray into depression was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But just last week, I again remembered how thankful I am that I learned my own steps to step up and out of deep depression. I lay next to my younger daughter as she tried to fall asleep and I had a few brand new thoughts. What if my mom did everything right when she helped me long ago, pulling me to therapist after therapist until I admitted the darkness that filled my brain? And what if being depressed at age 17 taught me everything I know about living?
The next day I called my mom and told her I thought she did a “pretty great” job at raising me, that I realized this while lying in the dark next to my own child as she eased her anxious mind into realization mode and fell asleep. My mom said she remembered how I slipped into her bed night after night when I was depressed.
“I did?” I asked her. “I don’t remember doing that.”
Then my mom recounted a recurring nightmare I had back then, but I don’t remember that dream either. I didn’t remember the specific ways she reached out and tried to pull me back into the land of the living. But I remember the list we made when I went to college about the steps I needed to take whenever my brain leaped into depression. That’s the list I used my junior year of college to battle my depression. It’s the same list I use today, whenever need be.
I keep reading these posts during suicide prevention week. I want to add my voice to this week. I want to be a hand reaching out to anyone who lives where I sometimes live. If you’re depressed, I see you. I see the horrible land of hurt you live in and I can sit with you as you work your way out. There’s so many of us here waiting to help you, people who have been and do live where you are right now. I want to be eloquent and wise, but the truth of the matter is simpler than that: You are loved just as you are. I want you to live.