It’s been a while and I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve been writing this in my head for over a month, and I’m pretty sure I’m still going to get some things wrong. I feel like I had a kind of epiphany the other day – it’s time to let some things go. I’ve been holding onto this stuff for so long that it’s like a poison, infecting my brain and heart. I won’t be able to forget any of it, but I need to learn to accept it all and move on. Why on a public blog, you ask? I’ve asked myself that too – it’s been a difficult decision to put this out here for everyone to see. But reading other people’s stories of struggles, sadness, despair and ultimately triumph have helped me so much, and if I can touch just one person’s life with my story, then it will be worth it. So, here we go.
Trigger Warnings: depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts
I stopped writing because I went into a pretty bad depressive episode for about three months. I have Bipolar I disorder, but since I’ve been in “remission” for the past four years or so, this kind of hit me like a truck. Or a freight train. Or something else that is big and unexpected.
I’ve been struggling with depression and bipolar disorder for fifteen years. I started cutting myself when I was thirteen. My parents were probably petrified, and I know they did the best they could for me, but back then there wasn’t a whole lot of information about mental health issues. I saw some counselors, convinced everyone that I had stopped cutting (I hadn’t), and life went back to normal. But I still felt like there was something wrong inside me. High school started and I was mostly happy, but there was this aching darkness inside of me that dragged me down some days. I remember writing in my journal that I wanted to die, but not understanding why. Other days, my brain would race. I would write pages and pages of poetry and stories, staying up until 3:00 a.m. making collages on my bedroom walls, talking a mile a minute and feeling like I was on top of the world.
Looking back now, I can see that these are all classic signs of bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, I was only diagnosed with major depression. When I was eighteen, my doctor gave me some Prozac and sent me on my way. Unfortunately, this was around the same time that I ended up moving to another city for college and living on my own for the first time. Not a great combination.
Living alone was both freeing and incredibly difficult. I missed my family and friends, but enjoyed being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I was still going through my ups and downs, and cutting myself had become an almost daily occurrence. It was a release for me. I would fill up with thoughts and ideas and sadness and anxiety, and the pain was like an exhale – like letting go. I didn’t tell anyone; I covered my arms with bandages and long sleeves. Things got worse and worse, and eventually culminated in an ambulance ride to the ER, and my parents coming to bring me home. Dropping out of school was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but it was the right thing to do.
I moved back in with my parents, and the next few months were a haze of new medications, therapy, and lots of sleep. I don’t remember much from that time, but what stands out is how patient people were with me. My mom and I would sit on the front porch and do crosswords together, or go for long walks where I would talk and she just listened. My sisters and I would have movie nights, cuddled up on the couch just like when we were kids. I remember coffee dates with dad, drinking iced cappuccinos together and talking about our favorite books. I had friends who talked, friends who listened, friends who just sat with me and let me cry.
It was a long, scary, and difficult road, but I finally stopped cutting when I was 21. It wasn’t a magical epiphany that “fixed me”, just a long line of supportive people, therapy, new medication, and patience. Although I’ve had a few relapses since then, I know that’s a normal part of the healing process. I’m now married, have two kids, an incredible husband, a loving family, and a wonderful group of friends. I know that there will continue to be bad days, but I also know that I have so many people in my life that love me and want to help me through the hard times.
The moral of the story is this: it gets better. Or maybe IT doesn’t get better, but YOU will get better. If anyone reading this needs someone to talk to, I’m happy to listen. I only hope that one day I can be for someone what my family and friends were for me.
If you are in a crisis situation and feel like self-harming or are thinking of suicide, please call 911 or your local emergency number.