On Jan. 8, 1996, at the ripe old age of 12, I decided to end my life.
Obviously, attempting to end my life didn’t work out so well. All I got out of it is a terrible memory of that day and a weakness on the right side of my body. As if that wasn’t enough, it also came with a side of guilt for putting my family and friends through such a horrific experience.
From that day in 1996 until February 2013, I silently suffered from depression.
Why suffer for so long? People who know me would probably say it was my stubbornness. Truthfully though, I was embarrassed. I’d been given the gift of life and should be grateful for it, right? Problem was, I didn’t think I should’ve been spared and was bitter about the gift I had been given.
Then February 2013 came, and frankly, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. This time though, being older and wiser, I reached out for help. It wasn’t easy, and I was still embarrassed that I couldn’t figure it out on my own.
My first step was to get a primary care physician who would “approve” me seeing a mental health professional. I soon had an appointment with both a Psychologist and Psychiatrist. After a week of being poked and prodded and asked countless times about my feelings, I had my best night’s sleep in years.
Lucky for me, the psychologist was amazing and we hit it off right away. I trust her completely, which is important because I had previously seen a different psychologist I had a hard time relating to.
A new fear gripped me, though. What was my mom going to think? I dialed her number, chit-chatted about the weather, work, upcoming vacations, my dog, my cat and my husband – anything to avoid the real reason for my call. Then I blurted out, “I’ve been really depressed for 20 years. I’m taking antidepressants, and I’m seeing a psychologist!”
What happened next surprised me. “That’s so great!” was her response. I was puzzled. Here I was, the biggest failure in the world who can’t do a simple task like “be happy,” and my mother is proud of me? She was and still is proud of me for recognizing I needed help and not being afraid to ask for it.
That first step was the hardest and took me 20 years, but it was the most rewarding.
So how am I doing now? Every day is different. I’m learning to stop the blame game with my 12 year old self, accept that I can’t change the past and move on. Good days now outnumber bad days. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but I’m learning to recognize my triggers so I can stop the downward spiral before it starts. To be honest, it’s a lot of work and not easy, but it’s better than being depressed all the time.
Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, and in my case, was completely preventable. If you or someone you care about has symptoms of depression, talk to someone. Seriously – anyone. It’s much better than suffering in silence.
There are many resources available including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, your primary care physician or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also contact http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/ for information on other mental health issues.
Having a safe place where I can talk openly and honestly about my struggles literally saved my life. It can save yours, too.
I speak from experience when I say if you’re struggling with depression, don’t be ashamed.
Reach out. Ask for help.
Written by: Sarah Riley
This piece was originally posted on http://blog.amfam.com and has been re-posted with permission.
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Great piece, Sarah Riley, particularly the parts about the conversations with your 12-year-old self and your mother. I can almost feel the burden lifting a little?…Best wishes, Joan Beckwith.