The day will start at 5:40 with the traffic report from WTOP, Washington's all-news station, even though I know it by heart - the I-270 corridor will once again be a parking lot, starting with the interchange where Route 109 is. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I am greeted by a black tail rubbing against my leg, which serves as a reminder my cat needs to have his breakfast. The cereal is drowning in the milk, and after I am done, this usually becomes the part where most people await the instant joy of a steaming hot cup of coffee to help them make that long drive or multiple commutes on mass transit. But I am not most people.
Instead of coffee, I have a paper cup in one hand with three antidepressants and in the other one, a tall glass of water. I close my eyes, prepare myself for the taste of bitterness that will soon follow, and swallow them as quickly as possible. As I do, I realize I am lucky because 20 years ago, I could have prematurely ended my life. I am a survivor. Not in the casual way that it is tossed about in conversation, like saying "I'm a survivor of a brutal winter." I survived an attempt to take my own life.
Depression and anxiety were never really part of my life until the late high school years and then college. I'd walk home and be greeted by my mom, who would naturally ask how my day was. You want to say, "It was great," but you know that would be a lie. Just responding "It was OK" isn't much better, either. You really want to say that you are feeling isolated in your own mind, and you don't recognize why your body doesn't feel like it should. You wake up every day with painful pangs in your stomach, which get worse as the day wears on. Everyone around you is laughing and smiling, and while they're living life in full color, you're permanently trapped in a deep, dull, emotional void. On Saturday nights, my dad and I would often go to see New York Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum, but the person who is watching it really isn't you. Your soul is disappearing and nothing you can say will prevent it from happening. When you go to the movies, and the lights go down, your only wish is that they never come back up.
I remember the first time I expressed how I felt, and the response I received wasn't at all surprising: "Oh, honey! You're feeling blue? We all experience that." No, we actually don't. This refrain is probably one that is uttered by many parents because they simply don't understand what depression is like. Worse, there's a sense of denial. In my house, the best way not to talk about something was to avoid it. Living in a state of denial is always easier because difficult topics are very hard to talk about. Ask any parent who has ever had to give the "birds and bees" talk to their children. There is always dread, and a growing fear their thoughts won't be taken seriously. "You'll grow out of it" is another line that was recited with great frequency. In my case, the teasing, the bullying, the hurt got too much for me and it grew into something more. A very dark, eerie path which led me to one day when it all came crashing down.
At around 9:30 a.m., there was just a total break with reality. I wanted out and I didn't care who noticed. I ran to my car parked on the other side of the junior college lot, and drove home in a blur on the Meadowbrook Parkway; I was stunned no police officers pulled me over. I had prepared myself for the inevitability this would happen. After crying until I couldn't breathe, I attempted suicide. I don't remember much from that time, except I wound up in the intensive care unit. The thing about suicide attempts is that a good deal of people really don't want to die. They just want someone to hear and understand.
At 39 years of age, I have accepted some truths about myself. One of the most difficult things we have to do is realize that as human beings, we all have flaws and characteristics that make us who we are. Depression isn't a flaw - it's something I have to face on a daily basis. I believe that once we fully accept who we are, then we see things in a different light. We do have a choice as to how we respond to what we face in our lives. I have to accept the following:
2. I will be open to sharing my feelings and allow myself to be treated professionally. It is so important to be able to discuss any concerns I have because no one can manage this alone.
3. I will believe I am a good person, and others are too.
4. Others may judge, but my path belongs to me. If others share it, it is because they can understand and help to inspire me. You matter. I face depression, Asperger's syndrome and stuttering - and I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I live in Maryland, and I am so thankful that my decision didn't lead to me have another address which would have been my final resting place.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741-741.