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What It's Like to Emerge from Suicidal Depression

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | March 18, 2016 |

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | March 18, 2016 |

It’s fine, I guess. *shrug*

The writers and editors of this site have a running discussion thread each day where we talk about upcoming posts and what’s on deck. Joe mentioned he was posting the trailer for the upcoming Backstreet Boys/NSYNC/zombie movie. Everyone was like “wait, what? That exists?” And I thought to myself, of course it does, I wrote about it. I mean, I had to. That’s my wheelhouse, because my wheelhouse is shaped like Nick Carter and features a JC Chasez-shaped toilet. So, I had to have written about it. So I looked. But I didn’t write about it. And I looked up when the original announcement was released: July 2015.

Oh. That’s why.

When I think about the last couple years of my life, I’m equal parts relieved, a little sad, and embarrassed. And I know there’s nothing embarrassing about depression, and that being embarrassed about or finding shame in depression or any mental illness is a huge problem within society, one that desperately needs fixing. And, yet.

Because I feel like I’ve written this post a few times now, in one form of another. When the fog dissipates for a few moments and I have the energy and clarity to talk about what I’ve been up against. And then the heavy settles back on top of me and I lose it. I stop. And I want to disappear, so I try to disappear. I disengage, I defriend, I delete, but no matter what I do, I can’t stop existing, I can’t make people forget I exist. So I fall deeper and the heavy gets heavier.

But this time, it’s a little different. It’s lasted a little longer, the clear is a little clearer. So I wanted to talk about it. Because when I talk about it, it’s like walking through an impossibly dense cornfield, with bristles and deceptively sharp edges cutting my skin, but now I have a machete, and I can make it through, for once. It helps.

I’ve always had depression and anxiety. But I didn’t know that. I thought, and other people thought, I was just overly sensitive. Remotely upsetting moments would destroy me for weeks; the slightest stress would devastate me physically, from headaches to acid reflux to insomnia. And I thought, that’s just how I am.

I’ve talked before about my relationship, how it’s the best thing in my whole world, but how there’s a long painful road behind us that always feels a little too close, like the slightest shift will send us back. I’m so proud of my person. It took him getting better for me to see how far gone I was.

See, when you’re in a relationship with an addict, you forget yourself. You ignore yourself. You stop being. This other person is what matters. Your only purpose is to get that person to the next day, and the next, and the next. So it was easy not to notice how much I was hurting. Because there’s a mission. When there’s a car on top of someone you love, your adrenaline kicks in and you mysteriously gain the ability to lift the car. Only the whole world is the car, and it takes a lot out of you to feel like you’re the only thing holding up someone else’s world.

I started feeling restless. I was unhappy, an urgent and desperate unhappy. And it wasn’t with my relationship, or my precious daughter. So it must be my job. Yes. That must be it. Because I’d altered my dreams to accommodate someone else. And after years of doing that, now must be the time to chase those dreams. Sure, it will be difficult. But this is my last chance, my only chance. It’s now or never. I’ve given up enough. So I decided we were moving to New York. Right now. With a toddler and a husband still in school. And he was so guilty, he stood proudly by my side and looked into transferring to a NYC-based grad school.

When I found out I was pregnant again, reality set in enough to realize that was a terrible idea. The reality wouldn’t last long.

Because I was still miserable. New York was out of the question now with two small children. So I’d quit my job and go full-time. And I did just that. I dropped my own Master’s program—which was being fully paid for by my job—and quit my day job to go full-time with my writing. And it really was what I wanted to do. I was following my dream.

But, then, I hated that, too.

To give up everything in pursuit of this one thing and for this one thing to not be the thing that fixed everything, that was heartbreaking. And I was now very pregnant. And then he lost his job and with that our insurance. The later-diagnosed PTSD as a result of everything that had happened in the past was now fully kicked into gear. I fell apart. I went on job interviews 34 weeks pregnant; one job interview ended in me getting hip dysplasia from taking a walking tour of the grounds. The job I took didn’t make me happy either. For lots of reasons—honestly, my depression and anxiety were the least of what was making me miserable there, but they certainly made everything worse.

I remember one night sitting up in bed. I was happy, I knew I was, I had to be. But I wasn’t.

It’s the hardest thing to reconcile, how normal it can feel. How OK it can feel. Because you don’t know you’re gone until you can’t get it back. Because I could smile and laugh. Things made me happy. My children never went uncared for, my husband never unkissed. But part of me was just switched off. Remember those mesh hanging nets that would hold stuffed animals in the corners of children’s bedrooms? It was like one of those was holding my emotions in place, and it was ripped and shoddily stitched together, and the slightest addition would make everything fall out. One possibly condescending remark? Hysterical sobs and a crushing chest pain for the next two days. Potential judgment from a barely-cared-about acquaintance? A dark numbness for at least the next week. And I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t sew the net together again. It would just keep falling apart.

So I went to therapy. I went to my psychiatrist and got my medicine adjusted to a proper dosage (yes, I learned that my SSRIs, which had been originally prescribed by my family medicine physician, were not at a functional dose). I started journaling—I even started a website just for that. And then it just kind of stopped.

Crippling depression. It leaves not with a bang but a whimper. Not even a whimper. A minor burpy exhale.

How do I know I’m doing OK? Because if I wasn’t, if I was even the tiniest bit less OK, that Hillary post thing would have killed me. Of that I am certain.

So what does it feel like to emerge victorious from the unrelenting darkness of the human soul? I guess pretty normal or whatever. Meh would be applicable in this situation. And that’s OK. That’s wonderful. I don’t need to walk out onto the balcony of my mind screaming “EGOISTE!” I just get to be me again.

So, to you. To the Pajibans, who’ve read me and commented and been kind and funny, whether you could tell or not that for the last two years I’ve been wishing I was gone and that I could erase myself from each of your minds entirely once I’d disappeared, thank you. I hope I stay good for you. And I know you’ll be here for me if I don’t.

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