I was eight, sitting at the top of the stairs on the nasty blue carpeting that infested nearly all 70s era houses. I’d been crying all day, my stomach in knots, and I couldn’t formulate any response to “What’s wrong?” I didn’t KNOW what was wrong, only that it was probably me and most definitely my fault. My friends never cried for weeks on end – or if they did, they didn’t spill their (embarrassing) beans to me, unable to eat or sleep or feel that they could ever possibly feel safe. Their stomachs probably were never tied up in so many knots that they felt like barfing at a moment’s notice. But I did. All day, every day.
I was powerless against these feelings.
But it was late, and I wasn’t supposed to be out of bed, but I couldn’t sleep, so 11PM found me sitting on the top of the stairs, quietly weeping, to no one in particular. I simply could not handle laying in my bed a single moment longer, hot and itchy, scared, my pillow drenched in tears. I tried to be quiet, listening to the murmurs of my family talking below, knowing that if I got caught on the stairs, I’d get yelled and and forced back into my horrible bed. Eventually, my brother – 18 years old – came home and saw me at the top of the stairs. He mocked my weeping for a bit (cry-baby) until he realized that I wasn’t whining about not getting my way and his face went slack. He slowly climbed those disgusting stairs until he approached the landing.
“What’s wrong?” he asked in a kinder way than he ever normally spoke to me and it was this kindness that opened the floodgates. I became hysterical. I didn’t exactly KNOW what was wrong and I had no idea how to make it better. All I knew is that I didn’t want to be alive anymore. So I told him, “I want to die.” It was the plain, simple truth: I no longer wanted to live. It wasn’t because I hated school, which I’d initially blamed it on (my teacher was an ass), but something far deeper: complete and total self-loathing.
This was my first nervous breakdown.
My confession flew my parents into a tizzy of making appointments with doctors, therapists, and everything in between. That tiny, small confession turned my world upside down. As years passed, I saw a slew of therapists and learned how to say the things they wanted to hear, not because I was self-defeating, but because I liked the way they seemed to be genuinely proud of me. I “made progress” with the therapists until they decided that BAM, I’d been cured.
November of 1994 found me, once again, desperate to end my life. I’d been broken up with by a guy I’d *pink-puffy-hearted* loved and in reaction, I didn’t see any reason to continue. This time, though, I decided to end it. Swallowing a bottle of Prozac (which likely wouldn’t have killed me anyway), I realized how stupid I’d been and called my best friend. Off we went to the hospital and there, I vomited so hard that I was amazed my organs were still intact.
In that way, I had my second nervous breakdown.
Afterward, my parents twittered around and got me a new therapist and psychiatrist, neither of whom were worth a damn, much as they tried. I spent the next few months in bed, unable to care enough to get up or go out. I missed scads of school. I took my meds and eventually returned to the real world (no, not the show).
The depression was kept at bay for a good many years. I called it remission, but I never thought about it returning. But, because depression is a wily fucker and determined to fuck your shit up, it’s plagued me for most of my life.
I’d quit taking my antidepressants after I’d gotten pregnant with Alex – the doctor made it clear that it could be dangerous for my kid, after Alex was born, I didn’t even recognize post-partum depression for what it was. Instead, I caught myself weeping in the kitchen day after day because the ice-maker had stopped working. It felt like my best friend had died, I wept and mourned the damn thing for about a week before I realized that being THAT upset about an ice-maker was absurd. Back to the doctor I went, and the next day, I had some new antidepressants.
That was like a quarter of a nervous breakdown, but had I waited, I’m certain it would have been a particularly bad episode. Depression is sneaky like that.
I’d had a nervous breakdown at the end my of marriage for Dave,* and after he decided we should get a divorce, I was a wreck. Not a cute, wipe-the-eyes-daintily kind of wreck, I had no fainting couch, I was a huge slobbery, disgusting mess. After witnessing and living with my own mother’s breakdowns and hysteria, I realized that I needed to get away from them for their own sake. While I should’ve hearkened back to my over-the-top reaction to that damn ice-maker, I was not in my right mind. Now I know that I should’ve checked myself into an inpatient psychiatric unit, but at the time, my brain felt like the neurons bouncing back and forth – I went by gut instinct (which NEVER fails, right?) and moved out. I had no money, no job, a huge addiction to pain pills to contend with, and no time or room to get through this bad patch of depression. It was impulse after impulse.*
And it was a colossal mistake.
I paid a steep price for it. While I maintained our joint custody arrangement, on the days when the kids weren’t around (Monday and Tuesday), I was positively a fucking mess. Days would turn into nights and then back into days and I could barely get off the couch to urinate. Every single second felt worse than the ones before it and I was utterly convinced that I was the biggest, ugliest, worst person ever born. I was a failure. It’s no wonder Dave wanted a divorce – I mean, why hadn’t he gotten one sooner? I was an unfit parent and even more an unfit human.
As the depression grew, the addiction flourished. Once the pain pills didn’t work, I added Ketamine* (prescribed as a part of a numbing cream by my doctor). For a long time. In that time, I alienated people, I lost friends, lost my pride, and my dignity. I didn’t hate – I LOATHED – myself. Didn’t care if I lived or died. Hoped that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Even on medication, I was insane. I knew it and I had no idea how to stop.
The day before I fractured my leg for the first time, I’d finally realized that I needed help. Real help. I needed to get off drugs and reclaim my life.
The very next afternoon, I fractured my femur. Standing up in the living room of my apartment, talking to my friend, it broke. The feeling is indescribable (and for another time). Pain pills became necessary, especially when it broke again, and yet again before I got the diagnosis: hyperparathyroidism. By that time, I’d lost most of what I loved my life: my job, my ability to walk, my apartment, my kids, and my dignity.* Depression mixed with addiction creates a hole so deep and dark, you cannot see the light. The dragon had slayed me.
I tried to take my own life once again after I became homeless. The worst thing? I cannot even remember a bit of it. I don’t remember driving to the pharmacy, I don’t remember the pills, I don’t remember being resuscitated. In fact, I have no idea who I could thank for preventing my death.
Months later, I woke up on the psych floor, bedsores on my ankles, and 70 pounds thinner. After intense therapy and a change of meds (along with daily ECT), I was fortunate enough to – for the first time, ever – feel like might just be worth living, after all. I learned to walk, first with a walker, then with a cane, then with my own feet. I got a job I loved and fell in love with an old friend. Now? My life couldn’t be better (unless I had a pony).*
Why the fuck am I yapping this at you?
First Kate Spade and now Anthony Bourdain. They’re both dead. This week. Their demons had taken over and they didn’t see another way out. And I’d be willing to bet a good bunch of you also understand the darkness and the battle against it. I know that I do. And I bothered writing out these words because I very much want to let those of you still in the thick of it that things do change. Life goes on. You can too. Maybe not today or tomorrow or even in a year, but things do – as they are wont to – change.
If you’re feeling like you’re alone, you’re not. I’ve got your back and I’m a hell of a scrappy bitch. I’m also working to get Band Back Together up and running. It was hacked and I’ve not been able to fix it… yet.
You do matter, you are so so so loved, and we are, after all, none of us alone. Depression lies.
If you’re truly feeling like hurting yourself or others, please please please call the Suicide Hotline in your country.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 080 05 03 05
Canada: 5147234000 (Montreal); 18662773553 (outside Montreal)
Finland: 010 195 202
Hong Kong: +852 2382 0000
New Zealand: 045861048
South Africa: 0514445691
United Kingdom: 08457909090
* I will expound annoying on these juicy items at a later time.