So high, I can’t get over it
So low, I can’t get under it
So wide, I can’t get ’round it
I gotta go through the door
-Lyrics from the gospel hymn Rock My Soul
I have a friend who is in the battle of her life with depression, and my heart breaks for her. Like many people, I have lived with depression for the last 9 years. It has been a hard battle, but I've been able to get through it, and I'm so glad I'm still here and that I can once again say that life is good.
Depression is a chronic illness that affects more than 21 million Americans annually. Depression is more than just "having the blues". Depression is more like feeling that you are lost in a dark abyss, and you can't find the way out. You can't function. You get tired of "shaking it off", of struggling to feel better, of forcing the smile, of acting "as if". There is no "fake it till you make it" when you live in the dark days of depression.
And so, my dear friend, I know you are struggling. I know you are having one of the most difficult times of your life. When we text or talk on the phone, I can feel your pain. Believe me when I say, I know what it feels like. I wish I could make it better for you. I know that there are days when you feel like it's hard to breathe, it's hard to open your eyes, getting out of bed feels like the most difficult thing in the world. I know that you are losing hope, and at times, I'm afraid that you will lose hope completely, and I'll call you and you won't be there.
Know that I love you. Know that, although you feel now like you don't have anyone else who cares, or understands what you are going through, that I do. And having one person may not seem like a lot, but believe me when I say that I am grateful for having had a friend who I could call when I was suicidal, and I am so grateful for her endless patience to sit on the phone with me when I was away from home on a layover, and sometimes all she could do for me was sit on the other end of the line, hearing me say over and over "I can't do this anymore, it hurts too much".
It sucks. The pain from depression is hard to describe. It's like having an anvil sitting on your soul, and you just can't shake it off.
I remember the day I wanted to quit. I remember walking on that overpass in San Diego one day in April, after going for a walk to try to feel better, to "shake off" the pain, and suddenly thinking "I could jump and not hurt anymore". I looked at the cars on the highway below me and thought that jumping would be my solution. It all happened so fast. Before I realized it, I was climbing the fence of the overpass, and if it wasn't for the stranger who intervened, I wouldn't be here today. I am forever grateful to that kind stranger. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life. And the beginning of my battle to stay alive.
When I text you to see how you are doing, and you say you are hopeless, that you are angry with life, that you don't see the point in all of this, I feel your pain. I hope and pray that you don't get to the point where suicide seems like the solution.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
And I know, I know that this struggle with depression feels like a permanent thing right now, like there is nothing else you can do. I know you feel like you are exhausted from trying, tired of feeling how you feel. Or even worse, tired of feeling numb.
After my suicide attempt, I struggled for years, yes, years, to feel like myself again. I cried, I fought with people who wanted to help, I reached out when I felt desperate. I, like you, went to day programs for weeks to get treatment. It wasn't easy. It's not easy to have to have your soul biopsied in front of strangers, to have to open up and say the things that are in your head, to have to share the pain that lives inside you. It's also not easy to hear other people's stories of pain and struggle. But in the sharing of the pain and the experience, there is healing. Little, tiny, almost unnoticeable morsels of healing that added together become a ray of hope.
I want you to hold on. I'm begging you to. I know you feel like you have nobody, but you have me. I'm here. I may not be enough, but I know that I can't imagine my life without you in it.
The other day I told you that if I had succeeded in my suicide attempt, I would've never met you. You said "you wouldn't have missed much". That is so not true. I would've missed out on my best friend. I would've missed out in all the love you give, all the silliness, the things we share, the stupid funny jokes. I would've missed out on YOU.
You are one of the brightest stars in my life. Yes, you are a little dim now, but I know that your light is still there, shining bright and strong behind the darkness. I know that when you finally come out of the darkness, my little star will shine again.
So, fight my friend. Fight the battle. It will be hard, it may be long, but I know you can do it. There will be tears, frustration, anger, but in the end, there is hope. There is life. You will learn so much about yourself and about life through this. And no, I'm not trying to say that depression is a gift, because it's not, but it certainly has been a learning experience for me. I would even say it's made me a better, stronger person.
Know that I love you always. Know that I'm here, reaching out my hand, hoping you will hold on and fight. Believe me, it's worth it. I'm so glad I held on. I'm glad I didn't quit. Even with its ups and downs, life is good, it IS worth living. I've gone from wanting to give up to, as one of my friends calls it, being a "lifer".
I also know that I could've said all this to you in a private email. Maybe I should've. But I also know that there are so many people out there who either personally struggle with depression, or have someone in their lives that does, and it is hard to know what to do, how to help. It's as frustrating for the people supporting the person living with depression, as it is for the person suffering from it.
So, for those of you who have someone in your life struggling with depression: don't give up on them. If they don't reach out, then you reach out to them. Help. Listen. Be kind. Ask them what they need from you. Don't take it personally when or if they lash out. A big part of depression is anger, and it is not directed at you, the support person. Don't quit fighting for them when they can't fight anymore. If the person in your life had cancer, you would do anything you could to help them, right? So do the same for the depressed person.
They say that depression is cancer of the soul. If only the treatment could be as streamlined and direct as it is for cancer. Actually, from my experience, and I'm only speaking for myself, cancer was easier to deal with than depression. My cancer was surgically removed. You can't do that with depression.
And last, to my friend: I FUCKING LOVE YOU, AND I NEED YOU IN MY LIFE. So, please, I'm begging you. HOLD ON. It's worth it. I'm here. I'm ALWAYS here.