This one also touched me. It is from Whitney, someone I knew in passing from college. We attended a few rallies together and always said hi, but never really got to hang out much. She intrigued me because she was always happy. I once asked her how she managed it and she just shrugged. I had forgotten that moment, but she hadn’t.
I’ve been struggling with this message all week. I want to say, first and foremost, that I consider you a true friend (not to mention the smartest person I know), and I am so very proud of the work you’re doing.
A few years ago you asked me a simple question about why I am so happy all the time. Do you remember that? I struggled with that message too, and as I recall my answer fell far short of what I knew you wanted from me. If I had had any idea why you needed to know, I would have opened up more, and I feel sorry and shamed that I didn’t.
I’m a faithful reader of your blog, and your post about your hospital visit brought me to tears. I was so moved by your words, in so many ways that I’m sure I can’t name them all. Mostly though, I was moved to share my story with you.
When I was 15, I was depressed. Not run of the mill teenage angst, either. Chemically, seriously depressed. I saw a series of doctors who put me on a series of anti-depressants, which I suppose did do their job but left me feeling bubble wrapped, as it were. I felt insulated and numb, and I knew I wasn’t actually getting better. One afternoon, for no apparent reason, I decided to take the entire bottle’s worth. There was no catalyst, and when I look back on that afternoon I can only see it as if I were an outsider watching the scene. I have no idea what made me do that. Shortly after I took the pills, I snapped out of my fog enough to tell my sister what I’d done. I was taken to the hospital, where I was tested and poked and questioned. I stayed in the hospital’s adolescent psych ward for a few days, talked it out, and generally rested and reflected on my life and what exactly I was doing. I was so terrified of myself. I didn’t want to be in charge of my medication again, for fear of a repeat incident; in fact, I didn’t really want to be on medication at all. As you well know from your work, teens’ rights are so often ignored, and I was afraid I would be kept on medication for the foreseeable future. Luckily, I have the greatest mom who didn’t jump to conclusions about my sanity and actually listened to what I thought was best for me. I switched doctors, was weaned off medication, and have not taken any since.
I still get depressed. And life is still hard sometimes. What you said about chemical depression being a monster that hijacks your brain and your body was just SO right on, it blew me away. But I’m fighting it, just the same as you and so many other people.
So, why am I so happy? Because I’m alive. When I think of the things that I would have missed if I’d died that day, it makes me so thankful for the people that saved me. I was lucky. I am lucky. I find joy in the small things, and that’s what makes me the happy person I am.
I also want you to know that your incredible courage in sharing such a painful story has inspired me to be more courageous in sharing my own. I’m getting ready to start working on my master’s in social work, and I know I want to work with teens; what a perfect way to relate, right?
Anyway, thank you so much for sharing. It meant the world to me, and I know I’m not the only one. Keep up the good work, and please know that if you ever need to talk it out, I can relate and all that business.
It really is invisible, and it touches more people than you think. Yes, their are people in the world who just lack coping skills and want to call it a mental disease to legitimize it, but there are also people in the world who have a severe problem – people who just as incapable of willing themselves to be happy as a diabetic is incapable of willing themselves to have more insulin. At least diabetes is detectable. Most people who have a mental illness/serotonin deficiency, believing themselves undeserving of aid and not wanting to be a bother on those they love, hide their condition. This delays treatment often to a dangerous point.
Since I believe in giving to the degree you have received, I wrote Whitney back and spilled my guts. I wrote about how even though all evidence suggests I’m losing weight and getting stronger, that I still feel obese and hideous. I also asked her if I could reprint her email.
Firstly, I do not mind at all. Your boldness has inspired me to come out as a depression survivor as well, so you can leave my name in or take it out, whichever.
It breaks my heart to hear that you think that of yourself, because nothing could be further from the truth. I know you’ve heard this, but you are so beautiful outside and in. I mean that with every molecule of my being. You are not only handsome, but incredibly talented and so intelligent; when I’m around you, I feel like I truly matter. That’s a really special ability.
I know you’re seeing a therapist, and have made some life changes to help you heal, and I support you fully. I also know you have a spectacular family who is there for you every second of every day. I hope you would count me among the people who support you and are there for you, whether you’re having a good day or a bad day. I hope you’ll call on me any time you need to, because I want to see you beat this thing so, so badly. I know you can do it.
What do you say to that? I am so flattered for all the support I’ve been getting. I keep apologizing for the incident last Friday, to everybody I may have worried. If I could change it, if I could fix whatever is wrong with my brain, I would. I’d do it for me, and I’d do it so people like Whitney wouldn’t worry.
The issue has never been with a dislike of myself. I like who I am. It’s just, as Whitney put it, on the outside. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with it…perhaps because Americans are obsessed with it.
Anyway, the lesson is always the same: look for signs in those you know, be there for them, make them get help. This is a widespread disease and one that is feasibly the most untreated due to its translucent nature.
Thanks for reading.