“I love you, Tash” he told me. “You’re perfect, you’re my other half, really. I just don’t think I can ever marry you.”
It was January 1, 2016, I was riding passenger in his car through the roads of Tulsa Oklahoma. This wasn’t our first conversation like this, but it didn’t hurt any less. I knew what words would come next.
“I can be faithful to you forever, I want to be with you. I just can’t ever picture myself marrying you because you’ve tried to kill yourself. Normal people don’t do that. Healthy people don’t do that.
It’s really challenging to explain the kind of pain that comes with hearing those words come out of the person’s mouth you love the most, but not as painful as it was living with depression, which is what had led to those suicide attempts to begin with. And as harsh and seemingly heartless those words of my ex sting, I think it also well summarizes the lack of understanding surrounding mental illness.
He was right, you know? I wasn’t healthy. I was, in fact, quite sick. But rather than a lesion on my skin or a x-ray showing a broken bone or a MRI exacting the location of a tumor saying “here is your sickness”, it was hidden.
Behind my hair and my face, under my skull and behind my amygdala, safely protected from discovery, lie my chemical imbalances that I needed to function.
Kind of fitting though, isn’t it? Just as our illness hides from sight, so do we who hold it. “I’m okay, just tired”s become an overused phrase. A smile as you walk in the room, showing everyone “I’m just fine”. Or if you’re really good, like me, boisterous socializing and witty jokes. The “life of the party”.
But at some point, it just becomes too much. Too exhausting. Too overwhelming. Too. Hard.
Too hard to fight the incessant tiredness. It’s time to get out of bed? But I’ve only had 10-12 hours of sleep!.. and it feels like I haven’t rested in days.
Too hard to smile at strangers and socialize with friends. I can’t tell them how I really feel, I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want them to talk about it. I don’t want them to worry about me. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to show how weak I feel as a human being that I just can’t human.
Too hard to maintain your job. I have so much to do but I can’t get my brain to focus on this report. It’s so busy telling me how stupid I am, and if I wasn’t stupid, this would be done. I wouldn’t be struggling. So my brain must be right.
Too hard to stay connected to your significant other. I’m lazy cause I’m always tired. I should’ve helped more with dinner but there’s just no energy. He’s mad at me anyway because I’ve been terrible to be around. I’m such a downer. He doesn’t even want to even come home because he says I’m insufferable.
And then one day, maybe not any particular thing happened, but you just decide it’s enough. I can’t do this anymore. It’s not fair to my friends and family. It’s not fair to the world that I’m this waste of life being here. They’d be better off without me. It will never get better, and if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be here.
That last line was one I said in my head more times than I can count. And I felt every truth in it. It was unfair to my family for my 3am calls saying I just can’t be here anymore. It was unfair for my friends to worry if I was going to wake up. It was unfair for my boyfriend to have to find me disoriented from my latest concussion (one I’d receive in an attempt to overdose), and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking how much more they deserved.
I really wanted to nail this home on my feelings, because one of the most common things I hear in regards to a suicide is how “selfish” it is. But I never saw it that way. Not once. In fact, I felt so certain I was doing everyone that greatest gift I could give them- not worrying them or bringing them down.
And I hurt. I hurt so much. The physical pain of my head when regaining consciousness from a concussion, or a slit wrist, or hangover from downing multiple bottles of pills.. it didn’t hurt as much as being alive every single day, and feeling hopeless.
And that was the worst part. The hopelessness that nothing will change. The hopelessness that I would feel this way forever. The hopelessness that no one understood, and I was isolated to this life.. forever.
I have done this rodeo before, and I still go through times I face it again. And yet each and every time, I get back to hopelessness. Even though I know I’ve been through it, even though I know what to expect, it makes no difference. The thoughts and the feelings and the physical struggles all come back.
But that’s the thing with depression.. its a god damn liar. And a good one.
It’s hard to reach out when you feel that way, but I encourage you to do so. Find one person, a stranger, a parent, a friend, ANYONE. Because one thing I’ve learned all the times I felt I was a “burden” was rather that they were happy they could be there for me, and I promise you, your loved ones would prefer it to the alternative.. although I know it’s hard. And it hurts so bad. But you deserve another day. And another one.
But you don’t have to think that far. Just one day, one hour, sometimes that’s all we can do. AND THATS OKAY. Be kind to yourself. While you can’t see your illness, I promise you it’s very, very real, and quite dangerous. Please, don’t give up.
And to those that have never understood the struggle, I ask you to learn about it. And if you can’t do that, I ask you keep your commentary to yourself. No one would choose this, and if you can’t be in a place to help or try to understand, well.. as the old saying goes “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
But I encourage you to try. Try to learn more. And to practice compassion, and kindness. Because every single person in this world needs it, and sometimes the ones you don’t think do, need it the most.
And to everyone, check on everyone. Start uncomfortable conversations. Be nonjudgmental. This world can be so hard, but if we all check on at least one person, perhaps we can fight this terrible, life-taking disease.