It is an Illness

**Warning: This is a difficult post to read and it does get a little graphic at some points of explaining how I felt.**

It has been about 7 months since I fell into the worst period of depression I have ever experienced. It was so difficult that I wondered if I would ever be okay again. It got to the point where I told my friend, “I have one more night left in me. That’s all I can promise to be safe for is one more night.” I couldn’t trust myself to be safe anymore. I was in such a desperate place of darkness that I decided I needed to take time away from life until I could handle things again. So I spent a week with my sister, hoping to get better and return to normal life.

Things didn’t get better. Although the week was beneficial in that I was able to sleep and rest quite a bit, it made me realize just how bad things really were. I had bad dreams nearly every time I closed my eyes, even naps were filled with unpleasant dreams and thoughts. Days were not much better. I saw myself being hurt in every way imaginable. I pictured killing myself in multiple ways. I could be anywhere, from church to work to driving on the freeway, and I would see blood running down my arms or see myself hanging from ceilings or other similar circumstances.

The darkness was so thick, so debilitating that I told my boss that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to return to work. I told my church leaders that I probably couldn’t teach anymore. I told my friends that I might need to be hospitalized if it continued much longer. I wasn’t sure where life would take me or what would happen next, but I knew that I was nowhere near being okay.

I had been taking an antidepressant this entire time. I didn’t know if it was helping, but I wanted to give it a chance. I wanted to really see if it could help me. I stopped that medication a week ago. It has taken this last week to get the medicine out of my system, but I started getting better slowly. The nightmares and images were less frequent, less severe. It wasn’t so hard to smile anymore. I started seeing light where there was only darkness before. I had felt like I was drowning, but then it progressed to feeling like I was trudging through deep mud, to feeling like I was treading water, to finally feeling like I was on solid ground again.

I can’t tell you how relieving it is to finally feel okay again. I can’t tell you how excited I was to wake up this morning and feel like I was able to breathe. I can’t express how exhilarating it was to sing in church today and feel the music running through me like a beautiful, positive energy. Last Sunday, I couldn’t even sing because it hurt too much. The words wouldn’t come. I just starred at the hymn book and wondered when I would see the end of all the pain. Today was the complete opposite of last Sunday. Contrasting the two shows me that I will never feel that bad again. Maybe I will still struggle with depression, but now that I see the difference, I can have the reassurance that that is not how I am meant to feel.

This whole experience has reassured me that depression is an illness. It is completely the same as any other illness, only with its own set of symptoms and treatments. You are not in control of how your body feels. You cannot think yourself out of mental illness and no amount of exercise or eating right or positivity can cure you. You are simply not well and until you become well again, whether that is by taking medicine or getting off the wrong medicine or simply time passing, you cannot ignore the symptoms of what you are experiencing.

At the end of all this, I can say that I am grateful for the experience. It was hell. It was the worst, most desolate, desperate, despairing time of my life. I went to bed every night praying for the end, hoping to not wake up in the morning to the pain I experienced every single moment. But now I know. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning and be unable to get out of bed because it hurts so bad. I know what it is like to try to breathe your way through panic attacks that happen at seemingly the most trivial, daily stresses. I know what it is like to say, I do not know when I will be okay again.

But most of all, I am grateful because I can say that I know what it is like to trust someone when you feel like that. I know what it is like to be completely vulnerable with someone to the point where they know exactly what you are going through and how hard it is. They may never understand, but they know the darkness. People I never would have trusted or reached out to were able to be a part of my healing because the darkness was so bad that I would have trusted anyone who took the time to listen. No, this trial was not easy and I hope I never go through it again, but it showed me what I was made of and how understanding and wonderful other people can be. And that is something to be incredibly grateful for.

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