Every Planet We Reach Is Dead

Long term depression washes in slowly like high tide. It erodes the harbor of your mind, wearing away the pristine stone of your dock into crumbling ribs of marl that protrude and glare; it takes a constant and persistent toll on your energy, your life and your stability. In the final days, I felt paralysed in bed. I woke up several mornings and lay silent, motionless in my single bed. Staring at the ceiling, I thought about myself; I thought about my insecurities and my flaws; I thought about the world around me and the choices I had made; I thought about killing myself.

(This is technically a follow-up piece from I Am Mentally Ill)

Towards the end of the college year, before I went on placement, the stress and pressure of everything built up and I experienced intense moments of disappointment, doubt, responsibility, inadequacy, apathy and escape. Things kept building and building and building. The weight of the world crept up on my shoulders, driving me ever further into the quicksand of life and I struggled, struggled, struggled to break free – to escape back into those brief moments of purpose and motivation; everything was rushing – college and life flew by in the blink of an eye. And I stopped.

For 8 hours nearly every morning for a week, I lay in my bed without reading my phone, without watching youtube on my laptop, without reading a book. I was trapped in myself. I wanted to escape.

One night, I didn’t want to go to bed and face the morning. A couple friends were over in the house and I decided to start drinking. I drank half a bottle of Jameson – straight. I threw up. A lot.

A lot of that night was spent crying into a bucket and spilling my guts (quite literally) to the two people I’ve trusted most in my life to keep me safe. I’d spoken about my depression and anxiety with them before and they’ve stood by me and helped me through so much the last year. In that night, I realized I needed help. I couldn’t do this on my own anymore.

A sunset aboard a plane back from Portugal - my first time truly relaxing in years.

Getting Help

How do you tell your parents that you need serious medical help and you’ve spent the last month thinking exclusively about killing yourself? By facebook message of course! Thankfully, my parents are lovely and, since I pretty much came out about it in October, know I’ve had a bad time with depression in my life. Sitting in the living room, very awkwardly trying to explain that I was in serious trouble and that I was at an extreme point in my life was an absolutely terrifying feeling. I felt like a burden for the very last time.

When I arrived home that day, Mam had already booked me an appointment with the GP and Dad had been researching local therapists/counsellors. We ran the battery of counsellors, therapists and psychotherapists and dismissed them for various reasons – too religious; felt underqualified; had terrible web presence; was a certified reiki healer. You name ‘em, I probably found a flaw in their profile.

So, on a pretty grey Monday morning, I twitched nervously in the waiting room for a doctor I hadn’t seen in over a decade. There were a couple calls before I realised they were calling me up next. I met my doctor and it was like we’d seen each other last Tuesday. He was warm, patient and incredibly friendly. “How’re you, Evan?” He said with a smile and a firm handshake. “That’s kinda why I’m here…”

We talked for a while about my outlook on life, the way I’d been feeling lately and the lack of motivation I was feeling. He nodded knowingly and told me about the various people he sees almost weekly who’ve felt the same and their recovery stories. Printing out a prescription for an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), he described the common side effects, their normal duration and what would happen if I stopped taking this medication suddenly, or what we could do if it wasn’t quite getting the job done. Always nice to know that I take a medication that, when combined with certain paracetamols, could send me into a “Serotonin Overdose” like some over-happy Incredible Hulk.

When he handed me the prescription, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of relief. 6 years I’d been struggling with this on my own. 6 years I was unnecessarily caught in this war with myself and here we were – in the war-room, signing the peace treaty.

I didn’t cry when I went to the therapist. It was more exhausting than emotional, I think. I began the same way I had with the doctor and we spoke about depression in general and the kind of toll it takes on life and the consequences of dealing with it without help. She described a lot about how depression works and a couple of the different types and the causes. I must admit, I found her kind of weird and peculiar at first; it was more like just talking to a stranger who’s willing to listen than to a professional, and there were a lot of awkward silences – I mean a lot of awkward silences. In the end we explored a bit into my past to see if there was a root cause or trigger that had fundamentally changed the course of my emotions. I trudged through my story pretty slowly, the highs, the lows, the friends, the enemies, the emotions, the milestones; I’d apparently been exhibiting signs of depression since I was 12.

It was hard and scary to recount just how bad I’d gotten recently because of my depression. I had to admit to some very difficult truths and accept that I was responsible for so much of what I was doing but I also learned that a lot of it wasn’t my fault at all. Whether it was a specific incident when I was twelve (opinion of my therapist) or whether it was just a chemical imbalance in the brain that my body adapted to as a baseline (opinion of my doctor), the depression wasn’t something I had to feel responsibility for. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t who I was.

After that week, I literally felt the weight of the world slip from my shoulders and I felt unconquerable. I felt this almighty surge of motivation and energy rushing through my veins, meandering its way quickly throughout all aspects of my life. My posture changed; my confidence changed; I became more productive; I became a new person altogether in a single week. At last, I am alive again.

You’re Doing This For You And Nobody Else

Life is so different now. I can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth living and it feels amazing. The world I live in is so vast and beautiful and full of wonder. Now, I talk to strangers with ease and I’ve done so many new things in the last 5 months.

I sat down with a friend of mine at the start of my recovery and we spoke about how I was doing and how I was finding the treatment. She told me that the appreciation of the little things in life is probably the thing I should look for most and she wasn’t wrong. I love the little things. I love them so much, I started my Instagram account and every single picture I post is a little thing I love about the world. There is so much I never noticed with my head planted downwards at the feet of the earth. I absolutely adore the little things in life now.

Kendrick Lamar at Longitude 2016

I used to hate going to gigs. I hated crowds; and people; and socializing. I hated it all with ease and it felt good to hate these things. This month, I went to Longitude. Granted, only for the Friday, but I lost myself in the crowds, the music, the food, the company. The man who saw me down half a bottle of whiskey 5 months ago saw me at the happiest I’ve been in a long while – he saw me as the collection of strength I had earned through my life – and I am grateful to have shared such a large milestone with him.

Getting help was the best decision I have ever made and I regret every single day that I let pass without doing it sooner. It was so easy to get my life back and become whole again. I am so happy now.

I am living again.

Editor’s note: If you were affected by any of the content of this article we would advise that you talk to someone. Samaritans are always there to help: they provide a 24/7 free-call phone line on 116 123. It is a judgement-free service provided for free; please call them if you’ve been affected by this piece.

This article was posted at 1:00 PM Monday, July 25th, 2016 under Features, Opinion by Evan Smith. Tags: , , , , , ,