I’ve been reading my old journals lately – something I haven’t done for over a decade. I’ve actually thought about doing this quite a few times but I didn’t think I could handle it. When I was depressed (and it still feels so strange to say that in the past tense) I couldn’t handle sad stories and that included my own story. Now that I’m doing much better, I wanted to see what I could learn from the past, if anything. There are also a lot of periods of time that I just don’t remember very well. They seem blurry, and I think this is partly due to the depression.
My depression has always been a part of me – and I really do think I mean always. For reasons that I’ll get into in another post, I began feeling worthless and completely hopeless – really from the time of my first memories. In kindergarten I would think to myself that I wished I were dead but since I wasn’t I had to keep going.
I didn’t have a name for the depression, however, until I was about 20. In hindsight, this strikes me as a little odd, since I knew the term and I knew the symptoms, beginning when I was a teenager and my mother was hospitalized. I don’t know if I just didn’t think my symptoms were as severe as hers or why I didn’t clue in earlier.
The part of my journal I’m reading right now is from the summer and early fall of 1995, when I had just turned 20 years old. I had experienced, like I said, many many symptoms of clinical depression before this but I never named it. Sometimes I blamed it on not having good friends (I had a lot of good friends) and sometimes on not trusting God (I sort of want to go back and shake my younger self – to think that it was all my fault for not trusting God!). At other times I just wasn’t sure.
In my sophomore year of college, I started really dealing with family patterns and trauma (again, another post), and I was just blindsided by how much it hurt to deal with these things. I worked at a camp that summer, and had 6 weeks between camp ending and school starting. I was definitely afraid of having too much time to myself and did my best to fill the time. I spent several weeks visiting friends from college (friends who spent summers with their families without going crazy) and worked at a couple of short-term jobs. Then I went back to my college town.
At this point in my life, it sounds wonderful: two weeks with nothing to do but read, exercise, and relax. At that point, it was torture. I remember rollerblading a lot to kind of try to keep my feelings at bay, and writing obsessively in my journal because I didn’t know what to do. I was waiting for my friends to come back to town and thought that when they did, my loneliness would end. At one point, I woke up at 4:30 am sobbing, just so sad and so lonely and with absolutely no idea what to do except to cry and write and cry and wish I didn’t exist.
Of course, when my friends came back, my feelings didn’t go away. The last page I read was from a day that is still painful to think about (over 16 years later!) but was probably the day I figured out I needed help. I went on a hike with a couple of friends, not feeling very good but trying to put on a good face. We got back from the hike around noon and my two friends needed to go to the hardware store. I was going to change and go with them. I got through the living room and halfway up the stairs of my apartment and couldn’t go any further. I fell down on the stairs and cried and cried. One of my friends came to get me for the store and found me there. He asked if I was OK and I said I was. He was pretty freaked out but didn’t know what to do and left because I had said I was OK (and he was an 18-year old boy who wanted to help but didn’t know how). I think I stayed on those stairs for at least two hours, crying. I spent the rest of the day in my bed crying and not answering the phone or the door. I think it was the first time I had been absolutely completely paralyzed by my depression. Up until then, I had always been able to keep going somehow, even if I was miserable. This day I literally couldn’t make it up the last four stairs before falling apart. And then couldn’t make it out of my bed at all for the rest of of the day.
Besides remembering my own despair, I wonder about the friends who kept trying to check on me that day. There’s part of me that wants to apologize to them for terrifying them (and this was only the beginning). There’s another part of me that wants to thank them. And still another part that wants to never ever ever speak to any of them again so I don’t have to remember that time.