I’ll be the first to admit that I’m nowhere near being “cured” of my anxiety and depression. They still pack quite a punch, and there are some days that I can’t find the strength to fight back. Despite that, I know that I am getting better with each passing day. My bouts of depression and anxiety are becoming more and more rare, and I’ve been able to go for weeks at a time without having a pseudo seizure. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I haven’t forgotten what it took to get to this point.
When the depression was at its worst, I longed for nothing more than a time machine. Maybe that’s a strange wish, but I needed one. I wanted to go back in time; back to the days before I had ever felt the cold burn of depression, before I had ever been tortured by the thought of suicide. I felt as if the depression had “tainted” me somehow, and that I would never be able to remove that stain from my soul. Those dark thoughts would haunt me forever.
In a way, I was right; those dark thoughts will be with me forever. I will never forget what it was like to need death, but that memory will not taint me. It will make me stronger.
Anyone who has experienced depression will know what I mean when I say that I wanted to be normal again. I viewed my depression like I viewed the flu; one day you’re healthy, the next day you’re sick, and then the sickness passes and you’re healthy again, just like before. Depression doesn’t work that way. Depression leaves its scars.
Depression Does Not Equal Defeat
Depression has left its scars on me, but I know now that I’m not going to get rid of them. There is no going back in time. That leaves me with two options: I can let them drive me crazy, or I can embrace them. I’m choosing the second option.
Feeling suicidal made me feel like I was inhuman. Death was supposed to scare me, wasn’t it? Isn’t staying alive the whole point of being alive in the first place? What kind of person actually wants to be dead?
For months, I felt like I was less than human, and I feared that I would always feel that way. Now, despite my depression, anxiety, or the occasional thoughts of suicide, I feel more alive than ever. I am more human than I’ve ever been; I don’t take my life for granted anymore.
Whenever I’m with my family, my friends, or my pets, I’m grateful for every second that I spend with them because I know that I almost chose to never see them again. Every time I go for a run or a bike ride on a beautiful day, I savor it because I know that each sight is one that I almost didn’t see. And I know that one day in the future when I’m looking at my children, I’m going to love them more than I’ve ever loved anything, and I’m going to know that I made the right decision by choosing to stay.
This experience isn’t unique by itself; anyone who has ever had a near-death experience has usually felt that same extreme gratitude. Being reminded that life is temporary will always change your outlook, but overcoming depression does it a little bit differently.
When you narrowly avoid being hit by a car, you view it as luck. After all, you had no control over that other car, and you only survived the encounter because you were standing in just the right place at just the right time.
When you’re feeling suicidal, you have all the control in the world. You can’t control the thoughts, of course, but you can control what happens. You can decide to kill yourself, or you can decide to stay. No matter what you do, you are choosing one of two options. When you choose to stay, you don’t attribute that to luck. Luck had nothing to do with it. You had a choice between life or death, and you chose life. That is not luck, that is strength.
Not Noble, and Definitely Not Pretty
Don’t get me wrong, choosing to live doesn’t mean that you make some noble decision to renounce suicide because you know deep down that it is wrong. All you’re doing is resisting temptation, and that’s usually a pretty ugly process. For me, it involved a lot of crying, a lot of twitching, and a lot of guilt. It was not enjoyable by any means, and I spent plenty of nights wondering if choosing to stay had been the right move. Some nights I felt like it wasn’t.
It was, of course; it always is. Choosing to stay is always the right option. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to believe that, but I also know from experience that it is true.
Change for the Better
The Donovan who is writing this now is not the same Donovan from a year ago. I’ve had to make some difficult decisions, and I’ve had thoughts that I know will never leave me. I’ve experienced more emotional pain than I even knew existed, and I’ve done things I never thought I would do. I never thought I would cut myself. I never thought that I would take multiple trips to mental health hospitals, and I definitely never thought that, if given the chance, I would do it all again. But I would.
Just like I had to choose between life and suicide, I know that if given the choice between experiencing and overcoming depression or never having it in the first place, I would choose the former. I wouldn’t change anything about what I’ve gone through; not because I enjoyed it, but because it taught me what a life is worth. I want to love my family, I want to do great things, and I want to pass on everything I’ve learned to my kids one day. I don’t need a time machine to do that. All I need is today, tomorrow, and every day after that. Lucky for me, that’s exactly what I’ve got.