For many, to say this time has been stressful is an understatement. There are people dealing with loss; the loss of loved ones; the loss of income; and the loss of their “normal” routines and lives. The significance of these losses in combination with the isolation of social distancing can lead people down the road of depression. If you are in this boat, I want you to know that you are not alone. If you aren’t in this boat, you likely know someone that is. I’ve been putting off writing this for quite some time because it is hard to say and likely equally difficult to hear as well, but my heart tells me it is time and that someone might benefit from this. As the anniversary of this pivotal moment in my life nears, I wanted to share this story with you. I do want to tell you, I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I am sharing my experience and story in hopes that it will help someone else that is struggling. If you are having a rough time please, please, please reach out to a professional for help. Forget about the mental health stigma-that is just stupid. YOU MATTER, I need you, and the world needs you in it!!! This is my story and how I clawed my way back from rock bottom.
It was shortly after my birthday in 2018 that I decided to commit suicide. It wasn’t a rash decision but a culmination of a decades worth of painful blow after blow that drug me down to rock bottom. It was ten years worth of feeling unloved and unworthy of love. Nearly 87,600 hours thinking negative thoughts about myself.
I hated myself, who I had become. SO many things led to this decision. To name just a few of them…my marriage, my job, and ultimately my relationship with me. For close to a decade my marriage lacked intimacy. I’m not just talking about sex here. I had a lot of resentment, but I internalized it all and felt that I didn’t deserve more. To top this off, I was significantly overweight. I hated my body. Having ‘body’ issues in addition to being in a sexless marriage was two-fold. It supported my negative thoughts that I was unattractive and unlovable, which in turn made me more depressed. If the person that loved me and was supposed to find me attractive didn’t want me, who the heck would? My career had been a series of missteps as well, first my position was eliminated and the rug plugged out from underneath my already unsteady feet, then I took a job at which I encountered someone that seemed to thrive off making my life miserable. The final straw was finding a job that was stable and that I felt comfortable doing, nevertheless it felt unfulfilling. These obviously weren’t the only reasons, but the highlight reel, if you will, of them. These reasons may sound miniscule and not worth ending my or anyone else’s life over. You don’t have to agree. I’m not asking for you to feel any sort of way about them. I’m telling you them because it is a fact that they weighed so heavily on me for such a long time that I felt justified in my actions. My reasons don’t have to be your reasons. Don’t compare my reasons with yours-that doesn’t matter. If you are feeling depressed, for whatever reason, then you are depressed. End of story.
When you are in a depressed state, you aren’t thinking clearly. You may (and likely) think that you are, but rest assured, you are not. My irrational brain had nearly a decades worth of ammo to justify why taking my life would be the most loving thing that I could do for my family and friends. I truly thought they would be better off without me. I was dragging them and everyone else in my life down. In public, I put on a smile and pretended everything was more than alright. I didn’t feel like I could be honest about it with anyone, so I hid it. I’m sure we can all relate to a certain degree to putting on a “face”. You might be hiding behind the “face” out of fear, like I was-What will others think? Honestly, that was exhausting and nearing the end, I could only do that for so long before I’d have to sneak off somewhere to cry. The real me was tired, my body hurt, I was incredibly sad, emotionally wounded, and in a bad mood. I had a short temper, zero patience and was definitely not fun to be around. I was endlessly exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep. I would sleep for the majority of my time at home and still found myself exhausted. When I was awake, I cried the most of the time. When I wasn’t putting up a front and going through the motions, I was crying, and when I wasn’t crying, I was sleeping. The irony was for all the emotions I felt, I was also emotionally numb. I wasn’t able to be the wife, mom, or friend the loved ones in my life deserved. I genuinely thought everyone would be better off without me.
I was dead set on my decision, thinking it was the right thing to do for everyone else. That was until I heard that a friend from school ended his life. He was such a talented, fun-loving and sweet guy that the news honestly shocked and devastated me. You guys-he had SO MUCH going for him and such incredible potential for so much more! His death was such a tragedy. The news stopped me in my tracks. Since school we had become “Facebook friends” really. He reached out to me a couple years prior to his death and told me how he thought I had the “perfect” life and how much he wanted to get married and have kids. I was astounded. I politely told him that not everything is as it appears on Facebook and was encouraging that he would find the one and his happily ever after one day. I wish I had been honest, completely utterly raw and real and told him how miserable I was. Why did I find this so difficult? Being really real about the things you wouldn’t brag about on social media puts you in a vulnerable postition. No one wants to be hurt or make yourself an easy target. This is why I am being so honest with you. I want you to know, no one has a perfect life, stop comparing yourself to that! No one is happy all the time. Maybe he didn’t need to know all the details, but I could have told him that I was struggling too. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but I know it would have made a difference to me, if someone shared with me their struggle-to know that I wasn’t the only one and that there was someone I could talk to. Someone that wouldn’t judge (or have an obligation to commit me). The sadness and devastation I felt upon hearing of his death made me reconsider my plan. I didn’t want to cause anyone else pain, after all I did want to do what I thought was best for everyone else. I also knew that I couldn’t keep going on the way that I had been. I had no more fight left in me.
So, I began a quest to figure out how to “be happy”. I read what seemed a gazillion books and listened to podcasts by people who had seemingly figured it all out. I looked to experts in the fields of Psychology, Neuropsychology and Philosophy. I took notes, lots and lots of notes. Before this, I would have scoffed at the self-help section, thinking no one else can tell me how to solve my problems or live my life. I still agree with a portion of this (no one can live your life for you-you get to choose the life you live), however you still can glean insight and wisdom from everything you read and people you interact with. I found a consistent pattern in what I learned. One magic formula coming up!
The “Get Happy” Formula;
- Be happy with yourself
- Pursue your passion(s)
Sounds simple right? Ha! Being happy with yourself, means you need to accept yourself just as you are. Right now. So, I challenged myself to name three things I liked about myself and three things I enjoyed doing. That’s it-start small. I could think of things I enjoyed as a child, none of which I did in adulthood. When it came to naming things I liked about myself-I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t name a single one. That’s when I realized, I needed to make peace with myself. I needed to accept every fault, mistake or missed opportunity. To do this, I started by writing down all the crappy things I said, judged, or disliked about me. If we are really being honest here, this was exceedingly difficult to do. It’s one thing to think the things and to have inner dialogue with yourself, but quite another to actually put pen to paper and write it out. I found I couldn’t write any of it in the first person, instead I choose to do this from a third person perspective, using “she” (imaging my younger self) and I found it much easier to accomplish. Once I started writing, the flood gates opened. I listed everything, EVERYTHING little and large (from superficial to significant and all the things I blamed/beat myself for). I ended up typing it all out…it is eight pages long. I can’t tell you how painful this was. I cried for days while I did this, listing out every fault I could imagine and every negative thing that I could remember repeating to myself. When I was done, I read what I wrote about her and I realized-I felt incredibly sorry for her. She had carried around guilt for so many things that weren’t her fault. She blamed herself for choices she made that turned out badly and couldn’t see that she had done the best that she could at the time. I felt her pain and I wanted her to know that she was my friend and despite all of the horrible things she said, thought or did, that she was still a good person and I loved her despite it all and maybe even more because of it all. Talk about a watershed moment. That is when I was able to find love for myself. If you are struggling with loving yourself, I really encourage you to try this. It is a difficult task, but having the weight lifted from my shoulders, mind and heart was SO worth it! It is something you can do on your own, that you will benefit from ten-fold.
If you are going through hell, keep going.~Winston Churchill
After writing out everything I saw as flaws about myself, I was able to take a step back from them and look at them as if there someone else’s. I was able to decide how I would feel if another person had the same exact imperfections. It was then that I had the ability to accept the things that I had no control over (From my ugly elbows to the bad choices I made in the past) and then focus on the things I wanted to work on. I began doing the things that I enjoyed as a child (writing, painting, hanging out with friends) again. I’d love to tell you that just like magic it worked like a charm, *POOF*, all of my problems disappeared and I lived happily ever after. That’s not reality folks. Through this process, I did find love, grace and healing forgiveness for myself in abundance. I was and am so much happier pursuing the things that I enjoy. The inner turmoil that I carried with me for so long was gone. I am so incredibly grateful to be alive to celebrate another year. But it was work. A lot of work to get to this point. If you do this work, you’ll still have problems just like everyone else. Although now, my perspective about problems has changed-perhaps yours will also. This sounds trite, but it’s the truth. Problems are opportunities for you to learn and to grow from. You have been through so much and you can make it through whatever issues you are dealing with right now and you will be so much stronger, wiser and braver for it. I want you to have the same inner peace I’ve fought for and found. You deserve it. If you relate to the feeling of solitude and despair, know that you are not alone. Take your blind fold off and instead of looking around you, look inside for the answers and the healing. Reach out your hand for your fellow sailors, those on the shores and the high seas and hold tight not for rescue-you are your own hero in this life, do it so that others around you know they aren’t alone either. You might be fighting to keep your head above water or you might be in the watchtower. If social distancing has taught us anything, it’s that we need other people in our lives. If you are struggling, I challenge you to stop pretending you are ok, when you really aren’t and be open and honest with others. I promise you the people in your life, love you and need you in their lives. You deserve to be happy, but you have to do the work to get to that place. Please do it, whether it is on your own or with the help of a professional. If your on the shoreline, be the beacon of light for someone else as they fight their way back to the shore. Be present, be non-judgemental and listen. Your job isn’t to solve their problems, you just need to be there.