In March of 2007, at 17, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was prescribed an anti-depressant and I swallowed my pride and 10 mg per day of Lexapro for 5 months.
The month of April 2007 was miserable for me. I found myself laying in my bed for weeks on end, refusing to go to school, refusing to see sunlight and refusing to bathe for the most part. It was a wretched time in my life. I was burned out from the classes at my intensely competitive, overly challenging high school academy where I’d just completed a 4000 word essay over the course of 2 months (I was a procrastinator to the nth degree). As I laid there, the clock ticking away, I could see images of my high school classmates going on to graduate without me, because they hadn’t taken a month off of school to lay in the bed. I also saw the college I’d been accepted to, Clark Atlanta University, taking away my acceptance, because I couldn’t pull my shit together. I saw my ex from an abusive relationship I’d just ended still manipulating me with his words and his actions. All of these things were animated in my mind’s eye, no amount of sleep was ever enough, my appetite was insatiable and every negative thought or doubt about myself was so exponentially magnetized that I could think of nothing but my own despair.
I didn’t want to die, thankfully. My mother’s sister committed suicide at 17 and there was no way I could repeat that. My family is still reeling from it and I’m 100% sure that it was a large contributor to putting my maternal grandmother in an early grave. I didn’t want to die, but I did want to end the suffering. I laid there for 3 weeks straight because my depressed self just figured, if I lay here, I won’t have to deal, I won’t have to get better, I can find comfort in my misery and people who don’t understand me will leave me the hell alone. I stopped taking my medication as consistently as I should have. It didn’t feel like it was working, and I’m an instant gratification person. If I don’t see turnaround promptly, I’m promptly over it, and try to find another way.
After many days like this, my mother slapped the shit out of me. And not in the metaphorical sense. No, one morning, she quite literally smacked me in the mouth. That was the first time she’d ever done that, and I could tell instantly that we both regretted it: me for pushing her to her breaking point and her for doing something her mother did, but she swore she’d never do. Following the slap heard round the world, I locked myself in our bathroom for several hours, ignoring the pleas of my grandfather trying to coax me out and crying the most pitiful stream of tears.
That was the climax, though. God wouldn’t let things get uglier than that. I went back to school. Oh no, I had no intentions of going to class! My mother and I made a visit to my principal, Helen Cox. If you’ve ever known Helen, you’ll know that she is a saint among mere mortals. She sat me down and told me that I could recover. That I was better than this and that she would do everything in her power to get me on the right track and graduate that year. After private conversations with all of my teachers, I started going back to class. I lied to my friends, saying I was sick (it was true), and then I kept moving. I refused to stop moving and look down for fear that I would fall back in the hopeless abyss of abandonment and snotty tissues. The next month, I got a full scholarship to CAU. That August, when I started school, I threw away my meds. I was feeling better. And I didn’t relapse.
If Helen Cox hadn’t talked me off the ledge and if my mom hadn’t smacked me, I might not be the person you know (or are reading about) today. I wouldn’t have a degree in Business, or have been an intern at the White House during the Obama Administration, or studied in Paris on a free scholarship. Who knows what the hell would’ve happened to me.
The shitty part is that my depression comes back every other year, like clockwork. January rolls around, I’m sad because I ate so much over the holidays, and I gained so much weight. Then I withdraw and don’t get a lot of sunlight. Then I get the winter blues. Then I don’t treat it the way I should, because I’m always scared that I’ll become addicted to the pills. Then, finally, after many tearful phone calls to my mother and lots of manic moments at the mall and shouting matches with my boyfriend and overeating and withdrawal and too much sleep, my mother finally convinces me to go back on medication. Same thing happens every time.
This has been my life. This is the hand I was dealt. My great grandfather was schizophrenic, my great aunt bipolar, my grandmother and my mother considerably depressed, my aunt manic depressive. All of that weighs on me constantly. Biologically, I was created with faulty neurons and synapses and moods. Plus I’m a Gemini. I mean, seriously God? Like seriously.
But I’m grateful for what He’s brought me through. No one but God, that’s all I can say. I hope that my story is helpful to someone else, because my story isn’t over. Each day is a struggle and two halves, but a worthwhile struggle because I can see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. It’s bleak and small, but hopeful.