– By Nikki –
Mild trigger warning: if you struggle with depression or any related mental health issues, you’ll find this journey familiar. Be advised this post could be a difficult read.
Imagine that you have been silent for the majority of your life. That silence turns into a big black hole constantly sucking away your desires, dreams, and goals. Life itself slows down, and you begin to see it stretch out before you and every person that you know is moving forward in life. You cannot move forward – you only look backward at the moment when everything changed, and you realize that you are stuck at the event horizon of that black hole. People on the outside see you and nothing has changed, but on the inside you are being stretched to the point of absolute destruction. You wonder if it will ever end.
This describes the point in my life when depression truly set in. I knew that it had always been there since my mother’s death back in 2004, but I had always snuffed it out by escaping through reading or writing. Honestly, I would love to say that I have escaped from my metaphorical black hole but the truth is there is no way to escape. If a literal black hole sucked you in – I know, science says you would literally die – but if you could somehow stay alive you would be stuck there forever. The event horizon is a metaphor, because I want to convey what my personal experience with mental illness has been like for the past few years. On the outside I looked normal, almost unchanged, but from within I was (and still sometimes am) being stretched to the point of no return.
However, I am not here to tell you that I never got through those rough points in my life. I am here to tell you what I did after I got the help that I needed. Once I figured out how to cope with my issues through all of the right channels, I discovered that I was an empty shell of who I used to be. At first glance, many people would feel sorry for a person saying this, but I feel like I have more of a clean slate now.
Before I addressed my issues, I allowed others to control my interests, beliefs, and frankly my entire life. I was so worried about everyone else that I started to lose interest in all of my hobbies. I went from working out all the time to simply eating just enough to keep my weight down. I stopped brushing my hair, and sleep was something that did not happen often. Slowly, the front I had put up for so many years started to crack. I started having breakdowns at my college, and all too often you could find me crying in a hidden corner on campus somewhere. I constantly thought about elevator crashes whenever I boarded one, and my will to live was barely there. It is not that I wanted to die, but living suddenly seemed like too hard of a task.
I felt paranoid, like my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and friends were all against me. There were times when I genuinely believed that they hated me. They never acted like this, but I was very concerned about the true thoughts of everyone in my life. I didn’t feel like I was worth their time, and I slowly sunk deeper and deeper into my own head. By my last semester of my undergrad, I was a complete mess. I had trouble keeping up with even the smallest of commitments. I made promises that I could not keep, I had breakdowns in front of my professors, and I checked out mentally.
Fast-forward to me starting graduate school the next semester. I was getting married in four months, and I did not even try to help plan anything. Instead I buried myself in my work, hoping that my responsibilities would escape me. Towards the end of one of my classes one night, I had to leave early to puke my guts out. With a throbbing headache, I went back for the last fifteen minutes of class. After that I went to bed and I woke up with no energy whatsoever. I had to call out of work that day (thankfully I worked for my school, so they were very flexible with my hours), and I just passed it off on a stomach bug. I knew that I was very unwell though, and unhappy. By the time I got married, I was so depressed that the day just kind of blurred by.
Three months later my husband and I moved to St. Louis, and I was happy to finish my grad school program online. I was excited to get away and start over. I got away from certain people that I felt pressured by. I got away from the negativity my brain had made up about everyone in the place that I grew up in. Basically, aside from my husband and one friend, I was alone to think and heal. I started going to see a therapist, and I prayed a lot. I found happiness and meaning again in my life. Life was suddenly worth it after years of myself being burned out by my mental illness.
Today I am happier than I have ever been. I am active and healthy again, and I’m slowly building my strength back up. I am healed through Him, and I know that my life is not purposeless. However, I bet you are wondering why I said I would never truly escape my black hole. Truthfully, I always hear that little voice whispering (instead of screaming) that I am not good enough. I am not worth it. I am not pretty. I am not smart. The list goes on and on, and I have to continue to change my thought patterns and remember that I am worth it. There are still days when I am struck with feelings of hopelessness, but in the words of The Smiths, “there is a light and it never goes out.” May those lyrics be ever on repeat in my brain.