So I’m about to come here, I had committed a week before, and then my mom had a heart attack right in front of me, and she died. I had to move out of my house that same day. I couldn’t stay there on my own. I was 17.
I thought I was very tough, so I went through with my plans. I told myself, “This is what I’m doing in the fall, I’m going to college. Everyone has to deal with their parents’ death, so this is something I can deal with.” I think that was a mistake.
On top of everything, I started having flashbacks. I felt so guilty because I was such a rude child. I was sure my attitude had killed my mother. I was very depressed, but at that time I had no idea. I was just, like: well, my mom died. What is the point? We’re all going to die. I’m supposed to be sad. I just didn’t expect everything to go so completely wrong.
I took Prozac for the first time when I was 14, and it was a really profound experience. It was the first time I realized that my identity is separate from my depression. I felt like myself for the first time. The darkness and sadness and anxiety that I thought was me was actually changeable.
Of course I never acted on those thoughts, because, ultimately, I’d like to think that I’m a good, nice person and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. I would sit there and be worried. My hands would start getting cold because there was always this gripping fear in the back of my mind. What if I actually did it?
Depression stole my life. It stole my desire to live. It came down to me asking, “Why should I be alive if I can’t feel anything? Why should I be alive when I’m just this zombie?”
I already had this sort of plan to take my own life, but I couldn’t stand the idea of taking my own life and setting up my friends to experience a tragedy of this kind. My friends were taking me out to lunch and dinner, spending three, four hours with me, talking about me and me and me all the time. They had become a reason for me to live. How could I take my own life when so many people had invested so much in me? So many people saw—I don’t know what—in me, and I guess they cared or loved me. In that way they communicated to me that they thought it should be worth it for me to survive.
If you’re clinically depressed, sometimes your cognitive processes are impaired. My favorite example is that I could not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s something that anyone can do. But whatever was going on chemically in my brain, when I would try to recite something by memory, I could not do it.
What I didn’t realize was how important it is to be involved with people. Depression happens when you get in your head. You have to get out of your head, because your head is a very strange place. If you’re connected to other people, it allows you to get more perspective on your problems and to get away from the things that lead to this downward spiral. It’s a much better way to live.
I had the first thoughts ever of suicide during that time. That’s when I started really worrying about myself. I had this image of approaching a cliff, and I would get near an edge and I would feel this panicked feeling. I felt like I was getting so close to it that if I looked over it I could fall, that I was going to let myself slip. That was a very scary feeling.
As an undergrad, I had become a practicing Christian, and I thought that killing oneself was wrong, and my husband also thought it was wrong. I remember that, at that moment when I didn’t care any more, there was a little voice tugging me a little bit away from the edge. I felt that no matter what I wanted, there was a greater source of knowledge saying, “This is wrong,” and that I would benefit by listening to that.