Robin Williams passed on an anniversary of mine. Ten years. It's a date I'd rather forget, and mostly had, until this week.
I'd planned for weeks, meticulously researching methods.
I'd planned on ending my life.
I'm writing this piece out because Boise Blue shared her story.
Hey, if you want to bow out now, I understand, because I'm going to describe what I did.
It was the summer of 2004 and I was in the midst of one of my periodic deep bouts of depression, only this time, this one was worse.
It was loud. The loudest it'd ever been to that point (and by that point, we're talking almost 10 years of general depressed affect).
I can't point to a single cause. It might have been back to back 18 credit semesters I was forcing myself through to complete a double-major. It might have been the zoloft I was on. It might have been the St. John's Wort too. It might have been early 20s hormones, but mostly, it was the rejection of a potential romance with an individual who I'd pursued (because he led me on) for almost two years. That individual also poisoned a good deal of my social group against me in the process.
I was 115lbs then, very athletic, and the apartment I shared with four other people was newer. So I considered the sprinkler head and determined I was too heavy. The apartments were new construction, and cheaply built.
Research told me a certain amount of a certain over-the-counter sleep aid (it no longer contains the ingredient as this was just prior to the meth explosion) would put me to sleep. I would not wake up. So that's what I did. I took it with a bowl of ice cream.
I did wake up. I'd missed work. My boss (I worked as summer staff for my university at the time) was calling. I told her what I did. She ordered me to the infirmary. I then enjoyed a police car ride to the hospital.
Dave Weigel told a similar story this week too. Where we diverge (we're about the same age) is he had insurance; I did not. My parents were self-employed at the time. They didn't have insurance either. It was also 2004. They had three kids in college at the same time that year. They didn't have any money.
I did not want anyone to know I was there. I knew (see, I did research on this too before I did the deed...just in case I did fail...) that as an adult, I could be held for 72 hours. I'd planned on accepting the treatment, getting evened out, and going home after 3 days.
University policy said otherwise, so my family did find out. And it was okay.
*there's an addendum to the hospital part of this story. One of the now former friends, well her mother was and I assume still is an administrator at that particular hospital. Suffice to say my former social group found out everything. Out of the four or so of us, I remain friends with only one. Remarkably, their loss still has a bit of a smart to it, ten years later.
I know, I know, there have been many words expended on how people who don't ever suffer from depression, as I did and still do, get it. My description of "loud" probably has those people confused.
Do you remember when televisions had a dial, and you'd turn the dial to find your station? The stations that had static, or if you tuned to the upper parts of the UHF dial, that static would be punctuated with voices. No, not voices, your own voice.
And that voice? It can tell you a lot of shit.
You're an idiot. This is the opposite of the very-real Dunning-Kruger effect. Academics call it the Imposter Syndrome.
You're gross. Eww.
No one loves you, you fat fuck.
You're worth less than a German mark in 1921.
(on the UHF dial, those voices were cellphone conversations that bled into that part of the bandwidth. As kids we used to listen to them all the time!)
The hospital stay, which I never really paid off, was expensive and I couldn't pay for it. Promises the state welfare department made apparently didn't really happen. I can note the exact moment the collections notice (they eventually got a tenth of the cost) dropped off my credit. My score went up 100 points. I have excellent credit. Imagine that, a black man with gold-rated credit. It has led to me being the one in my partnership who is the lead cosigner despite having no actual physical assets, but I digress.
They helped with coping techniques but they did something else. They medicated me.
Okay, now, I am positive I've garnered a reputation on this site for being anti-woo. It's true. I am anti-woo.
But I did not like the medication.
"Better living through chemistry," they say. I'm cool with that. I actually agree with it. In my case, the living wasn't necessarily better. The individual that emerged from the lexapro/trileptal combo liked smelling daisies, skipping through the fields, and generally just didn't give a fuck. He had a great deal of sex too. See, lexapro has one effect that, if you really want to go the distance, is quite favorable. And trileptal (it's offered under a generic now called Oxcarbazepine) is an anti-convulsant. Its use in mood disorders was then and still is "off label." It's a muscle relaxer. y'all can do the math. I felt pretty goddamn good.
It wasn't me though. I am lazy (I was a lazy student even doing a 36 credit year!), but I am responsible. I like daisies but I make an appropriate time to sniff them. I might not give a fuck but I keep that to myself; I don't let it all hang out. We'll let the rest up to the imagination.
I very nearly bombed out of my final year of college. So I quit taking it. I won't touch anything, "herbal" or not, to this day. I realize they often have to fit the drug to the individual. I didn't then and don't now have the patience for that. It is weird; I can stand and wait for a bus or a train for hours and hours. Sitting in traffic bothers me not (largely, because I'm a passenger anyway and I can read.) But I have no patience for fiddling with my brain chemistry.
I will say that comparing lexapro with zoloft, the lexapro was a far less harsh drug. If I had to take a pill, I'd take that again.
(it was also very expensive. The university gave out the lexapro for free, provided you talked to the shrinks. The other pill was pricy--$150/month in 2004 American dollars. I didn't like that part either. She was very nice and capable, but talk therapy is deeply exhausting. I quit doing that too.)
And here's where I break with people who give Depression it's own personality. "It's not you, it's the depression." "You didn't do that, the Depression did." "You are not responsible, the Depression is." These things are true and they're not. Rest assured I was incredibly logical and meticulous when I attempted suicide. That was me. That was also the depression. We are the same person.
(as it turns out, my failure to succeed was also due to my back-to-back 18-credit academic semesters during the 2003-2004 school year. I had developed a serious sleep disturbance, and regularly took the over-the-counter drug. I'd developed a tolerance and the "kill-dose" I'd found on the internet was not for people who were regular users. What can I say, I wasn't a chem major.)
All of those things are intertwined with me. Depression is me.
It mostly went back to its default position after that fall. No noise. after I stopped talking to the shrink, stopped popping the pills, went back to class and salvaged that semester and did better during the next. Graduated, got a job that I still have.
It's still there though. Another romantic rejection in the summer of 2008 (this time though, we stayed friends and still are) started an almost spiral. It was about that time I took up painting. Another depressive bout made me a gardener in 2010. Nothing's ever come to the severity of the summer of 2004 and I hope it never will.
I am depression and depression is me.
It occurred to me last year that I'm dysthemic. I'm pretty sure it's hereditary---other sufferers in my family medicate with alcohol or religion or both. I have no idea, other than when on the prescribed medication or self-medication, what normal people feel like. I don't have what bipolar sufferers get. I have "meh" and then "white noise."
A lot of creatives and artist types are like that.
(I don't think I'm either, but I can be when I want to be.)
It's "meh" right now and it will probably stay meh for a really long time. It always is like this.
Listen, there's something else. I kind of reject "get help." It's not help we depressives need, it's treatment. I have an illness that is not curable, but it is manageable. So if you don't understand what we're going through, help us to get treatment. Just saying "get help" I personally resent.
But, get treatment. My coping techniques work for me; they might not for everyone.
This is a cruel illness.
Thanks for listening.