The Unlikely Discovery That Helped Me When I Googled 'How to Beat Depression'
My mind sinks into the darkness like a drowned corpse in an abyss. It’s November 25. I haven’t seen the sun in three days. And for the hundredth time this week, I think about ending it all. Fall asleep and never wake up. My eyes flit to an overhead light and focus dully on its brightness. None of it matters, I think. I am a dog, and someone should put me down.
My therapist tells me many people suffer from depression or anxiety. I fall into that lucky percentage struggling with both— and believe me, more is not merrier. Still, I hide it well. Throw in a fake smile here, an “I’m fine” there. Depression is my burden. And yet I am not ashamed.
Admittedly, I’m just a white girl from Suburbia. Aside from the calories in my macchiato, my concerns are few. I have amazing friends. Loads of opportunity. And to the outside world, I have it all together. The reality is that I am surrounded by darkness
One can easily understand why.
When the average Joe feels sick, he gets the sniffles and runs to CVS. I, on the other hand, endure an all-out mental assault. My mind goes rogue and shrieks that I’ll never get better. Instantly my anxiety soars. For several days the screams continue, reminding me of every possible escape. And as my world slowly fades to gray, so does the possibility of hope, and any chance of healing. In this desperation, life becomes a daily hell, and death a welcome escape.
This is a dangerous lie. I know because I’ve believed it.
It’s easy to write that suicide is never the answer. We’re reminded on posters and television commercials, told that someone cares and to call 1-800-GET-HELP. But in spite of all the logic, a person with severe depression fails to bridge what he knows with what he feels. At first he fights, but scolds himself along the way. Why should I want death, he thinks, when I have X, Y, and Z to consider? Yet by constantly rebuking himself, the depressed grows exhausted. Pain and fear begin to choke his sensibility. And as he gasps for hope, he views suicide as a kinder mercy than slow suffocation. What he forgets is that others — family, friends, and doctors — can help break the chokehold.
I wish I could promise his fight feels easy, but nothing strays farther from the truth. Rather, depression is a struggle of countless prayers. Tears. Exhaustion. Willpower, pain and true grit. But this battle, while uphill, is worth it.
I was diagnosed the day before Thanksgiving — a fact I’ve always found ironic. While everyone else indulged in the upcoming holidays, I struggled just to be. My existence had become a prison, my mind its warden and I the inmate. Consequently, I viewed everything behind bars of grayscale. I grew desperate to escape. I nearly tried. Yet within this abyss, love saved me.
As the fibers of my body longed to die, I reflected on my life. My thoughts drifted through my trip to France, flitted through past Christmases and finally settled on something a friend texted me that week. “It’s hard to encompass why you matter to me,” he’d said. “You’ve been someone I could count on when I didn’t think I had anyone…I couldn’t imagine being here without you.” And in that moment I knew I couldn’t end it. I had to live for him. For all of them.
Yet the following month dragged on, and I grew increasingly disheartened. My mind continually posed the same question: what makes life beautiful? I searched in frustration for the answer, considering self-harm multiple times in the interim. And then one December night, I found my response through an unsuspecting Google search.
How to beat depression. I had suspected the usual advice: be active, socialize with friends, take medication if necessary. Instead, I discovered two unlikely figures. Their names shocked me.
Winston Churchill. Abraham Lincoln. Both suffered from severe depression that, at times, rendered them suicidal. Yet in spite of their pain, these men became two of the strongest leaders the world has ever seen. Arguably, neither could have achieved their greatness without depression. Having experienced great emotional strife, Churchill and Lincoln could process and relate to the suffering around them. Darkness, therefore, was no deterrence. And as a result of their mental tenacity, both could do what others could not: inspire nations in periods of great sorrow.
The same applies to us. Without darkness we fail to seek light. For this reason I believe God uses the most broken people to accomplish incredible feats. In fighting our obscurities, we improve ourselves. We use our pain for good. And as such we move forward.
I know because I did.
After finishing the original copy of this essay, my psychiatrist rediagnosed me with an unspecifiable subset of bipolar disorder. For me, that has made all the difference. I have accomplished more in the past 10 months than in all 20 years of my life. Challenges no longer daunt me. Stress does not restrain me. Dreams I once viewed as impossible I now relentlessly pursue. I have denied Death to its face; as a result there is nothing Life can keep me from doing.
Today I work two jobs, make straight A’s, and am pushing myself towards Harvard Law School. That is not to say that having chronic illness is easy. It isn’t. I can’t deny the anguish depression has caused, nor ignore its mental scars. Yet I am not weak, and my bipolar disorder does not define me.
Rather, I am empathetic.
Because of my pain, I can help those around me.
Because of my pain, I understand true joy.
I still struggle. Some days the black clouds never lift. But if I have learned anything, it’s that hope exists even in the darkness. And because of this fact, life is beautiful.
Dedicated to Nana, the inspiration for this piece; Nicholas, whom without I would not be here; Clark, Alex, and Coleman for always making me laugh; Nolan for all the hugs; Matt, Hunter, and Christian for believing in me; Katharine for her moral support; and my parents for never giving up on me. I love you all.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.