When a Stranger Asked If I Was All Right After He Saw Me Crying in My Car
The feeling of wanting to die is overpowering. I kneel on the floor, body caving inward as I grasp my head between clenched fingers. I slam my eyes shut, open my mouth and scream without sound. Numb, my mind is frazzled and frenzied, accelerating out of control. The world is building far too big and far too fast. Its weight is crushing my mind.
My brain slips, my fingers tightened around my skull trying desperately to hold my world together as my thoughts race. A panic starts to build, I clench harder and harder. I squeeze my eyes tighter, burrowing my state of conscious choice deep behind my lids, hoping the mere pressure of my tightly sealed vision will hold my mind in place. But it is slipping.
I open my eyes and drop my hands, leaning back I gasp for air, just now realizing I haven’t been breathing. The yellow light bulbs inset in the ceiling above me looked vile in their filthy, penetrating presence. I stand up quickly, flicking the light switch off and letting the calming darkness pour down around me. Though I have taken a shower an hour before, I feel uncomfortable, dirty and unclean.
My skin crawls and I can’t escape it. I want to be washed clean. With the moonlight shining through it, I opened my window and take the screen out, resting it gently against my bedroom wall. I climb out and onto the roof from the first floor extending out below me. I stand with my arms wide open on my rooftop. I close my eyes again, feeling the rain wash over my skin, soak my hair and calm my mind.
As the night wraps her darkness around me, I felt a stillness begin in my head. I open my eyes, step forward and stand with my toes touching the edge of the roof, two stories up. This isn’t enough to kill me, is it? I think, looking down. I shut my eyes again. I take a deep breath, as the rain cascades down along my body, fighting everything inside of me to jump.
Is life really too precious to lose? The thought draws pangs inside of me. It has to be. God, it just had to be, even though it doesn’t feel like it. The pain spreads, starting in the core of my chest, outward through my torso as it punches a gaping, raw hole in my chest. I feel the freedom to cry. Wrapping my arms around myself, on this cold November night, I weep and whisper a prayer.
Depression, please, be still.
That is how I often felt, when dealing with the depression before I stabilized. It was an unending pain. I couldn’t make it stop. This symptom is often belittled or misunderstood about depression or the depressive side of bipolar disorder.
Many people want to say depression isn’t sadness, and they are partially correct. Depression isn’t solely sadness. It can be rage, depravity, numbness, cognitive dysfunction and so many other horrible things. Yet, sadness is definitely part of depression for many, many people.
It isn’t your typical sadness, though. It isn’t something that has a clear end or a, “Once I cry it out, I will feel better,” type of sadness. It is an immeasurable, unending grief. Sometimes it focuses itself around a physical thing, loss of a loved one, failure in life or something of the like. Other times, the sadness of depression centers itself around the people with depression themselves. They are grieving the idea that they aren’t lovable, they aren’t worthwhile or their life is pointless. Sometimes, the sadness has no grounds. It just is.
Mental illness can be masked for many different reasons and in many different ways. Not everyone who has clinical depression develops that incredible sadness, and not everyone with incredible sadness has clinical depression. Yet, that symptom of either life or depression can be one in the same and requires the same reaction.
Just be there. I can’t tell you how many times I wished someone was just there when I was struggling with undiagnosed depression and even before when life hit me particularly hard. When you are there for someone who is weeping or unbelievably sad, you open up their ability to confide in you and get help if they need it.
There was one defining moment, in the heat of my first depressive episode that lasted for months. It was one kind act by one old man who helped me in ways I don’t even know if I can explain. I was in a parking lot, sitting in my car and wringing the steering wheel in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t do it anymore. Life was too much. The depression was just too much.
Then, I heard a tap on my window. I wiped my eyes quickly and looked up into the kind eyes of an old man. He motioned for me to get out of the car. I wanted to drive away, but I didn’t. I got out and stood there. He reached out, put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was all right.
He then squeezed my shoulder and told me not to give up. I looked up into those eyes, old, wrinkled and wise, and I felt OK, even for just a moment. It was enough to get me through that horrible day. I still think of that man sometimes. I don’t know if he is even on this earth anymore. He is an angel either way.
All it takes sometimes for someone to hang onto life a little longer is for someone to go out of their way and care a little more than everyone else seems to. All it takes is compassion. It isn’t hard, and you can save someone’s life.
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