Some days are easy – I get out of bed, brush my teeth, meditate, work out, shower, straighten up the apartment, and eat 3 full meals. Other days are hard, harder than I think I can handle. Even on the easy days I experience this strange sort of collapsing feeling, like everything is going to cave in and suffocate me. The other day, I began a job application but then I tried to imagine myself toiling away in some office and I couldn’t breathe. I was taking in big gulps of air but it felt like all the oxygen that was supposed to be going to my brain was lodged in my throat instead. I ended up locking myself in the bathroom and crying. It’s hard imagining myself as someone with a job and health insurance and other adult responsibilities because I want so desperately to be dead. I don’t know how to describe depression in a way that is satisfactory to me – I’ve tried to do so on several occasions, but everything that comes out of my mouth always sounds dumb and false.
This is not a suicide note.
I try thinking about the day my mom took me to the zoo and we didn’t fight, the feeling of my grandmother’s hugs, the sound of my brother’s voice when he says he loves me, the speech my aunt gave about me at my high school graduation party, the time my uncle showed up to my class’ Father’s Day party so I wouldn’t be the only kid without someone there, the nice text message from my friend Ritika or the one from my boyfriend that made me cry. There are moments in your life that act as landmarks, reminders for why you’re here, something to cling to. But sometimes none of it is enough because the bad days are relentless and cruel and they keep coming. Your arms will get tired from all of the holding on to and you’ll lock yourself in the bathroom and cry and think about drowning yourself in the tub.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that depression is a disease – one that affects the brain, the thing we use to make decisions, the thing that makes us who we are. And I know that no one wants to want to kill themselves. Suicide is an exit, an emergency exit of sorts – a door you open when the thing on the other side seems a little less scary than what’s behind you.
This is not a suicide note, but it is my way of saying that I hope that we can begin to talk about mental illness in a way that doesn’t feel perverse and disgusting. I don’t want it to be something that people sit alone with for fear of being a burden to others. Sometimes talking isn’t enough, sometimes therapy isn’t enough and there may never be anything that is, but we can still try to be better for each other. Don’t just post a hotline number on social media and don’t tell people to pray on it. And there’s no need to tell us we have so much to live for – we’re aware, we just wish we had the energy to do so.
Reach out to your people, try to give them something to hold on to if you can.
(Originally published June 2018)