I was fifteen years old when I first noticed something was wrong. Fifteen. I had the rug ripped out from under me as my friends disappeared with my feelings. Starting high school was the chance I was waiting for to start something new, and start something new I did. Disclaimer: I do not have much memory of this time, something I have learned occurs with severe depression. Either I specifically black out this time in my life or my brain did not form memories effectively, I will never know. The more salient parts are carved in stone in my memory, unfortunately. Thankfully, saliency was not often a part of my catatonic experience.
Before my freshman year of high school, I was coerced (forced) into breaking up with a boyfriend I was disgustingly dependent on. In hindsight this needed to happen, but at the time I was devastated. I had defined and lost myself through him. I had all but lost my best friend when she went to my mom and told her how worried she was about our relationship. I ended things and I went into full emotional tornado. However, my best friend and mother were constantly there for me. I had lost my first love and it crushed me. To make matters worse he moved on to a girl that looked exactly like me and was also going to the small high school I was to attend in the fall. Luckily, I had high school sports to keep me distracted.
I spent my entire summer training for tryouts for my high school volleyball team. Volleyball was a religion at my school and we were nationally ranked and expected to win state. Freshman could only dream of achieving a spot on the freshman team, the positions highly sought after by the girls at my single sex high school. A summer of training and extensive work outs culminated when I was told I made the team. This was HUGE. I always was very athletic, but mostly considered average. I always made the B-team and was the star. To make the equivalent of an A-team made me soar. Had I not made this team, my outcome would have been very different. Practice every day and games every Tuesday, Thursday, and some Saturdays kept me busy. Not to mention the amount of school work I had as a student in all honors courses at a prestigious private high school. I had no free time, but I was doing what I loved daily and I was actually playing. I had no time to come up for air. Volleyball was my passion and I played with all my heart.
The day high school season ended was when things started to get blurry for me. Club volleyball started, but I have little to no recollection of this season. I began excelling in class. I would cry if I received a 99% on a test. I was obsessed with school. I studied all night and all weekend, I was not social, and I sat alone in the single stall bathroom whenever I was free at school. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. Neither did my mom. I believed all was normal, I was simply going through a transition in my life and I was growing up. I thought this was just who I was becoming. I thought I was just destined to be miserable and I figured that’s just what adulthood entailed.
It wasn’t until we had a speaker in health that I learned about mental illness. Granted I did know a little bit about it because when I was young my aunt committed suicide, but depression was something that was unclear to me. Suicide was clear, depression not so much. A speaker in health introduced me to the rest of my life, little did I know (had I known at the time eight years later I would still be deeply struggling I probably would not have made it through this time in my life). Curiosity took over and I went to the internet to learn about this depression she talked about. This ten letter word would become my personal hell.
I cried the entire way home from school, deflecting pestering questions from my mom. Crying was commonplace for me so my mom suspected nothing out of the ordinary. I was more than aware of the stigmas around depression, so I was ashamed and terrified. I was weak and faulty. I went to my room and started on homework, my favorite distraction. For the first time, I wasn’t able to do my homework. Depression. Depression. Depression. Nothing else went through my mind. I wanted to die, I wanted to end it all, but I know I couldn’t do that to my family again because of my aunt. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I decided to write my mom a letter, because I was too ashamed to tell her this face to face. I wrote “I want to die. I need help. Please help me.” And I put it on her pillow so that she would see it when she went to bed and I would act like I was asleep. My mother instantly came into my room, knowing that I was awake and we both cried. She suggested therapy and, although not too keen on the idea, I agreed.
I wish I could say that this was the lowest point of my first depressive episode. Things kept getting worse. I experienced one of the most painful things of my life at this time, adding insult to injury. My best friend since first grade gave up on me. She told me the usual “snap out of it,” “stop being so sad,” “life isn’t so bad.” My mom and her mom were inseparable as well and her mom started talking to my mom about me, about how I wouldn’t snap out of it and it was affecting her daughter. This climaxed with a “come to Jesus” meeting in my dining room with the best friend, the best friend’s mother, my mother, and myself. Tears were shed by all but me. I just sat there. I remember where I was sitting, where I was staring, and feeling absolutely nothing. This was when I turned into a shell of a person. My rock, my best friend, the one I was going to go to college with and always live next to, rejected me, denied me, destroyed me. I was told there was something wrong with me and I was not the kind of person she wanted to be friends with. Her mother supported her and they agreed that depression was not real. I walked away from that table with my head down, no thoughts in my head and no person within me.
Once my best friend went, the others left me one by one. I walked down the halls of school blank and numb, all while pretending to be a ghost in order to avoid the hurt from never being acknowledged. I was a ghost as far as I was concerned. There was nothing that proved otherwise. Insomnia began and I could not muster up enough homework to fill the times I laid wide awake in my room. My distraction was no longer working as well as it was before. To add to everything else, my sister told me I ruined the family and my dad rejected me as well. He probably saw his sister in me and was so afraid of another suicide that he just avoided the feelings and acted like nothing was wrong. He does not like feelings to this day, but he had rejected someone who already thought she was as worthless as a grain of sand.
I went to therapy once a week, but I didn’t talk. My mom went with me to make me more comfortable and to help get words out of my mouth. Tracy, my therapist, was incredible. But unfortunately, no one knew how serious things really were. I laid in bed at night planning my suicide, contemplating how I could make it look like an accident so as not to destroy my mother. I set dates and wrote suicide letter drafts. I stopped eating entirely. I began trying to cut myself with very dull objects (didn’t work very well and I ended up sort of burning my skin). I came home from school and just laid on the floor staring at the ceiling. Laying on the floor staring became a daily thing, from my mother’s recollection. I was catatonic. I was a robot. I was a ghost. I was sleeping so little that I would fall half asleep in class and I started to see my dreams in real life. Multiple times I hallucinated my dreams and screamed in reaction. Didn’t help what existed of my social status at school.
A psychiatrist gave me this drug called an antidepressant. He told me in four weeks to six weeks I would feel like a new person. I pushed back my suicide date and waited. My first drug only lasted a day because my teacher accused me of being high. This drug lasted me about two months. Six weeks came and went and I only got worse. Another drug. Another six weeks with no results. Another drug.
At this point I started losing hope. I already had undetectable levels of hope, but this pushed me over the edge. I started drinking. I started going to parties. I started hooking up with guys, an obvious expression of my newfound “daddy issues.” Rumors spread about me, a new one after each weekend. I was a joke. I was taken advantage of. When I was blacked out, I couldn’t feel the pain. I was free in those moments, even if it did make the sober moments worse.
Eventually a drug slowly but surely began to work, a cocktail of drugs of sorts. Slowly the fog cleared, but it didn’t go away completely. I began to remember things. With only my mother by my side supporting me, I started to rebuild.