Light in Darkness: My Journey through Depression
by Rachel Grider
Content warning: This blog article contains mentions of self-harm, suicide, and sexual abuse.
Editor’s Note: Mental health is a topic which is often ignored in society. There are numerous reasons why people suffer with mental illness and though we may not be able to solve the issue for someone who is hurting, we can certainly be there to support him/her/them in their time of need. Thank you to Rachel for sharing your story.
On February 26, 2013, I entered my Baltimore townhouse with the intention of never leaving it again alive. For too long, I had fought against the monster that was my depression, tried to run from the dark memories that held me captive, and presented a cheerful facade to the world, terrified that someone would see that I was falling apart inside. I knew that my facade was finally cracking; I was self-mutilating more and more frequently, pushing the limits to see how much damage I could cause myself without giving anything away. Now, however, I was done playing, done running away; I was giving into that monster because it wasn't worth fighting anymore.
For years, I had believed that I was worthless. I blamed myself for my father's abandonment, because I had been told that my blindness had driven him away, and I had always felt the need to try to make up for it by being unhealthily competitive in everything I did. I also had some more sinister memories of early childhood sexual abuse which haunted my nightmares and increased my feelings of worthlessness. I had "punished" myself when I felt that I had not performed adequately at a certain task, at first by denying myself things that I wanted or needed, then eventually by actively harming myself. I had tried to overcome the depression, anxiety, and overall feelings of worthlessness by over achieving and overwhelming myself with activities, but this method no longer seemed to be working; the monster had caught up with me at last.
At that time, I honestly believed that killing myself was my only escape from this miserable existence, and it I would be doing everyone a favor by leaving this world; I know now that there was also a part of me which was tired, was staying silent and needed to be validated. Needless to say, I did not succeed in suicide. I was taken to a hospital, and eventually forced to spend a few days in a psychiatric ward, where I was stuck with little to distract me but my own dark thoughts. Those few days were agonizing, but being there forced me to face my monster head-on.
At first, I felt like a failure again because I had not killed myself after all. Slowly, however, I began to realize, through phone calls and visits, that there really were people who loved me. Even after finding out about my mental health problems, the small circle of friends and family in whom I confided did not seem to think any less of me; they just wanted to do all they could to help me. I began to understand, on an academic level at least, that I was not worthless, and that I owed it to myself and to those who cared about me to do what was needed to pull myself out of this dark place.
I became more open with certain people about my struggle, allowing them to help me get through my darkest times; as I did this, I discovered that I was not alone, and I was able to help others who were also struggling with similar afflictions. I started going to therapy regularly, and I read books about psychology, trauma, and self-awareness. As I did these things, I slowly began to understand that I was not responsible for the things that had happened to me as a child, and that I deserved to be loved like anyone else., I also became more comfortable with my identity as a blind person. Eventually, through study, meditation, painful realizations, forgiveness, and some profound personal experiences, I was able to stop self-mutilating and to let go of my anger and self-loathing.
If you can identify with any of the feelings I have described—if you are dealing with mental illness, whether it be circumstantial or biological, you are not alone, and you should not have to deal with it alone. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, reach out to mental health resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and find a therapist with whom you can be open and honest. Finding the right therapist to fit your needs and personality is crucial, so don't be discouraged if it takes a while to find one.
Everyone's journey is different. I still struggle every day with depression, anxiety, and the fear, self-doubt, and self-criticism left by my earlier experiences, but I now have the tools I need to deal with these feelings in productive ways. No matter where you are in your personal journey, know that you are worth fighting for, and though your road may be difficult, scary, and painful, you too can find the light which will help you through the darkness.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255