I Stay Alive

By Nell SchreckApril 17, 2016

Around this time last year, I made the very difficult but rewarding decision to write about my struggles living with a mental illness. This turned out to be one of the most therapeutic aspects of my recovery, both in helping me to remove the shame I was feeling and to feel less alone by opening up a dialogue about an important issue that is given much less attention than it deserves.

But in recent months I’ve had to put my writing on the backburner. I think about it all the time, wishing I could get back to it. I can blame the busyness of life getting in the way, but if I’m being honest, I stopped writing because I was scared. I’ve come out of intensive treatment and gotten back into what most would call “normal life.” I’ve landed in a steady job doing work that feels rewarding, and it’s work that I’m good at. I finally feel like I’m on a path to somewhere, rather than just wandering aimlessly. Upon closer examination though, the cracks begin to show. For the past six months, I’ve been plagued with medical issues that have brought my life to a screeching halt. I spend most days in constant physical pain, and even after endless tests, hospital visits, and surgery, I still don’t have any concrete answers.

What does this mean for my mental health? Well, it’s not great. I feel like life is happening around me while all I can do is sit back helplessly and watch it pass me by. I can’t hold back the tears as I reflect on how I could still possibly be depressed. I asked for help, I went through treatment, and I take my medication. At what point does depression become a story in my past rather than something I have to face on a daily basis? I feel like more of a burden now than ever before. I put my family through this for long enough; they shouldn’t have to continue to be impacted by my health issues.

So what do you do when you’re faced with pain around every corner? You adjust your expectations, give yourself some credit, and remind yourself that you are not alone.

Pain is universal. We are all broken in different places, which makes me think that might be the point. Maybe we are all here to help each other heal our fractured souls, to use our pain to help others better understand theirs. It always goes back to the idea of needing other people: friendship and love and community. I always get so scared to talk about the hard stuff because I feel like I’ve used up my quota for a lifetime, like I should be better by now. That’s not really a realistic idea, though. To say that there is a timeline for how quickly we heal and a rulebook for how we talk about the things that are plaguing us ignores the fact that our pain is not an equation with an easy solution. We are complicated and we are damaged and we need desperately to be able to talk about these things. The light at the end of the tunnel is not a perfect life without obstacles; it’s the outstretched hand showing you that you don’t have to go through this alone.

I will be the first person to stand up and say that I am terrified about what is ahead. I’m scared that the pain will someday get to be too much for me. I’m scared that I’ll put out my hand and nobody will be there to grab it. For an introvert who loves to be alone, I spend an awful lot of time feeling lonely. I’m most afraid that someday that loneliness will root so deep into my soul that I won’t be able to recognize or accept love even when it is offered. These are the things that keep me up at night.

But I always wake up to a new day.

Life is not an accident. We go through things to strengthen our resolve, and I will continue to fight as long as there is a spark of faith deep inside that tomorrow might be better. I will continue to lean on the people close to me when I cannot hold myself up. I will keep on pushing conversations that matter, and I will keep on doing my part in my little corner of the universe to make sure people know it’s OK to not be OK.

I stay alive because I want to give the future a chance. I stay alive because the good in others has kept me alive. I stay alive because a tiny seed of hope keeps me believing that we go through pain as a way to meet others in theirs and as a way for all of the lost souls to connect with one another and feel a little less lost. So, if you’re feeling this way too, I’d like to share a quote from my favorite book:

“Please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough. And I will always believe the same about you.” – Stephen Chbosky, “Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Things may not always be good right now, but I will always be trying to get there. I hope you’ll do the same.

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Comments (15)

  1. Bellla

    Several different physical illnesses I have confound the medical community. I can’t imagine dealing with that whilst also dealing with depression. My love goes out to you.
    I know how hard getting through each day can be when you’re so ill and suffering. So dot you to have written this, in amongst all you’re going through, amazing fortitude.
    God bless

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    1. Bellla

      So “that” not dot. Sorry, typo.

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  2. Kayla

    Thank you for returning from your hiatus to write this today. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said. I’m happy someone else can find relief in putting it all out there like this. You are amazing.
    I stop writing all the time though it heals me so much. Writing forces us to pour ourselves out and look at it. Its so honest and you can finally see what you have been feeling and doing, right before your eyes. I think of it as time travel and time travel can be heavy. I am so sorry for your health struggles, as mine also severely affect my mental health. Its hard to have both your body and your spirit hurting, being scared is natural. It’s incredible of you to recognize the need for connection and community. Its a hard thing to keep working on(I know that well) but don’t stop. Your pain is seen and felt in every way on this day and that will always be true. We will both keep healing. Be gentle with yourself. Thank you for writing this.

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  3. Lin

    Very well written. Thank you for helping me put my depression to words. I go to therapy and take my meds… It’s getting better.
    God Bless you!!

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  4. Jeanne

    This is the most helpful thing I have read in some time. I relate to every word. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. stephanie cooper

    Feels good to know that I am not alone! I stay alive!

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  6. Lissa

    Thank you for sharing❤

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  7. Peter

    I needed to hear this now more than ever. Thank you.

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  8. Sonia

    I congratulate you on talking about an issue which is still a taboo worldwide. I too, live with depression and it causes me a lot of distress and real pain. I also feel terribly alone, even amidst people. I work once a week as a teacher and where I live we’re going through a serious recession. It’s hard to live on medication and i think we all have a lot to say about such a condition, which is not easy to cope with. Thanks for your words of encouragement, I”ll be always trying to get there too.. Congrats to twloha too on giving voice to people with depression.

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  9. Kristin

    Nell, thank you for sharing your words and thank you for staying. I’ve felt beyond frustrated when the darkness returns – I have done everything I can in terms of staying healthy by seeking help and continuing treatment, and yet there are still those days that I curl into my sadness like it is the softest and most familiar blanket. This journey we are on together isn’t all good and isn’t all bad – and we aren’t allowed a certain number of bad, burdensome days. Those who love us through and despite the dark parts will stay, and you will be reminded of your own strength and bravery – even if it is too foggy to see right now – when you reemerge into the light and can say, proudly, fiercely – I am here, I am here, I am still here. Thanks for trying to get there with me. I know we can keep going.

    Again, Nell, thanks for your words.

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  10. kayla

    “You adjust your expectations, give yourself some credit, and remind yourself that you are not alone” – I love that you said this. I really try to do this daily but some days its very hard.

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  11. Jessica

    “I always get so scared to talk about the hard stuff because I feel like I’ve used up my quota for a lifetime, like I should be better by now.” Yes, yes. You put into words the lie I tell myself that puts me in emotional, mental, and spiritual solitary confinement. I get a text from a friend that asks “how are you” and I reply “I’m good” which really means “I am kind of falling apart right now.” Thank you for reminding me that there is no quota and that the only way to get better is to keep talking, to keep pulling the blankets off of those secrets, and to keep hope.

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    1. Steph

      That line really hit me too. I find it a lot easier to “share my story” with someone as though all the loose ends have been tied up, when in reality it’s a struggle day to day to keep my head above the water. It’s so effing hard for me to be honest and let other people into my messy here-and-now struggle. But I take one breath at a time, and I think of all the hope there is in a new day.

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  12. Nick

    Thank you for this. I can relate . Keep moving forward. One day at a time

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  13. Julie

    Nell, you could did it!
    Thank you for your words, for time when you’ve wrote this.
    So valuable words. So needed words.
    really sincerely honestly thank you so much! for this strong post, for feelings too.
    To be honest, when I’ve read it, I felt something the same. Sure I can’t feel exactly what you feel, because only a few sides of yours seem like mine. But how much I want, I feel I need to give you my hugs. Nell, thank you for it.

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