It was during my freshman year of high school when I began to seriously wonder if I was depressed. The persistent sadness wouldn’t lift with the mornings, and I went through my days in a fog. My depression had been sneaking up on me subtly, but it didn’t seem to truly hit me until I had my first panic attack. I started therapy then, but I didn’t click with the therapist; after a while I stopped being honest and open with her.
It was during my sophomore year that my depression peaked. One morning, I woke up, turned off my alarm clock, and lay there, staring at my ceiling, listening to my beating heart. I knew I had to get up…but I couldn’t seem to move.
“Evie, time to get up,” my mom said as she knocked on my door.
I still didn’t move. Ten minutes later, she came back.
“Ev, come on. Let’s go.” She sat down on the edge of my bed. But I couldn’t do it. I felt paralyzed.
“I can’t, Mom.” I didn’t look at her.
“Evelyn. Let’s go. Get up,” she said a little more sternly.
“No, Mom, I can’t.” I felt tears forming in my eyes. My mom left my room and came back with my dad.
“Evie, it’s time for school. Get up,” he said. I started crying.
My parents stood at the side of my bed. I don’t know how long this went on: them insisting that I could get up if I really wanted to, that I needed to stop crying or I was going to be late for school; me lying there, curled up in a ball, crying that I couldn’t get up and begging them not to make me. They must have given up eventually, because I woke up hours later, still in bed, the house silent.
I didn’t know how to tell my mom and dad that I needed to be comforted. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to be held while I cried over not knowing why I was crying in the first place. I wanted them to tell me that everything was going to be OK, this thing inside of me wasn’t going to defeat me, and I would persevere. I felt my parents trusted entirely too much in the therapy they’d assumed was helping me, even though I knew I’d hit a wall with my therapist. I had fallen so low in my depression, it didn’t feel like sadness anymore; it felt like nothing, a nothing so dark it permeated every part of my life.
It was an awful feeling, trying to decide if I had the strength to get out of bed or not each morning. It felt like if I decided to try, I would fail. And if I decided to give up, I would be failing anyway. I was always behind in school, always getting grades twenty points lower than what I was capable of scoring. I believed I was losing it for real this time, and losing it so quickly and in such a big way that it was too late to stop any of it. I felt that all I could do was stay curled up in bed and hope it would all go away. I was still alive, breathing, but I was no longer a vibrant, living person. I was a shell of the person I once was, running on empty, quiet and withdrawn. Where was the real me? Would I ever come back?
My depression felt like being paralyzed on a shore, unable to move away from the black waves rushing toward me. I could only brace myself before the waves hit and knocked me off my feet. Each time I went down harder than the last, and each time my motivation to get back up sank to a lower level. Each night before going to bed I would pray to God to end my misery; every night I was convinced I could not go another day. I was locked inside myself, pounding on the walls, screaming for someone to save me.
It got to a point where I needed to be hospitalized for my own safety. Once I was released, I was paired with a different therapist and enrolled in a Dialectical Behavior Therapy group in my area. This was the turning point for me. I clicked with this therapist—she was one who I felt I could trust with the darkest parts of me. She walked beside me through the days when I wanted to give up, and she celebrated each small victory. Little by little, I improved. It took two and a half years of hard work, but I did it! I reached remission. I reached recovery. I felt like the “real me” was back, and this time to stay.
The hardest thing in the world is to want more than anything to give up—and then make the decision not to. It’s the difficult situations that build our character most and show those around us and ourselves just how strong we really are. Strong people aren’t built in one day by one situation. Strong people are made by enduring struggle after struggle and by making the choice every day to keep fighting back.
You may not be able to control the things in life that cause you pain, but there is no shame in asking for help, though it can be extremely hard to do so. Reach inside yourself and find the strength to ask for support for your journey, and then the courage to see it through until the end. Take your healing one small step at a time—even if some days it means simply standing up.