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An abusive person discriminated against me and my career path seemed derailed.
I was angry and ashamed that one person had this power to destroy everything I had worked toward. I felt completely defeated, and then an old enemy resurfaced.
Hello sad feeling. You must be here to tell me how I have failed and where I could have acted differently. You must be here to tell me that all the people I meet in life will be like that, and that all my attempts at a future will be like this: with me curled up in a ball and sobbing over someone’s opinion of me.
How pathetic I must be! I reprimand myself like a misbehaving child, look what you have done! I poison my own mind and set traps that prevent me from returning, and from ever trying for another path.
I was no stranger to depression. In the past, sometimes life had become so unbearable that a sick day turned into a sick week.
But this was different, this had an added element. I was so angry that sometimes my breath would not move. Sometimes my chest would tighten and my heart would ache and I would be struggling to keep myself from spiralling off the face of the Earth.
I went to the ER, thinking I was having an asthma attack. They told me I was fine and to go home, even though I almost fainted. I saw one of them look to the other in a knowing way, but they did not share with me what they were thinking. I became even angrier and so spent days in my bed, clinging to my aching chest and trying desperately just to get air. I knew they thought I was crazy, and so I knew it was all in my head.
Surely, I can control something in my own head.
After an incident involving a knife and my own flesh, I was diagnosed with a combination of depression and anxiety. I was told I needed medication. I kept the prescriptions but did not have them filled. I resented the whole damned thing. I used to be able to control this! I used to be able to handle this and be okay! I told myself.
My friends told me not to give in, “do not be tempted by those unnatural pharmaceuticals! Pull yourself together! Smile, you look terrible! You are falling apart!”
Why, yes. Yes I am, thank you for noticing.
I was told to get more sun, so I opened my windows wide but the sunlight seemed too bright. I was told to get more exercise, but the aches in my chest made it seem like I would die, and I believed it.
I was told to wear a smile, but when I did people could see right through it, and they no longer trusted me. Something about me was insincere.
The things I used to do to make myself better were not working. I tried to sing, to force a smile, to write a story. But everything turned back into hopelessness and defeat. Anything that would have been fun in the past seemed frivolous and idiotic, like I was a woman trying to play with dolls again.
My cynicism disguised itself as wisdom. Everything was pointless. Tomorrow would be the same, and the next month, and the next year. Life would always be this: me staring at someone talking to me and simply trying not to cry.
Any job I tried to hold was a joke. Don’t fall apart, not yet, wait a few more hours and then you can shut down, just a few more hours and then we can go home, I told myself. Just get through the next hour. You can make it till your break and then you can go cry in the bathroom, keep it together.
Then something goes missing, I forgot something because my mind is no longer playing by the rules.
I’ve been forgetting a lot of things, lately.
Just another ten minutes, just get through another ten minutes…five…one.
One night, I stared into my own sad eyes in the mirror and looked ahead to the oblivion that could only lead to death. I agreed with myself that it was time to be done, either by dying or by “giving in” to the medication I had been avoiding.
But was it really giving in? Was it a defeat? Maybe I had simply told myself that choosing to be happy was a weakness.
I had felt guilty whenever I had tried to be happy, I felt like every negative emotion needed to be felt and understood and examined to its fullest. What if I could choose to be happy?
So I did.
I decided I did not have to be my own enemy. I started the medication, and I chose to live.
At first I started it with the idea that “when I’m better, I can just stop taking it.”
So obviously, my first attempt at sanity did not hold. I was still allowing myself to be biased against my own recovery. I was still desperately trying to cling to the idea that I could do this naturally, and that somehow that would make me a stronger and better person. Online friends confirmed this feeling saying such things as, “you gave in to big pharma?” “just don’t become dependent on it” “You need to meditate, yoga, sleep more, eat better, get more sun, etc.”
I had surrounded myself with people who were toxic to my own recovery, people who agreed with the negative things I said about and to myself. I had to let them go, and I had to accept myself as a happy person without the guilt that I was betraying anyone or any part of myself.
I tried medication again, this time without any “someday” notions. I accepted that this is a medical condition I have and something I may have to keep in check for the rest of my life.
I am currently on a diet of anti-depressants, guided meditation, anti-anxiety medication, positive affirmations, cardio, more vegetables, and occasional journaling. I am keeping a job and have friends again. I am no longer thinking fifteen minutes at a time. Some days I still cry, or get stressed, but I am no longer beating myself up. I have accepted myself and the steps I need to take, possibly for life, to help myself.
I am okay.
I chose to be alive and happy, and I do not regret that.
Author: Nicole Alexis Fowler
Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: Author’s Own