I've been thinking about sharing my journey into darkness and light for a long time. It's taken years for me to understand it, not completely, but at least to the point where I know that by sharing this I may be able to help at least one other person.
I am writing about what most people don't know about me and will be surprised to learn. I suffered from depression. Depression that had me seriously contemplating suicide on multiple occasions. It was a dark time in my life, but I never saw it as dark until I was able to see the light.
Wanting to Live the Dream
When you have a good-paying job, two kids and live in a home in a decent neighborhood, what could be wrong? I loved my two boys. And they are ultimately why I am still here.
I've never told them that. But I was in a marriage that had its ups and downs like most do. What I didn't realize was that I was letting my determination to uphold my vows of "until death do us part" drive me to a place that was no longer where my marriage was. I found myself in a very lonely place. The weight of the world was on me to figure this out. How could I do more? How could I fix this? How could I change her? It was so frustrating that I just kept holding it in.
Living in Darkness
To everyone else around me, including coworkers, neighbors and even family, I was living a normal life. I was good at hiding my depression and the dark place it took me to.
Fortunately, I never took the drastic action of hanging myself, but I was as close to it as sitting in the rafters with a rope around my neck. What got me to take the rope off and climb down was not only an important lesson, but it has helped me understand so much more in the years to come.
For as bad as I felt my life was, if I were to take my life, I would only be hurting the two people I cared about the most. In other words, I would be selfish. This is hard to hear when you are in that dark place, but it's the truth. By ending my suffering, all I would have done is transfer that to others who would be affected by it their entire lives. As that realization entered my head, I began to understand that I had three choices. The first, reason I was in the rafters, was already ruled out. The other two were: I could get down and live my life the way it had been, or I could decide to change things about my life.
I had choices. Choices that were within my control. It didn't happen overnight and my depressed state didn't magically lift. But in the years to come I started to understand that my reactions to how I felt were what I was in control of. It was this shift from trying to control the situation to controlling my reaction to it that was a turning point. I learned that I can't change someone else. I could only change myself.
Although it was several years later, this understanding helped guide me to understand what was important to me. I was only able to comprehend this after I learned my next lesson; you need to talk to others.
Leaning on Others
At my darkest time, I was referred to a therapist by my family doctor. They knew me well enough to suggest individual therapy instead of group (which is what they suggest for most people). It was very uncomfortable for me to share these ugly thoughts with anyone else, much less a stranger, but it quickly became apparent that she was not judging anything I said. She was another human who was actually caring what I was saying and how I was feeling without telling me what to do.
Moving to the Light
After my divorce, I was living alone but reconnected with several of my best friends from high school. They provided me with a set of ears, and open heart and extended arms ready to support me if I needed them. I was able to continue conversations with them after I stopped seeing my therapist. The conversations were not always about the fun things. Often they were about some struggles that I was facing. I started to understand that even though they had not experienced the same things as me, they had their own demons that I could relate to. All of a sudden, I was no longer alone. In reality, I never was, I just didn't open myself up to realize there are others who care and that I could ask for help.
I live a much happier life now because I chose to change my circumstances and myself. It was not easy, but it never is when you are doing the hard work called life. I realize my measure of success was never staying in the endless marriage to be true to my vows, climbing the corporate ladder or having a ton of money. It's having people to talk to, who won't judge me and want to help me, and it's coming to the realization that we can't control what happens, but we can control how we react to it. We need to have the courage to create the world that works for us despite what we have been told we should do or have. Each of us has the answers and yet we don't always spend time listening to what's deep inside of us and asking others for help. We don't learn that skill anywhere.
It's been hard to share this as it has been my secret to hold. But in a conversation with a close friend, I realized that my story may help others step out of a challenging situation and move into the light.
My purpose is to help those it resonates with, who may feel they are alone, take action. I think it's a problem for many of us. Please know you are not alone.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.