The one thing that I wish I’d been told in the beginning is that depression does not go away; you will always have it, so you have to learn the tools to be able to manage it. I continued the free talk therapy at my university until I graduated, and then I thought my only problem was my hometown. I believed my suicide attempt had made me a sort of pariah; folks were either fragile with me or, worse, tried to use it to malign me. I was escaping all those folks who were keeping me down.
My first job landed me in a big city across the country, but then the economy crashed and many in my department were facing layoffs. One of the first friends I made connected me to a popular but controversial self-help course loosely based upon the mindfulness philosophy. In the seminar, there were millionaires and migrant workers, retirees and college freshmen, start-up geeks and homemakers, all reduced to tears, all trying to improve their lives.
Thanks to them, I took a leap and repaired a lot of relationships. I realized I’d run away from my problems, but their effects were still running right along with me. I learned how to notice the depressed feelings without succumbing to them. I learned how to make friends instead of waiting to be friended.
I was transferred to the southwest and put in a different position with no training, and I was not performing well despite my efforts. A whirlwind, but in retrospect ill-advised, romance turned into a tumultuous engagement until one day I received a text message from my fiancé that he would be committing suicide. I searched for him for hours until he contacted me to let me know that he’d blown out two of the tires on his car while trying to drive to his chosen location, and he’d changed his mind.
It was eye-opening to me to be so closely connected to a suicidal person. He spent a week in the psychiatric ward, but for him, there were no incidents of evil doctors or screaming patients. It wasn’t just depression; it was a disorder, lies and affairs, but neither he nor the doctors could say why. In one of his fits, he broke up with me and meant it that time, but it took a long time for me to let go. There were several more times he threatened suicide and I would try to stop him, only to find that it was just another cry for attention. I was exhausted and stressed to the limit. I saw my efforts to help him as a loving action; he said I had a martyr complex.
Later, I would read a book about codependency which would reveal how I got myself into that mess, and a book about sociopaths which would teach me how to avoid those characters in the future. I lost nearly two years in that span of time. I could be happy at work and happy with my friends, but my times alone were frantic. My employer had been very kind to me for a long time, but with an impending downsizing effort, I knew I was on the chopping block. I opted to leave that place behind and go back to my hometown.
It was the opposite journey of when I left my home in the first place for that job, and I had accumulated quite a few more possessions, most of which I simply gave away. I used two months off work as a sabbatical, deepening friendships, painting artwork, running through the beautiful desert landscapes, socializing as much as possible and taking spontaneous road trips. When my lease ended, I threw a big party and I was nearly in tears from the outpouring of love from my friends.
I moved back in with my parents, tried a few different short-term jobs, and started rebuilding my life back in my hometown. Life was never easy, but my mission was different. If there is one thing I can recommend to anyone with depression, it is to keep moving, even if it’s just a small step. Listen to that podcast, read that book, make that appointment. I had a “try anything” approach to therapy because mental health is not one-size-fits-all. Talk therapy is adored by many, but it never really helped me because I was perfectly fine talking about my problems; I wanted guidance. For me, books have been my saving grace. When life finally calmed down, I had found my dream job, my future husband and my own home. Depression has once more reared its ugly head a few times, but all that emotional weight-lifting has been building up my muscle. I can lift myself up again.
By: Emily Birukow