I’m here.

{Dear friends, this is about how stories are powerful, and how they can heal both writer and reader. I also care deeply about mental wellness, because of what I’ve personally witnessed and have gone through myself, some of which I’m sharing about here. This is just my story. Depression may not be the same for everyone, and what helped to heal me may not be a cure-all for everyone, but hopefully there are useful references in the story. Whether you’re going through depression or if you have a loved one who is/might be going through it, I hope that this can be one of many stories and resources that you can draw upon to know that you’re not going through it alone. What I really want to say is: It can get better. At least, it did for me.}

The day before my birthday, two years ago, was the closest that I had ever come to suicide.

Depression crept up on me in unsuspecting ways. It was a year into my counseling sessions, which mostly dealt with the Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) that I wasn’t even aware that I had, and I was on the up and up. In fact, I was practically on a high, feeling better and more in control of my life than I had felt for longer than I could remember. I genuinely believed that I could only get better and farther from where I was, which is probably why it took me by such surprise when I fell into the worst bout of depression that I had ever experienced.

Looking back now, I realize that I’ve had depression of varying degrees of seriousness at different times in my life. I just didn’t recognize it. I was practically depressed for the entire duration of my time in Scotland, but I didn’t know. It merged so seamlessly with my C-PTSD, which would get triggered, and it would cause my anxiety to flare up. I would disassociate from my body, I would numb my feelings of those experiences, and then somewhere along the line, depression would also creep in. It wasn’t always in that order, but it would be the same players, over and over in a never-ending sequence of gruelling variations.

What I didn’t know then, was that the elemental things, those building blocks that make up the foundations of our day, those were the things that held up my defenses against depression. They begin to slip so unnoticeably. You stop sleeping at regular hours. You stop sleeping, period. You don’t drink enough water or eat at regular times. You stop engaging socially, and you start to hide away. Your room gets messy, and the idea of taming the chaos seems so beyond the ken that you start to acclimatize to its state. Then showering, basic hygiene gets to be too difficult to even think about. Physically getting out of bed is more than just difficult, it’s painfully impossible. You feel drowsy all the time, but sleep continues to elude you. You start again, unable to wake.

The very worst part of it all was the soul-crushing, grinding sense of hopelessness and despair that came from this unshakeable thought: that nothing would ever change for the better. All that is left for you is this agonizing pain of emptiness that will never go away. I lived in a silent scream whilst I performed normalcy to the best of my ability. It was as if I lived about two feet away from myself, inside of myself. I could hear and see the outer me respond to people, smile, mimic rapport, but inside I was thrashing with this physical, emotional anguish that had no relief.

I was gripped by this sense of conviction that not only was I unable to relate to others, but that people would fundamentally be unable to relate to me either. As I physically retreated from others, I did so socially and emotionally as well. A secret began to form inside of me, locked away from others. I wanted to take my own life, and I told no one.

In fact, the only person who detected this was my counselor. She asked me how I was doing. I fumbled for words, painting only a sparse picture of the sadness, isolation, and hopelessness that I felt. My eyes avoided her gaze. I was extraordinarily quiet, and I could tell, meta-cognitively, that I sounded different this time around. She asked me point blank: “Are you having thoughts of taking your own life?” I nodded, reluctantly. She told me that medication was an option that I could consider, and that it was nothing to be ashamed about. It was just something to tide me through this moment, which will pass. She also informed me about the steps that she had taken for clients of hers who had gone through the same thing, where she would follow them, if necessary, to prevent them from self-harm. I forget how our conversation ended, but I left feeling some sense of catharsis.

The conversation with my counselor made me realize that I was on the edge of a cliff, and suddenly I saw how dangerous it was that I hadn’t told any of my closest friends about what I was going through. I told a handful of friends, who were incredibly supportive and loving, but it still didn’t make the depression go away. Then I had relatively newer friends who had gone through depression themselves. They offered to go to the doctor with me if I ever needed it. It helped to know that someone could be by my side if I needed support to go get treatment, but I was still far from accepting close company or the thought of medication (due to my personal aversions, not necessarily because there was anything wrong with it).

The day before my 27th birthday was when I reached the limit of my pain. The day started with uncontrollable wailing and sobbing in my bed, as I desperately tried to let it pass through me so that I could put some clothes on and go out, which I thought would have helped. It didn’t. Being in throngs of people only heightened the sense of disconnection that I felt, and I ended up feeling discombobulated and fragile. In my attempt to still celebrate my birthday and perform normalcy despite how I was feeling, I had tried to orchestrate a dinner with my family, which was quickly falling apart. In the grief and panic that I felt, I wrote to cancel the dinner. “I can’t,” I said in my text message. “I’m sorry I really can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.”

Unexpectedly, one of my cousins whom I had less contact with, called me. He gently asked me about dinner plans, and I rambled some confused panic at him before he coaxed me into reconsidering. “I’ll take care of it! I’ll book the restaurant. Just show up at seven!” I breathed a sigh of relief. I simply had nothing left in me. Planning a celebratory meal was not only beyond what I could do in terms of energy to spend, but it also seemed to betray everything that I was feeling. I just wanted it all to end. I wanted no more of it.

I showed up at 7:30. My family was waiting for me, and they had flowers, cakes, and presents. I was moved, but I was too exhausted to speak. They were patient with me. My cousin who arranged the dinner was infectious in his cheer. My other cousin, his sister, handed me a present via her toddler daughter. They joked with me, held me, and took photos with me. For the first time in a long time, I felt loved and cared for.

I went home alone that night, and it felt as if a crack in the glass window that I had been living behind began to let some warmth and light in. The next day, on my birthday, I spent it with my mother and a group of my close friends, and the crack in the window became a shattered pane. A dull ache still sat near my heart, but I couldn’t deny the very real expressions of love that they were showing me, and how good it felt to be physically surrounded by people whom you love and who love you. They indulged me by watching one of my favourite films with me. We ate, we laughed, and we took photos together. I began to heal.

Two years ago, I could have never imagined that I would now be here – not only alive, and living (for those are two different things, I’ve learned), but also here, living in Seattle and studying in a program that I deeply love. Today, the day before my birthday, I got up early to board a flight to Toronto, to be surrounded by the people whom I love and who love me, but then was told that I didn’t fulfill the requirements for travel and was turned away. I was disappointed, of course, but it couldn’t keep a thought from traveling back to me and bringing a smile to my face. I’m here.

On the way back to my home in Seattle, I looked out the window of the Link Light Rail and saw a pale sun peek between clouds, over a skyline of evergreen trees. Like on my first day, after arriving in Seattle from Hong Kong, I took a moment to look around my room after I got home. There’s still a part of me that can barely believe that I’m actually here. It was this distant seed of a dream that I had somehow plucked out of a thick veil of hopelessness, and now I feel it under my feet. I have no big plans for my birthday, or for my future, for that matter. All I know is, I’m happy to be here, and I know, and feel, that I am loved.

Amongst many things, this psalm was an anchor that saved my life, and is a continuing beacon of hope for me:
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
– Psalm 27: 13 – 14

5 Replies to “I’m here.”

  1. Hi, you don’t know me but I’m glad you’re doing good. Just keep on keeping on. Life is a lot of things. It’s not fair, it’s not easy, some days we may feel like nothing good is ever happening and then there are these mental health issues we have to deal with. But some days are really good too like how your family made you feel so loved. God loves us and for Him, we are worthy all the time. God bless you.


      1. No worries, what’s good about WP is that we get to see/read blogs of people brave enough to share what they really feel inside. In some ways, you get to help a lot of people too who relate to what you are going through 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s