**Author’s Note-Mental health is something that is often looked over, or forgotten. However, our mental health is an important part in living a healthy life. I encourage anyone who feels like their struggling with a mental illness to seek out professional help. I use BetterHelp, an online counseling service that provides you with a therapist based on your needs. You’re able to change your therapist with a click of a button if one doesn’t work for you. For anyone that would like to start therapy, I’m sharing a referral link that will give you one free week of therapy. If you’re thinking of hurting yourself or contemplating suicide, please use the suicide hotline number down below. You’re not alone in this fight, and you’re life matters more than you know.**
BetterHelp referral link: https://www.betterhelp.com/rpc/2ea4a05a9c904217-1-01
Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
It’s been a month since I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I closed the door to my bedroom behind me, and I slump against the door, sliding to the floor. My lip quivers. My throat constricts painfully around a lump, and tears I’ve been holding back sting my eyes. How long has it been, I wonder, since I allowed myself to feel these emotions? Since the day of diagnosis, I think. I haven’t allowed myself to grieve, to feel the loss of a normal life. I haven’t allowed myself to feel the tears building behind my eyes and the overwhelming sadness in my mind. Finally, the tears burst free. I cry into my hands, quieting the sobs before they can escape. I can’t let anyone know how I feel. If I do, then they’ll judge me. They’ll tell me I’m exaggerating. They’ll tell me to suck it up because diabetes isn’t as bad as cancer.
“Hello,” a soft voice sounds in front of me. A hand touches my knee and grips comfortingly.
I start at the hand on my knee. The tears stop instantly as I worry Mom or Dad somehow found a way into my room. When I see the person isn’t them, I ask, “Who are you?” The person looked into my eyes, and I felt understood. She pulled back the hood of her sweater, and I’m drawn to her face. She looks so familiar. It feels like I’m looking in a mirror, but the person looking back at me isn’t an exact image of myself. Her eyes are cast with a sadness I recognize. Her face is empty of all happiness. Where there was a smile on my face, her lips are a straight line. Maybe the corners were turned down, but that could have been a trick of the eye. Her hair was wrapped in a lop-sided messy bun.
“It doesn’t matter who I am,” she said. Her other hand gripped my elbow and she gently pulled me to my feet. “All that matters is that I’m here to help you. I know this is hard. I know you don’t know what to do, but I can help.”
I sniff, trying to stop my nose from running anymore, and I wiped the remaining tears away. “Please, I’ll do anything to not feel so sad and helpless.”
She nodded, taking me into her arms for a hug. I can’t help but feel comforted and warm in her arms. It’s almost as though she’s able to see into my mind, to lend me her warmth and kindness through our minds. I accept her, and I embrace her even tighter.
“I know,” she whispers. “I know how much you’re hurting. All you need to do is put on comfy clothes and lay in bed. You can watch Netflix or scroll through Facebook. You can stare at the ceiling until sleep takes you. It won’t be long until it does, you’re tired from crying. Your soul is tired from being strong for everyone else. You’ve exhausted yourself enough. It’s time to rest,” she guided me to the bed.
I choked down a sob as I pulled off my shirt and jeans and replaced them with an oversized sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants. She lifted the blankets, and I crawled under them. She laid down beside me, keeping the blankets closely wrapped around me. She stroked my face until my eyes fluttered closed. Tears threatened to spill from my closed eyes, but she started humming a soft tune. As I listened to her soft singing, I was enveloped in darkness.
Most everyone will deal with some form of depression in their life. I never thought I would experience depression, especially in high school. Even after my diagnosis, I didn’t think I would deal with depression. But, soon after my diagnosis, I was depressed and trying hard to hide it from everyone even myself. I didn’t truly understand what I was going through in high school until I started going to college. It was in my first psychology class that the connection clicked, and I was able to give a name to the familiar figure who comforted me in high school.
Three years later and Depression still followed me. She was there any time I needed comforting. She was there when I tried to ignore her suggestions, when I tried to do things that made me happy as a kid. She was there whispering in my ear hurtful insults when I had a good day. She would tell me I was never good enough, that I will never be good enough, that my friends hated me, that I shouldn’t make food even when my stomach growled in pain. She was there through it all, and I listened to Her. I listened until I couldn’t hear anything else but her voice on repeat.
She followed me everywhere I went in college. She sat with me when I ate meals with friends. I could laugh and joke with my friends while we ate or waited for classes to start, but Depression was always there keeping a soft hand firmly locked around my wrist. She came with me on my first date with Peter.
I remember driving out to Applebee’s getting more excited and nervous the closer I got to the restaurant. Depression was in the passenger seat telling me to turn around. She tried so hard to scare me away from my date because it was a new experience, and I would more than likely make a fool of myself.
“If you turn around now, you don’t have to deal with the embarrassment. You don’t have to worry about finding things to talk about. You don’t have to worry about him not liking you. If you turn around, we can lay in bed and watch Netflix,” she pleaded with every mile.
I refused to listen to her. Instead, I turned up my music and listened to the radio. I tapped my fingers against my thigh, feeling her hand bump against the center console of the car. Finally, I pulled into the parking lot. We sat in the car, contemplating going back to my dorm room.
“Do it. Go back home. It’s comfortable there. We’ll get cozy under the blankets. We can watch whatever you want. Just don’t go in there. He’ll laugh at you. He’ll tell you you’re disgusting, and this was all a prank. You’re not worth dating anyway, so just go home!” she shouted at me.
I turned to her. Tears were streaming down her face. Her last few words echoed in my head. I bit my lip as my hand reached to shift the car into drive. Then, I glance away from Depression and see Peter standing in the doorway, waiting for me. He spots me, and I freeze. My hand still reaching to shift the car. My stomach flips and I realize she was trying to stop me from feeling happy. For days I’ve talked with Peter and loved every minute of our conversations. I eagerly waited for his flirty replies. He wanted to be on this date with me, just as much as I wanted to be on the date with him. I turned back to her and said, “Stay in the car. I don’t need you for this.”
I left the car hearing her screams, her cries for me to return. I shook my head, refusing to acknowledge them. Peter opened the door for me, and we smiled at each other. When I returned two and half hours later, she was slumped against the car door. She was quiet the whole ride home, and when I pulled into the parking lot of my dorm, she slowly followed me out of the car and into my room. She didn’t say anything, but she gave me looks full of longing and pain. I paid her no mind because I was overjoyed because I didn’t let her stop me from going on my first date.
For a time, Depression left me alone. She stayed in my room, leaving me to enjoy my classes, my friends, and my boyfriend. Some days she followed me around, but she didn’t say much. She only held my wrist and dragged behind me, making me feel slow and lethargic. There were long stretches over a couple months when I would notice she hadn’t been following me, or even sitting in my room, and I would miss her presence. I would miss the comforting sadness that nestled around me when she was near. I missed seeing her and longed to have her in my life again because having her near was comfortable. Then, a year and a half into college, she returned. She sat beside me, one hand always on my arm or wrist so I couldn’t escape her. She distracted me in classes, telling me my work was worthless, that everything I did was terrible. At work she would watch me from across the mahogany bar with a mug of hot chocolate. During work, she didn’t follow me, but she stayed at the bar watching me over her drink. She would tell me I was a terrible employee. That everything I did would only upset my boss, and they would soon fire me for not doing my best.
Her presence became so overwhelming that I didn’t want to leave bed to go to school or work. I tried to make excuses for myself to stay home, and when I couldn’t accept any of the excuses I made, I sat with Depression by ourselves away from the people I had classes with only a semester ago. I believed everything she told me, so I believed I had no friends at school. I believed there was no one who could help me. Every day, my desire to continue sleeping in bed grew exponentially because she was convincing me there was no point in exiting.
After many long talks with Peter, I stopped listening to her long enough to decide to withdraw from school. I started focusing on my writing because I spent so long in school not writing for myself, and I hoped writing for myself again would quiet Depression. She did grow quiet for about four months. When the pandemic caused the U.S. to lockdown in March, Depression returned.
She sat on the edge of my bed just waiting for me to wake up. When I did, she smiled at me. Her cruel smile sent shivers down my spine. For weeks I tried to avoid her. I could feel her grip tightening around my wrist again, but I forced myself to go about the routine I had set up the four months she was gone. It was working until one day I woke up to her next to me and she whispered, “What’s the point of getting out of bed when nothing you’re doing right now matters if the world is shut down?”
I stared at her overcast eyes and welcomed her back in my arms. I laid in bed for hours scrolling through social media. I ignored the hunger pains gripping my stomach; I ignored the rough dryness clawing at my throat. I only got up to feed the cats and use the bathroom.
When Peter got home from work and found me still in bed, he tried his best to cheer me up. He cooked us a nice meal, we went for a walk, we spent time together cuddled up on the couch watching comedies. He did this for months, trying to keep me afloat during the dark days when she kept me in bed for hours on end. He made sure to talk to me often about possibly seeking help from a professional. He did the best he could from keeping me from Depression, but no matter what he did she always returned in full force.
Finally, one day came when I hated listening to Her. I tried hard to fight her on everything. I fought to get her out of my mind, to stop her from offering the comforting apathy she had to give. I saw and hated everything about her. I hated how she made me stop trying to maintain myself. I hated how she convinced me to hate myself more and more each day. I hated how she made me feel like I covered with wet cement that was slowly drying with each move I made. I hated listening to her, so I reached out for a therapist.
I’m now working on not listening to Depression every day. She still lingers and still grips my arm tightly, but with each conversation with my therapist Depression’s grip is loosening. Her voice is lowering. It’ll be a long journey to quiet her enough that I can live a more normal life, but it’s a journey worth making.