Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy To Be Alive Day!

Let's just put this out there right away: 20 years ago today, I tried to kill myself. That's what this is about.

On January 11, 1993, I was depressed, I thought, about a boy, so I took higher than the recommended dose of something and went to work. At work, I promptly freaked out and told my boss what I had done. She told me to go throw up, then she took me to the hospital. We were nervous and laughed, making fun of other people and myself and the situation (drinking charcoal is not pleasant, I say), but when my parents showed up I freaked out. I knew that what I had done was serious. I had to spend that night in the hospital, and I was so afraid to fall asleep, because I thought I would die and go to hell.

I hadn't really wanted to die, but just to escape. I didn't know how to deal with problems and emotions, I had been fighting depression since at least my senior year in high school, and I wanted to leave my life. If I would have had a million dollars, I would have run away and moved somewhere instead of trying to kill myself. I was mostly embarrassed by what I had done and didn't want people to know, but I ended up calling Dom in the morning and telling him, and then Carolyn called and pestered my dad when I didn't show up for biology, so he told her. I believe she said something like, "Mr. O'Brien, Robin wasn't in class, so where is she?"

After that, I got therapy and meds like I needed, though I had darker times to come later. But starting the next year, I called January 11th "Happy to be alive day." Though I had moments where I wanted to escape again and had suicidal thoughts, I knew that I didn't want to die. I don't remember every year to celebrate this day, but I was in the car this morning, heard the date on NPR, and thought, "Jan 11. Doesn't that mean something to me? OH YEAH!"

Twenty years. That's a long time. And I'm still happy to be alive. Don't get me wrong, I'm still depressed. It's part of me that may never go away. It's something in my brain; in my chemicals, and it's not a bad or defective or shameful thing. About 3 years ago, maybe more, I got on some anti-depressants for the umpteenth time and I've stayed on them since. Before I had done the thing that soooooo many people on psychiatric meds do, and after being on them for a while, I thought, "Oh, I feel better now. I don't need them!" DUH. I finally learned that it isn't about me having a bad life or not trusting God enough or any sort of need to pull myself up by my bootstraps. It's just something about my body.

So depression is like an old friend. I recognize it and know the steps to the dance. I'll admit that sometimes it takes me a little while to catch on. I'm dumb sometimes and I'll let my meds run out, then when I want to do nothing but sit on the couch, staring into space, I feel defeated. Then I'll either figure it out or Seth will say, "UM! Have you taken your medicine?" OH YEAH. That. Sometimes, even with my medicine, the depression is particularly strong. Nothing is necessarily going on in my life that is sad or stressful, I objectively know that I'm happy and have a great life, but I don't want anything. Those times always pass. I talk about them at least with Seth, if not with others, too, and they pass. I don't feel guilty about them.

My life is amazing and I'm happy to be alive. I'm thrilled to say that those people that were with me during that time are still my friends and I love them so. I'll use a word I stay away from and say that I cherish them. Thank you, friends, for visiting me in the hospital when it was obviously painful for you. Thank you for playing a super-depressing song followed by yelling at me for ever making you feel that way. Thank you, the boy at that time, for making me go to church with you after that. Thank you, dad, for telling me that "tens of people" would have been affected by my death. Thanks for putting a hospital glove on my teddy bear so that he became "Gregory, the Chicken Bear." I love you.