Depression, Part Two

A few hours ago, I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It was a number I had seen before — on TV, during commercials. On posters wallpapered to the guardrails of bridges. I'd even seen the logo — that green phone masquerading as the letter "C" — on the Red Line, just across the tracks.

I'd seen the number for years.

I didn't know it was one I would eventually end up dialing.

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Five weeks ago, I started a new job. Unfortunately, the only thing I've felt in regards to my new position is an overwhelming paralysis. I've yet to go to bed at night and wake up refreshed, ready to the conquer the day's challenges. Instead, I hit my snooze button again and again and again. I wait until the absolute last minute to emerge; all I want to do is lie, and bury, and nest. Quiet the world.

Today, I rode my bike home, wheeled it into the garage, unlocked my car, and climbed in.

And then I screamed.

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Before calling the national lifeline, I tired to talk to two different crisis centers here in Indianapolis.

My calls went unanswered.

When I dialed the lifeline, I was connected to a counselor, a woman named Angie. We talked for awhile; she listened. It became apparent, however, that she was actually four hundred miles away. I assume this occurred because the lifeline uses phone numbers to automatically route calls. Since I still carry a southwest Iowa phone number, I was routed to Cedar Rapids.

Regardless, I talked to Angie about what was going on, and she asked if I were suicidal.

"No," I said, truthfully. "See, it's not so much that I want to die. I'm terrified of that, and terrified of hurting myself and having to go through the effort. It's more or less that I ... just ... don't want to exist. That I don't want to hurt anymore, I guess. Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah," she said, "It does." And in those few words, I heard a genuinely soothing voice. In the months I had been talking to friends, family, therapists, and doctors, I found in Angie the understanding I needed to hear.

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As Allie Brosh depicted in her post "Depression Part Two", talking to others about mental illness — and especially about suicide — is wrought with emotion. "I was ... extremely ill-prepared for the position of comforting people," she says. "The things that seemed reassuring at the time weren't necessarily comforting for others."

I couldn't agree more. When describing my current state to others, I sometimes end up being the comforter, instead of the comforted. I've also had to answer questions like "Why would you even consider that?" "Don't you think drugs will fix everything?" and "Have you tried being not sad?"

One of the biggest "insults" I ever received, however, was from a dental assistant. Back in May, I went in for a cleaning. They asked the usual questions — "Had any surgeries since we last saw you?" "Any issues with your gums or teeth?" "Any new medications?"

"Yes," I said. I told them about the Zoloft. And the Wellbutrin. And the Klonopin.

"Are you ... depressed?"

"I'm, uh, actually not working right now. I'm on mental health leave."

"Oh. Well, you don't look depressed."

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At this point, I wish I had an eloquent conclusion to this post. The truth? I don't. Not at all. Mental illness isn't easy, and neither was writing this blog post. But at least you know I'm still here. That I'm still breathing. And that I'm still fighting, damn it.

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