Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?
Best. Worst. Hardest, Only. In the end, I’ll remember 2009 as the year I came out alive.
Following directly on the heels of my last post - my moment of peace in January - I came back to Minnesota and slowly started to fall apart. The winter is a blur for me, thankfully, but everything came to a head at the end of March, on a day when my mental state deteriorated enough that I ended up crouched in the fetal position on the floor of my cubical, shaking and hyperventilating. It was possibly one of the most frightening moments of my life.
At that point, I finally admitted that I needed help.
Help was a challenge for me. I’d been raised to believe that “everyone gets a little sad sometimes, but you get over it.” That I was entirely in control of my own mind, that I could change myself and my feelings if I was strong enough, brave enough, wanted it bad enough. A lot of times, that was true. But in this case, I wasn’t strong enough, and that just made me feel worse. It took a lot of time and mental gymnastics to talk myself into getting professional help. Other people needed drugs and psychotherapy and that sort of thing. There was nothing wrong with my brain that I shouldn’t be able to fix myself, right?
But, in the end, I took a deep breath and got help. I went on medication. I started seeing a therapist. And slowly, oh so slowly, I started to get better. I had relapses - including a moment in the fall when I came as close to suicidal thoughts as I did back during my aborted attempt at college when I was 18 - but I kept talking to my therapist, and let my doctor adjust my meds until finally something clicked. I had energy. I didn’t start crying for no apparent reason at work any more. I didn’t feel awkward and paranoid around my friends any more. And I started to realize that I had been feeling those horrible things for a lot longer than just this year. Is this what ‘normal’ people feel like? If it is, I hadn’t been ‘normal’ … well, maybe ever.
The psychiatrist officially termed this year a major depressive episode. (And wow, reading that entire wiki page is like reading a specific account of the first half of my year.) Even after starting the medication and the therapy, though, it took me a while to be able to admit the truth. I’m clinically depressed. I have been for a very long time. I’ve had better times and worse times, but my paranoia and lack of self-esteem does, in fact, have a root in a clinical, medical problem, one that can be helped by medication. Being on medication does not indicate a weakness in my personality, but a strength - I had the strength to admit I had a problem and get the help I needed. It was maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am so much better off for it, I don’t even feel like the same person who took that walk on South Beach in January.