It was 2008 when I first ran 125 Miles across New Hampshire, becoming the first person to ever do so as a non-stop continuous run, and to this day still the only person to have completed it. I distinctly remember a reporter from NPR running along side Nate and I some 60 miles into the run. he held a microphone close to my face while he ran beside me and asked me personal questions about my life.. "Why do you run? Would you say that running has saved you?"Saved me? From what.. depression? I answered that day with a yes, Running has saved me from depression. Then, a month later, after the highest adventure moment of my life, I crashed hard and depression, in the end got the best of me.
Hear the entire NPR piece here.
Three years after checking myself into a psychiatric ICU to battle through my darkest days, I'm still haunted by images and thoughts of who I was back then and what I endured. I used to be one of those people who, when I heard someone was battle depression or bi-polar disorder I'd say something to the effect of, "They just need to get over it and move on." It was in 2008 when I was on the front lines battling my own demons that I learned the truth of a very serious illness known as depression and the subsequent thoughts of suicide.
It's not something someone can just "get over," mainly because it's not even them that has these thoughts. I distinctly remember feeling like my brain had turned against me. Thoughts I'd never thought up on my own coming to the surface, thoughts of suicide and ways to end it all occupied my every awake moment and I had absolutely no control over it. Or did I? I remember my darkest day, November 24, 2008 (Thanksgiving Day this year) walking around in a state not of this world. Constantly thinking of ways to kill myself and rid myself of this planet. I remember walking to one of my professors offices and telling him I was afraid of myself.. and then.. he led me to the Campus Counseling center at UNH. From there, I found myself checking in to the Eliot Hospital.. having just tried to throw my life away, ruining every meaningful relationship I had and unaware of what the hell I was actually doing.
This day, I fear, is going to haunt me for a long time. During the last week, I've put myself back in time, on that very day replaying everything I went through, everything I was going through and bits and pieces of where I went from there. 3 Years later, I'm no longer taking medication, I'm not longer going to a therapist on a regular basis.. but I can tell you that I'm still not 100%. I'm saddened not that I live 2000 miles from a dysfunctional family, but that I still live with this nightmare of what I went through. And yet, I try to find the strength in what I over came.
At some point in time, in 2008, I made a choice. Depression was wining the inner battle of good vs. evil. I knew it was going on and I admitted that I had a problem.. almost before it was too late. I brought myself to someone I knew who could help me, then I checked myself in to a psychiatric ICU. I lived a long life of being anti-medication, refusing to put any chemical into my body to make anything "better" for fear that better would only be artificial. I left the hospital on 3 different medications, with the personal understanding that it wasn't a life sentence and was merely temporary to "help reconnect my wires." I made the decision to fight my demons head on, to take care of my issue by not just taking medication but by talking to someone. Talking to a psychologist, once a week, every week, for two and a half years. I made these decisions because I chose to stand up and fight, to battle the evil of my demons and to be a happy, whole and sane person.
Living with the hard memories and the nightmares of what I endured is a small price to pay.. for saving my own life. For giving those I loved a new chance to be able to handle me, to be a part of my life and complete me.
In the last few years, I've been able to understand depression in such a way that I can tell who are the people in my life who battle this disease themselves yet.. refuse to get the help they need. Unfortunately... some of these people, no matter how long they've been in my life, I have had to say good bye to because their depression is so severe, and their will to battle their own demons so non-existent, that continuing a relationship with them undermines my own mission to remain happy and could easily pull me back down into the black abyss. I'm sad... sad that so many people are battling a disease and doing nothing about it. Sad that they'd rather suffer. Sad that they'd rather not have the people who care in their lives because they'd rather be miserable and live the rest of their days battling their own demons.
You know.. it wasn't pretty, what I went through. A lot of the time it was pretty damn hard. Even after coming out of the hospital, I had thoughts of suicide. I struggled.. but I fought. Even to this day, though I feel great and I'm happy, and I'm living my dreams.. I still catch a wayward "What if I was dead?" float through my head. Thing is though.. because I went through my trial and tribulation, because I put up a fight and overcame the worst of my depression.. I know how to continue to battle.
121 Million People World-wide suffer from depression.. how many do you think are ready to fight? How many are living in denial? It's time to fight.. nightmares are a small price to pay when it comes to saving your life.
Depression 101: From December 2008