Happy New Year! I am re-posting this from January 1 of last year. I hesitated to share such a personal story then, but it has been the most-read post of the 232 Vince and I have written. Maybe it’s the story, or the encouraging advice. Or maybe it’s the guns.
If you received this twice, that’s because I accidentally posted it for January 1, 2015. Off to a good start, I say!
Three years ago, I hit bottom. I had lived with depression for as long as I could remember, but then…. I had to have a tooth pulled—boy, will that make you feel old! Then during a Christmas Day blizzard my car was towed and I spent four hours waiting in line outside at the impound lot to pay $300 to get it back. I then drove to Fountain to visit Vince. The trailer he shared with Seth was full of guns, beer cans, and smoke. I figured what the heck, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so after he assured me that none of the guns was loaded, we posed for photos that became my holiday cards to my friends in the UK, where they had a good laugh over us gun-crazy Americans.
Due to the blizzard I spent the night in Seth’s 5-year-old daughter’s bedroom; she was at her mom’s. Here’s a tip for parents who smoke: Keeping your kid’s door closed doesn’t keep smoke out. I couldn’t open the window and after tossing and turning until 5am I slipped out and drove home. On the way I started itching. Great—now I had bedbugs!
I contemplated suicide. I leaned my forehead against the screen of my 20th floor window. I had turned 50 the year before. Thinking about being depressed every day for another 30-40 years wasn’t real appealing.
Here are the things I had tried to manage depression and anxiety:
Prayer (including begging, pleading, and bargaining)
Abstaining from drinking
Cutting down on coffee
Getting outside every day
Appreciating beauty, be it fine art, nature, music, babies, or kittens
Avoiding negative people / avoiding unnaturally happy people
Running away to other countries
Telling myself, “At least I’m not a refugee / amputee / blind / fill-in-the-blank.”
Sleeping, drinking, and movie binges
Reaching out to friends, even when that was the last thing I wanted to do
I thought that jumping out of my window would be exhilarating, until I hit the ground. I had some leftover pain killers from the dentist, and my prescription for Restless Legs. I googled an overdose of the two and learned that they wouldn’t kill me, but that I would likely need a liver transplant. I decided to keep living.
That spring, I visited Vince again and this time, made a reservation at a B&B. On the free-book-shelf there, I picked up a tattered copy of, “Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy”, by David Burns, MD. I read it and did what it told me to do, and I stopped being depressed. For good.
The book was about Cognitive Therapy. I had been instructed to use it at least twice in the past, but I’d been too stressed out to do it. Basically, you write down your negative thoughts and then argue with them rationally until you’ve de-fanged them. Writing it down is important; if you try to do it in your head you’ll end up down a rabbit hole.
So was a lifetime of depression cured overnight by one book? No. I think it was all the other things I had tried over the years—the good things, anyway—and then I added this on top of them and together they all added up to a breakthrough.
I still feel sad sometimes–there’s plenty to feel sad about–but I’m not depressed and I’m committed to living.
Sorry for the long post but, if you’re struggling, I want to encourage you to keep an open mind, keep plugging away, and keep trying new things.
PS: I didn’t have bedbugs after all. I think I was just itchy from the smoke and dry air. Living with addiction can turn you into a drama addict.