Disclaimer: I talk about suicide here which means I post the number. National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
I am not one to speak in hyperbole; there is only one “worst” and there is only one “best” and you don’t get to continuously declare something one of those two things without justifying it. As I told a friend, the thing about 2017 was that “worst” just kept getting redefined and it was awful.
The thing is that, objectively, all of the people in my life who really and truly know me and have known me for a very long time will agree with me: This was the worst it’s ever been; this was the worst they’ve ever seen; this was the worst worst worst.
The depression and anxiety arrived at the same time, but I’m dividing them for the purposes of the story. It’s Part One. This is my introduction. This is when it gets ugly.
The Millennial asked me one time how many hearts I thought I had broken in my lifetime. And it was such a strange question to consider because I didn’t really know. I think I answered “Five” even though that was a total shot in the dark. And then she asked how many times I had had my heart broken and, again, I didn’t really know. Weird things break my heart; significant others usually didn’t. It seemed like a juvenile concept, breaking hearts. It’s like the type of thing you stop believing in when you’re 30 or something.
Again, I am an idiot.
The bottom fell out on May 18. It came in the form of a physical illness that I wouldn’t be able to shake for three months, but it was only a biological adaptation of the emotional hell that I had created for myself in the three months prior. It was a Thursday and my wife and I had gone to an event together even though we were fully aware we were splitting… and then I laid on the couch in the house I was preparing to leave with my first fever since I was probably 9 years old. I stared at the beams on the ceiling of the room I had spent the most time in and considered all the lies and all the chaos and all the awfulness… and whatever brain chemistry failure is required to create a full depressive episode just settled in.
I could go day by day to explain all of this to you, whoever “you” are. I could tell you that on May 19 I saw my psychiatrist who decided to try a brand new mood stabilizer that would take six weeks to see any effect (and would never actually work). I could tell you that on May 20, I watched two movies — “Passengers” and “La La Land” — while lying on the couch in the basement thinking only that I was a worthless human being. I could tell you that my every single thought revolved around the idea that there was no point to anything at all. I looked at my dogs and felt envious of their inability to have abstract thought or worry about meaning.
The experts always advise against making big decisions when you’re in an episode. This is adorable of them. Sure. Okay. I will avoid making big decisions and just lie catatonic in bed. That sounds great. The answer to “How many lives can you destroy with this plan?” is “Three.”
I spent four days in bed and didn’t talk to anyone. The truth is that I wrote a suicide note* in 2016 that I kept stored in a green notebook on a shelf in the basement. It is generic and would do no one any good (not that a suicide note ever does any good). But I laid there and felt relief that “that part was done.” Like trying to come up with words was just going to shove me over the edge.
I went radio silent to everyone I talked to every day. My wife saw me, but I didn’t let her in on anything. Mostly I behaved like a shell of whoever I used to be. I canceled a trip to Chicago, wasted approximately $1000, and could not garner the energy to care. I reached out to no one because I truly and deeply believed that I deserved no one.
The Very Worst Day is not up for debate. I’ll tell more parts of this story and illustrate how much I suffered and how destructive depression can actually be. And The Very Worst Day will still exist. And the thing I remember most about it is that I went to get orange juice.
I hate getting orange juice because it is in the back of the grocery store and I can’t live without it. So I knew we were out and since I hadn’t left the house in four days, I thought maybe I should participate in the world far enough to get some OJ. Obviously, I wasn’t working; I don’t think I could have worked if you’d offered me $5000 an hour. But I was technically “on vacation” for the aforementioned trip to Chicago. In any case, I swung by the office to do some paperwork that had to be done because I technically own a business that needed to pay bills.
And I decided on my way to get orange juice that I needed to get rid of as many people as I could in the hopes of making “it” easier. So I set about breaking hearts which, it turns out, I am pretty damn good at. “Super sorry you love me,” I basically said, “but you should stop doing that now.” I told them whatever they needed to hear to make it go away.
But The Very Worst Day made me feel like someone shot me. I wrote to a friend that I couldn’t fathom a greater pain than being erased even though I was the one doing the erasing. Even today, when I consider it, as I wandered through the grocery store, I can remember that sensation that came with deciding to let everyone go. There was no going back. No one could ever actually forgive me, I agreed with myself.
It was only a matter of time. I just had to work up the energy to figure it out. I needed to do it quietly because of about 80 reasons, not the least of which was that I was the fucking president of a suicide prevention organization. It was the very worst kind of tunnel vision.
The saving grace of this was that I was genuinely too depressed to get that energy. Plans beyond five minutes felt exhausting. Sure, I’d never talk to this person I loved again. That’s totally fine. What do you care, I asked myself. Of course they all hated you. They’ve all always hated you. Don’t be stupid.
My inner monologue gets really second person heavy really quickly.
I was sincerely hopeless, the blandness of life without the mania overwhelming me, the missing promise of excitement providing an undercurrent of pain I couldn’t escape. Happiness disappeared the way smoke dissipates. It’s just gone.
Anyway, I bought my orange juice and I went home and curled up in a ball and cried at my losses and proceeded to sleep for 20 hours.
That was The Very Worst Day. And I don’t know how to explain it any better than to just say that my one wish for myself in my entire life is that I never ever feel that again.
And that’s only Part One.
*Suicide note is as follows (and by putting it here, that means I cannot use it):
It wouldn’t matter who I wrote this to. That is the conclusion of thousands of hours of consideration. The most random people seem like candidates, but I would hate for my last words to go to someone who would have no history to draw on. So I write them to you.
I always wanted to be better, but I usually gave zero percent effort in making myself anything above good enough.
The doubt I have in myself far outweighs the doubt that even my worst enemies could dream up for me. Maybe someone will say, “She could have been…” and then everyone should smile at the absurdity of their impression of the situation in which they say it.
I have no message. I couldn’t win and everyone did all they could to help me win. I was the one who couldn’t stop doing all the things I should have stopped doing. I was the one who walked away. I know you’re all still standing right there.
I wish for all of you to stop now.
My brain is Christmas music in June and a desperate desire to play Chopin & Beethoven while everyone told me to play Bach.
It is a form of privileged torture.
And I will always be sorry.