Two celebrity suicides prompt me to share my own story of depression, and how I journeyed from being suicidal to wholeness and happiness within.
I have struggled this week with what to write in this month’s blog. I can’t say that this is a unique experience; I often have challenges with the looming question of “what to write?”
I hardly knew who Kate Spade was, other than seeing her name on merchandise in local department stores. Anthony Bourdain, however, I was very familiar with. Our family enjoyed watching Parts Unknown as a bit of education about other cultures around the world – how they lived, ate, celebrated, and even mourned the tragedies that their nations had been through. It felt important for us to know these foreign lands and peoples who lived very differently than we do.
Though I have no idea why they ended their lives, one thing was very clear to me: fame and fortune didn’t make them happy. At least not in a lasting, sustainable way. Although I can’t say I have had fame and fortune, I have had many lessons in the pain of depression, and in discovering what made me truly happy, or at least content with my life. It didn’t come from making money or appearing successful, or even from a wonderful relationship. I had to find it inside myself.
My struggles with depression and suicidal ideation were probably very different than what these two celebrities were dealing with, but real and painful nonetheless. Through my 20’s and early 30’s, I faced this inner darkness again and again, until it came to a critical point shortly after my 30th birthday.
I had been dating a man for about a month, and we were “madly in love”, whatever that means. In the midst of our amour, I came down with, of all things, chicken pox, and was miserably ill for 2 weeks. He was kind and visited, even brought a birthday cake with little pink dots all over it to honor my strange disease that most people had when they were in grade school.
A few days later, although I was still weak (I had dropped down to 95 pounds), I was well enough to go out for the first time. It was a very simple meal – at McDonald’s – with his 4 year old daughter and his step son. I was delighted to be included as part of the family and to finally get out of my little studio apartment.
As we were munching on our McNuggets and burgers, his daughter looked at me and asked, in her adorable innocence, “Are you getting married?” I smiled and looked at my boyfriend, then back at her. “Well, we’ll see,” I said. He and I had talked about the possibility, so it didn’t seem shocking that she asked.
But as we got up to leave, I had a terrible feeling in my body after that. Like a dead weight just dropped inside of me, that sinking feeling in the gut. Something was wrong.
I found out the next day what my intuition told me. My boyfriend called and said he didn’t want a serious relationship right now. He broke up with me, right then and there. I was in shock.
My shock sent me into a downward spiral. I couldn’t stand the idea of losing him. I had projected the ideal partner onto this man; and he even reminded me of my father, too. The perfect Freudian projection. Worse yet, I was in love with his daughter, too, and grieved the loss of her in my life. Before her, I hadn’t seen myself as a mother, and had looked forward to the opportunity to be in her life as well.
My self-esteem plummeted. I dropped deeply into depression. It was an anxious depression that felt constantly desperate – desperate to find something to make it better. I flailed about, between crying miserably and calling friend after friend to talk for hours on the phone. Nothing helped for more than a few minutes. I contemplated suicide. I just didn’t want to live with the pain anymore.
But the fact that I had suicidal thoughts scared me – which was a good thing. It meant that I actually wanted to live. Like many others who have been suicidal, I didn’t really want to die. I just didn’t want to hurt like this.
Then the anger arose. This was a very important shift. I was angry that the breakup of a relationship would send me down into this pit of despair. How could anything like that make me want to end my life? The anger shifted me from hopelessness to determination. I wanted to live, to thrive to be free from depression and never allow it to take me into such deep despair. I was determined that I would heal – that I would never let any person or circumstance determine how I felt about myself again.
I decided that I would do everything in my power to heal from this pain. I could afford sessions with my therapist once per week, but I needed more and I didn’t have a lot of money, so I had to find other resources. By opening up to possibilities, I discovered an amazing women’s spiritual support group – offered by donation. My “healing my heart” regimen included daily prayer, journaling, and drawing (often rageful scribbles) with my pastels. I read personal growth books, including You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, as well as spiritual books. On Sundays, I went to two church services. Most nights, I would light the candles on my altar and cry to God, or sit outside on my porch and cry to the stars. I did everything I could think of to heal this depression, build my self-esteem, and find a deeper sense of happiness within my own self.
And in less than 3 months – by Christmastime – I realized that I was enjoying my life again. There arose a renewed sense of purpose and a renewed sense of myself. It took a lot of work – almost all my energy and spare time. But it was paying off. My connection to the Divine was deep. I trusted that I was taken care of, and all was unfolding for my highest good. Even the end of that relationship. Perspective had returned.
Although I still had ups and downs after that (even to this day), I have never dipped as low as I did back then, nor have I remained depressed for nearly as long. I learned how to be there for myself when I have dark moments, and how to bring myself back out into the light. It was a great part of my spiritual and personal awakening.
I share this with you to let you know that I’ve been there, and I’ve found my way out. You can, too. Whether it’s depression, a midlife crisis, stress and overwhelm, recovering from illness or injury, the end of a relationship, or any myriad of other life challenges, there is a way through it. It is your own unique path. I know that you can find your wholeness and happiness, from a deep place within. And I am honored to guide and support you through the process.
Let me know how I can be there for you.