Into the Abyss

And back out again

The thing that finally pushed me over the edge was an Oprah quote. It was on my coffee cup sleeve. “The only courage you need is the courage to live the life you want.” That’s how I ended up crying outside a Starbucks at 9:30 AM.

I’d been standing at the edge of an abyss for a while, and I knew I had to get in it. There was nothing else in front of me but abyss-ness. If I turned around, I’d have to go through the same shit I’d just gone through. Come on, Grahm. Into the abyss. Into the crevasse, as Jack Donaghy would say. Jack Donaghy wouldn’t just stand here staring down into it. But the fictional judgment of a fictional character wasn’t enough. I stood there for months.

And nothing happened. I went to work. I walked the dog. I started and quit exercising. The usual.

I convinced myself that the way I was living wasn’t so bad. Maybe this was just How It Was. Maybe everyone felt this way, and one day it’d just go away. I’d wake up and there’d be a bridge over the abyss. A magic bridge. That led to a place where I was productive and, like, owned a boat. Yeah.

I’d just talked myself into believing this the night before when I ordered coffee with a side of Oprah. Well, I thought as I cried in front of strangers, there are worse ways to tip over into crisis. And now things will change.

But not right away. It was Thursday morning, and I still had to go to work.

I wasn’t very pretty; I’d decided almost a year ago that was the problem with my life. I was out of shape and had bad skin and body fat tends to accumulate on my lower stomach, leaving me more or less potato-shaped. And my friends were stunning. Looking at group photographs of us was like looking at models being photographed with… a potato. I was too potato-y. That was the problem.

And my clothes were awful; that was the problem. I might not feel so ugly and bad if I had any sense of style. Or good taste. Or enough money to pay someone to have good taste for me. Every morning over a period of months, I would put on jeans and a shirt and the same old shoes and feel like a mess. I was a mess. I was never going to be better. I should just stop trying.

And I was lazy; that was really the problem. If I wasn’t such a lazy, worthless person I’d get my passion projects on track and my apartment would be sparkling, and I’d have a job I felt fulfilled by. I’d be happy. It was my own fault that things were this way.

You are terrible, I said to myself. You don’t deserve to be happy. You’re like this because you’re so terrible. Methodically going through every aspect of my looks and personality and little, flickering soul and hating everything I found was how I got to the abyss. I realized how mean and self-destructive I was being. I hated myself for that, too. Nothing if not consistent.

When I think of these months of torture now, I picture myself leaving the house in a light jacket and starting across a field—the beginning of a journey, I think. As I walk, the land turns hard and icy. A snowstorm comes in. I am there, holding my jacket around me and screaming into the wind, “I didn’t dress for this! I’m not prepared!” Realizing it doesn’t change it, though. I do not have the tools to deal with this. And the snow just keeps coming.

If you’re going on a journey of self-discovery, I do not recommend depression as your means of getting there. Not like I think you’re going to pick clinical depression for anything ever (unless as “A Thing to Avoid”), but… I don’t know. It might pick you. That’s how it works. And the things depression tells you about yourself are lies. No great truth about me was waiting somewhere in that murk. I didn’t know it. I thought I was realizing true, horrible things about myself. I thought it would make me change; make me better.

Instead, it took everything I had. I remember the moment when the last of my will, my energy, and my emotions were drained, and I finally had nothing left in me. I was in my living room when it happened. I was heading for the couch, but when I was two steps away, the last of my ability to care about anything, including where I sat, was used up. So I sat on the floor. The love of my life got down on the floor with me. He kissed my face. He held my hands. He deserved someone so much better.

“I don’t want to be alive anymore.” It was the hardest thing I’d ever said. He leaned his forehead against mine and squeezed my arms. “I need you to be, though. You have to keep doing it.”

We sat there for a while. Us and the dog, who couldn’t figure out what we were doing and brought over every toy and bone he could find, like maybe we were just bored. Eventually—somehow—we made it to the couch. I went to see a doctor and I started taking medication. Eventually—somehow—I stopped minding that I was alive. My emotions came back, but on a duller setting. Like how a microwave has full-power and half-power settings? I was a half-power person. It seemed like a problem. I should probably solve this, I thought to myself.

But I’d made it through the worst of the storm, and I’d been so tired for so long that when I got to that stupid abyss, I thought, “Maybe I’ll just stop here for a while.”

So there I’d stayed until Oprah. The courage to live the life I want. It sounded so fucking Zen and amazing. It wasn’t exactly an action plan, though. I put it on a To Do list. Really. I wrote it down. “Find courage.”

After a couple of weeks, I wrote “Find out what kind of life you want to live” above it. Courage couldn’t come until that happened. The love of my life and I discussed it. He made a To Do list too, because we are list-y people, though his had things like “Finish software project” and “Move to Oakland” on it while mine remained the oh-so-accomplishable “Figure out who you want to be.”

You know. The easy stuff.

The one thing I knew down in my bones was that I wanted to be with him. Being with me was on his list, too. We got engaged. I landed at the bottom of the abyss. As I’d suspected for some time, nothing was down there. It was just me and a long, long tunnel out. But getting out, at least, felt possible.

What I really want is for everything to change at once. Get married tomorrow. Go on a honeymoon. Move abroad. Find new jobs. I want no responsibilities and no money worries. I want to focus on getting to the end of this tunnel 24/7 until it’s solved and done. In my mind, this only takes, like, a month, and then I’m happy forever. Reasonable, right?

Instead, I get up and go to work. I walk the dog. I start and quit exercising. On the face of it, nothing is different except I wear an engagement ring now. But inside, it’s all new. The one thing I know is on the other side of this struggle is the person I love—our wedding and the first piece of the life I want. And that gives me more courage than I ever thought I’d have.

I think Oprah would approve.

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  • Anonimi

    I wish I couldn’t, but I honestly relate so much to this. To all of it – feelings of worthlessness, this kind of self-destruction and just being tired of it all. This “if I just wasn’t x/y/z, everything would be better”. I have succeeded once before not to walk deeper into depression and I am ok most of the time. But I still have those thoughts and feel like I can get sucked back into all of it anytime. It is really hard to shake this feeling that my boyfriend deserves better and he shouldn’t have to deal with my neurosis all the time. But he is the reason I keep on going. I am trying my best.
    Thank you so much for your honest essay and letting yourself be vulnerable – this was gut-wrenching, but in a good way. I wish you all the best :)

    • Helen

      My love has similar struggles, and the truth is, it makes things harder. But for me, life isn’t meant to be all easy – hard is where learning and growth happens. I’m a bigger, better person because of her – and not just because of her struggles with depression. She’s a intellectually challenging person too and I love it. We also have a pact. I trust her to work hard on herself and she can trust me to always be there when she needs extra support.

      • S. Grahm

        “But for me, life isn’t meant to be all easy – hard is where learning and growth happens.” YES. Even (especially) when it’s things you wish you didn’t have to learn. Also, awesome to hear from someone on the other side of things, so to speak.

    • S. Grahm

      I so appreciate you sharing this. That “getting sucked back in” thing is a really hard one for me to avoid, too. Reminding myself depression is a huge liar is one of the best tools I have. Wishing you all the best, too! Thanks again for sharing :)

  • nf

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing your struggles. This sounds so much like my own experiences. One thing I was surprised by during my engagement which was filled with attempts to treat my depression, was how much the physical presence of an engagement ring on my finger helped. It was so easy to feel lost and alone, but I could see and feel something that I would never be alone, and was starting to build the life I wanted.

    • Alice

      I feel that way about my wedding ring. We got married not quite two months ago, and are now back to living on opposite sides of the world. I’m sort of spinning my wheels without much to do before school starts, except miss him, and worry about the future, and hate myself for being so negative. But I look at my wedding ring all the time, and remember that someone loves me, and is busting his ass to bring us back together again, and doesn’t resent me for not being able to do more right now.

    • Jess

      This is my argument for wanting an engagement ring. I don’t care if it’s big. Or if it’s sparkly. Or if it costs 2 months salary. And I don’t care if it’s a traditionally patriarchal symbol to the world that I’m taken and that men should back off.

      I want something that I can look down at and say “This means I am loved and not alone. This means that what I am and what I am going through is not enough to scare someone off.”

      • Erin

        I want to up vote this about a million times.

      • S. Grahm

        I’m in love with this idea. When we decided to get an engagement ring, I kept trying to justify to myself why it was okay to want one (because costly and patriarchal symbol and everything else you note here). Reading your comment made everything click for me.

    • S. Grahm

      Thank you, nf! Everyone sharing their own experience with depression has been…amazingly helpful. It’s such a “lost in your own mind” disease that the physical reminders you’re not alone – whether they’re comments on a blog or an engagement ring – go a long way.

  • laura

    Beautiful writing.

    • S. Grahm

      Thank you, Laura!

  • Annie

    “But inside, it’s all new.” Love this so so much. Even before you make those big life changes that everyone can see (get a new job! get married! run a marathon! etc.), it’s all about that moment of being new inside. That’s what counts. Keep it up, S!

  • hip-hop anonymous

    Word. Right now, two months post wedding and months away from graduation, I find the question is, “What’s the dream?” Getting married was not my life’s ambition, but I also can’t seem to remember what was. So much has changed in the past few years, that I find myself wondering what is the next dream? I wouldn’t trade being married to my spouse for anything, I’m just not quite sure where we go from here.

    • S. Grahm

      “Getting married was not my life’s ambition, but I also can’t seem to remember what was.” Oh, gosh. I really relate to that line. I think Meg addressed this idea in her “Letter from the Editor” this month, too. That feeling is the source of my many, many To Do lists.

  • Heather

    This totally needs a cry warning. I relate to every word of this- except that my abyss was in my first year of marriage, not engagement. The presence of the ring helped in the moments that I couldn’t see his face, or feel his arms; but it also made me feel shallow that a “trinket” could matter so much. It took ages to convince myself that when something is imbued with that much love, it’s justifiable that it holds so much weight. Much love to you as you fight your way back to yourself, S. You’re not alone, and your words have brought me so much comfort, because today I needed a reminder that I’m not, either. I will come back to this post again and again, on the days when the darkness threatens. Thank you.

    • S. Grahm

      Thank you so much, Heather. Knowing I’m not alone is about the best feeling there is. Sending an internet hug your way.

  • anonymous

    Thank you for sharing; this is an incredibly well-written piece and so close to home. I especially love this line: “I was heading for the couch, but when I was two steps away, the last of my ability to care about anything, including where I sat, was used up. So I sat on the floor. ”

    So true! I’ve been there too. I was diagnosed with depression my senior year of college, when two months from graduation I suddenly found myself without the energy to get out of bed. One of my favorite professors sent someone to literally drag me out of my bed and into therapy.

    That was 10 years ago, and since then things have gotten much, much better. I would be lying if I said it was easy or fast though. I would also write down absolutely ridiculous to-do-list items like “be confident” or “find your passion”, as though I was going to check that off between picking up dry cleaning and calling the bank. But the shocking thing is, I did eventually manage to do it, piece by piece, day by day, over years.

    I send so much love and goodness your way!

    • sarah l

      this is my exact life. congratulations on the slow and mundane triumph over the last 10 years, sister.

    • S. Grahm

      All this strikes a chord for me! I was also diagnosed senior year of college – such a fun way to get to graduation, huh? And oh, the to-do lists. Some part of me totally expects this stuff to get solved one Tuesday afternoon between errands. It is very comforting/hopeful-making to hear you managed to get these things crossed off the list. Standing ovation.

      Sending love and goodness right back at ya! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Lauren from NH

    Dear Grahm, I have been to the abyss, I have seen it too. I’ve been to the bottom.

    I am trying to think of the right thing to say, yet despite having been somewhere similar to where you are, or perhaps because of it, words are failing me. I am glad you have someone to sit on the floor with you.

    And because I cannot resist trying to help you on you journey, I will say one tiny thing that helped me. Because I think it’s these little acts and little choices that help when even getting up in the morning is a struggle. It’s okay that some days we are not up to making them. I think of life as practice and some days we are just off our game. What helped me in little ways was forcing my self to listen to happier music. When no one else was around it allowed me to blow tiny little hope bubbles and I practiced and I practiced, and I still do.

    All my love and fingers crossed for the future of your writing career.

    • Firework

      Music is hugely impactful (is that a word- “impactful?”). Would you have any suggestions for happier music? Sometimes I put on Katy Perry or some of Sara Bareilles’ upbeat stuff, but I could always use some recommendations.

      • Lauren from NH

        I really like the classic corny stuff. New corny is good too.

        Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
        The Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy
        Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
        Countdown – Beyonce
        Down Under- Men At Work
        Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough – New Radicals
        Now That We Found Love – Heavy D& The Boyz
        Over the Rainbow – Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole
        Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
        Tightrope – Janelle Monae
        We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel
        Higher and Higher – Jackie Wilson (I found an awesome Soul station on Pandora earlier this week)

        As a place to start, The World Spins Madly On by the Weepies is not super happy but always makes me feel understood.

        • Firework

          Awesome – thank you!

          • Lauren from NH

            I literally have a playlist called Happy Thoughts to this day. Sometimes being very direct about trying to kick yourself into a better place is what’s in order. I can be a big wallower (is that a word?). My partner on the other hand is an eternal optimist, and while sometimes that makes me want to punch him in face (figuratively), I know why I chose him.

          • Alyssa M

            That directness helps me A LOT. Been diagnosed with chronic depression, so I’m fully aware that it WILL come back. My way of fighting it is to be very conscious with my choices and fully honest when I feel it coming back with my not optimistic, but consistently zen, partner. I will not publish my depression on FB, because it reinforces. I try to listen to my happy music. Try to regulate my sleep (too much is an indicator, too little can bring it on) I intentionally go to the farmers market and get silly excited about vegetables and what’s for dinner and what cheesy town festival is going on this weekend.

            It doesn’t mean it doesn’t come back. But with his help I’m fighting it with those direct choices everyday.

          • Lauren from NH

            Mmm and it can be so hard to hear from other people, so I try to practice saying it to myself, especially when I am doing well. “This doesn’t need to throw off your morning” or “if you sit and think about this too long it’s going to mess with you, you need to redirect”. It’s like practicing intervention on crappy brain patterns with music, exercise, activities, socializing, etc.

          • Jess

            That is me. I know that I will not “get better.” I will not get out. I just have to deal with it, as I have for the last 13 years, and say, “Today is not a good one. But tomorrow I will make be a little better.”

            The most valuable lesson I had came from someone I dated, who was with me at the one of the worst times. He was better to me than I could realize at the time. He asked me how many days a month I felt had no redeeming qualities, and then asked me what I could do to limit that. Take it to 5 bad days a month where I couldn’t even identify 1 good thing, or only allow myself to have 4 bad days a month and the rest of them I had to purposefully make something good happen. Even if it was, “I had a great cup of coffee today” or “I did the dishes.”

            That mindset took a while to sink it, but it does help immensely.

          • Lauren from NH

            Also the humor section of Pinterest. Everytime you think you have seen all the funny cats they are at it again :)

          • leafygreen

            Deliberate steps like that are definitely good!

            I’m prone to negative thoughts (about myself, my life, etc.) and they’re sort of automatic, like I don’t even mean them half the time…so for a while I kept a blog of positive things (good things about my life, and things I had done that I was proud of). Making myself write those things and put them out into the world regularly actually helped a lot, I think. I would highly recommend it to anyone who thought it sounded vaguely like a good idea.

      • Jess

        I listen to swing/big band music. Because sometimes I get angry at happy words and get trapped in the “How dare you brag about your friends and your parties and your perfect happy life. What can I change about myself to have that?”

        • Sarah E

          That a great recommendation. Swing music from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s always has hilarious lyrics, too. There will be a whole song about eating potato chips or something. Definitely of plenty non-sappy-love-song options in the genre

          • Jess

            I love the ridiculous lyrics. It’s like people just had a tune and before going out on stage thought to themselves, “Oh, we should have something for the vocalist to do. Just… improvise some things.”

      • Alyssa M

        I have a happy playlist!!! It’s a CD. that sits in my car and when it has been too long since I’ve listened to it, it’s a big indicator that I’m backsliding and should maybe be more attentive to my moods.

        HoHey- The Lumineers
        The Honey Tree- Mostar Driving Club
        You Make Me Happy- Lindsay Ray
        We’re Going To Be Friends- The White Stripes
        No Rain- Blind Melon
        Somewhere Only We Know- Keane (I can’t not think of Winnie The Pooh)

        Down On The Corner- CCR
        Soak Up The Sun- Sheryl Crow
        Don’t Stop Believin- Journey(because, of course.)

        Such Great Heights- The Postal Service
        All I Want Is You- Barry Louis Polisar
        Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop- Landon Pigg
        Stuck on You- Meiko
        Ain’t No Mountain High Enough- Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terell
        Fireflies- Owl City

        • Maddy

          For EXTRA happy, go for the Streetlight Manifesto cover of Such Great Heights. Nothing like some horns to make you smile :)

      • IndigoLotus

        The band FUN has very hopeful music, and the Indigo Girls lyrics are always looking up/forward. Definitely my go-to music when my brain needs some re-programming

    • S. Grahm

      Thank you so much, Lauren! The love and finger-crossing are much appreciated. Have you ever read Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)? She had a whole thing about 2013 being a practice year, and your comment reminded me of it. Thinking of life as practice helps take the pressure off. This was such a nice reminder of that.

  • Chicagoan

    Yup. My mom always wanted me to have “a career and not just a job,” but I graduated from a great university into a s**t job market in 2011 and haven’t had a job with benefits yet, though I’ve worked my ass off as a contractor and a small-business employee. I had always meant to go to law school, but the disparity between the size of the debt and the job market for lawyers right now was too much for me. Whenever we have money problems (always because of my circumstances), I feel so worthless. My one job was to figure out what I want to do with my life and make a career of it. Now my mom is dying of lung cancer and Boyfriend is being supportive, as always, but he said he’s worried that there will always be a crisis and he doesn’t know if he can handle that “forever.” I don’t consider myself a dramatic person; I try not to create crises, but job offers pulled at the last second and pay that ends without warning and cervical cancer scares and a chronic back condition and a dying mother have all found me anyway. I don’t want things to be like this either. We had planned to get engaged when he finishes grad school (about a year from now), but with him questioning whether he can handle this “forever” and me questioning pretty much everything else about marriage, since it seems like a strange thing to enter into without a family behind you, I don’t know that I’ll feel the comfort of a commitment to stand together through hell and everything else on my finger any time soon.

    • from Boston

      Such a heavy load…words are inadequate, but I truly wish you strength to get through this and carry hope for you that brighter days are up ahead.

      • Chicagoan

        Thank you, Firework. I try to carry that hope too. I joined a free support group in light of my mom’s situation, but it’s helped to have a more objective audience to talk to about life in general, too. I’d like to see a therapist, but it’s just another expense I’d end up feeling guilty about, right now. Hopefully once we move and both our incomes are higher, I can find someone to help me sort through everything.

        • Katherine

          I wonder if, depending upon you income level, there’s some sort of financial aid for therapy. Perhaps the leader of your support group can point you in the right direction? Alternatively, perhaps therapy is less than you’d expect. I know that my husband’s appointments are $20 each, because our insurance mostly covers them. I realize that’s not an insignificant cost (and that we have good insurance), but perhaps it’s more affordable than you expect.

          Also, I’d put therapy in the category of money well-spent, and not something to feel guilty about. I don’t mean to imply that you can just “not feel guilty,” but I do mean to imply that, rationally, the expense is probably worth it.

  • Sheila

    I know that abyss quite well. I came to the bottom of it in January 2013, no love of my life, but my amazing older sister gently urging me to get help. I thought it was normal for people to have routine emotional breakdowns every three months or so, to be constantly exhausted. I, too, told myself it was because I was lazy that x, y, or z wasn’t getting accomplished. At my first appointment with my psychiatrist as I laid out the family’s dirty laundry of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism, he looked me in the eye and said, “Wow, kid, pick better parents next time.” It made me laugh and we proceeded on from there. It took a while. I made it out though. I have no doubt that you will too. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • S. Grahm

      Three cheers for fantastic siblings! Don’t know what I’d do without mine. Also – “Wow, kid, pick better parents next time.” Totally made me laugh.

      I’m so glad you made it out. Thanks for this extra boost of hope.

  • OP, I have crossed all my digits for you, as per your request. I believe in you.

  • Meg

    God bless Oprah

    • Erin

      Rumor has it, she has!

      • S. Grahm

        Haha! Love this exchange.

  • Crossing to the other side

    Know that you are not alone. Find a good doctor, lean on the people who love you, and keep trying. Don’t give up — it can get better. You can get to the other side. Or at least keep trying.

  • Beautiful, thank you for sharing. and thank god for light at the end of tunnels.

    • S. Grahm

      “…thank god for light at the end of tunnels.” Seriously. I could have this framed on my wall.

      Thanks, Catherine!

  • Alyssa M

    “Instead, I get up and go to work. I walk the dog. I start and quit
    exercising. On the face of it, nothing is different except I wear an
    engagement ring now. But inside, it’s all new. The one thing I know is
    on the other side of this struggle is the person I love—our wedding and
    the first piece of the life I want. And that gives me more courage than I
    ever thought I’d have.”

    I definitely know this feeling. And I seriously associate it with Regina Spektor’s The Call.

    “It started out as a feeling
    Which then grew into a hope
    Which then turned into a quiet thought
    Which then turned into a quiet word
    And then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle Cry!”

    Keep your courage and it will grow and grow until the life you want is visible on the outside. It’s a slow process, but keep on swimming and you’ll get there.

    • Emily

      Oh I love this! Thank you for sharing it!

      To the OP… thank you for sharing your piece. I found it difficult at parts because it reminded me so much of my journey. There is a (small) school of thought that believes depression can be a part of healing and for me this is true. As you imply, I needed to go into the abyss and be transformed. Unfortunately, we don’t jump out shiny and fully formed. Hang in there and keep writing.

      • S. Grahm

        Thank you, Emily! Not coming out of things “shiny and fully formed” is such a good way of putting it.

    • S. Grahm

      I love Regina Spektor! What a fantastic song. Thanks for sharing :)

  • jashshea

    Oh my.

    I’m stunned. Gobsmacked. Wow. More to say later.

  • kasaro

    thank you. as someone who also is working through her own abyss (in an eerily similar fashion), thank you.

  • sara g

    I’m crying. This hits so close to home. Depression just about ruined me. I’m doing better now, several years later, but still on medication, and probably will have to be for the rest of my life. The darkness still lurks in the back of my mind like a weed and it’s a daily fight to keep it managed. Thank you for sharing you story and may you continue to find your courage. <3

    • Alynae

      Please try not to frame your better with an asterisk of *but still on medication. You would never fault someone for taking a medication for their thyroid or using a cane for a leg injury. You are doing better. Period. You are fighting a very hard fight and there is no shame in using every defense and tool available to you.

      • sara g

        Oh, I have no shame about being on meds anymore, haha. I jokingly refer to them as my crazy pills and take them with pride! ;) I was just emphasizing how the depression is still constantly there and I have to know how to manage it.

        But I super appreciate that there are people like you who DON’T judge mentally ill people for being on medication. It’s so sad to see how in this modern age, people still have this idea that mental illness is not a “real” disease blah blah blah. (When I was trying to withdraw from university, the dean told me that he wouldn’t accept my reason of “having serious health issues” because I just needed to go see the pastor and pray more. /eyeroll)

        • Alynae

          you are nicer than me that Eyeroll is your response to that crazybeans. Shin kick is the nicest I can come up with!

          And internet high five to learning how to care for yourself.

  • Allie Moore

    Thanks for sharing, you are a beautiful writer. and fingers definitely crossed for your new career.

    • S. Grahm

      Thanks, Allie! Very much appreciated.

  • leafygreen

    Thank you for sharing. Best wishes in your career and also in taking care of yourself.

    • S. Grahm

      Thank you!

  • Jessica

    Both my husband and I have small bouts of depression, usually brought on by seasonal affect disorder or times of year when really bad shit happened to us. I sincerely hope that if it ever gets worse, if we keep having bad days with very little joy to be found, we can find the courage to say the words we need to and hold onto each other like you did with the love of your life.

    Thank you for your story, it means a lot for you to share such a deep, personal trial. I also really appreciate the 30 Rock reference!

    • S. Grahm

      Thanks for sharing, Jessica! And glad you got the 30 Rock reference :) It’s my go-to “let’s watch re-reuns” show.

  • Ms. Wylde

    Crossed fingers raised to the screen in fist bump fashion. Solidarity, sister from over here in the UK. Awesome writing.

  • Caitlin_DD

    Yes. Fellow abyss traveler here. When you make out of the tunnel, to the other side of the abyss, there, I promise, you will find yourself at the start of the journey where you discover how awesome, competent, lovable, and generally worthy of living happily and healthily you are. You will make it. It may be along road, but it ends.

  • S. Grahm

    OP here! Can I send you guys a million internet hugs? Would that be too many? I really want to reply to everyone individually and will do so throughout the weekend, but in the meantime, I just wanted to say thank you thank you thank you for all the love, support, advice, and stories you guys have posted. And to everyone who has shared their own experience with depression: knowing you are out there means everything.

    And, of course, big thanks to APW for letting me share this with an amazing community of people. So grateful for the chance.

  • C_Gold

    Knowing that the so-called truths depression provides you with are actually NOT true–that is SO wise and important. Took me so long to figure that out. I still think horrible things about myself when I’m depressed, but at least sometimes I have the sense to go “I’m depressed right now so I shouldn’t necessarily trust my thoughts.”

    • Audrey

      I’m currently working with a new therapist who uses some slightly different methods, and there are a whole lot of things about not always “listening to your mind” and that what your mind tells you isn’t always true. It’s such a world of difference when I don’t buy into all those horrible things! (And of course since I’m human I still slip up sometimes and start believing them…)

      • C_Gold

        I think one of the smartest things I’ve ever done for myself in a bout of depression is to go “Maybe I won’t keep listening to my brain right now. Maybe I will climb off the floor onto the couch and watch some episodes of Arrested Development.” Seriously, that was a huge thing.

  • Ann Dee

    I wander in and out of the abyss, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be entirely free of it. When I’m trying to explain it to people who seem to think it just means I’m just a little sad, I tend to send them over to Hyperbole and a Half: and

    • S. Grahm

      I don’t even remember how I used to explain depression to people before those posts came along. Allie Brosh = my hero.

      And I don’t think I’ll ever be free of the abyss, either. I think I just get more confident in my depression as time goes on, if that makes sense? Like, I know what’s down there. I’ve done this before. I can do this again.

  • NotherHeather

    I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a hug. I wallowed for two years on the edge. My fiancé and I had just moved to a new town, he was gone all the time for work, not a whole lot was going on, and even though I knew I could take advantage of the downtime to really get my home business going, I spent the two years worrying, crying, watching tv, sleeping too little or too much, and making newly engaged life all around miserable. During my lowest moments I pretended to be someone else. That way it was “Lana” and not “Heather” who was watching octonauts at three in the afternoon rather than deal with being a grown up. I found that for me personally, getting off birth control helped. I had that “not wanting to be alive anymore” feeling constantly on the pill. Once I got off, things got a little easier, although I was still watching a lot of tv and eating a lot of cookies instead of doing anything that was going to make me feel better about myself in the long run (cookies always help in the short term).

    I’m through the worst now, but it’s a daily struggle. I still don’t feel pretty or empowered most days, but the feeling that I’m falling short doesn’t control me. I guess I want to say I know how you feel. Sometimes your day gets effed up big time, and you have to put it away and start fresh with the following. It’s ok.
    And since other people are discussing cathartic music, for reasons unknown, Lorde’s “not very pretty but we sure know how to run things” song gets me every time.

  • balcain

    Thank you for posting this.

  • This article really really resonated with me, too. Excellent summary of how depression spirals and how it can make us feel. And how beautiful and special it is to have someone with you who is ready to support you through it, and sees YOU – not your illness. Congratulations. We are lucky.