I said earlier this week that I have never been actively suicidal, and that is true. I also said I’ve been in positions where I didn’t care about myself or living, and that is true too. This is that story.
During the summer of 2011, the summer before I started law school, I was going through one of the worst depressions I’d ever experienced. At the time, I didn’t understand depression. I knew there was something different about me perhaps, but I didn’t know it was depression. And I didn’t know what to do about it. So, I tried to drink it all away.
The catalyst to this depression was the end of a relationship. It wasn’t even a serious relationship. I’d only been with this person for maybe 3 months. Yet I went to pieces over it ending. I convinced myself that it had to be more serious than I thought, because why else would I be acting so ridiculous? I know now that it had nothing to do with that person. The breakup merely triggered underlying fears that I have about abandonment.
The night after the breakup, a friend of mine took me to the Red Sox game and bought me lots of beer. It seemed to make it better, even though all it was doing was numbing the pain. Over the rest of the summer, I drank constantly. There were only two lines I wouldn’t cross. I would never get behind the wheel if I wasn’t sure that I was okay to drive. And I never went to work drunk. I didn’t care about myself, but I wasn’t going to risk someone else’s life.
I wanted to drink myself into oblivion. I wanted to drink so much that I never felt anything anymore. If I didn’t have to go to work then I would drink until I passed out, get a few hours of uneasy sleep, and wake up and start drinking again. At times I even romanticized it. After all, weren’t some of the greatest minds in history alcoholics?
I never formed this as a coherent thought, but on some level I was hoping I would drink until I passed out and not wake up. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to exist as I was. I didn’t want to exist with the pain and the emptiness and the hurt anymore.
But alcohol doesn’t take away the pain, it just numbs it. And then you wake up, and the pain is back, and you have a hangover too.
This dark tale came to an end one day when I was driving back from the liquor store with more beer. I got distracted by the radio at the exact wrong moment. The car in front of me stopped and I rear ended them. I wasn’t drunk, like I said I never crossed that line. But that doesn’t mean I was in a good head space. One of the beer bottles I had bought broke, which was an apt analogy for the moment that broke my habit of self-medicating.
After the accident, I opened up to my family and to a few friends about my behavior. I expected them to be disgusted. I expected them to turn away, to abandon me even more than I already had been.
But they didn’t.
Instead they were sympathetic. They were supportive. They rallied around me. While the alcohol only numbed the pain, their support helped start the healing process. Depression isolates you. The balm for that is to find a tribe of people who will be there for you no matter what, who will wake up with you at 2 am and say, “who needs sleep, what do you need?”
To all those people, thank you. Thank you for not turning away from my dark tales.
And to you, reader, thank you for reading this and adding your support in your own way. And if you are in a similar spot, if you are in a dark hole where you don’t care about what happens to you, just know that I have been there too. It gets better.
It. Gets. Better.