today is my two-year anniversary of being hospitalized. it’s an anniversary i didn’t want but one i’m not sorry to celebrate.
on a snowy day in march 2014 my life fell apart. the depression and anxiety i had worked so hard to contain broke out of their cage and turned my world upside down. while i had experienced sadness and fear many times in my life, never before had i felt such a loss of control or such relentless terror. for days i tried everything i knew of to stabilize myself – i talked to my husband, i called my mom, i saw my therapist, i stayed home from work. i even took a heavy-hitting anti-anxiety medication prescribed after an emergency call to my psychiatrist. nothing worked. as i spiraled down, down, down i felt like something awful was about to happen. like i was about to die.
and in a way i did.
on march 17, 2014 i had no way of knowing how much my life was about to change. i thought that admitting myself to the hospital was going to make it all stop and help me get back to normal. and while the hospital kept me safe, my first stay was just the beginning of an awful, excruciating process of healing and rebirth. no medication, no doctor could immediately cure my depression, my anxiety, my ptsd. i had 20 years worth of pain to deal with. i had 20 years of unsuccessful coping mechanisms to unlearn. i didn’t know it at the time, but my old self had to die in order for my new self to emerge. i had to forge a new normal, one excruciatingly painful day at a time.
i lost so many things when i got sick. i lost my job – i had to resign after nearly seven months of nonstop crisis. i lost my sense of purpose, which had been wrapped up in my career for way too long. i lost my dream of having children in the way i had always envisioned. i lost my social life – i isolated myself and withdrew from everyone except for my family and my closest friends. i lost my peace of mind. for over a year my my spirit knew no rest. not a moment went by that i wasn’t racked with anxiety and weighed down with sadness. i literally cried all day long. no matter what i was doing – eating, talking, driving – i always felt deep, dark, gnawing despair. i truly thought that my life was ending. that my time was up. that my family would be better off without the burden of my existence.
thank god i was wrong. thank god i held on. i fought my way back. it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t easy and it sure wasn’t pretty, but i made it. i slowly lived my way into my new self. in many ways i felt like i was starting from the beginning. i had to learn a new way of being with work, with friends, with family, with myself. and for all that i lost, i gained as well.
i gained the ability to live in the moment – to breathe and focus on the here and now. depression has taught me how to slow down and immerse myself in the small moments that make life meaningful. i found acceptance of my mental illnesses and stopped blaming and shaming myself for having depression and anxiety. getting so sick enabled me to become more authentic with my friends and opened me up to so much love and support that i denied myself by hiding my struggle. i have gained a healthy work-life balance and have learned how to set boundaries and say no. my struggle with depression deepened my love for my husband and helped us build a stronger and more compassionate relationship. i discovered strength and tenacity that i didn’t know i had. i never thought i would say this but getting sick has made my life better. mental illness helped me transform into a stronger, healthier and more grateful person.
i would like to wish myself a happy anniversary. i am so proud of me – for asking for help. for not giving up. for taking another step. i have never worked harder at anything in my life as i have on my recovery. today i am celebrating hope. because my life wasn’t over – it just had to start over again.