Fight of My Life

by GregFahlgren

Chronicling my battle with Depression and how I came out on the other side.

Hi there people on the Internet! Today’s blog is going to be a change of pace from my usual stuff. I would normally love to drone on for hours about science fiction, fantasy, and comic books but I have been meaning to right this piece for a while and am happy to finally be able to share it with everyone.

I’ll get straight to the point. For years now, I’ve suffered from Clinical Depression, which mixed with my ADHD, has created some truly horrible situations that I’ve had to fight through. Like many people out there, I suffered from this disease for years without even knowing I had it, and even if I did know, I denied it without hesitation. Nevertheless, Depression has adversely affected my life, my relationships, and my career.

Today, I’m going to detail my journey with my condition, what made me accept what it was, and what I’ve done to fight against it so I can gain control of my life. I hope that my story can reach others going through the same thing, and help them discover their own path out of the darkness. It’s not an easy journey, not going to lie to any of you, but it is a worthwhile one, and I hope that you will join me as I tell you mine.

An Aside

Before we really get started, I want to establish something up front. I am going to mention several people throughout this blog that for good or bad were a part of my journey with Depression. I am describing things from my perspective, and depending on how you read this, it could show them in a positive or negative light no matter what my intention is. Thus, out of respect for those people I will not speak of them using their real names so that they can avoid any unpleasant response from anyone reading this. Everyone got it? Okay, moving on.

After College

First Indications

Although I only came to grips with my Depression a few years ago, this journey really began back in 2008. I had completed (sort of) two years of university in a Social Science program, but wasn’t exactly an honour student. At the time I had stopped taking my meds for ADHD, and had sought no help for my condition from the University even though that had programs that could have made things easier for me. Like an idiot I wanted to do everything “on my own”, thinking that I could just overpower my brain’s chemistry through sheer will. That stupid assertion led to me not being able to focus on my school work, which led to my marks dropping like a stone. In the end, I bombed a final exam and failed the one course that I needed to continue my degree. After that I was forced to drop out, and left school more than a little angry, both at myself and the education system that I have come to believe is severely flawed (another discussion for another day). Looking back, I believe now that this was the time my Depression was beginning to take shape, though back then I just thought that I was pissed off.

After school, I continued to work on my novels, writing several over the next few years while I sought employment. I worked at a fast food place for while, but after I was let go from there, things started to unravel. I was in a state of mind that was simply not healthy, and began pushing people away when they were trying to help me. At first, I blamed it on my frustration at what was happening to me, but in hindsight I realize now that there was something deeper going on. I was getting upset at the smallest things, and was prone to lashing out at people for the stupidest of reasons. I was even contemplating suicide over something as little as a person unfriending me on Facebook. What I just described should have been a cathedral full of warning bells, but like most people suffering from mental illness, I thought I was just going through a bad time and would get past it.

But I didn’t get past it. The constant feeling of dread and worry never receded, and no matter what I did, I was miserable. I tried to build relationships, even got friendly with a few women I knew, but every time I would go too far, push too hard, and then lose people that I cared about because I couldn’t control myself. I was lost in the woods, and things were getting so bad I was seriously considering taking my own life.

Then I met Jamie in early 2009. There are a lot of things I could say about Jamie and what she has meant to me in my life, but for now I’ll just state that if it weren’t for her, I might not be here. Now, we had known each other for a while, had gone to school together for one year, but I never really got to know her in any true sense. However, one day her profile crossed my Facebook feed, and once I looked, at the picture, remembered her, and went, “oh, what the hell, I’ll add her as a friend.” From there we had a few brief conversations, which turned into long, wonderful talks, and were becoming fast friends.

Then there was an incident with a young lady named Danica. She and I had been getting friendly for a bit, and things were going okay. Then my Depression and untreated ADHD brain decided it was a good idea to pester her for days on end, becoming more and more desperate by the moment when she wouldn’t respond to my texts, eventually leading to her stepping away from me about as fast as she could after 2:30 AM Facebook message (nothing good happens after 2 AM folks, believe it). This is again, a symptom of the Depression. Anytime anything or anyone good comes along I try to destroy it so that I don’t even have a chance at being happy. This self-destructive behavior lead to Danica and I not speaking for almost a year, and even after that never becoming as close as we had been.

Within a few months of this incident, I was really losing it. I had pushed away someone that I had really liked, and it hadn’t been the first time either. I started to wonder what was wrong with me, and combining that feeling with everything else that was happening in my life at the time, I was starting to lose my grip on reality. Suicidal thoughts had already begun to form, and there was a moment where I clearly remember almost throwing myself in front of a bus.

Thankfully, I didn’t do that that night, and when I got home, I went on Facebook, and I saw that Jamie was online. I don’t why I reached out to her, why I unloaded what I was feeling on someone I had only been friends for a matter of months, but sometimes life guides you to where you need to go, and to whom you need to go to. I messaged her, asking if I could talk to her. She said sure, and after a few minutes of tip-toeing around the issue, I let it all out and unloaded all the terrible feelings that I was having. Jamie didn’t say much at first, she just listened, and when I was finished, she did her best to help me. There are things that were said that night between us that I will not repeat here because they are none one’s business but ours, but the one major thing she told me was that she was a cancer survivor. Right there, my life got put in perspective. If she could survive what she went through with cancer, and then everything that came after, then I could get through this. With Jamie’s help, I did get through it, and things start to get a little better. Since that night, Jamie has become one my best friends, and more than that, one of my personal heroes.

However, the talk with Jamie and our burgeoning friendship didn’t solve the problem at its core. I didn’t even know, nor would I admit even if I had known, what that problem was, and it took losing almost everything to get me to realize what was really happening.

Call Centre

Living Hell

By mid-2010, things weren’t getting any better. I was unemployed, in debt, and my writing career was completely stalled. A small glimmer of hope came along when I got a job off from a call centre. Went for the interview, and within a few weeks was hired to be a customer service rep for a cell phone contract, which would guarantee me 40 hours a week and a regular paycheck plus commission. Not my dream vocation, but it was a job, and it was money to pay the bills and get my life on track. At first, I was ecstatic, and for the most part it was going great. For the first six months or so, I was quickly becoming a very popular guy with management because of my attitude towards the work, my ability to make sales, and how much the customers loved me. On the recommendation of Jamie and a few other people, I had even gone back on my ADHD meds, and for the most part things were going well. I had even done well enough with the job to get top billing for a shift bid, and got to work straight days for about eight months. I was still writing, though with a 40 hour a week job finding the time to was problematic, but it was a sacrifice I had to make at the time.

However, just after I had started on days, the emotional drain of the job was starting to take its toll. For those of you who have never worked a job like that let me paint a picture for you. For eight hours a day, I sat in a chair in front of a computer screen, and for the most part got yelled over things that were not my fault. Either the customer screwed up and was looking for someone to blame for their own dumbass actions, or the company screwed up and I had to be the one to fix it. Yes, there were good calls, more than you might think, and those were what got me through each day most of the time. But as the months went on, the calls got progressively more difficult to manage, the company cracking down on many of the little things I could use to help make things easier for myself and for the customers. Thus, the people calling in got increasingly angry and frustrated, and I was quickly losing my patience for it. I know this sounds trite, but for 15 months of my life, I had to sift through other people’s shit for a living, and it was emotionally exhausting.

Over time, my stress levels sky-rocketed to the point where I was starting to get severe stomach pains. After a month or two they were so bad I thought I was having ulcers (thankfully I wasn’t). My mental health was also in steady decline, the sheer multitude of negativity each day taking its toll. Worse still, since I was doing this for 40 hours a week on average, and coupled with the emotional toll the job took on me, I was left creatively bankrupt, the worst possible thing to happen to a fiction writer.

Finally, in December of that year, my performance had dropped severely and was going to be stuck on straight afternoons for I don’t know how long. After working a dog show for my Dad, I went into work Monday, and within two minutes of being in the building and finding my new desk, I realized that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I walked up to my new team manager and quit right there on the spot. Was it the best financial decision I had ever made? No, but I stand by it because I was so goddamn miserable that I couldn’t take it anymore. All I felt every day was dread and hopelessness, and I needed to get the hell out of there.

Friends and family alike criticised the decision, especially given the unemployment rate in my home town (which by the way hasn’t gotten any better). The only person to support the decision was Jamie, who flat out said that if I was that miserable, getting out of there was probably the best decision I could have made. Friends and family have to this day told me that having a source of income is better than not, but I have always been more concerned with my happiness than my wallet. Have I struggled since? Yes, and I’ll get into more detail with that later, but the fact remains that for own wellbeing I couldn’t stay there any longer. There comes a point in time where one has to do what they think is right, and whether or not it’s the best decision, it’s one you have to make. I left Stream behind, and within days, I felt a hundred times better than I had in months.

In my head, I thought that things would get better, that I could focus on writing, get a job that wasn’t so high stress, and get my life sorted out. But, in reality all I had done was cure a symptom, but the cause was still there and would only continue to grow in the shadows of my mind.

Breaking Point

Hitting Rock Bottom

For the next year, I did my best to further my writing career, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I drifted from job to job until December of that year when I was hired at Chapters. I loved that job. I went to work every day with one purpose: talk to people about books. I haven’t had more fun at a regular job before that or since. Sadly, it was a seasonal position, and they let me go at the end of the contract. It was a bitter pill to swallow, no question there, but I was assured that my release had nothing to do with me, only that the contract had ended. So, I continued to apply there and at the two other locations in town, hoping to get back in. And for ten months, nothing happened. All the while, I’m dealing with financial difficulties, struggling to pay bills and help my parents with theirs. I had a few odd jobs here and there, but for the most part, I was broke. I felt useless, like I wasn’t contributing anything to the world. More than that, I felt like a giant burden on my parents, my mere existence costing them more money than they could afford. This sense of uselessness was at the forefront of my mind most days, and the feeling only got more pronounced every time I got rejected by a lit agent or a job. By November of 2013, I was in a deep, unrelenting depression.

In my mind, I was trying as hard as I could (I thought), to get somewhere, doing everything right, and nothing good was coming of it. Finally, I got an interview at Coles (a subsidiary of Indigo Chapters), and I thought the interview went great, and it was almost a sure thing that I would be working there for at least over Christmas. However, two weeks later, I was contacted and told I was not going to be selected for the position. I didn’t realize it at the time, but getting rejected by that job broke me. I LOVED working at Chapters the year before, and even though Coles was a smaller store, it was the same company and the same job, and I would excelled at it. But, for whatever reason, they decided not to hire me. No hard feelings, but it still hurt. At that point, whether consciously or not, I gave up, and stopped trying to move forward with any kind of conviction. In the back of my mind, I just wanted it all to be over.

Over the next month, my depression got steadily worse, and I started clinging on to my friends like lifelines, tighter and tighter, thinking they were my only salvation. Jamie especially (and unfairly) bore the brunt of this, and the state of mind that I was in, I was allowing my desperation to latch on to her as the one reason I had to continue living

Before anyone makes any assumptions, I want to be clear about something. Point blank, no BS, I love Jamie with all my heart, and I know that she feels much the same about me. But our friendship has always been just that, a friendship. She had always been there for me when I need her, and I’d like to think I’ve been there for her when she’s needed me. We’ve walked up a lot of difficult hills together, helped each other through the lowest points and supported each other in difficult decisions. She is one of the best people I know, one of my personal heroes, and my best friend. That is why what happens next still made me despise myself for a long, long time.

It all came down to one weekend In January. Jamie had gone away for a weekend with her boyfriend, in and of itself not much of an event (for me anyway). However, there was a massive storm and I was worried about her on the road, so I texted her to make sure she got there safely. She didn’t reply, and I went into panic mode, sending text after text thinking something had happened. When she replied on the Sunday, she was livid, telling me that she had been in the US and unable to text back, and I felt like a massive tool. It was then that I realized something was wrong. Yeah, I am an emotionally driven person, always have been always will be, but panicking myself to the point of stupidity like that just wasn’t me. However, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. So, I tried talking to Jamie that night and the next day to really no success. I tried to convince myself that her success in university (she was applying for Master’s programs and was thinking about moving to another province) was what was bothering me, but looking back I don’t even think I believed it. I was acting like a desperate idiot, and she was finally growing tired of it, and told me to back off for a while. Looking back, I understand why she wanted me to do that. With the way I was acting, she thought that I wanted something more than friendship, and I will admit that in some ways at that point I did, or had convinced myself I did, I’m not sure which. Either way, it didn’t matter. She didn’t want that, but she also didn’t want to hurt me, and felt that I needed to step away less I ruin our friendship.

I thought I got it, but the next day I texted her about something else, completely forgetting what she had asked of me the day before. Being ADHD, my impulses aren’t really controllable (especially at that point with no meds and no discernible treatment plan), and she very calmly told me that she wanted to me to back off. And I... snapped. I went off on her. I didn’t curse or threaten or anything like that, but I told her off. I regretted it the moment I hit send, and before I could follow up and try to fix it, she replied, went off on me, ran me down, and told me to fuck off. Before anyone judges her, remember what I was doing, and really put it into context. I had put my happiness almost solely on her, was dropping all my problems on her when her life was anything but perfect, and despite her best efforts to get me to do so, I was doing nothing to fix the mess that my life had become. And now, when she had very calmly told me to leave her alone and find some answer on my own, I went off on her and accused her of not caring when the exact opposite was true. She did care. She cared so much that she couldn’t stand what I was becoming. She was my best friend, the person that I cared about most in this world, the one person who could tolerate my bullshit and see through it enough to help me find the goodness in me... and I had pushed her to her breaking point, and forced her out of my life.

This is what Depression does to you. It makes you take every good thing you have in life and drive it away as fast as you can. Jamie is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Without her I don’t know where or who I’d be. And I had somehow managed to drive her away so I could continue on being miserable. I didn’t realize at the time why I felt this way, why I had done this. All I knew at that moment was that I had driven away my best friend, and that my last hope for happiness was gone.

Coming to Grips

The Face in the Mirror was Not My Own

Other than a brief phone conversation with my friend Wilson (also one of my closet friends and someone that will come up again later), I don’t really remember the rest of that day. I felt... lost. On autopilot. Not really knowing what I was doing or where I was going. All I knew was that I had just lost my best friend, and was probably never going to ever speak to her again. I wanted to hate her, and maybe a part of me did for a long while, but in my heart I knew that this was my fault. I did this, I snapped at her, and I was the only person responsible for my actions. Pro wrestling legend and Hall of Famer Jake the Snake Roberts said once concerning his own personal battles, “No one can hurt me, more than I’ve hurt myself.” Just like Jake, I had hurt myself worse than anyone else could have done. But what was more, I had hurt her, and that was what I couldn’t forgive myself for. I hurt Jamie, something I swore I would never do.

The next morning, I woke up not really knowing what to do with myself. I didn’t want to work on my novels. I didn’t want to watch TV. I didn’t want to play video games. I didn’t want to do anything except wallow in my own self pity. At some point in the morning, I went to the bathroom, and as I was washing my hands, I looked up in the mirror, and what I saw froze me on the spot. I saw an overweight, unshaven, sullen eyed wreck of a human being who had hurt the most important person in his life. I didn’t recognize who that person in the mirror was, and I stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. You ever look in the mirror, and 100% hate the person looking back at you? That was what I felt at that moment. I hated what I had allowed myself to become, and right then I made a promise that I was going to find some way to never see that person again.

But it was not an immediate shift. The next few days were a blur, and I didn’t do much accept think about what I had done, and how much I hated myself for it. By the Friday night, I was having a bit of a breakdown. My parents had gone out for dinner, and I ended up being alone for the first time since my argument with Jamie. I had a few drinks (not my greatest idea), and ended up texting another one of my best friends, Lisa, asking her if she had ever done something that she hated herself for. She asked what was wrong, and I told her everything that had happened. At the end, she asked me if I had been taking my ADHD medication, and I admitted I hadn’t taken it for years. Now, Lisa works in medicine, and is a big advocate of medicating when appropriate, and said to me that going back on meds could help me a lot. I stated that I had gone off meds because I wanted to prove to the world that I could handle my condition on my own without any help. She then proceeded to tell me in seven different ways in one paragraph that I had my head up my ass (I counted, it was glorious). That was a wakeup call. Within a few weeks, I was back on meds, and seeing my therapist again.

As part of my treatment, my therapist suggested that I do some research on ADHD to learn more about my condition. After reading a few books, there was so much about myself that I never realized were a part of my condition. Not all of it was bad though, and some of the conditions of ADHD were actually quite positive for my life and once I recognized that, I began using what I had been given to my advantage. That combined with a new regimen of medication, I started to move forward a little.

With this new found knowledge, I tried getting in touch with Jamie. I had sent her an apology a few weeks after the initial fight, but it wasn’t until after I started treatment that I started reaching out to her to find some way to mend that fence. Looking back, it was a huge mistake. I was not ready to make that bridge yet, and unbeknownst to me, I had not gotten to the root of my problem yet. But, she was my best friend, and I thought that I had made enough progress to get her back in my life, which was massively unfair to both of us. I was still trying to pin my happiness on her approval, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Eventually, we had another argument where we laid into each other pretty hard, and it was after that that I realized exactly what I was doing. Number one, I was hurting her again, , which was something I didn’t want. Secondly, I was halting my own progress trying to gain her approval, which would not help me. In the end, I realized that although she still meant a lot to me, I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing to both of us, and that pretty soon we were going to start hating each other. I couldn’t let that happen.

In one of the most difficult decisions of my life, texted her one last time the day after my birthday telling her that I would be stepping away from our relationship so that she could be happy, and that I could find out who I was away from her. It hurt like hell, but I bared the pain as best I could, knowing that in reality I was I was doing the right thing for both of us.

Another Aside

Now, I’m sure a few people are saying, “but you were never together, you never dated, why is your friendship with her such a big deal?” Let me explain something to all of you who aren’t getting the point. Jamie is my best friend. I love her with all my heart, and would do absolutely ANYTHING for her, including exit her life when I shouldn’t be in it.

From my point of view, romance and friendship are the same damn thing on different levels. It’s love, in its simplest, purest form. I have never had a significant other, but I have loved many people in my life, Jamie foremost among them. She was and still is one of the people I have loved the most in my life, and yes, we’ve never been anything ‘more’ than friends. But is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. She’s my best friend, and she has been there for me when no one else has, and has helped me in more ways than I can ever describe. I love her dearly, and I would do anything for her, but that doesn’t mean that I want or need a romantic relationship with her, or that she wants or needs one with me. Being friends should never be considered a ‘lesser’ kind of love. Jamie means the world to me, and my love for her has nothing to do with any romantic intentions.

That’s why the decision to step away from her hurt as much as it did. I was separating myself from someone that I truly loved, not knowing whether or not we would ever speak again. But it was the right thing to do, no matter how much pain it caused me.

I know that some of you will disagree, will state that men and women can’t be close friends like that without romance getting involved, and if that’s what you choose to believe, good for you. I don’t, and nothing anyone says will ever change my mind. Got it? Okay, moving on.

Treatment

Standing for Myself

After sending that text, I went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past in theatres to take my mind off things. I remember the movie, but I can’t clearly remember going to the theatre or going home. Much of the next few days were like that, running on autopilot while I went through motions of living my life. To distract myself from my pain, I took to burying myself in the things I love. Writing my books, reading comic books, playing video games, watching TV, anything to distract me from what I was feeling inside. At some point, I got to watching The Newsroom (great show by the way, recommend it to anyone), and came upon a scene in the second season where Olivia Munn’s character, going through a difficult day, says to her friend, “I want to die.” Her words set off a shockwave through my mind, and all of a sudden I was taken back to New Years Day of that year. Sitting in front of my TV watching Doctor Who, eating corn on the cob and steak, I looked down at the steak knife on my plate, picked up, and said to myself, “It would be so easy to end it all right here.”

I remembered everything then, how it felt when Coles turned me down, how hopeless and desperate I was and how much pain I was in. I felt like a failure, that everything I had worked for meant nothing... that I meant nothing. I felt like there was no point going on, and that ending my life would stop the pain. No one needed me anyway.

I stopped myself that night, threw the knife in the garbage as a matter of fact, but I never told anyone what had happened. Never uttered a word of that moment to a single soul, including Jamie and Wilson, the two people that knew I had been suicidal in the past.

Sitting there watching Newsroom, that buried memory ran through my head a dozen times, and a moment of clarity came to me. I realized that the feeling of dread that I had been feeling in the weeks leading up to the argument with Jamie, that thing I knew was wrong that I couldn’t identify, that moment with that steak knife was source of it all. I had come close to killing myself for the first time in five years, and I didn’t tell anyone what had happened, and then repressed any memory of the event. When it came back to me, I suddenly realized why I had pushed Jamie away. If I had told her, she would have come over to my house and kicked my ass, done everything she could to get me away from that knife and those feelings. She probably would have suggested medication long before Lisa did, and gotten me back in therapy. She would have helped me, and that was why she needed to get out of my life as soon as possible. And that is the madness of the disease.

And make no mistake about it people, Depression is a disease, and calling it anything else is a disservice to those suffering from it. But more than that, it is an evil, malicious, homicidal monster that lives inside the human condition, and has taken more lives than history can ever record. Lurking in the subconscious is the thought process that anything that can help fight that monster needs to be destroyed, whether it’s a friendship, a piece of music, or a good movie. Depression will take those things away from you without you even realizing what’s going on, and then one day, you find yourself alone, looking into the mirror at someone you don’t recognize, and despising everything you see.

Those realizations came at me one after the other, the revelation of it all setting me in a stunned silence for what seemed like forever. Once my mind had sorted it out, my first instinct was to get a hold of Jamie and tell her everything, but I stopped myself. I had just promised her I would leave her alone, and I didn’t want to go back on my word. I also knew her well enough to know that if I told her I had been suicidal at the time of that argument, it would have crushed her. She had said some pretty awful things to me during that time (which I deserved, no question), but she had said them with both of us not knowing what was really going on with me. If she learned that she had said those things to a suicidal, it would have made her hate herself. Or at least, that was what I told myself at the time to keep myself from talking to her. Whether right or wrong, I kept it to myself, letting her live her life and not have to worry about my sorry ass any longer. Pretty stupid right?

I did end up telling Wilson and Lisa, both of whom insisted not telling Jamie as well, and all three of us agreed that it might be good idea to tell my therapist. In my head though, it wasn’t a problem anymore. The moment had come and gone, and I was obviously still alive, so no big deal right? The meds, my treatment plan, all of it was working, and everyone around me was commenting on how much of a positive change it was. I had lost 45 pounds, I was writing the best work of my life, and in the dojo I was training harder and better than ever before. So, with all that good stuff, I shouldn’t have to worry about that Depression thing anymore, right?

That’s another thing Depression does. It makes you feel like your okay to stop from getting treated. Then, something comes along that brings it right back out, and hits you harder than you thought possible.

Final Straw

Admitting the Truth

In August of that year, I thought I was doing okay. I honestly did, which is another thing Depression does. It lies to you, making you think you’re fine and then punches you in the gut and brings you right back to where it wants you. The truth was, I had not gotten anywhere with my writing. I was still unemployed, and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of hope in sight. I was trying to keep positive among the constant feeling of dread that was invading my mind as acutely as it ever had. All this lead to Labour Day weekend, which looking back was the tipping point of my life.

That summer, my dog Karla started having health problems. Now, to preface this a little bit, my parents have been breeding and showing Lhasa Apsos for over thirty years, so I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life, and as with anyone growing up with animals, I’ve lost more than a few. Pet owners everywhere of course deal with these losses, but with breeders, there are always more dogs around when the old ones pass away, so the pain is not nearly as sharp (or at least that’s the theory). Karla was special though. She had gotten into a bad dog fight when she was younger, and while she was recovering, she lived in my room. However, when it was time to move her back to the dog room with the others (they each had their own crate of course), my brother had moved back in for a while and set up shop down in our basement, leaving little room for her crate at the time. So, she stayed with me upstairs, and when my brother moved back out, she stayed with me from that point on.

By the summer of 2014, the old injuries from that fight were starting to come back to haunt her. She started getting really bad arthritis and was in a lot of pain all the time. Eventually, we tried starting her with hydrotherapy, but on the first day we tried it, she suffered a stroke. We rushed her to the vet and I was in a whirlpool of pain and anguish. This dog was one of the few good things I had in my life, and watching her deteriorate over the course of that summer was one of the painful experiences of my life. That ride to the vet was the longest car ride I’ve ever been on, and as I was sitting there, watching her breath shallowly, I just wanted the pain to stop.

In response to these feelings, and I don’t fully understand why I did this even today, I pulled out my phone... and I texted Jamie. I told her what was happening, I guess I wanted support or something, but as I wrote the message I just broke down. After nearly nine months, I finally told her the truth of what happened to me that January. I told her I had wanted to kill myself on New Year’s Day, and that I had repressed the memory. I then realized that I hadn’t told her because I didn’t want her to think less of me. I told her that she deserved a better friend than someone like me, that I loved her, and goodbye. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my suicide note, and in my head, I wanted to make sure she knew the truth before I died. And for a few long minutes, I thought very seriously of throwing myself out of that car and ending it all right there. I even turned my phone off so that no one could stop me.

But then, a little voice in my head started screaming at me to turn it back on, and thankfully, I listened to it. As the phone booted up I got a text from Jamie demanding to know where I was. I was stunned. This is the woman whom I had hidden the truth from, put through so much BS, and hurt to the point where she didn’t want anything more to do with me, and there she was, at the lowest point of my life, trying to save me.

I tried to accept her help, but some part of me kept pushing her away. She got tired of it and told me off again (again, I 100% deserved it), and right then I asked myself, “What the hell is wrong with me?” This woman, the person I cared about most, is trying to save my life, and I’m pushing her away? What the hell was wrong with me?

We get to the vet, and given Karla’s condition, I had the option of either putting her down right there, and or giving her the chance to bounce back.  I decided to give her the chance, but it didn’t get any better. She had a series of strokes during the night, vomiting every half an hour or so, and by the following afternoon, she was gone. Once again, I was lost in the woods, and I texted Jamie, begging for her help, asking her to tell me what to do, and if that I had made the right call. I’m  not going to say publically what was discussed that day, but I will say that Jamie, even after everything I had put her through, told me exactly what I needed to hear to make it through that day.

It was then that I finally admitted to myself that I had Depression, and that I had to deal with it. The truth was that no matter how bad things were I didn’t want to die. I desperately wanted to live, and that was possibly the strangest and most important realizations of my life. So, called my therapist and once I met with him I asked to be put on anti-depressants, and it was the smartest decision I had ever made.

It would be a while until Jamie and I returned to the way we were. All that pain and anger doesn’t just wash away with a few text messages. But on that day, in that moment, she was there when I needed her the most, and if not for her, I might not be here. This is why it is so important in life to surround yourself with good people. That night, I talked to a few more of my friends, Wilson and Lisa among them, and everyone supported my decision to get help, and still do to this day.

2014 may be the most important year of my life. As painful as that year was, I know now that without all that pain, I never would have rediscovered who I was, and what I needed to do to turn my life around.

Moving Forward

Waking Up

After that weekend, my therapist put me on anti-depressants, which combined with my ADHD meds almost immediately began to make a major difference in my moods. No longer was I worrying about every small detail of my life and found myself more productive and creative than ever before. I had several epiphanies about my work, and began a massive re-write and re-imagination of my fantasy series, finishing the maps for the world in those books, and even starting to take up pencil sketching as a hobby. Employment wise I was still drifting from place to place, but I wasn’t stressing out about money nearly as much, and with the fulfilment I was getting from my writing, I was actually happy for the first time in a long time.

The one major thing I learned from that time period was that it matters what I think of myself. I had to stop seeking approval from other people, and start respecting and loving who I was without reservation. Once I started doing that, things started to come together, and since then, I’ve been in a much better place emotionally than since before I left university.

I did have one hiccup however. In December of that year, I had some trouble with my anti-depressants and was forced to go off them for two weeks. Those two weeks were rough, my brain going in nearly every direction imaginable, and even in the midst of happy moments I had thoughts of ending my life. I remember walking out of the movie theatre for the third Hobbit film thinking, “Wow, I can go home and die now.” This should have sent me into a panic, but strangely, it didn’t. Because I knew what it was now, I knew why those thoughts had come forward. The Depression was saying that, not me, and I tucked the thought away and never thought about it again. This wasn’t memory repression like before, don’t misunderstand me. Instead, I accepted those thoughts for what they were, and that Depression was a part of my life, but I could overcome it and move forward no matter how dark things got. To this day I take my meds every morning, and never once question why I need them. More than that, I surround myself with things and people that I love, and for the first time in my life, I am truly at peace with who I am. Two years have passed since I looked in the mirror at the person that drove Jamie away from me and nearly took his own life, and I’m happy to say that when I look in the mirror, that person no longer exists.

And as for my friendship with Jamie, we’re a close as we’ve ever been. She is still my best friend and one of my heroes, and I am grateful to still have her around after all I put her through. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the friends like that, but I’m thankful for them, Jamie especially.

Conclusion

Never Give Up

Living with Depression is not easy. Even after I admitted to myself what was wrong and sought proper treatment, there are still days where it gets me. In those times, there is a question as to what I should do, and there has been one solution that I have come up with that works every time. Friends. Having people in your life that you can reach out to and tell how you’re feeling. I have a number of people close to that I know I can depend on no matter what to help me get me through those bad days. And that has kept me away from suicidal thoughts more than anything else. Not to say that standing for myself and seeking treatment was a big part of the solution, but having people I can rely on is the greatest anti-depressant in the world.

How do I feel these days? It varies from day to day. I’m still on my medication, I still see my therapist every now and again, and I still make sure to do the things I love no matter how dark things appear to be. The most important thing I’ve done however is that I’ve filled my life with purpose. I work on this blog, my novels, my art, and other ventures every minute of every day. I watch the TV shows and movies that make me happy, I read the books that make me smile, and I play the games that give me fun. I train karate, I talk to my friends, I play with my dogs, I laugh at the horrible jokes I find on the internet. I’ve even taken up adult colouring books, which along with sketching are great stress relievers and help relax me when I’m having a frustrating day. In short, I do what makes me happy and feel good about myself, and that’s what you all should be doing if you’ve ever felt the way I have.

All that aside, the most important thing I’ve learned is that in order to be happy in life, you have to be happy with yourself. My problem was that I was pinning my hopes for happiness on other people instead of making happiness on my own. I’ve learned to love and embrace who I am, faults and all, and that more than anything has helped me climb out of the dark pit I had dug for myself. It might sound a little corny, but once you accept who you are completely and discover a way to love yourself, the Depression can’t take a hold of you. Learning to love who I am was the greatest weapon I have to combat the sadistic monster I have lurking in the deep recesses of my mind. And make no mistake about it, Depression is a monster. It lives in my mind to this day, always fighting to find a way to bring me down. It will always be there, and those of you who have faced the same monster are likely thinking the same thing. But just because the monster’s there doesn’t mean we are helpless against it. It’s like a cancer, the more you feed it, the bigger it grows. So don’t feed it. Fill your life with laughter, happiness, and hope, do the things you love no matter what anyone else says, and you will have every weapon you need to keep that monster in that dark recess where it can’t do any harm. Is it a perfect solution? Hell no! But Depression does not have to control you, and you do not have to sit there and take what it gives. I had driven myself as low as I could get, and I dug myself out. I made the decision that I was not going to allow this monster to control me anymore, and you can too.

I have my bad days, everyone does, but the good far outweigh the bad. I love who I am, and I am happy for the first time in a long time. I am continuing my career, continuing, and I know in my heart that I am going to get to where I’m supposed to go. And to everyone out there fighting the same battle, you can get there to, you just have to stand up and say, “I won’t let this beat me. I will get help, and I will put that monster back in its pit.” If you’re feeling low, and need help, seek it. There are people out there willing to help you in any way they can, even if it’s just an ear or a shoulder to cry on. Get the treatment you need to take control of your life, and make the best of it. Depression is a monster, but as CM Punk once so eloquently said, “Monsters were put on this Earth to be SLAUGHTERED!” Seek help, gather the weapons you need, and hunt that monster down so it can’t hurt you or the people you love anymore.

My name is Greg Fahlgren, and I have Depression. But I will never stop fighting for my right to be happy and follow my dreams, and neither should any of you. If you’re not going to fight for anything else, fight for yourself, and attack that monster with everything you have.

Take care all, and to anyone out there fighting the same battle I have for so many years, you can win this fight. That monster is not invincible, and he can be destroyed if you stand up for yourself, and fight for your life. Believe me, it’s worth it, and so are you.

Updated: 10/11/2016, GregFahlgren
 
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