Leaning Into Depression
Trigger Warning: Passive Suicide Ideation + Depression.
“Do you think you’re a danger to yourself?” The voice on the line was soft. The voice on the other line sounded kind. I relaxed a little.
“No,” I responded, sitting on the spare bathroom floor surrounded by a bunch of hair accessories, skin products, scarves, and my notebook. Don’t ask.
“Okay, that’s good. Let’s talk about what’s running through your head. Can we do that?”
I called the National Suicide Prevention Line. I called because being alone with my thoughts was causing me to fantasize about acting on them. I didn’t think I was a danger to myself at that moment but seeing as I had written a checklist of all the things I would need to do in order to properly “disappear,” I probably should have said yes.
This wasn’t normal for me. Not now, at least. It had been almost a decade since it had gotten this bad.
I was home by myself for a week and the isolation was turning up the volume on my inner-bully. On my depression. The unexplainable sadness began three months earlier, and at first, pretending it wasn’t a thing was easy. But with my health concerns, relationship troubles, work stress, and money anxiety all piling up at the same time, I eventually began to sink and sink fast.
We had just spent the last two months traveling, staying with family and friends across Costa Rica, New York, and Boston. I returned home a week earlier than Mr. Smith because I desperately missed my own space. I missed my bed. I missed having a routine. I missed having privacy. But I didn’t know coming home would mean I’d have to fight for my sanity as well.
Having no distractions once I was alone in Arizona, there was no way I was going to be able to ignore that voice urging me to disappear, especially in my current emotionally exhausted state. Being home alone also meant that I no longer needed to upkeep my facade either. I was free to be sad-ass Yetti because I didn’t have to perform for anyone.
But by day three of my voluntary solitude, I was beginning to regret it. The thoughts were loud. The thoughts were strong. And I desperately, desperately wanted peace. I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t want to end my life. I just wanted to quiet the voice that was telling me I didn’t deserve to be here. I wanted my mind to stop urging me to disappear to make everything better again.
I had never called a suicide hotline before. It was either I ignored the uncomfortable thoughts until they went away, or I did something. Cut myself. Plan out my exit strategy. Write goodbye letters. Write ‘Why I Need To Fight’ letters. Confide in someone I trust. Sleep.
This time around, it was me writing sad notes to myself on the bathroom floor while going back and forth with the little voice in my head that was trolling my existence. My voice of reason fought hard, but she was still being drowned out by the depression. I couldn’t hear her as clearly as the other thoughts. My panic increased. “What if that voice is right?”
I was interrupted by a phone notification.
A text message from a loved one that I don’t speak to very often, but they always show up just in time. This instance wouldn’t be any different (thankfully) and they did it with four simple words. Four very powerful words.
“You can do this!”
I’m certain those words were directed toward all my latest hints of full-time entrepreneurship, but reading those words as I sat exhausted and panicked on my bathroom floor was healing. They were needed. It sounds so stupid when I describe it this way, but they were.
The urgency that had been sitting within my chest for the last three days seemed to ease up and eventually fade. A sense of relief flowed through me as I finally untensed my body and took in some connecting deep breaths. I was finally regaining access to my mind again, while still searching for the power-off button out of sheer exhaustion. In those few moments of peace I found through breathwork, I was reminded swiftly that, these thoughts were not facts, and that I had other options besides leaving this world. It was like I suddenly looked up and found the speck of light at the end of this dark-ass depression tunnel.
That’s one of the hardest parts of depression, honestly. It’s so easy for our minds to zero in on the negative that is front and center, and ignore the glimpses of hope that are patiently waiting within the peripheral.
My first instinct was to phone said loved one and tattle-tale on myself, but something had me call the prevention line instead. Thank God I called the prevention line instead. Not just because it allowed me to escape the shame of confessing that I was in a bad place (yet again) but because Geoff, my hotline rep, reminded me of a simple fact I absolutely needed to hear.
“There cannot be light without the presence of darkness. That’s just not how it works, unfortunately,” he said empathizing with me as I made sense of my situation out loud with him.
After reflecting on my conversation with Geoff for a few days, I made the decision to stop dealing with this depression as if I hadn’t been in therapy for a few years and hadn’t gained some pretty effective tools to manage it. I was going to stop going to the extremes: sinking into the heaviness and letting the thoughts ring as true, or doing the complete opposite and pretending like that bitch didn’t exist. What I decided to do instead, with the guidance of my therapist, was to intentionally lean into depression.
I named her. Acknowledged her presence. Even thanked her sometimes because there are always lessons to be learned through our painful moments. I asked her what she was here to teach me this time around. When I had really rough days, I let myself drop the ball on personal deadlines and assignments, but I remained consistent with my mini morning self-care routine. I learned to explore my feelings without judgment. I learned to accept their presence but also question their validity at the same time. And since I was no longer judging myself for being sad, tired, or numb, I was able to ask for and receive support from those that care about me the most.
The most beneficial lesson learned while leaning into this depressive episode was the importance of being honest about what I am experiencing. Like really being honest. With myself and my people. It’s damn near impossible to resolve something when we won’t acknowledge the problem to begin with. Being honest with ourselves about this unexpected (and unwanted) slump makes it easier to give ourselves grace. Grace for the days it takes us a little longer to get out of bed. Grace for the days we don’t actually make it out of bed, or into a shower, or have enough energy to feed ourselves, etc.
When we’re honest with ourselves about how we’re feeling, we’ve already taken the first step toward seeing our way out of this thick fog. The more we do it and the more we communicate around it, the closer we get to eventually releasing the shame and the embarrassment we feel about not having a better control of our mind and emotions. And once we release ourselves from the shackles of shame, we also release ourselves from the pressure to perform or to show up as anything other than our current, possibly moody or sad self.
This is how we strengthen that small voice of reason.
This is how we know we can trust in it and eventually in ourselves.
Because we took the very hard first step of being honest with ourselves, like brutally honest with ourselves, which essentially allowed us to finally meet ourselves where we currently are, without the presence of judgment and with a whole lot of grace.