Snapshots of My Depression #11: Not the Best Man

This is one in a series of posts I’m calling “Snapshots of my Depression.” These are memories of times in my life when my mental illness manifested itself in one way or another.

It’s been a while since I posted one of these “Snapshots.” I thought maybe it was time to dust off this series, and keep it going. This post is the story of how I got into regular therapy with my first long-term counselor. I’ve already written about how my depression got to the point of suicide, and I’ve already written about the amazing experience I had at First Hospital Wyoming Valley in the aftermath of that attempt. But that wasn’t when I started seeing a counselor regularly. Sure, I did see somebody for a month or two after my hospital stay, but it was actually about ten years later that I finally saw the need for ongoing therapy.

It started with a wedding, a wedding that was making me upset.

But it actually started at a different wedding, about a year earlier, a beautiful wedding on the Jersey shore. A college friend of mine was married that day, and so a lot of Muhlenberg grads were there. Among them were me, my wife Heather, and Pete and Jean, who were engaged to be married the following year. Pete was (and is) one of my closest friends, and Jean was (and is) one of Heather’s closest friends. All four of us met at Muhlenberg, and it was a remarkable and wonderful coincidence that we ended up in two couples like this. Being at this beach wedding just a few months before their own wedding, Pete and Jean certainly had their own nuptials in mind. Unfortunately, I had their wedding in mind as well. Particularly the makeup of their wedding party.

Ah, yes. The wedding party. My wife Heather was to be matron of honor. And I…was to be just an ordinary groomsman. Because another college friend, Eric, was to be the best man. Not me. Eric would walk down the aisle with Heather, not me. Eric would be next to Pete in the photos, not me. And it’s because it was Eric that I was upset. If it had been anyone else, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me. Here’s the thing – Eric, Pete, and I were inseparable in college. We called ourselves the “triumvirate.” We argued and fought, but we were brothers. We were equals. There was something holy about the three of us, something special beyond any combination of two of us, a trust that couldn’t be broken. But now it felt to me that Pete had broken that trust. It didn’t matter to me what role Eric and I had in Pete’s wedding, so long as they were equivalent. But they weren’t. To me, best man was a higher level of honor than groomsman. And I was pissed.

I tried to be calm about it. It didn’t matter, right? It was just one of those things, right? I kept telling myself that in truth, Eric would be far better at all the best-man functions than I (which is true). I kept telling myself that this isn’t a statement about our relative worth. I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t feel this way. I tried to pretend I didn’t. I tried to play it off as a joke for a while. But as time went on, the jokes got less and less funny, and more and more awkward. By the day of the wedding on the shore, my passive-aggressive behavior had been going on for a few months. And the last straw happened that day. During the reception, with perhaps too much alcohol running through my veins, I said something that went way too far.

And Pete called me out on it. He took me outside, and told me I had to stop this. He told me how upset he was. He told me that he needed me to figure out how to get over this. I cried. I apologized. I told him that I didn’t know why I was so upset about this. I didn’t know why I was so angry. And I promised him that I would get some help.

And within a week, I called Council for Relationships, a counseling center in the Delaware Valley. My counseling relationship with Lucy began with trying to work out what my anger was all about. She helped me with that, and we kept meeting for about five years. Thanks to her, I was able to unearth all kinds of things from my past, and start the process of working through them.

I’m so grateful to Pete for forgiving me for my behavior, and also for having the courage and the compassion to call me out on this. That was the catalyst that started me on a journey of lifelong healing.

Snapshots of My Depression #11: Weather Report

First off, do NOT read this blog post unless you read yesterday’s first. In this post, I explain the results of a game I played twenty years ago, and I want you to have the chance to play the game. In yesterday’s post, I invite you to play the game yourself. So please, go back and read that one. Click here to play “The Cube.”

It’s okay. I’ll wait.

Okay. Good? Great.

I hope you enjoyed playing “The Cube.” I hope you found it to be as intriguing and thought-provoking as I did. I discovered this game when I was in college. My sister gave me a book about it by Annie Gottlieb and Slobodan Pesic for Christmas. I found it intriguing, and I “cubed” myself that day. I spent a lot of time over the next few weeks, months, and years “cubing” friends and family. Here’s what my landscape looked like:

  • My cube is large and transparent, made of glass, almost like a ray tracing. It hovers in the air, in the center of the landscape.
  • The ladder is long and sturdy, made of wood, connecting the cube to the ground. It has many rungs.
  • The horse is a white pegasus, flying around in the air near the cube.
  • The storm is actually inside the cube, and looks like smoke swirling throughout. The horse is flying in rhythm with the storm’s swirls.
  • The flowers are all over the ground, in many different colors. They are like wildflowers.

It’s funny…to me, this seemed like such a “stock image” of what this landscape had to look like. What else could there be? Yet, it’s nothing at all like how my friends saw it. Everybody has a different image. And what does it say about me? I think the most telling part is the storm. It’s not outside. It’s not on the horizon. It’s not threatening the ladder, the horse, or the flowers. It’s completely inside the cube, hermetically sealed in that strong glass structure. It does affect the horse, though, since she is flying, almost dancing, in rhythm with it.

The storm symbolizes trouble. Where does my trouble come from? Where are my problems? Well, inside me, of course. I’ve had such a privileged life. I have few external problems to complain about, certainly nothing that should cause the level of sadness and worry I so often feel. Because that’s the nature of depression: it has precious little to do with the outside world. It’s a storm inside me. A storm that swirls constantly, filling me and in some ways making my identity. I am an open book…the transparency of the cube is appropriate, given my willingness to share my feelings and my self with those around me. (Witness this blog itself.) Yet within me is not clear. Within me is a mess of trouble, and I use this blog to help you to see what it is that makes me who I am.

The horse symbolizes my lover. I played the game before I met my wife, and I think in my case it symbolizes an ideal more than an actual person. I always used to think that once I found that right woman, everything would be okay. Love would save me. Love would fix me. Love would make everything good. She would be magical and superhuman: thus, not a horse but a pegasus, a majestic, magnificent steed with angel’s wings. Yet the truth was right there for me to see…the horse didn’t break into the cube. She didn’t take the storm away, but she danced with it. It affected her, but didn’t hurt her. That’s the gift that people truly can give to those of us with mental illnesses…they can’t fix us, but they can acknowledge the illness, and dance with us. That’s what my wife has indeed done. She has stood by me, believing me and trusting me. I know that my moods and my illness affect her, yet she is able to stay aloft, dancing and living so close to me.

The ladder symbolizes my friends. I have so many, and they are so strong, and they ground me. They keep me connected to the ground, to the source of being, to the source of all goodness. You, dear reader, are one of the rungs on this ladder, and I thank you. Again, you haven’t somehow poked a hole in the cube to let the storm out, but you show me there is a world outside my brain. You show me that there is life out there, that maybe there’s hope out there.

And the flowers? Well, they’re supposed to symbolize children. When I played this game, children were the last thing on my mind…my daughter wouldn’t be born for another thirteen years or so. So they’re just pretty, I guess.

I was about twenty when I played the cube, and saw the image I described above. By that point, I knew I had depression. It had been about two years since my suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization. But I still thought I had it under control myself…I didn’t see any need for ongoing therapy or medication. I knew the storm was inside me…that much made sense to me. But I still believed that I could do it, solve it, fix it, without any outside help. It took me many years to finally admit that that’s not true.

A Conversation with “The Voice”

I was scrounging around in my computer’s archives today, and I found this. It’s a document I typed up at a coffee house, one afternoon about ten years ago. I had had a bad day. It seems I had done something wrong at St. Stephen’s, where I was then working. I had made some sort of mistake, and thought that I had hurt people through it…at this point, I have no idea what that mistake was. But it upset me then, and so I just started typing. I guess I thought it would turn into a therapeutic journal entry or something. It actually quickly became a conversation between me and the Voice within me that tells me such nasty things. I’ve adapted it somewhat from its original form to make it more understandable. (The original was loaded with references that only I would understand.) It was never intended for public consumption, but when I found it today, I thought it makes a good glimpse into the kind of things we tell ourselves so often. It started with me just slamming my fingers on some keys…

 

SOoSOOSOSOOSOSOSO

SOS?

Yes. SOS.

What makes you say that.

What makes you think I said that?

It’s written above.

I understand that, Sherlock. But why do you think it was me?

Who are you, anyway? Are you the voice?

What voice? Metatron? The God of all voices, voice of all Gods?

No, I mean the voice of one crying in the wilderness of my mind, “Prepare the way of getting your ass kicked repeatedly.”

Ah. That voice. Yes. That’s me. At least it is now.

So what do you want?

I want to protect you.

From what?

From yourself. From fear. From sadness. I want to protect you from the world. You are not ready. 

Not ready for what?

For anything. You are alone. You are a child. You haven’t figured it out yet. You need me to protect you.

No, I don’t.

What do you mean? Of course you do. You should know that better.

No, really. I don’t need you to protect me.

I told you long ago that you should be doing math for your career. Then you wouldn’t be able to hurt people with your inexperience.

That’s interesting. I distinctly remember you showing up at the MathCounts contest in seventh grade, telling me I’d completely fouled that up, that I was worthless.

Ah. But you were on the spot then. You were interacting with others, and you didn’t do your best work. If it was a written test, or better, a take-home test, I wouldn’t have had any problem with it. And more than that, the team was counting on you. You don’t have it in you to be part of a team.  It wasn’t fair. To them.

But, if you recall, dear friend, I won. I won every single award on the local level at MathCounts two years in a row.

See? You’re a genius. But nobody’s good at everything. You have the ability to be good at something. So you MUST do that. You can’t take risks, not when you have such a gift. Use THAT gift. Don’t try to play around with others you don’t have.

I have friends.

Excuse me? 

I said, I have friends. They love me.

They don’t know you. They don’t know the real you. The one that I do.

That’s simply not true. You are, sadly, stuck in a time that isn’t here anymore. The only things I have left from that time are one pair of shoes, and you. Oh, and Doctor Who.

You knew who you were back then. You listened to me. You made your girlfriends hurt.

You made them tell me over and over that they loved me. And that pushed them away. Don’t blame me for that.

So it’s my fault now? You’re the one in control, not me. I’m just a trusted advisor.

Interesting point. You’re not going to drag me down, though. I have tricks now.

Tricks? You hear that? TRICKS. The same sort of tricks you’ve been fooling everyone with for years. Sure, you became a good boyfriend, a good husband. You know why? Because you are so SMART you can think of the right thing to do, and then FORCE yourself to do it. It’s not in you. It’s just a trick you’ve learned.

How could I trick so many people?

You’re VERY SMART. I’ve always told you that. You’re a freaking genius. That’s no secret. But it’s also the ONLY thing going for you. Remember gym class? Remember shop class? Remember playing football or kickball? SMARTS ARE ALL YOU HAVE. So of course you’ve adapted them to help you mimic real human behavior.

Damn, you’re good.

I’m only observing what I see. I don’t hate you; you’ve got to understand that. I’m not here to try to kill you, try to ruin you. I’m trying to help you become the best you can be. And you know what that is. A hermit. A hermit with a computer and a CRC book.  You can do wonders with your mind. 

I’m called to be a pastor.

Says who? Says some people at a retreat? Says a bunch of coincidences? Who knows you better? A song on the radio, or ME?

I’m called to be a pastor. God is calling me to do that.

GOD? What makes you think you have a connection to God? You know what you’re “called” to? The path of least resistance! That’s what you always do! You should be in grad school, studying and learning math! But you don’t know that system, so you got scared, and went to seminary, where you knew what was expected. YOU BELONG IN GRAD SCHOOL, STUDYING MATH. YOU BELONG WITH JOHN NASH. You could have been as good as him.

What do you know about John Nash? What you’ve seen in a movie? He was married to Jennifer Connelly. He had friends.

He had IMAGINARY friends. I’m more real than imaginary friends. I can be your friend. I can be the best friend you’ve ever had. Wait until you see what I’m like when you’re NOT AROUND PEOPLE.

Oh. I see. You’re jealous. You’re jealous that I spend so much time with other people. You’re that side of me that used to just play games by myself. That used to draw maps. That used to record tapes, and then transcribe them. You miss that. You want me to stop spending time with other people.

That’s not it at all. I want you to be alone. I want you to be happy. 

You want me to be alone, so you can be happy.

No, NONONONONONONONONONONONO!  That’s not it!  FUCK YOU!

You’re not convincing me anymore. There’s a chink in your armor.

Look, what’s been driving you nuts lately? Losing your friends! Losing your connections! If you didn’t HAVE those connections, you wouldn’t be sad right now!

So you’re saying I should just go and be a pastor in Montana, and screw my friends?

No. I don’t want you to be a pastor. You’re not a good friend. You won’t be a good pastor. You know this. 

No, really I don’t. I listen to you sometimes. You’re very loud. But lots of other people have told me otherwise. Besides, I think I hit on something a few lines ago, with your reaction of NONO etc.

What makes you so sure that was me, and not you making another end run? Don’t you see you’ll never be rid of me? You’re not SMART enough.

Now that doesn’t make sense. You told me I’m plenty smart.

You’re book smart. You’re so book smart you’re stupid. You don’t have empathy, you don’t have compassion. You don’t have a heart. You just have a brain.

That’s just not true. That’s just not true. Where are you really from?

I’m from you. I am you. I’m your protector. 

Then I would like to renounce your protection. You’re like a cancer. Whatever your real purpose, you’ve gone bad.

I’m not leaving. You know that.

I understand. But I’m getting better at ignoring you.

Really?  Then why did you run to me so quickly when things got tough today? Is it because someone told you something that you know to be true, something I tell you over and over?

How can I trust you? Why should I trust you? Why am I even going this direction? I don’t need to trust you. What’s your name, anyway?

Michael. Everyman. Superman. GOD.

No, really. What should I call you?

A cab. You obviously don’t want me here. If you don’t want to talk, we’ll talk later. I’m not going anywhere. See you around.

That was good. I feel relieved. Tired, but relieved. Time to drive home.

Snapshots of My Depression #10: Standing Outside a Broken College House With My Walkman in My Hand

This is one in a series of posts I’m calling “Snapshots of my Depression.” These are memories of times in my life when my mental illness manifested itself in one way or another.

The title of this post is a direct reference to a song entitled, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand”. It was released by the alternative-rock band Primitive Radio Gods when I was twenty years old, at just about the height of my appreciation and love of popular music. I immediately latched onto the song. It has a haunting melody, a hypnotic rhythm section, seamless samples, and lyrics like this:

Am I alive or thoughts that drift away?
Does summer come for everyone?
Can humans do as prophets say?
And if I die before I learn to speak
Can money pay for all the days I lived awake
But half asleep?

Heady stuff for a college student with deep thoughts and identity issues. A few years later, when my future wife and I started dating, she remembered this song, and she told me that it reminded her of me. (Funny thing is…a big part of why it reminded her of me was because she misheard some of the lyrics. The chorus consists of a sample from B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get”: I’ve been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met. She misheard this as: I’ve been downhearted baby; I resisted it. She told me that that misunderstanding was a big part of why she thought of me. That’s kind of touching, actually. But anyway…)

I bring this up is because there were always songs like this for me, songs that spoke deeply to my soul, songs that felt like they were written for my soul to sing, songs that stirred my soul to sing in tune whenever I heard them. “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla. “Digging in the Dirt” by Peter Gabriel. “Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd. “One” by U2. “Come Undone” by Duran Duran. “Somebody” by Depeche Mode. “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, and then by Johnny Cash. Roughly 15% of everything Barenaked Ladies ever recorded. Just to list a few. I bought the CDs with these songs. And I listened to them. Over and over and over and over. I collected these songs together, and made mix tapes for myself. Sometimes these mixes were called “Myke’s Mood Music.” Every year or two I would update this “MMM” with a few new songs I’d discovered. Slowly, over time, these mixes became a mirror to my soul, and I put my ear to that mirror over and over and over and over. In the car, singing along at the top of my lungs. While walking, alone in my own headphone-centered world. (I always carried extra batteries with me whenever I walked…I would not be caught without my music.)

And I distinctly remember listening to MMM while standing out on the porch of Bernheim House, the college-owned house I lived in for three years. I remember standing there, with my Walkman in my hand, the tape turning slowly as my brain waves synchronized with it. The words and music entering my ears, and finding a home in my soul. The echo chamber of my mind resounding with the same rhythm from outside. It felt good. It felt right. It felt numb. It felt miserable. It felt like me. I’ve been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met.

I remember standing out there on the porch, Walkman in hand. My friends knew to just leave me alone. When I had that Walkman out, there was no talking to me. I wasn’t available.

I was running over the same old ground; what have I found? The same old fears.

I stood there scared; I stood there strange; I stood there wondering if anything in my life was ever gonna change.

I’d close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment was gone. All my dreams passed before my eyes, a curiosity.

Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.

The thing about depression is that it can sometimes be like a blanket. A blanket that covers you and keeps you warm and protected. It can be cozy in there. Sometimes it’s not just that you can’t pull your way out (which you can’t), but sometimes you just don’t want to. The melancholy is soothing. Calming. Hypnotic. Addictive.

So…where are my headphones anyway?

 

Snapshot Extra: A Mother’s Perspective

In the “Snapshots of My Depression” series, I’ve shared vignettes from my childhood and adolescence when I experienced an episode of depression. Now that I’ve shared my hospitalization story, I’ve completed this part of the series. There are more snapshots to come, but these will be snapshots of my depression during my adult life. (I’m considering taking a break from this series for a while, though, before getting into that. We’ll see.) Anyway, my mother has been reading this blog, and she shared with me her perspective on what I went through as an adolescent. As is usually true with mental illness, I was not the only one deeply affected. My family suffered as well, just in a different way. She gave me permission to share her insights here. We both think that they might be helpful to another parent living with a child who has depression and suicidal thoughts. From here on, these are my mother’s words (lightly edited), not mine.

Michael,

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you wrote in the past few blogs, not shining moments in parenting. Where were your parents in all this, I’m wondering? Didn’t they notice a pattern, a shout out for help going on? Why didn’t they do anything?

It’s not that we didn’t do anything, we just didn’t do the right thing. We did talk with people at school, administrators, teachers, counselors, and most told us it was a passing phase that you needed to work out. Angst or adolescent behavior that somehow on its own you’d grow out of. “Those who talk about suicide are the ones who don’t do it.” You hadn’t given away valued possessions, your behavior wasn’t different, you didn’t have the usual signs that are present with suicide victims. It was easy to say we’d tried and listened to the experts.

But during that whole elementary and junior high time there was a gnawing in me that someone who talks about suicide must be really unhappy with themselves. That perhaps that was something in and of itself we should be dealing with. I wasn’t sure how, but I thought that might be a place to start. But I never acted on it.

Then when we got the call freshman year that you had tried to commit suicide and that the school would not allow you back without a therapist’s signature we knew we had no options now and that the time had come to address whatever feelings you were dealing with. Dad called a child therapist friend, who I thought would say she’d see you and you’d have sessions. But instead she said that hospitalization was the way to go and that she’d make the arrangements right away. As scary as that whole time was, walking away from you, leaving you in a locked ward, I knew that now at least you’d know that we were, and so was Muhlenberg, taking you seriously. We were listening now to whatever you had to so say and wanted you to know that we were and ARE here for you.

I also learned a huge lesson that the teachers, doctors, guidance counselors may give you advice and tell you what they think is going on with your child. But you know that child better. Best. Read the books, listen to the advice, and then make the decision based on what your gut tells you. It’s advice I’d tell any parent now. And I’d also say that there may not be any signs, and that you may just have to rely on that gut feeling.

Snapshot Extra: A Believer’s Prayer

In my last post, I discussed my eleven days as a behavioral health patient at First Hospital Wyoming Valley, following my suicide attempt. While I was there, I wrote this poem. It was my way of trying to come to terms with my faith and my own life.

“A Believer’s Prayer”
11/23/1993

I have always been confused
About what you meant for me
I never knew what I should do
Or who to try to be

I struggled with your existence
As I struggled with my own
But now I know you love me
And I’ll never be alone

Yet I still cannot be sure of
What you want me to do
Although you live inside me
It’s a challenge serving you

So now I ask for help, O Lord
For you can do no wrong
I beg, when I go down again,
Your love may keep me strong

I know you have a plan for me
I know you know what’s best
So I’ll just keep on loving you
And let you do the rest

Snapshots of My Depression #9: Eleven Days of Hope

So, following my suicide attempt at age seventeen, I spent eleven days at First Hospital Wyoming Valley, a behavioral health facility in Wilkes-Barre. For days, I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell the story of those eleven days. I really don’t know how to put it into a clear narrative. I think the best I can do is list a bunch of things I remember.

  • The first two days were horrible. I wasn’t sleeping well. Since all the beds in the ward were full, I had to sleep in a different (locked) ward at night. Worse, it also meant that I had no place to go during the day to lie down if I was exhausted (which I was). On the second afternoon, I was so tired that I lay down on the floor in the common room. A woman who worked there, an executive of some sort, told me to get up. She said, “We don’t sleep on the floor here.” I tried to explain, but she didn’t seem to care. I also remember that I called my mother that day, begging her to get me out of there. She wisely told me that she wasn’t the person I had to convince…I had to convince the doctors there.
  • It got much, much better after that. After two days, I had a bed in the ward, and I slept like a baby. That went a long way. I was also taken off “suicide watch,” so I was allowed a lot more privileges. I was able to eat in the cafeteria, which really wasn’t bad. (It’s where I discovered the beauty of mixing cheese into scrambled eggs, oddly enough.) I was able to spend some time outside. I was able to go on a few field trips with the rest of the ward. I recall going bowling. I recall going to church.
  • I turned such a corner after a few days, and became so invested in my recovery and in my life, that most of the new patients who arrived during my time there couldn’t understand why I was there. They expressed shock that I had tried to kill myself so recently. Some actually thought I was a nurse or something.
  • There was a lot of talk therapy, in three different styles. I received one-on-one therapy, but I don’t recall anything about it. A few times, we also had family therapy with my parents. The only thing I remember about that was seeing my mother crying. I also remember that group therapy, when the whole adult ward was together, was perhaps the most helpful part of the whole experience.
  • There were maybe twenty other patients with me in the ward. The population changed daily, as a few people were discharged, and someone else would enter. What struck me most about them was how normal they all were. They weren’t what I thought of as “crazy.” They were people like me, people who were just having a really hard time dealing with some particular situation or problem. This was truly a hospital, not an asylum.
  • In fact, I do remember a bit about one other patient. I don’t recall his name, but I remember a few things about him: he met his wife on the internet. (In 1993, that was quite a feat!) He looked like Stephen King. He was an even bigger Beatles fan than I was; however, he was convinced that the line “and curse Sir Walter Raleigh; he was such a stupid git” in “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was actually “and curse the walls around me; I was such a stupid git.” In his defense, his version (while wrong) makes a lot more sense than the one John Lennon actually wrote.
  • I wasn’t on any medication, which was unusual. The doctors there determined that I could be helped just with therapy; my life on antidepressants didn’t start until many years later.
  • I wrote a poem while I was there, called “A Believer’s Prayer.” I’ll include that as an extra blog post in the next day or two.
  • It was the strangest Thanksgiving dinner ever. My eleven-day hospitalization included Thanksgiving, but I was given an eight-hour pass to go home. It was the first time my family ever had Thanksgiving dinner at home, not with any relatives.
  • But the most important thing I remember is my friends and family. I was awestruck, shocked, humbled, by the effect that my suicide attempt had on my friends. One friend, Maisy, came to visit me every day while I was there. I had visits from high school friends (thanks, Jeff) and college friends (thanks, Chris). There were pay phones there that we could use during free time. My father had given me his credit card when I was first admitted, and said, “Call anybody you want to, any time.” I called so many friends. And they were all so upset. So hurt. So sad. And so grateful that my attempt was unsuccessful. One very dear friend was so upset, and so angry with me for trying to kill myself, that she refused to talk to me for a few months. While that hurt a bit at the time, I understood, and we talked through it. I received cards from some of my college classmates, and from people at my church. My younger sister not only wrote me letters, but got friends of hers (who didn’t even know me) to write me letters as well. I was astonished at how loved I felt. One activity that I was encouraged to do was to make a list of the people who cared about me. My list couldn’t even fit on one page.

I think the two most important things about being at First Hospital were people, first my peers there, and second the effect I saw on my own friends and family. Don’t get me wrong. The nursing staff was great. The therapists were great. And obviously the executives there did a great job creating a program in which peers could help one another so well. But it was my peers who really seemed to make the difference. They showed me that I was normal, that I was okay. They were a mirror to me. And my friends…sheesh, I had no idea how much I meant to them. I had no idea how much I had affected them. I had no idea.

Those eleven days were a watershed in my life. By no means did they cure me of depression, but they helped me to start to taking it more seriously. I never had another suicide attempt after this.