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Fighting like never before

Guest Author: Christina

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

Editor’s Note: Warning, some language in this story may be triggering for some, reader discretion is advised.

At my wedding ceremony in the late 90s, when our officiant talked about me, she said what struck her most about my personality was that I was so “joyful.” It was true. It is true. I am a joyful person. In my heart, spirit, and soul, I am joyful. I am an optimist, and a lover of laughter and fun. 

But 15 years ago, in my mid-30s, I got sick. I got depression. It took me a while to figure it out, but finally I got treatment and I got better. 

I was faced with the fight of my life.

Since then, my mental health has had its ups and downs. At times, I had to try new medications and to start frequent therapy again. But as of earlier this year, I was feeling well. I was a productive working mom, raising a healthy teenage son, with a good husband, and I felt like myself.

Then my father died by suicide. And I was faced with the fight of my life.

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It was a Thursday afternoon in February when my father pulled a chair over to the edge of his apartment balcony and got up on it and went off over the edge – 25 floors down to the frozen ground. 

It was a total shock. While my father’s physical health had declined for several years, he always beat the odds and he certainly never spoke up about any mental issues. Throughout his life, he had embraced a work-hard-play-hard philosophy, together with other highly successful people around him, and he drank excessively. In truth, he was a very high functioning alcoholic. I also discovered a few years ago that he was abusing Ativan. I remember thinking then for the first time that maybe he was mentally ill too. Was he abusing alcohol and Ativan – using them as “painkillers” to numb his depression and anxiety?

Clearly, he was. But he never asked for psychological help, and he would never admit he was mentally ill. He even mocked mental illness a few times in my presence. He thought it was weak

Instead, I stayed silent and he killed himself.  

If I had confronted him, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that he would have torn my head off. If I had said “Pop, you abuse alcohol and Ativan. I think you are mentally ill,” he would have told me to fuck off.

Instead, I stayed silent and he killed himself.  

When you are a suicide survivor, you obsess desperately about the last minutes and seconds of your loved one’s life, and you dissect every interaction from the previous hours, days and weeks. Then you re-examine the past years and decades, searching and searching for answers that will never come. It is a suffocating hell of guilt, shame and grief.  

Since that day nine months ago, I have felt broken. 

Then, recently, somehow, I began to claw my way out of that awful darkness. I found support and understanding in the Alliance of Hope, a suicide survivor’s online forum. I have had therapy by phone very regularly. I have accepted that it is okay to still feel devastated, while slowly, slowly moving forward toward a better place. 

I am sad but not weak, and I will never ever give up.  

We all know recovering from mental illness is a terribly slow process. So I have started to talk back – firmly but kindly – to people around me who keep saying “you need to let it go,” “you should know it’s not your fault,” and “it’s time to move on.”

To them, I have started to say “Give me time. I know how to heal. I have done it before. But it will take more time because this is a really tough battle.” 

It is indeed the toughest battle I have fought yet in my war against depression. While it is exhausting (and right now, trust me, I am exhausted) I promise you – the #SickNotWeak community – that I will keep fighting for my happiness until my last breath.

I have and will always seek help, try new treatments, and I will never be ashamed of mental illness. I will tell the world I am sad but not weak, and I will never ever give up.  

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