Editor’s note: This is a guest post from a good friend of mine, Erin Jones, who was diagnosed with depression in 2002.
A man died yesterday. He was rather young, not yet thirty years old. I did not know him; he was a friend of some of my friends. He lived tucked away in southern Florida, and he died on October 27, 2013 by his own hand.
Death is a funny thing these days. We live in a digital age, and when a person dies, their online presence remains. It’s kind of like some sort of digital skeleton, or a set of artifacts, encoded in binary, chronicling a portion of the person’s existence. This gentleman who died had a facebook page. It’s still up. On it now alongside the messages of “I miss you. I wish I could have helped you more” are messages of “I hate you. I hate you for giving up.”
I can’t get behind those sentiments of hate. I’ve lived before in that horrid place that this man so desperately wanted to escape. I’m not proud of this, but that’s the way it is. It’s not my fault; I was born into a family with a history of depression and I came into this world with a physiological condition that put me at additional risk for the disease. I had no happy childhood. I often was bullied at school, and I often came home to a house of screams. At eleven I had to pull a knife away from one of my own parent’s wrists. Is it any wonder that I began to question the utility of my own life by the time I turned fifteen? Most of my friends and acquaintances don’t know this. I kept on smiling in public. I did well in high school and college and graduate school. I did better, in fact, than most people will do without the trappings of a mental illness. And yet there I was, fighting to stay alive.
I know how hard it is. I know when you’re that low that nothing anyone else could possibly say ever really seems to help, and I’ve come to see that few people who have never been to that place before can ever really understand this. When you’re there, it hurts. Everything just hurts, and you can’t imagine it ever getting better. But, I don’t think you have to. Not at that time. Not in that place. All you have to do is breathe, and wait for the time to come when you can imagine that things might look up. It will come eventually, and even if the rest of life hasn’t yet improved, your ability get through it will have. You’ll be stronger for it.
Switch to a short time ago, when I was being judged, for personal reasons, by someone else. I was told that I wasn’t working to improve or to better myself enough, at least not enough in the opinion of this individual. What a thing to say to someone, much less to someone you don’t know. Thinking back on this, I realize that it’s rubbish. I’m still alive, aren’t I? If the me from ten years ago had known just how much and how hard she would have to fight to get to where the me I am today is, I think she would have checked out. But, here I am, still trying to make the most out of what I have. Ten years ago, I might not have been able to handle it, but here I am, still kicking.
To those of you out there who are having a hard time, or who may be wondering what they’ve done that’s so special and worth living for, let me just say this: No matter what anyone else might say, when you’re walking against the wind with what feels like the weight of the world on your back, continuing to put one foot in front of the other isn’t something trivial. It’s something amazing.
Erin Jones is an artist, scientist, and writer living in the D.C. metro area.