Hey, guys. I’m a little disappointed to see such little activity on here- I sincerely hope that the view count hints at the active population that reads without contributing. I talked with Greg following his keynote way back when, and I’ve realized that there is a conspicuous lack of realistic “success stories” on sites just like this one. Most people would be more than happy to leave the past behind once they push through the worst of their depression, but I know that when things were at their worse I really could have used an indication that “better” is actually possible.
So for what it’s worth, here it is.
A couple years ago, in my sophomore year of college, I quite suddenly found myself in a losing battle against what would be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type II with Rapid Cycling. I had already been struggling with depression and rumination for years, but this was different. Instead of the sad, quiet frustration with myself I had come to accept as normal, the illogical depression came without warning and all at once. Without time to accommodate to this new mood, suicide seemed a fond and safe option. Disturbingly, the mood would shear to comically absurd happiness just as quickly, and instead of serving as a life ring to alleviate my desperation, it would serve as a morbid reminder of the happiness that I was capable of yet somehow completely separated from in my down days.
I sought treatment, but this only yielded increased frustration for every aspect of the morbid cycle I found myself trapped in. I’d get assigned a new medication, it would work for a short time and then stop, I’d see a therapist where I’d just cry for hours until they let me go, and then I’d either undergo a medication change- a new form of therapy- an seemingly “apathetic” counselor would talk to me to make sure I wasn’t a danger to myself- or I’d land myself in the psych ward with a fevered and quickly regretted suicide attempt.
Somewhere along the way I was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, Insomnia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anorexia, and even Aspergers (for a short time- that diagnosis was quickly reversed).
Now, a couple years and dozens of medication and regiment changes later, I’m back at school with a scholarship, working part time in Backend Web Development as an intern, and engaging in increased social interactions and relationships. Even dating, albeit sporadically. How did I get from “unstable” and highly suicidal to where I am now?
Well, to be perfectly honest, there was no big moment where things suddenly started clicking. Each step towards where I stand right now was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I still experience the same amount of mood swings as I have on my worse days. I did not outgrow depression, Bipolar, or anything. It’s still an essential part of who I am. The only thing I ever did was keep trying.
Don’t get me wrong, I gave up a countless number of times. Things seemed bleak, hopeless and frustrating more than they seemed okay. But even though sometimes it took me significantly longer than I care to admit, I always got back up and tried again. Sometimes, all this meant was trying to do a homework assignment while deeply depressed. Even if it turned out as a mess of garbled words, the simple fact that the attempt exists is a testament to the insurmountable respect I have for every person who has tried to face on the beast that is mental illness.
When you’re in a deep mire of all-encompassing sadness, everything is harder. Every little thing from getting out of bed to eating is harder than anyone around you can understand. The unique nature of mental illness means your struggle is not likely to be anywhere close to mine- I cannot give you advice that you can actually benefit from, nor can anyone from your parents to your significant other (if you have one). So when you try and fail, and you will- when you just can’t up from the sheer weight of desperation in the morning, or when you just can’t look at yourself in the mirror- you are still learning how to deal with it in the future.
One day you will get up- one day you WILL look yourself in the eye- and feel what some could even call pride. All this, simply because you DARE to try. This may mean fuck-all for any of you going through the worst of it- I know I would disregard it as purposeless optimism- but as long as you continue to try, continue to learn from your mistakes, frustrations, falls and defeats, you will end up one iota closer to being “okay”. Even if a tough fall knocks you out for weeks, months or years, the sheer audacity to try again will mean your eventual victory. Reading this- visiting a site for depressed developers- that is TRYING too.
Ugh, wow, that all sounds way too idealistic, but that’s all I’ve got. Depression is a sick sunnuva bitch that kicks you near to death every damn day, sometimes disappearing only to return without warning. It is the most insidious of maladies, asserting your lack of value despite facts staring you in the face, affecting your very ability to gauge reality. But YOU CAN WIN.