Why I Kept Living

i-kept-livingI have kept my story to myself for a long time. I can’t really say why. I guess it’s because of the fear of being judged, or being thought of as “weird,” or one of the million other reasons why people don’t want to talk about their depression or mental health. But I realized that if I want to be an advocate for depression/suicide awareness, I can’t hide my story from the world anymore. I need to talk about it. We all need to talk about our stories. Because it’s our stories that make us who we are. So, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day and TWLOHA‘s I Kept Living campaign, here is my story.


It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when my depression started. Maybe it was always there, lying dormant and waiting, since mental health issues run in my family. My mom was bipolar (manic/depressive), and it was very severe. She was heavily medicated to control her symptoms. I always knew she was sick and that she’d had manic relapses several times before, but I was too young to know what was happening at the time. Then, in 2005, when I was only 20 years old, everything in my life changed. My mom was taken off a medication she’d been taking for thirty years and that started a downward spiral that seemed to have no end. She was in and out of hospitals for two straight years. It was hard to find good mental health care for her, due to financial issues. Most regular hospitals don’t know how to handle a patient with a mental disorder, because they don’t understand it, or want to deny its existence.

While my mom was in the hospital, I was alone in our apartment. I tried to immerse myself in writing, in music, in concerts, anything to distract me from my life. I was isolated from everyone most of the time. I did not have any friends. I worked several odd jobs, but I couldn’t hold one because my mind wasn’t in it and my heart definitely wasn’t in it. Most of every day I either felt like I was suffocating or like I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I felt numb a lot of the time, so numb that I couldn’t even cry to let out the pent up emotions.

It got so bad that one day, I decided to run away. Something set me off–something I don’t even remember now–and I just got in my car and started to drive. I made it to the next state over before I realized I had no idea what to do next. No one ever even knew I was gone, or how much I was hurting, because I never told anyone. I felt like it would be a burden to talk about it, because everyone was concerned with my mom, including me. I even felt guilty for feeling the way I did, like I didn’t have the right to be depressed.

My mom finally got to a point where she could return home and everything was okay for a little while. I got a full time job working overnights, which was great because I did not want to see anyone. Of course, this only worsened my isolation. I was asleep when the rest of the world was awake and vice versa. My daily routine was working, holing myself up in my room talking to no one, and trying to fight horrible insomnia so I could sleep and shut off my non-stop thoughts of how much I hated my life and myself.

Two years passed this way. I tried to be social, I tried to date and I tried to fight the depression, but it beat me down to nothing every day. Even the smallest social interaction would completely drain me, and I couldn’t wait to go home and be alone again, even though I despised being alone. I honestly don’t know what got me through those years. I wrote a short story called “Otherwise Perfect” in 2006 and poured all of myself into it. It was one of the only things that made me feel better, to write; it’s still my favorite catharsis.

Every night while I was working at two o clock in the morning, I would listen to music in my car and in the end, music is what saved my life. One song, in particular. That song is called “For My Brother” by Blue October. One night, when everything was too much and I was having dangerous thoughts of throwing the steering wheel, this song came on. And I heard these words:

Whenever you’re dark inside, don’t let go. Remember there’s rain and there’s candy and Christmas-y winter snow.”

And, after two years of not being able to, I started crying. And I didn’t stop for hours. It just felt so good to actually feel something again. And even though everything was still a mess and I still hated my life, I still wanted to live it. Because there was a voice in the back of my mind telling me I was meant for something more. So I kept living. And you know what? That voice was right. When I think about all of the things I never would have done if I had lost my life at 20 years old, all of the amazing people I never would have met, all of the places I never would have traveled, I’m so grateful that I chose to keep going. I’m grateful for music for always being there to help me through anything and everything. And even though I still have bad days sometimes, I know they won’t last forever and I know there is so much more for me to do and see and so much life left to live. And I still have a lot of stories to tell.

Blue October: For My Brother lyrics

It would simply say everything if you would take a pen and write my name on a friend who never cared to let me in

Then take a fast ravine that for
three years swimming straight upstream and the wind,
the wind will drag me down in the end

You live inside my wall and I,
I reach back, hit you harder than God falls
Christ, Amen, Amen, Amen
You’re such a line to break and I’m,
I’m so scared to make another mistake in the end

But I just want to be happy again

Until it all falls down,
and where does that leave me?
With things, things, I’ve got so many things to say
and with a broken heart and a straight face
I’m saying, “Brother, help me”

It’s just a natural phase that I,
I go through and then it’s taken away and then bam, bam, I’m fixed.
(I’m fixed, I’m fixed, I’m fixed)
And I’m in another place to be where I,
I can’t sleep without the thought of me being so, so damn sick
(I’m sick, I’m sick, I’m sick)

But take this song, take this song away
until it all falls down,
and where does that leave me?
With things, things, I’ve got so many things to say

and with a broken heart and a straight face

He says, “Reach for the girl,
reach for the girl and hold her close.
Believe you can shine when you’re silver,
and I promise you gold. I promise you gold.
And whenever you’re dark inside,
don’t let go.
Remember there’s rain and there’s candy and Christmas-y winter snow.

“And remember I love you the same and I’ll strangle your pain”

And he tells me to sing, so I sing,
and I sing for my brother who keeps me sane
and tells me everything will be okay

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