A little over three years ago, at this time of the morning, I was rushing into work after receiving multiple vague messages from my two close friends/supervisors. They both kept asking when I’d be there… To come straight to the medical dept. This didn’t strike me as odd, other than the amount of times they asked when I’d be in. Hanging with them in the mornings was normalcy.
So, when I walked into the hall and both of them stared at me, I knew something was off. I went towards Malone for our morning hug, when she stopped me at arm’s length and looked at me and said, “its Adam.”
Adam wasn’t just my coworker… Adam was one of the most genuinely caring people I was fortunate to know. We shared music, stories, laughter… I was used to him frequenting my kitchen table to smoke hookah and rehash anything that came to our mind from our days working at the jail. Adam was my friend.
And in this moment, my friend was gone. I looked at their faces knowing that this was the last moment of oblivion I would enjoy.
“Is he okay? Did he have a wreck?”
All I heard was… “passed away.”
I was on the floor, back against the wall, crouched down waiting for the next blow.
I stared back at them waiting for a response. Nothing came. Crys leaned down next to me and I remember hearing “he struggled with depression. No one really knew how badly.”
Wait wait wait, my brain screamed. My blue eyed smiling friend? My avid runner? My friend who always asked genuinely “how are you?” after we did our ritual overview of how we yet again managed to dress alike in jeans, tennis shoes of like coloring, and polos. In the winter, we even wore a similar jacket.
Not him. Not this. No way. He always smiled. Couldn’t be. I found myself running through every encounter. All the perfect smiles. All the infectious laughter.
Adam had a secret. A secret only few knew. He battled depression until he couldn’t fight it anymore. Its so hard to believe that someone so devoted to others, someone who smoke with the mentally ill daily and gave them reasons to keep going is no longer here. He was always all smiles when I saw him. I never knew the demons he battled.
He knew my secrets. He knew I struggled with panic attacks, he knew I had taken medicine over the years off and on to combat seasonal depression. He knew all these things. He never told me his… I could be mad at him all I want for leaving us too soon, but I’m not. I’m sad for him that he didn’t feel he could burden anyone with his struggles. Most of all I’m sad because I miss him. I miss his smile. His bright blue eyes. His good taste in music. His stories of his gorgeous dog. His dreams of going to medical school.
I only wish he had been here the day his acceptance letter to medical school came in the mail. I wish I could just tell him once that it can get better.
And so, that saying rings true on some evenings when I come home and I’m still full of energy coupled with a positive outlook. Those are the good days, where I smile just because I can…Where the leaves changing color in my serene back yard can bring tears to my eyes because its just that beautiful. Those days, I think of Adam and my other friends I’ve lost from mental illness and I look at the sky and remind the world around me that it gets better.
The other days, my secrets come out. I’m learning that these speaking my secrets doesn’t make me weak, being able to talk about what I struggle with actually helps because those around me can remind me that it gets better. I’m not writing this for attention, I’m writing this because I hope someone somewhere will read it and realize that they aren’t alone. I know I’m not.
I was first diagnosed with depression around 19. I remember having issues prior to this, I remember being a child and my granny and aunt would worry about me at age 11, because I would become overly emotional over small things. I have always been a worrier. I would worry and cry when the beautiful old house my parents renovated would have an plumbing problem. It would send me into hysterics. It still does…ask L & T about the time the toilet exploded into the basement.
I digress… I remember from a young age having issues with feeling sad, with being anxious, with having night terrors that would trigger my parents waking me in the middle of the night. On nights when the nightmares woke me first, I would find myself so rattled that I would pull my blankets and pillow into my parents’ room and curl up on the floor at the end of my bed or next to my mom’s side. For some reason, I thought that sleeping there meant I was safe from anymore nightmares. Luckily, I usually was. I think I surprised my parents every day when they woke to find me asleep there. Nonetheless, they never judged me for it, they loved me without fault.
As I grew older, I faced changes within me that I despised. Around the age of 12, I knew for a fact that I wasn’t societally normal in my sexual orientation. Living in a small town in Kentucky meant this would remain a secret. As I got older, I dealt with the occasional rumors people spread about my sexuality. I handled them in stride, even the time my younger cousin and I got in an argument and her last retort was “I stick up for you, everyone talks about how GAY you are, but I stick up for you.” That was my senior year. Up until then I dealt with my identity crisis alone, I didn’t want to share much for fear of being ostracized in my community. This lead to a battle inside of me… I constantly questioned my worth, my sanity, I mean I had only heard bad things about being gay.
At the age of 22, I came out to my parents. They both surprised me immensely with their unwavering support and love. I was gay, and that was okay…with them. However, I stopped attending church with my father due to a new minister telling me that my assistance with the youth group was no longer needed due to my controversial lifestyle choices. Choices.
I didn’t decide to be gay (although I’d totally choose this lifestyle regardless… I’m totally proud of it now) I didn’t decide to be depressed. I didn’t decide to have panic attacks. I didn’t decide to constantly worry. I didn’t ask for this. But its me and I’m not keeping it a secret. I have come a long way since writing angry poetry in middle school. I see a therapist weekly to discuss coping mechanisms and to process feelings. I see a psychiatrist every couple of weeks or so to discuss medication adjustments and to “get my brain shrunk.” I try to spend time outside when I can.
Most of all, I try to remember that it gets better.