Please, read his story, and any other stories. You’re not alone in your fight.
I am more comfortable in my own skin now. I am more comfortable with who I am, and I am always striving to be just a little better than I was yesterday. But that wasn’t the case just even a few years ago and some days, I do wake up struggling but it’s not like before.
Before I get into writing anything else, I want to get this off my chest. I want you to know how I got here. I have seen many posts on depression. I have seen many of my friends suffer through depression. I want to show you how I fight every single day of my life. I want to show you how I make the most of each of my 24 hours. Please, remember that this is how I go about my life. This might not work for you but I want to give some perspective so you can try because I want you to fight.
You’ve seen some of my “thank you notes” earlier on in the year on this blog. I have a few more of those to write to external parties who have no idea who I am but they have impacted me in the most positive of ways. But I am fortunate enough to have had such an amazing support system of friends and family to be there for me.
But please, if you need help, get help. If you feel like you want to commit suicide, call 911 or the suicide hotline in your designated country (1 (800) 273–8255 in the US). There are people out there who care. There are people out there who you want you to fight.
I want any of you who feel this way to be able to write “thank you” notes instead of someone writing your eulogy. You all matter.
“What does it all matter? What is the point? No one cares. Life has no meaning,” I thought with a mouth of full of Tylenol and Wellbutrin, and my left hand clutching at some cheap whiskey from the liquor store down the block.
I know all of this sounds too familiar but that is what my life came to. It was my first attempt out of two failed attempts. I was actually thwarted in both attempts. I am forever grateful that I was thwarted.
I lived in Binghamton for 5.5 years throughout college. After fumbling around in college for 3.5 years, I decided that I wanted to be a computer scientist but that’s when it started going downhill. At first, I thought I was just feeling moody. I just spent 3.5 years studying chemistry, and biology, and now I’m switching to computer science, and math. Also, my parents’ financial situation wasn’t great at all. I knew something was wrong when I started questioning if life was actually worth living. There’s a big difference between, “Wow, this situation sucks” and “I think killing myself would be better”.
I went to therapy and counseling and psychiatrists. I had clinical depression. I was prescribed Wellbutrin but nothing worked. I started eating more (which is supposedly the opposite of what Wellbutrin does), and I ballooned up to 300 pounds. I’m 5'6" so pull up an image of a bowling ball into your head and draw little stick figure arms and legs, and that’s pretty much how I looked.
I barely went to class. I barely studied. I’m surprised I passed my classes to be honest. All I wanted to do was sleep. Some days I slept for like 15 hours straight. I always felt fatigued, drained, and hopeless. I imagine being 300 pounds at 5'6" certainly didn’t help. Also, maybe it was my perception but Binghamton doesn’t get any sun so, that made it even worse. I started popping Tylenols with Wellbutrin and then it got to a point that I didn’t even care the timing between popping pills and drinking alcohol.
One day, I’m sitting on the floor, back leaning against the bed, and I found myself with about 10 pills in my mouth, and a bottle of cheap whiskey in my left hand. Honestly, I don’t even remember if it was day or night because the studio I was living in at the time didn’t have windows. I also slept random hours and barely went to class. I started to take a swig of the whiskey as thoughts like, “The pain will be over soon” flitted through my head.
I’m about to down the concoction of pills and whiskey when my phone rings. It was my mom. I spat out the concoction and answered. She was checking in on me. I lied about what was going on. She kept asking if I was okay but I avoided answering and I told her about school and my graduation. I told her that I would be graduating with a double degree probably in December of 2015 (a year or so later) if I took a summer course the following year. She thought that was incredible seeing as how I had officially switched into computer science earlier on in 2014. I believe at the end of 2013, I declared the math major. We hung up the phone, and I fell asleep right next to my spat out concoction.
Fast forward a few months later, I had a friend over. He needed help, and I was having a day filled with “Just end it” thoughts so helping him as best I could provided me with a distraction. After talking and eating pizza all night, he wanted to sleep. He slept over but my inflatable bed kept deflating so he went back to his place. I didn’t have it in me to say, “I need help. I want to die.” I said it in my head hoping for him to read my mind but before I knew it, he was out the door.
Here I go with the same concoction again. But my phone rings AGAIN. This time it was my girlfriend. I spat out the concoction on the floor again. That’s twice. Twice I tried to end it all and twice I was thwarted by a loved one checking in on me. She kind of knew what I was going through but I hid how bad it was. She told me she loves me and believes in me. You’d be surprised how that can actually affect a person. It’s cheesy but it’s the truth.
After the phone call, I again went to sleep on the floor next to my spat out concoction.
The following morning, I reflected on what had happened to me the past few months. Twice but thwarted. I started doing regular check ins with my girlfriend, my mom, my best friends, even therapists. Finally, in the summer, I bought a Nikon D3300 to rekindle an old passion and give myself a hobby. I have “thank you notes” to my girlfriend, best friends, explaining this in a little more detail that I will link below. I said in note that this was a major turning point for me(other than being thwarted twice).
Nothing is easy but please do realize you can get better. Realize you need help. Be open minded to any kind of help and don’t just rely on medication. Have a constant feedback loop between you and your therapists, you and your family, and you and your friends. Also, let me remind you, before I get into what I do, that I am not a doctor, and this is anecdote. I want to share my story and my experiences so maybe someone can try what I do and perhaps it will help.
I can not describe how much this has changed my outlook. In general, every morning, I do a 20 minute meditation, and at night, I do another. I started doing this recently and it has paid dividends. I feel much stronger when I take the time to clear my mind, and prepare myself. Meditation is not just a fad. I know recently, with the rise of stuff like hot yoga, and the hipsters of Brooklyn, and other “up and coming” places, these things get a bad rep. There are many studies out there noting the benefits of meditation. I will link some below. I used to think I didn’t have time for meditation but that was just resistance and closed mindedness talking. When it comes to health, you make the time for it. Meditation is like a mental fortification and a battle plan for your day and your next day (in my case).
Something I started doing a lot more (that I stopped doing in college but I did a lot of when I was a kid) is read. But I don’t just read through books (though, you can if you want), I mark them up, and try to have conversations with the author in the margins. Reading provides perspective. When I was battling through depression, I had a problem with perspective. I could not, for the life of me, switch perspectives. Everything that was fostered in my brain was some negative or morbid thought about the state of life and the world. I could not think from another angle and I didn’t even bother to try either. I started reading more shortly after I graduated and I am reaping the benefits now. I will link some of the books that really helped me throughout these two years.
To expand on the previous paragraph, learning something more deeply and/or learning something new also has helped me fight. So, I said in the previous paragraph that I markup books a lot. I try to learn from these authors. They have experienced something more than me, whether it be writing a book, writing a program, traveling somewhere I haven’t, or whatever. Because of that fact, I can take something from them. I’m a software engineer so there’s always something new to learn. That’s why I started writing because in addition to learning, I like creating, and in software engineering, writing, and photography, there is plenty opportunity to do that. Learning something new puts more purpose into my life. Accepting I don’t know anything has been one of the most liberating feelings I have ever experienced. I combat that by saying, “Fine, I don’t know anything. But I’m willing to learn.” Find a mentor, find a friend who know something over you, find anyone with different experiences, talk to kids, talk to your family, read a book. Any of these things is a positive experience.
What I am doing now (writing this) is really helpful. Write about anything. Write a tutorial on how to create a website, if you have that ability. Write about your feelings. Write about how you are fighting everyday of your life. Write about how you do your makeup in the morning. Write about your style. You may think like no one cares but there’s that one person, whether it’s your friend or some random person halfway across the world who will take something from your musings. And if nothing else, just write for yourself. Have a diary set up. It’s liberating when you take the time to write and reflect on your day. It’s like processing and labeling the demons of the day.
I do some comedy writing and I watch a lot of comedy specials and shows. Tell your friends, your family, and yourself a really bad joke. Inserting laughs throughout my day elevates my mood immensely.
I assure you, there is no better feeling in the world than giving something to your community, your friends, your family, or a random person on the street. I started these blogs so that I can have people walk along this journey with me through life. I donate old books and clothes and money. Even giving a simple smile to those people around you on your commute to work is something. It fills you with a positive feeling knowing that you did something for someone else. If it’s not a purpose for you, there are literally billions of other people out there that may give you a purpose. Think about it. Let’s say you have a friend who is feeling down. Make it your purpose to make this friend smile or laugh or just be there for this person. If you focus on that, instead of yourself, you can feel the feeling of purpose.
I want to highlight teaching something. Some of us have skill sets that other people might want to learn. So, start a blog or volunteer teach and show them your process to draw, program, paint, write, anything. The feedback loop of learn → teach → learn is something really powerful if we try to harness the energy in it.
Speaking of energy; Exercise. Start with something small. Walk around your block. Run 10 blocks. Do a few exercises at the gym. Go to a yoga class. Personally, I go to the gym, do yoga, and bike. I started running recently but I haven’t found my rhythm yet. Remember I said I was 300 pounds? I never exercised. I just drove to Walmart, walked with the cart and have food that would last me a few weeks. Or I would just order take out. I mentioned in that “thank you note” that I kept eating Five Guys burgers. Delicious, but not good for life longevity. I started eating better a month or so before I graduated. I started eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, etc. That’s not say I don’t indulge every now and then because I do. Now I am down to about 230 pounds. I want to get down to 170. I have a ton more energy now than when I was 300. Healthy body, healthy mind.
Take up a hobby or a few hobbies. One can say reading and writing are hobbies, and sure they are, but here’s another that I do. I took a film photography class in high school and have been hooked on it ever since. Problem was I stopped it after high school graduation. As I mentioned earlier, I bought a Nikon D3300 in the summer of 2015 and it was a turning point. I love capturing moments, specifically with people. Photography aligns me with my life form. I know that sounds dramatic but that’s how I feel. Photography, to me, is about capturing a moment or moments. That moment can be candid or planned but once that moment is over, it’s over. You can try to mimic that moment, sure, but it’s still a moment in the past. Life is collection of moments and I do what I can to make the best moments I can even in shitty situations.
Because I love technology and I love creating things. This can be grouped under learning (new things). But this is also another medium (excuse the pun) to be expressive. Pick any small (or large) project and create it little by little. You can see something come to life.
I think people underestimate the power of keeping loved ones around. You are not alone. You can pull from their strength as well. We are all struggling and trying to do our best. Let’s do it together. Check in with an old friend. Check in with your parents, cousins, siblings, etc. Schedule a hangout between you and a friend group.
Go to an event to meet new people. In NYC, it’s really easy to find something you’re interested in and go to it. Personally, I love going to museums and art galleries so even if I am going as a party of one, I try to strike up conversations at these places.
So these are some examples of what I do to fight everyday. As I mentioned earlier, I feel so much better about myself my situation. I feel genuinely happy now. I haven’t had a depressive episode in quite some time now. I cold turkey’d the Wellbutrin shortly after the second attempt.
I know there will be rough patches ahead. Life is a constant struggle with obstacles in our way all the time, but with the right support and framework, we can all barrel through them. Please, always remember, reach out to whomever when you need help. You can even email me at [email protected] and you can mask your identity. You all matter.