I’ve always been capable of feeling great joy. With that, though, can come great despair.
When Jamie was 21, she made a pact with herself. She had 15 years at most to emerge from her deep depression.
I told myself if I was still feeling this impenetrable darkness every day by age 36, I would end my life.
Jamie had grown up in a loving home, had close friends, and was active in school. Outwardly, she appeared fine. Inside, however, a web of self-hatred grew. Her thoughts told her she wasn’t pretty, thin, or smart enough. Throughout high school, Jamie kept the depths of her depression to herself—she feared the truth would hurt her parents. It wasn’t until she saw a psychiatrist in college, realizing she would need her parent’s insurance to access potentially helpful medications, when Jamie found the courage to speak up.
Their 18-year-old, well-adjusted, outgoing, upbeat, achieving daughter was having an internal struggle. They didn’t know much about mental illness, and there was a stigma. They were scared.
Despite the unfamiliar territory, Jamie’s parents were supportive. Jamie’s inability to focus, however, would force her to leave school. Having always loved academics, her depression worsened. She held a few jobs, but struggled to get out of bed many days. Jamie would be hospitalized three times. In 2001, she walked out of work and into the psychiatric emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Everything was crumbling. Everything felt dark, suffocating. I was afraid to go home that night. I couldn’t get suicide out of my mind.
Jamie eventually found a medication that helped free her of persistent suicidal thoughts. It worked well enough to allow her to focus on getting better. She says the therapy sessions she has had over the years, and to which she remains committed, have empowered her, helping strip away the shame and embarrassment of mental illness.
Fifteen years later at age 36, Jamie was married. She now has two children who bring out her joy and who never fail to make her laugh. She still battles her depression daily, though she is no longer despairing or desperate. She knows her illness will always be part of her life, something she must continue to accept, to treat and to never again ignore.
It’s not about a happy ending. It’s about respecting myself enough to continue moving forward.
If you liked this story, be sure to check out a great interview with Jamie on Mental Health News Radio!