Scarred, but Surviving

Warning: This post deals with depression and self-injury. It may be a trigger for some people. If this is you, while I always want people to read my posts, PLEASE make sure you’re safe. If this means not reading this, please close the window or hit the back button.
Much love, Z

I know I’m behind on my Catholic ABCs posts. As well as neglecting other blog ideas I’ve had. My depression sunk its gnarly teeth in and has shaken me around like a rag doll these past few weeks. I’ve been meaning to write a post on my depression anyway for the longest time. So I sat down and wrote everything I was feeling out. This is the result of that.

It’s really hard to explain to someone that you have depression. Most of the responses I’ve heard either ask why can’t I just ‘get over it’, or proclaim that they too had depression and ‘got over it’ Depression is not something you can just ‘get over’ like a stomach bug. It’s a daily struggle to survive. To LIVE.

Living with depression is tough. It’s like a nightmare I can’t wake up from, no matter how loud I scream. I have to drag myself out of bed in the morning (okay around noon really) because all I want to do is sleep. I go through the motions in daily life, forcing a smile on my face to get by, even though all I want to do is crawl in a dark corner and hide away. I get home at night after work, and drag myself upstairs, forcing some food down before collapsing in bed, completely worn out from the constant pain and hurt I feel.

Some people say that depression pain is all in your head. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. What I do know is that it is intense. My forearms ache all the time. They feel heavy, as do my legs, to the point where it’s a large effort just to move some days. I seem lazy at times to people because I don’t want to move. Truth is, it’s taking more effort than I have to get up, and yes I’m trying to find that effort even if you can’t see it. I’m always tired because making the effort to live can take a lot out of you, especially on the really bad days. And I always want to nap or sleep to not only rest up for the next battle, but also because when I sleep, I don’t hurt.

When the bad days come, it’s even worse. I “turtle”, or hide away from the world. Sometimes there’s a cause, like a hurtful phone call or being disrespected and talked down to at work. Sometimes there is no cause, just that the darkness becomes too much to push back anymore. I don’t talk to anyone I don’t have to, because I struggle to make the words come out right. I go only to work and Sunday mass, and keep my head down while there. I neglect my house, my to-do list, all of it. On the dark days, depression sucks it all away, even zapping at my will to live at times.

With the pain comes the temptation to self-injure. I don’t speak for everyone who self-injures, I just speak for myself. Everyone feels different about why they SI. For me, sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that I feel I need to let it out before it swallows me whole and there’s nothing left. This is where self-injury comes in. Hurting myself physically not only distracts from the other pain, giving me something else to focus on, but it also seems to release the pressure of the pain too, like venting the steam out of a covered pot before it boils over. When I boil over, it’s not a pretty sight, believe me. Also, it’s really hard to doctor and tend emotional wounds. So creating a physical wound that I can then doctor and heal helps at times to heal the emotional pain too. Doesn’t always work though.

I fight the temptation to self-injure with everything I have. Some days I win the battle, some days it’s not enough and I cut anyway. If I cut, I get the release I crave, but it’s only temporary. The pain comes back, and now it has company: the guilt and shame of having cut, the anger for giving in. Frustration at myself for not being stronger. That then feeds the pain and makes it stronger which makes me crave release more. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends.

I wish there was an insta-cure for this. Some funky purple pill I could take and presto! No more pain. Doesn’t work that way though. So I keep battling. Luckily there are lots of weapons available like medication or counseling. Everyone’s different. What works for me may not for someone else. Faith and prayer are huge weapons for me. There are nights that I cling to my rosary, using it and its prayers as a shield against the inky black shadow that tries to cover me.

One of my biggest weapons against the darkness of depression and self injury, I found out recently, is my support system. Having people willing to walk with me on this journey is invaluable. But I don’t need to hear how cutting isn’t the answer. I know this. It’s why I’m reaching out for help. I need to have someone there to take my hand and tell me, yes things aren’t okay now, but they will be. To know that they care enough to be there when the darkness closes in and I see no way out, and to help lead me back into light and life again. I’m too stubborn to even think about giving up, but no one can fight alone forever. We need help to get us through, sometimes day by day, or even minute by minute.

My best friend, sister in all but blood she is, has been there with me through thick and thin, picking me up when I’m too weak to keep going. My campus minister and campus priest have been wonderful in helping me keep going and in learning how to reach out for help. And of course my #cathsorority sisters and all their support and prayers. I’ve never met them in real life, but the prayers and love transmitted via computer from all over the US let me know I’m not alone even in the darkest moments. I have reread texts and messages until I have practically memorized them, just to know I’m not alone in this.

If you read this and go ‘hey that’s how I feel’, you’re not alone. That’s the most important thing I can say. I may not have any clue who you are but I fight the same battle you do. And we will win. It just might take a bit.

If you feel alone and at the end of your rope and have no support system to turn to, please don’t give up. Cry out for help regardless. Call Hopeline. They’re available 24/7. I should know. I’ve called them at some weird hours before. Don’t want to speak to someone on the phone? There’s IMAlive, where trained volunteers wait to chat online with people who just can’t push back the darkness anymore. People like me. Like you.

And sometimes it gets to where you need serious intervention. If you’re afraid you might seriously hurt yourself, call 911 (or your local emergency number). They’ll help keep you safe.

If you read this and go ‘so that’s what so-and-so was trying to explain’ or ‘this sounds like my sister/husband/cousin/friend/classmate/etc.’ and you want to help, the best thing you can do is to be there. Ask them what they need from you. Give them Hopeline’s number and the link to IMAlive, just in case they can’t reach you (or may not want to bother you – I’ve felt like that before)

If whoever you’re trying to help is seriously thinking about hurting themselves, don’t be afraid to call your emergency services for help. I’ve had someone call for me before, and while I was upset and mad at them for a while, I realize now that by doing so, he saved my life. I’ve never told him thank you for that either, but I plan to. (He may even be reading this. Thank you for being my protector and calling for the help I needed but didn’t want.)

Mainly what I want to say to those dealing with depression and self-injury is this: don’t quit fighting. It can and will get better again.
And for those on the outside of the battle: our fight is real, even though our enemy may be invisible to you. Fight with us and for us anyway.
One day we will win this battle.

Much love in Christ,