I don’t really remember a lot of what happened between the end of the abuse when I was 16 and the time I started therapy when I was around 25. It was a time when I was struggling with worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, and 8.5 year relationship that I only realized was toxic after it was over. Many things that happened in those years I remember only vaguely and almost as if they happened to someone else in the way you might remember certain scenes from a movie you saw once a long time ago. I call those years the dark times because of the depression and because of how hard it is to remember them–like my memory has gone dark.
It’s strange that I remember the decade when I went to the depths of Hell more clearly than the decade when I found my way out. It’s almost as if I were sleep walking through life for that time. What I remember most clearly from the dark times is the period of time right before I started therapy. I wish I had sought the help I needed sooner, but I think I needed to hit rock bottom before I could admit to myself that I couldn’t do it on my own.
In the months before I started therapy, my depression was at its worst, but it was punctuated with periods of rage with a source I still can’t identify. A lot of things bad things had been happening all at once. My then boyfriend had decided to join the military despite my very strong negative feelings about it and had been away in training. About a month and a half before he was scheduled to graduate, I fell down the stairs and landed just exactly wrong, breaking all 5 bones in my left foot right across the arch, which meant that I couldn’t travel to his graduation the way I had hoped to. It was becoming more and more evident that my grandfather was about to die, which he did the day my ex came home. I couldn’t go to the funeral because it was a busy time at school and my foot was still healing, so I couldn’t leave. My ex promised myself and my parents that I wouldn’t be alone in the week they were gone, then he disappeared for that week.
Other than that, I can’t really pull out the flow of events; in my memory, time ceases to be linear and becomes a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. I know that at some point around that time, I found myself walking to class (with the aid of a cane) on the first nice fall day in weeks when I was struck by the rage and had a strange urge to pick up my cane and start swinging it at the heads of the people outside enjoying the nice weather; an urge which, of course, I resisted. I also remember there were weeks on end where if I had nothing to do, nothing is exactly what I did. I found myself spending more and more days in bed staring at the ceiling until I fell asleep for a little while only to wake up and do it again. On those days I only left the bed to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or stare at the food in the fridge trying to decide what to force down my throat.
That’s the state I was in when I finally went into therapy. I don’t want to give the impression that the dark times were magically over when I went to my first session, it still took about a year or two for me to put that time behind me, but it was like the brightening in the sky just before dawn. There were still hard times that I needed to get through before I finally started to wake up. The real turning point was my suicide attempt.
I’d been in therapy for a little while, but it wasn’t really helping because I was stuck in a loop where I needed to get better before I could feel better and I needed to feel better before I could get better. Then one night, after a fight with my ex, I decided I was done, just done. So I went to the bathroom and pulled out the bottle of pain killers I had left over from my broken foot. Fortunately, they were very large pills and I have trouble swallowing handfuls of large pills, so I started taking them one at a time. As soon as I took the first pill I thought, “What the hell are you doing?” and put the pills away. I then tried to call all of my friends, but couldn’t get through because it was 3am and they were all asleep. So I cried a lot, passed out, slept better than I had in weeks, and woke up to the realization that I needed more than just therapy.
After that, I got on a trial course of anti-depressants. I only needed that 30 day trial to break out of the loop I was stuck in. As soon as the chemicals got into my brain and made me feel better artificially I started to get better which made me genuinely feel better.
I think a lot of people are afraid of therapy and medication the way I was, but they shouldn’t be. I don’t think it would have worked for me if I had been forced into it, but once I was ready to seek it out, it worked wonders for me. I believe this is true for most people. Not everyone needs therapy to heal, but some do. Don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. On the other hand, I think that forcing someone into therapy before they’re ready to seek it out does more harm than good.