I was twelve years old the first time I tried to kill myself. I had been amassing a stash of various over-the-counter pills in an economy sized bottle from Sam’s Club for over two months. I even stole a few bottles for my stash from the cabinet of my dad’s new house the afternoon he married my stepmom. I was planning my way out. Nothing was terribly wrong with my life circumstantially. Parents get divorced and remarried all the time. Still, life seemed burdensome to me. Just a chore to get through. Every day waking up, going to school, coming home, completely hating life. It was just dreary enough for me to conclude that anything would be better, including being dead. I swallowed handfuls of pills by the dozens, choking them down with lukewarm tap water in a red solo cup. I could only get through 3/4 of the bottle, but I figured that would be enough and I laid down for what I hoped would be my last night’s sleep.
I woke up the next morning bleary eyed and disappointed, immediately launching my head into the nearest toilet to projectile vomit up hundreds of pills and capsules. This continued throughout the day, until there was nothing left for my system to expel but bile and sadness. I never consciously attempted suicide again, although I thought about it from time to time. What I did instead was develop a pattern of self-harm so reckless, I may as well have been actively trying to kill myself. There were overdoses, ambulance trips, rehab centers, and psychiatric holds. I did all of the A’s, AA, NA, Al-Anon, and SLAA. I was always just looking for something to make me feel good, or even just okay.
I know what it’s like to be inherently sad all the time. I was on and off anti-depressants for over ten years. I have tried them all, from Prozac to Lexapro, Paxil, you name it. The reason I finally quit using anti-depressants is because I had enough. The medication with the least amount of side effects (re: I could have an orgasm on this one) gave me this cute, little symptom affectionately called “brain zaps.” Fucking BRAIN ZAPS. The first time it happened, I was drifting off to sleep when I felt a jolt of electricity inside my brain along with a bright flash of red. What. The. Fuck.
Every person has their limit; I draw the line at brain zaps. I knew the pills were no longer a long term solution. They had been my security blanket for too many years and it was time to learn to live without them. I knew that to quit using anti-depressants would be difficult, but I made the decision and never looked back. There were a few times when I almost relapsed and went back to them, but with the support of my now husband, I left them behind for good.
So how did I do it? Well, for starters, it wasn’t easy. There were tears, lots of tears. Weird feelings and bouts of extreme self-doubt. My husband offered another point of view. “Why don’t you use the depression to your advantage?” he challenged me. I had never thought of this before, but with his encouragement, I actually looked at the areas of my life I wasn’t satisfied with and found ways to improve them. I was unhappy with my career path, so I changed it completely. I looked at where life was leading me and what new opportunities I could seek out. I realized, if you want life to be different than it has ever been, you need to live differently than you’ve ever lived.
So I started taking more chances. I filmed a sizzle reel with my husband, then dropped out of college to become a tv producer. I was successful and I discovered so many new talents and skills- things I had never even considered before. I was having fun and loved working on set. I got to travel, made a host of life-long friends, and got to work with my husband. Still, I would experience crippling waves of depression, especially between jobs. I realized I had stopped taking as many chances. I wasn’t working on any personal projects or doing anything that really made my heart sing.
If you’re not constantly growing, you’re dying. While I was nowhere near suicidal thoughts or actions, I knew that life could be better. And that’s what I’ve always been searching for and seeking. If you feel good, why not try to feel a little bit better? So I actually started taking care of myself, I mean really taking care of myself. I turned down a lucrative producing offer to pursue becoming a barre fitness instructor. Because moving my body and taking care of my physicality feels good. I started practicing meditation more regularly and writing often. Going a step further (or maybe ten steps), I decided to try a new experiment- to build a life based on fun.
I created a project called the 30 Day Fun Challenge, and dedicated my life to seeking, finding, and attracting fun. I did things I never thought I would be brave enough to try, like stand up comedy. (Check out my first time here!) I started writing a book that I always felt stirring inside me but was never courageous enough to explore. I started taking this blog more seriously and even branched out to filming fun, vegan cooking videos! I even found ways to make challenging things more fun. Meditation on my own was difficult, so I found a place that offers crystal sound baths, which makes it easily and more relaxing. I renamed work “productive fun.” I spend a lot of time sitting in LA traffic, so now I call it “car date.” l listen to music and podcasts, sometimes making up songs and freestyle raps, or admiring cloud formations outside my window.
Essentially, what I learned is that it is possible to be happy, truly happy with your life, regardless of what is going on circumstantially. By committing to having fun, taking chances, and practicing gratitude, I created a life that I am genuinely excited to wake up for each and every day. If I can do it, so can you.
*I believe anti-depressants can be a useful tool in times of emotional crisis. I know people whose lives were improved, or even saved by the medication. This is my personal story, I’m not condoning that anyone stop treatment without professional medical help. I only want to share that I was able to find relief from depression without the use of pharmaceuticals.