Fourteen Years and Counting
By: Anthony DellaRosa (k-m-anthony)
This article addresses: suicide, depression
Hi, everybody. My name is Anthony DellaRosa, and I’ve been living with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was about eleven or twelve years old. I’m twenty-five now, so that’s more than half my life at this point, and I guess the funny thing about that is that having lived with these things for so long, I just sincerely have no idea who I’d be or what my life would be like if I had grown up any other way. Sometimes, in a rare and fleeting moment, depression feels like this weird, foreign thing living in my head, this bizarre invasive force, this parasite of a sort, something that I can fight or resist or at least identify and label and imagine as something other than myself, but for the most part, honestly, it just feels like me, and that’s because of the way it’s affected me — which is, in a word, “completely.”
When you live with depression for a long time, there is no part of you that your depression doesn’t touch. Like, there is no aspect of your life it leaves alone. It can affect your friendships, your romance, your family, your grades, your work, your money, your hobbies, your passion, your sleep, your weight, your hygiene, your other illnesses if you happen to have any, and so much more. It’s everywhere, and it gets in everything. It runs through every hallway of your life and puts its hands all over everything it shouldn’t. Like water slowly seeping down and down and down and down, it permeates everything, which means that I’ve spent the last thirteen or fourteen years of my life, now, dealing with it in every corner of my existence, which means that, for the most part, it’s become virtually indistinguishable from any other part of myself — because so much of myself, so much of what makes me “me,” was formed while fighting depression or as a response to being preyed upon by depression or through kind of partnering up with the way I know my brain and body work because of depression and trying to channel that feeling, that groove, that state of being into something useful or helpful or good for myself or other people.
It’s a part of me as much as my skin, my hair, my teeth, and my genes are parts of me, and I literally cannot imagine what it must be like to be a preteen kid and not have to deal with always being tired or the near-constant, overwhelming, overpowering, and sometimes even paralyzing suspicions that you’re utterly worthless and better off dead. I can’t imagine being a kid without having to go through any of that, and I can’t imagine being an adult without all of it, either, because I’ve never known that life. It’s all still with me. It’s all still here. I am still depressed, and I am still very, very frequently suicidal. So, unlike some other people in the world, I can’t necessarily say that I’ve somehow managed to find long-lasting stability or a particular beacon of hope, and I can’t necessarily say that I’ve found a way to manage my illness on a truly consistent, long-term basis — because I haven’t. Really, I haven’t. It affects me just as much and just as deeply as it did when I was twelve years old, if not actually more so, and I really don’t have much in the way of handy tips or tricks for getting by or getting “better.” And that’s actually why I wanted to say this, why I wanted to talk about my experience. Because I haven’t gotten “better.” At least, not in the way people typically mean that.
I’m twenty-five. I don’t have much going for me. I don’t have a “real job.” I don’t have savings or any real skills or prospects or talents. I wasn’t able to finish college. I don’t have much of any real direction in my life or any idea how long that life is going to last. See, the “it gets better” narrative is optimistic, and it’s helpful, and it’s sweet and perfectly well-intentioned, but it’s not necessarily universal, and I think people need to know that. Sometimes, it’s not about getting “better,” and not all things can be measured on a scale of “bad” to “good” to “better” at all. I think we all know that life is simultaneously so much more wonderfully and terrifyingly complex than that, and do you know what? That’s okay. It’s not always about getting “better.” It doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, it’s about surviving. It’s about staying alive, grabbing hold of whatever bits of happiness you can find along the way, and doing the best you can to be a kind, compassionate person full of empathy as you go, even if all the savage inclinations inside your own head tell you that you’re not and never will be. And most importantly, it’s about remembering that your worth as a person never, ever, ever hinges on how close you come to getting “better” or passing for “normal” or “functioning” in the way anyone else does. You are okay just the way you are.
The conventional measures of success or worth or value in society — the straight “A”s, the “real” jobs, the white picket fences and two-point-three kids — were decided by money and reinforced by lies, and all without concern or consideration for people like you, people who can’t, don’t, or won’t necessarily fit so neatly inside that one thin, beaten path. It’s such a sad fact that, to an extent, we have to navigate that broken, horrible system to maintain our security in life, but your value, your worth, your happiness, and your dignity never have to come entirely from within that system. Your worth is inside you, and it will always, always be there. You, inherently, are okay.
You, inherently, are as valuable and as valid and as real and as worthy of love and respect and admiration and care as anyone else in the world. You’re not lacking. You’re not stupid. You’re not ugly or unworthy or unimportant. You mean something.
Even if you’re not well, you’re okay. Even if you are barely hanging on, you are hanging on, and that is magnificent. You are the very best things of all: alive and thinking and feeling and trying.
You are beautiful.
My name is Anthony, and I have thought about killing myself at least once a day, almost every day, for over half my life. And it’s got to be okay for us to say that because if we can’t say it, then we can’t do anything about it. So, yes, I am depressed. And I am very, very frequently suicidal. And at least for now, in this moment, for once, I refuse to let anyone make me feel ashamed or afraid of that fact. This is me. And I am okay.
And so are you.
So, if I can say one last thing before I go, if I can leave you with one small but hopefully precious piece of workable advice, it’ll be this: Remember that you have value. Remember that you deserve good things. So, whatever space you’re in, whatever life you lead, try and find some small piece of it that you like, something makes you feel happy or safe or active or smart or even just basically alive, and treat yourself to it. Take that nap. Make those waffles. Buy yourself that book you want. Love yourself. Because you deserve it. You are amazing.