One of the posters made a passing reference to depression, which happens to be a hot-button subject with me. That's because you came very close to never getting to read this blog -- or anything else I've written in the past 11 years, because I almost ate my husband's gun.
Eleven years ago, I was working for a religious broadcaster who was, quite frankly, a hypocritical bitch. She was so destructive as a boss, so endlessly critical, that I ended up quitting after two years of busting my backside working for her. I didn't know it at the time, but I also had a nodule on my thyroid that was causing thyroid storms. I plunged into a black depression, complete with delusional thoughts. My marriage began to disintegrate under the pressure. I once whipped my son so badly, I gave him black and blue stripes on his legs -- and I had no idea I'd hit him so hard. (I never spanked him again, btw.) I wasn't able to eat. Even the smell of food made me violently ill.
I struggled with these feelings for the next six months, trying to hold it together and failing. I felt as if I was losing myself. One day I went in the closet and got out Mike's gun. It wasn't because I wanted to die -- it was because I felt I was already dying. Imagine being swallowed by a giant python, feeling yourself being slowly digested. Now imagine you've got a gun. That's what a suicidal depression is like. It's not that you want to die -- you just want to save what's left.
Luckily I had just enough wit to realize Anthony was in the next room. He was 11 at the time, and I knew he'd be the one to find the body. I also knew the children of suicides are more likely to commit suicide. So I put the gun back in the box.
The next thing I knew, it was in my hand and pointed at my chin. I did not remember getting it out again.
It scared the crap out of me. I put the gun away and fled the closet.
When Mike got home, I told him what I'd done. He held me and cried. My big cop cried like a baby. He was a evidence officer at the time, with custody of the evidence from suicides. He said, "Do you want me to show you the photographs? The clothes?"
I had an appointment with the gynecologist the next day, and I told him what had happened. He promptly committed me to a psych hospital. I was terrified, but I knew I needed help. The doctor there told me I was manic depressive. (I wasn't; it was that damn thyroid nodule.)
I can't tell you how crushed I was from that diagnosis. I had always prided myself on my intelligence and wit. Now I could barely string a sentence together, and the same mind I had always prided myself on had turned on me. I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to hold a job or live a good life.
But I loved Mike and Anthony and my family, and I held on. It took time -- it was two more years before the thyroid nodule was removed, which greatly helped the depression. But because I did hold on, I was able to rebuild my life. I found I could still create. I got published by Berkley. I've gone on to write more than 20 novels and novellas since my bout of clinical depression, and I'm a best-selling author. I'm living my dreams.
I also got a job with the Spartanburg Herald Journal, during which I carried around a police scanner. Every single day we'd get at least one suicide call, where somebody either attempted suicide or succeeded. It always made my heart ache when I'd hear those calls, because I knew that if the person had gotten help, it could have been avoided.
Once I went to what I thought was a shooting. Turned out it was a suicide. The wife saw me, realized I was a reporter, and begged me not to write a story. I told her newspapers don't cover suicides, and I fled. But the look on her face -- the utter devastation -- is one I will never forget as long as I live. As I drove away I thought, "I don't care what happens, I will never do that to Mike and Anthony."
I'm sharing this painful and humiliating story because I know that some of the people reading it are suffering from clinical depression. Or possibly, one of your family members or your child is suffering from clinical depression. I beg you -- get help. Hold on, even if the symptoms don't lift right away. I struggled for years. Sometimes I still deal with the after-effects. But if I had let the disease take me, I wouldn't have experienced the success and joy I've known since then.
Clinical depression is not the end of the world. It's also not a moral failure or a sign of weakness, anymore than diabetes or heart disease or cancer is. But it can kill you just as quickly as any physical disease. Don't let it. Do something. Go see a doctor. Don't end your future over a temporary problem.
And if you need someone to talk to, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm not a therapist, obviously, but I know what it's like.