Hi. My name is Julie Elizabeth Hill, Liz to most of the people who know me. I’m here to talk about fear. Mostly about mine. When Louise first mentioned doing this, I was very interested. It wasn’t until later that I realized how hard it was going to be to talk about this. But here I am, doing it anyway.
I’ve suffered from depression since I was fairly young, and it’s been with me most of the time since it started. It lives in balance with a few other things, but depression is the big, scary force in my life.
I can’t say that I’ve ever made peace with it, but I learned how to mostly function with it. At least as long as it didn’t get bad. That’s happened before. I’ve had some really bad patches over the years. Those are hard and terrifying. And every time one happens, I come out of it more afraid that the next time, I might not come back, that I won’t be able to fight it enough to survive. I’ve always made it through so far, but that doesn’t mean I always will. I have spent a lot of time waiting for the next bad patch to swamp me.
I thought this would be the way of things for me forever.
Then one day, it changed.
Not long after my divorce, things got better. A lot better. I started sleeping at night (so often a problem for me). I set goals that would move me toward things I’d wanted for years. I started writing. Not in the sporadic, desultory way I’d been doing it since my first story, but mindfully and with determination. I figured out what was going wrong in my process and tried something different, something that was ultimately successful. I finished my first novel ever. I went on to publish it and write several more novels. Ideas for more worlds and stories poured out of me. Even my day job was good and relatively stable for the first time in years. More importantly, I enjoyed it more than I have any job I’ve ever had except working at a bookstore, but that didn’t pay all that well, unlike the current day job.
I enjoyed it all. I loved my life.
But tucked in the background was fear.
What if the depression came back?
I dismissed it and got on with my life. I was kicking ass and not bothering with names or t-shirts. I certainly wasn’t going to let fear of depression hold me back. Everything in my life was pointing toward it not coming back anyway, so why give it a second thought? That’s what I kept telling myself whenever the fear tried to speak up.
Then things changed. I burned out at writing. Work got crazy with a workload that I couldn’t keep up with. I became friends with someone who it turned out was never really my friend and who did something truly horrible to me. The details of that last don’t matter. What does is that all of this triggered the depression.
I tried to go on, tried to act like nothing was wrong. I was afraid someone would notice and be worried or just decide they’d had enough of me and my shit. I believed at the time I was fooling people. I came home and collapsed on the floor in tears quite often. I hardly slept. Barely ate. I withdrew from everything and pretty much everyone. I could barely remember what I did five minutes after I did it.
The depression was worse that I have ever experienced in my life, and all I wanted was for my life to be over. I had a plan even, because I couldn’t take it.
Depression lies. It loves to tell you that you’re alone and no one really cares. I mean, they say they do, but they’re just being nice, so big D says. And thank god it is a lie, because if it had been the truth, I probably wouldn’t be here typing this.
A friend I work with saw me on my first day back in the office after nearly 2 months of fairly serious illness (which probably didn’t help my state of mind) and insisted on taking me to the hospital. I didn’t tell her what I’d been planning. It was just that I couldn’t stop crying. I hate to cry in public, but I couldn’t stop and probably looked like a wreck.
She saved my life.
I’ve since been helped immensely by the psychiatrists at the hospital and especially by my therapist. Most of all, my friends helped me to come back in ways that would require a post of its own to articulate.
So now I’ve faced my ultimate fear, the return of the depression. And survived.
You’d think that would mean I’m not afraid of this anymore, but I am. Terrified. Every time it comes back, it’s bigger and darker than the last time. I am frightened of what happens next time. Will I be strong enough to fight it? Will the help I’ve gotten be enough to shrink it back to a size I can manage?
You treat it and hope it’ll get better, go away. But it never really goes forever. Instead, it goes into remission and you keep an eye on it while trying to live your life in spite of it. So that’s where I am now. In remission and monitoring it. Slowly rebuilding my life with the help of some of the best people I could hope to know. My friends and family.
And maybe with the help of them all, I can stay in remission. With them, I can hopefully kick big D’s ass if it shows up again.
I hope, even in the shadow of fear.