I have always lived my life by the axiom That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I believed it, and often blithely made that comment to others when they related their latest trials or tribulations. Certainly, I had lived through enough life experiences that felt to me as if I should have died from them, and certainly, those experiences had indeed made me stronger. So, it wasn’t just a trite statement that I was mindlessly tossing out to my friends and family. I had lived it. I believed it.
Summer of 2010. My mantra for living no longer contained any sign of optimism or strength. My once cheerful, hopeful disposition had morphed into one of cynicism and despair. Although I had lived under the cloud of depression for all of my adult life, I had managed, through therapy and the prudent use of prescribed medications, to keep it in check, if not completely under control. Not anymore. By the time the summer of 2010 rolled around, I had become a glass half empty person, refusing to believe there might be brighter days ahead. I had convinced myself that the specter of gloom and despair that had been my constant companion for the previous five-and-one-half years was the norm, that I had somehow lucked out in having a long run with good fortune prior to that. Now, I routinely told myself, any good fortune was solidly planted in my rear view mirror. I had become the kind of negative person I had always avoided.
My naturally buoyant nature kept trying to reassert itself, but every time it did, my newfound cynicism firmly planted a boot atop it and pushed it back down. I doubted, I scoffed, I ridiculed, I disparaged. Pessimism settled into my bones like arthritis where it ached and throbbed, robbing me of any sense of peace – be it physical, mental or emotional. At my lowest point, I went to bed every night with one thought in my head: Is it over yet?
That one thing alone should have scared some sense into me, but it didn’t. After weeks of that single despairing thought tormenting me every night, I let go. I pitched myself into the blackest of pits, the deepest hole of despondency and I settled there. I waited to die.
I didn’t ask myself how I got to that place. I didn’t care. I just wanted to die.
But, how did I get there? What started me on that downward spiral? I was well-versed in the matter of dealing with depression. I had danced with that particular devil on numerous occasions and never before had I allowed myself to be hurled into the pit. I was a survivor. I made things happen; I didn’t just let life happen to me. I was a motivator, an encourager, a go-to girl who always had answers. That woman had disappeared and I hadn’t even noticed.
The erosion of my ebullient self began with the death of my father in February of 2005. His death set in motion a chain of events that would challenge even the most determined optimist. Still, I forged ahead, doing what had to be done, fighting the good fight, believing that good triumphs evil and that truth eventually wins out. Settling his estate involved lawsuits, the FBI, a number of mind-numbing betrayals and the discovery that evil in its purest form can and does touch our lives even when we think we have done everything possible to protect ourselves.
All of the deeply held beliefs that formed the foundation for my life crashed down around me during the next five years. Somehow, I managed to keep up the pretense of living my life, but my mind and heart slowly, inexorably crumbled into tiny pieces, leaving me completely broken on the inside. For the sake of brevity, allow me to present a short synopsis of the events of those five and one-half years.
My brother went to prison (framed by my dad’s wife and ex-business partner), the business partner and my dad’s bank then stole my dad’s business, and appropriated a $300,000 life insurance policy that was held as collateral on the business, and I came to understand (through very bizarre circumstances) that my dad’s death came at the hands of his wife. No, I can’t prove it, not without exhuming his body, but I know it to be true. Arsenic poisoning. I suspect this is the same method she used on her two previous husbands, who also died mysterious deaths.
All of these things happened in the first two years after my dad’s death. Try as I might, I was not able to close the estate for another three and one-half years. During that time, my mother passed away, as did my grandmother, and I lost three jobs (no one wants to employ someone who is totally bat-shit crazy and can barely hold a rational thought.) Additionally, my sister and I embarked on a failed crusade to get my brother out of jail and prove the bank had illegally seized the business from my dad’s estate, my daughter suffered a miscarriage (during which time I was too far gone to be of any comfort to her), my son went to jail, then prison (drugs), and I lost my mind.
And that, dear reader, is the path which led me to the point where I let go and fell headlong, without resistance, into that blackest of pits.
Now, I know that horrible things happen to people all the time. Long chains of horrible events happen to the just and the unjust. I have always considered myself a strong person, one who is able to withstand most any hardship. But, I have also always been someone who does not ask for help. Call it pride, call it stubbornness, call it what you will, but the simple act of asking for someone to help shoulder the load has always been anathema to me. Even the online moniker I used for years is a tell-tale sign of my unwillingness to admit any weakness or the need for help of any kind. Unbreakable.
Ah yes, Unbreakable: (adj) unable to be broken. And yet, I broke. My mind broke. I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like a failure (after all, I had failed to get my brother out of jail, I failed to get the business back, I failed my daughter, I failed my son… the list goes on.) To sum up: I was a failure, a broken failure.
I was at the bottom. Apparently determined to stay there. But, I’m not there today. What happened?