Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned something. I’ve discovered that courage usually lies in the same space as fear. The longer I fight to stay in recovery, I continue to find out what I’m capable of.

Recently my depression brought me back to a dark place. When this happens, it’s a bit like a whirlpool in that my thoughts are hard to track and organize, yet they race at speeds I can’t keep up with. Not everyone experiences suicidality with depression, but for me the two usually occur simultaneously.

Depression has this way of taking up center stage, this way of making me question my value and my worth, while simultaneously seeking an explanation for this shift of the mind. Suicidality is to be at constant war within your own mind. It’s the pain of living and the fear of not living existing at the same time.

Depression and suicidality make me want to flee. I know that running away and suddenly closing myself off makes me look a little…well, crazy. It also honestly makes me feel that way. I also know though that pretending everything is okay will eventually catch up to me, to my relationship, and it will erupt into a crisis mode that we’ve already lived through. I know that when I’m in this state it’s difficult to understand, hell, it’s difficult for me to explain, that’s why I’m trying to now, when I’m feeling a little bit of relief.

When I’m suicidal, I feel afraid. I’m afraid because I don’t want to kill myself but I don’t trust myself that I won’t. Explaining that I feel suicidal but don’t actually want to die feels complicated and unavailing. But that’s depression for you – it makes everything feel pointless. When I become afraid, that’s when things begin to fall apart. The concept of dying is terrifying, but the pain is so unrelenting that the idea of living with it forever feels impossible.

Part of what makes suicidality so painful and unbearable is the suffering that occurs in silence. For a myriad of reasons, speaking about my pain feels impossible at times. Whether it’s hopelessness, stigma, fear of being a burden, or fear of no one understanding, the effort to tell the truth often feels futile. It’s difficult to keep self-blame at bay, you see, because depression feeds off of shame.

I’ve learned that just like with recovery from an eating disorder, depression is the same: you cannot heal yourself alone. A single person, let alone a single person with mental health needs, cannot fulfill their self-care needs alone. The term SELF-care can be misleading.

Just two weeks ago, CJ and I were preparing for a trip to Costa Rica for her brother’s wedding. We had been looking forward to this trip for a year. We were to spend the first half of the trip with family and the second half traveling just the two of us. As the weeks led up to our departure date, I felt myself sinking deeper into despair with my depression and as a result, eating disorder behaviors started creeping back in. We didn’t know if I could go on the trip. We were heartbroken.

I resigned to feeling like a burden. I started isolating again. Working took up all of my spoons, but at least no one suspected anything was wrong there. I stopped following my meal plan. I got deeply lost in my own head. I remember writing in my journal, “I think I’m in crisis mode again”. Again. I hated that this felt familiar and that I didn’t feel like I had control to stop it. Each time I’m here, I think it will be my last. I felt like I was watching what was starting to feel inevitable and the awareness was painful. I didn’t want to be hospitalized again, but I also wasn’t sure that I could stay safe.

This time I handled things differently than I have in the past. I was open about my thoughts, my fear, and my mind set. The hard shit. It didn’t come easily, and given the proximity to our trip to Costa Rica, I was even more hesitant to share. I’m learning that when I’m honest, I’m also less despairing. The more clearly I see what I’m up against, which illuminates itself through saying it out loud, the more capable I am to fight what’s going on in my mind.

Finally, I’ve learned two important lessons:

In strength and healing,

coping with depression and suicidality in eating disorder recovery

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