My Truth with Depression
For months, Samantha Green has been passionately raising money for her participation in The Overnight, an 18-mile walk where participants walk through the night in an effort to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention. In the University of Missouri Law School building, where she is a current student, you will regularly find her behind a table set up with resources and opportunities for support. Samantha has been very vocal about the cause, and she bravely shared her reasons why with The Grown Up Truth. If you’d like to learn more or support Samantha’s walk, please visit: www.samanthagreen.com.
According to the CDC’s most recent statistics, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and while the percentage of Americans dying from causes like heart disease and cancer decreases, the rate at which Americans are dying by suicide has increased. Find resources to help prevent suicide at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website .
I’ve walked with depression for a long time. I was in fifth grade the first time I thought about killing myself. It took years for that feeling to really go – and stay – away.
I was an angry kid growing up, but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for a hormonal, weird teenager. I never considered myself a particularly happy person, but I’d always assumed that was just the way I was wired. I’d always found my feelings to be manageable until college.
I remember at one point during my sophomore year thinking: I feel way too much. I can’t handle these emotions I’m experiencing all the time. It’s confusing, exhausting and makes it hard to focus.
By the time I was a senior, I was in full-blown denial about my situation. I was working my ass off – working three jobs, being involved and getting almost everything I could have wanted out of college. It was a dream come true, but every night I was pounding over-the-counter sleep aid so I wouldn’t stay up crying for hours.
When I wasn’t working, I was either out drinking with friends or asleep on my couch. With not much in between, I never had to deal with the tightness in my chest. I was too busy for feelings.
Life became busier as I started law school the following year. On top of trying to tackle a new system of academics, I was also, for the first time, navigating the health care system on my own. A few months into the fall semester, I finally decided to see a doctor for some physical symptoms I was experiencing.
I was in doctors’ offices every other week it seemed — running up bills and lab results. I was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism and PCOS, both of which I saw coming. The surprising diagnoses were depression, general anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Not knowing how to react, I sat in the examination room staring at my prescription list.
As much as I’d advocated for mental wellness in the past, I wasn’t sure how I felt about being consistently medicated for both physical and mental illnesses. Did that mean that something inside of me was broken? Did I really need fixing? As they often do, things got worse before they got better. I quickly learned that medicating mental illness isn’t always an exact science, and 2014 became a series of trials and errors, inside the classroom and at the pharmacy.
Law school was also a difficult adjustment. Intense lectures, cold calling and outrageous reading assignments regularly left me feeling like the dumbest person in the room. Some weeks, I’d have multiple panic attacks every day, even with medication. I couldn’t keep my eyes open during the day, and I couldn’t rest at night; the cycle continued to feed itself.
In an attempt to relax and socialize, I’d join my classmates at law school events and parties, where alcohol is never in short supply and rarely turned down. I didn’t know how to cope with the horrifying stress I felt every day, which was made worse by my feeling that the time and money I was investing in doctors wasn’t working. I managed to steer clear of some of the more intense substances my friends were using, but both at bars with friends and at home alone – I was drinking too much.
I carried that habit with me to Washington DC, where I interned for the summer. As one of the handful of non-Ivy students in my division, the majority of interns quickly dismissed me as uneducated and naive. My work environment wasn’t much better, and I quickly became disengaged with what I had hoped would be a great learning experience.
I wasn’t taking care of myself, and now, looking back, I recognize the dangerous situation I was in. I remember, months later, telling my counselor that I never felt that I could actually carry out my ideas of suicide, but rather, that the idea of dying felt like a permanent fog. She repeated what I said back to me, “it was a rain cloud that lived in my head, and I was just waiting for it to storm.” I’ll never forget it, because she looked as scared as I should have been.
There were so many moments I wanted to die in DC, but I couldn’t do it to my family so I promised myself that – if I made it back to Missouri – I would recommit myself to getting real help and focusing on making myself well. By the grace of God, I found a phenomenal doctor who really sat down and talked with me about possible changes I could make. He recommended that I register with the campus disability center and take advantage of the weekly counseling they offer.
Things didn’t immediately turn around; this fall was still really difficult for me as I started to create change in my life. It took almost two years, a lot of very patient people and some of the darkest moments of my life, but I finally got the recovery I needed. Leaving my house doesn’t physically hurt anymore. I don’t have to remind myself to laugh at my roommate’s jokes. My classes still make me nervous and some days are still really, really hard, but I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. Dammit I am so lucky.
Since August, four people I know have died by suicide. Three of them were colleagues in DC. They were all professional students at various institutions across the country – brilliant minds with brilliant futures. Two more of my friends have survived attempts. We were all hurting right next to one another, but we were too scared to speak up.
The Overnight gives me an opportunity to start conversations. Not only is it a way for me to raise money in memory of people we’ve lost, but it’s a way for me to stay motivated and focused on my own recovery.
Every bracelet I sell, every dollar I raise and every mile I walk reminds me that none of us were meant to do life alone. We all need help sometimes, and supporting your friends is the most beautiful thing a person can do. Every Wednesday, when I table in the law school, I get the chance to talk to my friends about mental health, self-care and suicide prevention. If even for just a moment, I get to remind them how important they are. That I care about them, that their story is significant. This walk gives me a platform to ask real questions and have honest conversations: How are you? What do you need? How can I help?
When people ask me why I’m going to Dallas to walk 18 miles through the middle of the night, I think the answer is pretty simple. I’m walking for all those we’ve lost to suicide, for everyone who has lost a battle to mental illness. I’m also walking for survivors who are trying every single day to hold on to hope. In a way, I’m also taking a victory lap of sorts, celebrating my own life and the fact that I’m still here. As small as that seems, it’s worth celebrating.