LifeStory

Kate McGinley

At the age of 18, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, with a better understanding now of Bipolar. I was a sophomore in college about 2 hours away from home, and was suppose to be living the best four years of my life. I was supposed to be staying out late, partying with friends, attempting to find the love of my life, all while maintaining good grades. At that time, whether I chose to believe it or not, my life was on the downward slope going 100 miles per hour. I was slowly failing out of my classes, sleeping at every chance I could get, and would spend anywhere from 3-4 hours calling my parents crying, and crying, and even some more crying (.. all in the stairwell of my dorm; so my roommate couldn’t hear me) I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way.
I remember my mom telling me to knock it off, I’m just homesick. (..in her defense, she had no idea the extent of depression.. & she was saint for dealing with my never-ending stream of tears, each and every night.) These are supposed to be the best years of my life, YEAH RIGHT. I was spinning out of control. Eventually I could no longer survive living away at college; I began to commute 2 hours to and from college just to finish my semester. Each day was a struggle to get out of bed. As I moved back home to my parent’s house, It was just too easy to close the curtains and sleep the day away. I became distant and distracted from friends and family only seeking comfort when my eyelids were closed.
Unable to see what my parents saw to be so devastating, they sought out treatment through a psychologist and later a psychiatrist. Reluctant at first, I followed through with the appointments, counting each minute until I could go back into my bed and sleep. I remember thinking “How is THIS going to help, she doesn’t know how I’m feeling..” – All very ironic to me now, as I type this sitting on my office as a family-based therapist. My psychologist told me I was depressed. DEPRESSED? As in DEPRESSION? No matter how much psychology I was learning in college, I still couldn’t conceptualize MYSELF being depressed. D-E-P-R-E-S-S-E-D. I can remember my thoughts vividly: “How could I be depressed? I have nothing to be depressed about. You mean to tell me I’m a statistic for one of those long drawn-out commercials with a million and one side effects? No way is that me. I don’t fit the iconic stereotype of a drowned out girl with heavy black-eye liner and neon hair, no way that’s me.”
For years forward, I buckled down. I continued therapy services with my psychology 2 times a week and was put on a medication regiment by my psychiatrist. I tried new medications, I came off medications then I tried another set of medications. For a while, things were even-keel. I entered a relationship that last 2 ½ years, I had friends and I was exercising daily. I graduated from college and began a job in my career field. I can still picture the relief in my parents’ eyes when things were going good. Because that’s just it, when things were good, they were good. When things were bad, they were BAD.
In June of 2014, I hit my all time low. A very deep depression- no trigger, no valid reason for onset. It was like a 10- foot wave smacked me right across the face. I couldn’t breathe anymore; I was suffocating on my demons. I was regressing fast. I spent most of my days confined to the four walls of my overtly darkened bedroom, hidden underneath a blanket. No TV, no music, just silence. Just me and the thoughts that would lead me to the pill bottles. Days spent not moving from what my parents would soon call "My cave". Days of Mom, Dad, brothers, grandmothers, best friends …pleading for me to just come out of the my room, to just come downstairs and sit, promising me that I wouldn’t even have to speak. But It was too difficult. I couldn’t expose all that I was keeping hidden under the blankets. I can hear the sound of my door cracking open each hour, Mom and Dad checking on me…. “Kate, are you ok? Can I get you anything? Why don’t you come downstairs.” I’m fine, no thanks. And no. This continued on for months.
It’s hard for me remember the details of the day that I decided to call it quits. Frankly, it was no different than any of the other dark days. The darkness of my room and the heaviness of my blankets were all to relative to the heavy darkness of my thoughts. I couldn’t stand to feel this agony anymore. I couldn’t stand to carry the burden of being a constant worry of my family. I was so sick and tired of inconveniencing my parents to check on me every hour, to not be able to leave me home alone. I was saddened by the emptiness I created in my relationships and friendships. I couldn’t stand to bear this pain anymore. This was it….. I’m checking out.
Knowing that I had about an hour before the next routine “check-in” from mom and dad… I laid in my “cave” and cried immensely. I cried until I didn’t think it was possible to cry anymore, and then I cried some more….all while grasping the bottle tightly in my hand. I wanted the end so bad. I wanted out so bad. It was time... One pill…….. two pill……
Knock, Knock, Knock …CRAP, it hasn’t been an hour yet. Why are they checking in already? “Kate, open the door…..Kate……I’m worried. Open the door….or we will pop it open.”
Never did I think I would get out of that bed so quickly. I raced to the door. Merely unable to open it fast enough before clasping back on my bed in hysteria. Some may call it instinct, some may call it mother’s intuition, and some may see it as my guardian angel sending a sign for help. Eitherway, somehow, some way, my parents knew to come check-in on me at that moment. As they entered the room, they knew exactly what was going on. A quick sweep of the room, any lethal methods were removed. It still sends chills down my spine......I have never seen my father cry. He has always been the rock that held our emotional family together, but this….this broke him down. For the next blurry hour, I spent in the arms of both my mom and dad, crying together. I wanted to leave this world so badly, but I wanted to stay so much more. I wanted to heal. I wanted peace and solitude. I wanted to rebuild. I wanted to get back to Kate.
….And that’s what I did. I rebuilt. I began to heal. Was it easy, HELL NO. Is it all fixed? No. Statistically, I will most likely experience one or more additional episodes of depression in my lifetime. What will make those times different from this time? I know that I want to stay, more than I will ever want to leave this world. I am choosing to stay. I choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. I choose to stay, because my story is still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. I stay because no one else can play my part In this world. Life is worth living. This time I vow to myself, each and every day that I will not die by suicide. My support systems, my resources and my self-awareness are skills that I have for the rest of my life. These skills, among research that will provide future prevention methods, will see me through the darkness.
Trust me, each day is a battle between covering my head with the blanket or overcoming that first step out of bed. I experience some remarkably good days and remarkably low days But I’ve learn on this journey to let go of fighting this, of trying to overcome this I’ve let go of being the failure who couldn’t pull it together, who couldn’t get the victory. I’ve let go of holding God responsible for not “fixing” this. I’ve let go of the doubt that this is all in my head—that I need to think harder or smarter to get over this. I’ve let go of the friends who didn’t stay. I’ve lost much, but I’ve also gained. I’ve learned to ask questions. I’ve learned to be honest. I’ve learned to tell someone you need help. I’ve learned the importance of being present and the importance of listening. I’ve learned about myself—that who I am is OK. That all of the emotions and questions and fears, all of the stories and passions and dreams—all of these are for me to own. They are not simply symptoms of an illness. I am more than any illness. It does not own me.
I’ve learned not to blame myself for the things that aren’t me. The irrational thought patterns. The tears that come and go without reason. The hollow days. The tired days. The shaky, sweaty days. The incessant moments of panic rising up out of nowhere, tackling me when I’m aren’t looking. People who’ve left don’t define me, either. How I respond to their absence doesn’t define me. Hope defines me. Love defines me. I define me.
I am not a hopeless case or a lost cause. I am standing up again, tending my wounds, moving forward. I am not a victim. I am a survivor, a warrior, a strong human being growing stronger every day. I am not in spite of my struggle; I am not because of my struggle. Struggle is only a place where I am refined, made stronger. I am becoming more clearly me every day. I’ve learned that I do not have to find my way out of this darkness alone. I do not have to hide in shame. After all, I am not fighting against myself anymore. I can call to others to help me.
I am here, I am alive, and I am here to tell my story.
If there is anything you can take from this message, please take with you that there is more to life than just getting by. YOU deserve more than just getting by. You are deserving of the love and support in getting you the help that you need. YOU ARE NOT ALONE in these feelings. We all need hope in dark places. But if I’ve learned anything through my struggles, it’s that finding the constants in life is the biggest precursor for change and growth. So, please know that in your dark times, I can relate. I understand, and I love you always.
Remember that YOU serve a purpose in this world, and YOU cannot be replaced.
You are of infinite value, to me and many others, and you will be of great value to those who come beside and behind you in this journey. You have to walk with courage and hope. We have to invite friends, family, and counselors into our stories so that we remain connected to the relationships that give our lives meaning. We need more stories like mine, with thwarted endings and hope that overcomes hopelessness.
So be brave, even when you feel like you are the most insignificant being in the world. Be strong. Be courageous. Reach out. And come stand with me.

Please take away the most important part of my story… that your voice is the single greatest weapon we have in this fight. Your eye contact, your broken record reminders of solidarity, your questions, your affirmation of the beauty of the life staring back at you—this is how suicide prevention starts. Suicide prevention has to amount to more than an individual somehow rediscovering a will to live. It has to be a community event. The stigma that keeps our friends from asking for help is the same sense of silence that convinces us that we are somehow incapable of offering help to the hopeless.

Hope is real. You are not alone. Let us not be silent. Better days are ahead.
Love always,
Kate
Kate McGinley
Personal History
Kate McGinley
Personal History