Fair warning: This is most likely going to be the deepest, most emotional post I've written yet. Due to the content, I'd like to put a trigger warning here. This post will deal with depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and many other complicated, difficult topics, and will also contain (minimal) cursing that is unlike most of my writing.
For nearly a year and a half, I romanticized my depression and anxiety. I have never been one to be called a creator, though I've always been a thinker. I've found solace and catharsis through writing. I suppose writing could be considered creative; my best writing came when I was feeling most depressed, existential, or angsty. I felt that I needed my depression to create my art; they were intrinsically linked. It was my paradoxical bondage: without the immense weight of depression, I could never write deeply meaningful pieces that would mean anything to anybody. Without my suicidal thoughts, I could never see the value of life.
Maybe the first problem was that I didn't view myself as depressed or clinically anxious. Yeah, maybe I had thoughts of ending my own life, but I didn't struggle to be motivated to do my daily meds or go to the gym. I still wanted to be social and hang out with friends. I felt excited for certain things. All while in the back of my mind, I knew that if life got bad enough, well, I could just end it. I've spoken to very few people about the depths of my despair. I've been labeled as strong for so long, so even though I feel passionate about better mental health care in America, I still felt I was too strong to get on any sort of anti-depressant. I felt that if people knew how much I struggled internally, how hard it was for me to keep it all together, I could never be a writer, or creator, or that I'd disappoint everybody around me.
I figured that my suicidal thoughts were a natural by-product of life with a chronic disease. I believed that, since it was inevitable that my body would eventually fail me and, unless an incidental death, I already knew my fate. I watched what Alyssa went through before her first transplant and knew I'd eventually watch her die. I believed that considering suicide was a way for me to give one last big fuck you to CF, since even if I died, it was at least the only way of me "beating" CF since CF wouldn't be taking me. I thought that was a normal thought when considering my own mortality.
My intelligence began to betray me. Not only did I romanticize the "art" that was coming from my depression and anxiety, I started to romanticize suicide. I began to convince myself that suicide was an ethically correct decision. We go through so much emotional trauma in life for it to all eventually come to an end, I told myself. What joys could be so worth the emotional valleys, I asked myself. I contemplated death from CF so much that I believed this was all okay and normal, that I wasn't really on the edge, because I'm too strong, of course.
I started outlining what I would want to write to my loved ones and what my legacy would be. This was okay, I believed, because if I started to realize how much my life meant to those around me then the thoughts would go away and I'd feel loved. Too bad that the idea of being missed and how devastated people would be only reinforced my belief that the emotional trauma isn't worth any possible joy in this life.
To be completely candid, there were three unspeakably difficult thoughts that most likely kept me alive. The first one: Duncan is my dog. The thought of never spending another moment with him, whether I'd be able to realize it or not, took the ground away from beneath me. The second one: How will my friends handle this? If I ever believed one of them was going through what I was going through and I didn't reach out before they did something, I'd never forgive myself.
And the kicker, the third one, a vision of the future without me: My parents burying two children; one from a devastating 30-year physical battle; the other, the "healthy one," from an internal battle which should've never gotten this bad.
All while I was being tortured by my own mind, I wrote (even subliminally about all of this at times), I posted on social media, I engaged socially with friends, I acted like I was okay. I didn't want others to worry.
And then we got the bad news about Alyssa in January. It was at this point that two epiphanies flashed through my mind: We know Alyssa isn't going to beat this, though we don't know how long she has. The other: if I don't get help, I'll never get through this.
Alyssa's battle gave me a reason to fight. It gave me a reason to live. It was a more concrete reason than I'd felt in some time. Through the devastation of knowing her life was coming to an end, it awoke something in me. As morbid as this was, I knew her death was imminent and that, if I was opportunistic enough, I could finally have the impact on the world I wanted. I could use my experiences with CF, Alyssa's health and eventual death, and my own internal struggle with depression as a platform to raise awareness on these many different but interconnected adversities in my life.
A week after Alyssa's death, I started seeing a therapist. I started Zoloft and was prescribed Xanax for emergency panic attacks. It's been 5 weeks and I feel alive and hopeful for the future. I feel like I have a chance to use all of this positively. I don't feel self-loathing and I haven't had significant suicidal ideation in several weeks. I feel optimistic that things are going to be okay and I have a future that's worth living.
I strongly believe mental health needs to be a more commonly discussed issue in America. It is so heavily stigmatized, and we're all told – but especially men due to toxic masculinity – to "man up," among other comments, and therefore, so few people discuss it openly. My experiences with CF and grief, as well as my inclination as a writer, have opened me up to be candid about my life. I implore you to be careful of your characterization of mental disease and consider how widely pervasive it is.
This is all getting to what this is all about: May is National CF Awareness Month. For every day in May, I'll be writing a post about my life and my experiences with CF. Some will be educational and about CF directly, and some others will most likely be tangentially related to my experiences with CF. I'm calling it #31DaysOfTré. I recognize this probably sounds arrogant, but I hope it can be a cool project for me to reflect and do some consistent writing about CF and my grieving process.
I wanted to start with this heavy topic because going through this has helped me finally realize it's okay to love myself and believe I have something to say. I strongly believe in the importance of talking about our mental health and that is something that is deeply affected by my life with CF and Alyssa's life. I believe writing is a platform for me to share my story and to affect change.
I have a reason to write. I have a reason to be optimistic. And most importantly, I have a reason to be alive. Thanks to everybody for supporting me in this life.
I ask that if you are going through anything, please reach out to get the appropriate help. Do not feel bad asking your loved ones for support. They will support you. Do not romanticize it. Please seek the right care to get feeling better. That may be talk therapy, anti-depressants, or something else entirely. I am here to talk as well. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.