Brady's Story: Depression and Dogwoods
Written by: Brady Flores
I sat on the porch and I cried. I had been texting a friend back and forth about the two of us getting our driver’s licenses since we’d be turning 16 that Summer. It was a beautiful and warm day outside. The sky was blue. The grass was green. It was the Summer of 2012 - right before the start of my Sophomore year of high school. As we texted about getting our licenses and how weird it was that we were starting high school, a huge wave of overwhelming sadness hit me. It felt like the anvil that would crush Wile E. Coyote over and over in the cartoons I watched growing up. It came out of nowhere. Suddenly, I began to sob uncontrollably. There was no real reason for this sadness I was feeling… it was so strange, and for some reason, I couldn’t stop crying for what seemed to last 10 minutes or so. That’s when I first felt it. There was no real way to explain it other than I had no control over it… over the way I felt. Nonetheless, I brushed it off and went on with my day, not telling anyone it had happened.
Throughout my high school years, I would deal with these bouts of extreme sadness. More often than not, I either felt sad or just didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to pretend to be happy. Friends noticed and saw this in me and would say things like, “Why can’t you just be happy?” or, “Why are you so sad all the time?” or, “We like you better when you’re in a good mood. You should try and be happier.” Oftentimes my excuse was that I was tired and exhausted. These spells of sadness were on and off throughout my entire high school career. The worst part about when I would have these bouts of sadness was that I would seclude myself. I’d bury myself deeper by ignoring friends, locking myself in my room, and listening to The Smiths or other sad indie rock music. It didn’t make sense to me. I’d sometimes think, “Maybe I have depression.”, but then my thoughts would quickly change to, “No there’s no way you’re depressed. Depression is a super serious thing people have to deal with. You’re probably just going through hormonal changes because of puberty.”
Paired with this sadness also came thoughts of hopelessness, fear, and the option of suicide. I would think, “My sadness is such a burden to my friends and family. Maybe it would be better if I were dead.” or, “This pain I’m feeling is too great. If I was dead I wouldn’t have to feel this way.” or, “I just keep messing up things in my life. What’s the point in living if I can’t do anything right?”. These thoughts would come and go, but you know what they say - when it rains it pours. When I had these thoughts of hopelessness and self-doubt, it would come like a giant wave, destroying anything in its path. It affected everything I did. In social situations, I was too timid to speak to the girl I thought was cute. I would think I wasn’t good or cool or popular enough to talk to certain people. In school, I felt there was no point in me even trying because when I sat down to do homework, I couldn’t focus. I would become frustrated and eventually just give up. I feel like if you were to ask anyone around me at the time, they would say I had a pretty good life. My parents both had stable sources of income. I had a good group of friends. I was the singer of the band I was in at the time. It seemed like I had a lot going for me. In my mind, however, it was quite the opposite. I felt I had nothing. Despite clearly seeing my life was fairly normal, I felt I had no real happiness, and that the happiness I did feel was conditional and temporary.
I can remember the one thing that did bring me insurmountable joy, was playing music. Whether I was practicing in the basement with my bandmates or playing on stage at a local venue, I was always happy to play music. It made me feel alive and excited. It made me feel wanted and noticed. It made me feel like I was doing something right in my life. However, when the lights went out and I stepped off the stage back into the real world, the sadness and insecurities were felt almost instantly. The high of me performing was gone, and I immediately fell back into the clutches of depression.
By some miracle from God himself, I made it through high school unscathed and alive. The latter end of my senior year was a great time for me. I felt I was peaking socially. I had recently gotten out of a bad relationship. I was spending more time with my friends, Summer was approaching, and everything was going great for me. Along with this, was the prospect that I would be going out to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This was something I was always expected to do growing up as a member of the church, and for all intents and purposes, it was something I wanted and felt like I should do. Upon receiving my call to serve in the Philippines (the home country of my dad), I was so excited to go. However, things didn’t go as planned. After some extreme bouts with depression and some self-harm problems, I returned home after serving only 8 months.
My world was crushed. I felt I had disappointed my friends and family. None of what I was going through made sense to me. Upon returning home, I quickly moved away to college to get away from what felt like my overly concerned parents at the time. While living away I didn’t pay much attention to my mental and emotional health. I began to make new friends and found myself enjoying life a little bit more again. It wasn’t until I experienced a heartbreak from a girl who I believed to be “the one”, that I spiraled downward once again. The crushing blow sent me down a rabbit hole of negative emotions. I returned home that night and turned to self-harm. Sitting there, staring at the injuries I had inflicted upon myself, I called my sister, afraid and not sure of what to do. I went over to her house and revealed my wounds. That week, they took me to my therapist. Time went on and I felt I was getting better, when in all reality I was just shrugging off my mental health yet again, pretending like I was fine. All these years I’d gotten really good at pretending… but pretending can only get you so far. I moved back home that summer and started a new job that I seemed to like.
Everything felt like it was okay. A year had passed without me having any extreme episodes, though I could tell I was in a constant state of feeling numb and alone. Towards the Spring of that year I had met a new girl. We really hit things off. For the first time in a long time, I was feeling something other than darkness and nullity.
I moved back to college that summer, mostly so I could live closer to my new girlfriend. I got a new job and began yet another new chapter in life. Things were going well for a while until Winter came. I began to feel the lowness and nullity again. The excitement of everything I had been enjoying in life slowly faded away. Once again I was shutting down. In this state, I broke up with my girlfriend. I became a recluse and never saw my friends. I mostly stayed at home, alone, doing not much of anything. Months went on and I continued to get worse. I felt like I was losing my mind. My friends were all getting married and starting their new lives. I had ruined things with the girl that I loved. My family members all seemed to be succeeding in their different endeavors in life. Yet there I was, alone, afraid, and confused. The self-harm started up again, much worse than it had ever been before. I cried whenever I was alone.
I had always thought about suicide, but now for the first time ever, it seemed like a reality to me. I felt the only way I could escape everything I was feeling, my seemingly ruined and hopeless life, was to kill myself. I would drive up the canyon, find a quiet place to park and sit. My plan was to hang myself from a tree, it seemed the most reasonable way to do it. I would sit there alone for hours, debating whether I should do it or not. Secretly hoping someone would drive by and see me, or maybe a police officer would pull up and ask me what I was doing there...but no one ever came. This happened multiple times where I would drive up the canyon with no intention of returning, but I could never bring myself to do it. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was that kept me alive either, but the only explanation I can give is a miracle from God.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that one of two things could happen; One, I could continue on like this until I’d finally build up the guts to take my own life, or two, I could reach out and get the help that I so clearly and desperately needed. I chose the latter.
I told my family of everything I was feeling and going through. They signed me up with a new therapist, set up my appointment with a psychiatrist, and we started talking more openly about my feelings and problems.
I am extremely happy and confident in saying that today, I no longer want to die. My psychiatrist was able to find a medicine that worked for me. My therapist has given me tools and insight. I enjoy many activities like bike riding and photography. I exercise and eat healthier.
I feel good about myself and the things that I do in life. All it took was for me to reach out to the ones around me to get the help I needed. It seems so cliche and simple, but that’s really all it takes. For years I dealt with depression and anxiety. For years I let it control my life and the way I saw the world. Now, I am in control. It’s still something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, but it’s now something that doesn’t seem so big. Throughout all of these experiences and trials I’ve had, I’ve learned that although it’s not my fault that I have depression, it’s still my responsibility to take care of it and to take care of myself. Now, it’s something that most of the time, I forget I even have.
I have also gotten my self-harm scars covered by a tattoo given to me by my sister. The tattoo is of beautiful dogwood flowers that remind me of my family that loves and cares for me so deeply. My mom would often tell me of the dogwood tree that my grandparents had in their front yard, and how much they loved it. Now, whenever I look down at my arm, I don’t see the scars of a dark past, but the beautiful blossoms of a bright and hopeful future.
Let us all be there for each other. The world is a crazy place. Everyone has things in life that they are dealing with. But if we can come together in unity and acceptance, I believe we can help those who deal with mental and emotional illnesses. We can lower the national suicide rate. We can reach out and help those who are in desperate need of a friend, a shoulder to cry on, or sometimes just a listening ear. Let’s raise awareness of these things! Let’s put a spotlight on it! If we let emotional health be a taboo topic and keep it in the dark, it only gets stronger and will continue to take more and more lives around the world. Let’s sit down with our friends and families and talk about depression, talk about anxiety, talk about suicide, and self-harm. Let it be known. Bring it to the forefront. Don’t let your emotional and mental problems push you into a corner, but allow them to be a way to connect with others. We’re all human beings who all experience human emotions. No one is exempt from feeling sadness or anxiety sometimes, so why not just talk about it! I know if it weren’t for my friends and family and their love and support for me, I would not be here today. Because in reality, when it comes to mental and emotional health, no man is an island. It truly does take a village.