It was a Wednesday night around midnight when I left my friend’s house. It was about a 10-minute drive to my apartment. That night though I was in a really broken spot. It doesn’t make any sense but I started driving and driving fast. I as I drove tearing up the empty roads I realized I didn’t want to go home.
So I drove past the road my apartment was on and got on the loop around my city. The speed limit was 65 but under the night sky I was all alone and I decided to test the limits of my car and my driving skills. The road was empty as I accelerated. Faster and faster I drove until I hit 105. For the first time in weeks, I felt alive. I couldn’t really remember feeling anything but numb in a long time. The feeling of speed, freedom, and control. The type of control I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was amazing for just a moment.
As I neared the exit to my apartment I began to slow down. The short high I was riding made me feel like I could finally go home, face going back to my room, and sitting with my thoughts and feelings. That was before I saw the lights come on behind me.
I was already on the exit ramp so I continued to exit then pulled over to the shoulder after getting off the ramp. The numb feeling returned immediately. I couldn’t find it within me to say much of anything or even care. I had no idea how long the officer had been following me or what he had clocked me at. He approached the window and I handed over my license. I felt the heat in my cheeks reminding me that I was still there but beyond that, I felt nothing. I didn’t have it in me to cry, to beg, to lie. There was nothing there. The officer asked if I had a reason to be going 90. The question barely registered to me. I mumbled no as I felt that saying anything else would have him arrest me or involuntarily admit me. I knew I couldn’t sound reasonable in that moment. I couldn’t be charming, or witty, cunning or intelligent. I couldn’t be anything. Just numb. I took the ticket feeling nothing and drove myself home.
The next morning I decided to call my Dad. He has always been a bit of a speed demon himself so I figured out that maybe he would be more understanding. His response was “Ninety? Ninety???” I didn’t know what to say. He was mad but not overly furious. After my confession, he figured that was it but then I just let everything that I had bottled up and tried to fix on my own pour out at once. I finally said the words out loud. Words I suspected were true but had avoided acknowledging for over a year. “Dad, I think I have depression.”
I had kept thinking it would get better. That I could fix it. That I could find the motivation to start living again. To get out of bed. To go to class. To be a person. That night on the road though I realized that I couldn’t fix this on my own. That speeding ticket was a hard blow to my bank account but in some ways, I think it may have saved my life. It finally made me admit I needed help and seek it out.
Sobbing to my dad on the phone that morning as he sat hundreds of miles away was the beginning of my journey to healing. He was shocked, but he responded better than I could have expected. With his help and the help of one of his coworkers, we set up my first therapy appointment for later that week. I was nervous but now I was finally committed to getting help and I had the accountability of family.
Going to therapy helped me learn that I wasn’t insane or lazy or stupid but that I had a real condition that millions of others deal with too. Finally having someone who believed me when I explained that sometimes I just couldn’t get out of bed, or that I just couldn’t go to class, or I just couldn’t do anything was such a relief. While I still had tremendous feelings of guilt and shame I could see how being listened to rather than judged as many of my friends had done was helping me. I could also see how his understanding, not approval but understanding regarding that night on the road helped me forgive myself a little bit for one of the darkest moments of my life. My therapist also gave me hope in the pit of my despair that recovery was possible. I couldn’t see that future from the hole I was in but it was a small bit of hope.
He also encouraged me to seek help from a psychiatrist. I am currently taking an anti-depressant. I also moved home with my family so that I could have a stronger support network. While I still have ups and downs I am finally able to be a person again and act like myself the majority of the time. I have managed to hold down jobs, Be present in the moment most of the time, and feel positive about the future.
I wish that I hadn’t endangered my own safety and the safety of the people who could have been on the road that night but I have managed to mostly forgive myself. My bank account is a little lighter but so is the weight of depression now that I have sought help.
If you are dealing with depression or another form of mental illness I hope my story encourages you to seek the help you need long before you are looking at red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror and being handed a citation with a court date. Seek help before you hit rock bottom. The sooner you get help the sooner you can start the path to healing. Asking for help is brave. Never feel ashamed to need help. You don’t have to hide this or face it alone.