From the day I started writing my story two and a half years ago, I was very honest in admitting I had an addiction. I referred to my depression as my addiction to sadness because of one main reason: relapse.
We tend to associate the term relapse with drugs and alcohol abuse. Very rarely do we hear about people with depression relapsing. I think it is because people who do suffer from depression don’t usually open up and talk about it, so the relapse period may not be easily identified by others. The progress made in the healing process for depression is also not as clear as the treatment for drugs and alcohol; it’s harder to count the number of days you haven’t felt a certain emotion than to count the number of days before you cave and have a cigarette. Even so, I think it is important to acknowledge when relapse happens.
I relapsed for the first time at the end of March 2008. The months leading up to my relapse were pretty good; I had gone back to school to study something I actually enjoyed and I was happy with how things were going. Just as I was starting to feel good about myself and what I was doing with my life, my second addiction came knocking on my door. (Refer to Part 7: My Second Addiction) After about eight months of no contact, my ex started messaging me again. At the time, I thought I would be okay communicating with him, so when he asked to meet up I didn’t even hesitate. I remember feeling very excited the day we had planned to meet up. There was a part of me that felt happy to finally have the chance to see him again because I still cared a lot for him. He was, after all, my first love. I was also very nervous, not knowing what was going to happen when I would finally see him again. I had always secretly believed that we would get back together one day, and I thought that particular day was going to be the day.
It did turn out to be a very important day in my history book, but it wasn’t because of what happened after we met up. In fact, we didn’t meet up because he didn’t show up. I tried calling, no answer. I texted, no response. I waited for 45 minutes at the mall where we had planned to meet before deciding to leave. In those 45 minutes, I felt a number of different emotions. At first I was confused. Did I get the wrong time or the wrong place? I re-read our text message conversations over and over until I was absolutely certain I had not made a mistake. Then I felt worried. Did something happen to him on the way here? Did he get robbed, lose his phone or get stuck in an elevator? By the time I made my way home, I felt angry. He just stood me up! Why did he do that?! Why did I just let him play me for a fool?! At first I was angry at him. Then I felt angry at myself. That night, I could not stop thinking about what had happened. I was so excited to see this person whom I trusted and believed in. I think at the time I even still loved him. I could not understand why he would just vanish from my life like that, again. I felt disappointed by him, but even more so by myself.
I can not explain, in words, the emotions I felt in the following days. I cried a lot and barely slept. The voice in my head kept talking to me, yet I could not make sense of what had happened, and it frustrated me to feel both love and hate for this person. I felt deeply hurt, and that caused me to feel pain again. A few days later, I was on my way to work when I stood at the corner of two major intersections. I watched as one set of traffic lights changed from red to green, then back to red. Then the traffic lights of the other direction changed from red to green, then red again. I had a very strong urge to run out onto the road into an oncoming car. I just wanted the pain to end. But as I stood there thinking about it, I realized I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore. It was during that time when I came to the realization that the combination of all my emotions had triggered my relapse.
Relapsing was a big part of the healing process for my depression. Relapsing meant that I fell back into the hole that I had struggled to climb out of. But in order for a relapse to occur, it must mean that there was a period of time when I felt good about myself and was getting better. By understanding that I was in a state of relapse, I realized that falling back into the hole didn’t mean I would stay there forever; if I can fall into it again, then surely I can get out of it again. It is this belief that motivated me to climb out from the hole each time I fell back in. I believed that as long as I kept climbing out from that hole, there would come a day when I would fall again only to realize that the hole is no longer there.