By Tabitha Barr / Editor in Chief
Dealing with depression is hard enough as it is. But when you’re diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression at 13, then diagnosed with severe recurrent major depression disorder at age 15, life can be one big obstacle.
Alexis Zimmerman was a teenager when her thoughts started swaying in directions that were harmful to herself. Being scared of her thoughts, she sought help from her parents. She was put into therapy and on trial prescription medications. She was just trying to live a normal life, with the weight of depression hanging over her head.
During her junior year of high school, the weight finally took hold.
“I lost touch with friends, with people, and myself,” she said.
It was around 10 or 11 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2016, when Zimmerman decided that she was ready to be done. She overdosed on her antianxiety and antidepressant medications. Before falling unconscious, she called her best friend at the time to tell her she loved her and thanked her for being her best friend.
Her friend could tell something was wrong and found a way to get to Zimmerman’s house. Once her parents were aware, they called 911 and started driving her to the hospital. An ambulance met them halfway and transported Zimmerman to the hospital.
“From there, it’s just very hazy,” Zimmerman said. “I was very in-and-out with the drugs that they gave me and the drugs that I had taken.”
In the next several hours that continued into the next day, she stabilized and then legally had to be sent to a rehabilitation center.
“Which was actually one of the worst experiences of my life,” Zimmerman said.
The officers, the people at the rehabilitation center, and everyone else around her kept her at an arm’s distance.
“It seems like people are afraid to deal with us when we’re just trying to get help, but we’re scared to get help because of these people,” Zimmerman said.
After a couple of days spent at rehab, she was able to go back home.
After a suicide attempt, you don’t have to just deal with the situation at hand, but with the aftermath that comes with it. People treated her as if she was fragile, or they just cut her out. She lost many friends because they didn’t want to be associated with her and what she did.
But for her self, nothing really changed. She still felt depressed and weighed down, but there was nothing to do but keep going to therapy and switching to different medications. Finishing school became unimportant in her mindset and she ended up dropping almost all of her electives for the rest of the year.
Her second attempt happened on Friday, July 21, 2017. There we many things that swayed her into this dark position. The event that most affected her was that she was sexually assaulted by a coworker not long before. It’s an unimaginable thing to live through, but it didn’t help that no one believed her and instead took her assaulter’s side.
“It made me question myself . . . I was very depressed and I wasn’t going the right way about things.”
Almost 50% of suicides are based on impulse reactions. Zimmerman experienced this first hand.
“Something just kind of snapped in me one day. It wasn’t something I had planned, it was just one day I woke up and decided.”
She texted her parents telling them she loved them and the same thing to her at-the-time boyfriend. Zimmerman then ended up taking a whole bunch of her antidepressant pills and climbing up into her loft bed. She called into work saying that she wouldn’t be in and closed her eyes for a “nap”. She didn’t wake up until Sunday, two days later.
The events that occurred after, she has no memory of. From overdosing on the pills, they suspect that she had a seizure and fell off her bed 6 feet, her parents and at-the-time boyfriend found her on the floor. The EMTs were called and they transported her to the hospital where she was incubated, put on a ventilator, and was put in a medically induced coma.
“They told my parents it wasn’t looking good.” But on Sunday morning she woke up.
“The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the ICU . . . and pretty much had cops at my bedside.” She was bombarded as soon as she awoke and was questioned in every way possible about why she attempted.
After she was released, she was sent to a different rehabilitation center located in Topeka that helped her tremendously. For three to four days she stayed there, then was able to come back home.
After her second attempt, she lost way more people in her life than she did the first time as conflicts arose around the sexual assault.
“It’s like I had no one in my corner at all, and it really was just me.” Through time, accepting new people in her life that strongly cared about her, and finding her way with religion, Zimmerman has made no new attempts since then.
She still struggles with depression and anxiety in her daily life, but she’s learning to understand and have healthy ways of coping with it.
“Depression is a life-sucking force.” It’s not just being sad because something happened, but a weight you can’t get rid of no matter what you do at that moment. “I can be laughing and be the happiest I’ve ever been, but I’m still depressed.” It doesn’t go away.
Mental illness is misinformation in the brain structure and chemicals. So depression, for those who have it, it may never go away. But there is a livable solution and more people understand it than people think.
“Depression is one of those things that you have to learn about yourself, in your body, your brain, your mind, and just figuring it out. . . . Even though it might last forever, I’m not always sad.”
Zimmerman encourages everyone to understand that “you’re not the problem.” It’s hard to live with and hard to keep going, but finding healthy ways to cope can be your aid.
Whether that be therapy, caring people in your life, medication, or others, life can be livable.
Don’t hide it. Don’t feel like a burden. Don’t let the stigma get inside your head. Because in this day and age, people are starting to realize that depression is more common than we formally realized.
When helping those who have depression and anxiety, Zimmerman said, “treat people with kindness and be patient, because you never truly know what someone is going through.”
Some people are too good at concealing their emotions, so be careful with the people around you.
If you or someone you know is struggling with harmful thoughts, the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, or text CONNECT to 741741.
Suicide is harmful to everyone, be kind to yourself.