The First Day of the Rest of My Life
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt as if I were living two different lives: the life everyone sees and the life that only I see. In the life that everyone sees, I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, a straight-A student who’s always smiling and who’s always trying to make others smile, too. If you were to ask my friends to describe me, that’s probably what they’d say. And if you were to ask me to describe myself, I’d probably say some of the same things. Because, essentially, that is who I am. And although I wouldn’t be lying, I also wouldn’t be telling the complete truth. Because the truth is, who I am, who I really am, is a girl who suffers deeply from depression; a battle I have been fighting for the past decade of my life and a battle I continue to face, today and all the days to come.
A few years ago, I came very close to losing this battle. I felt so overwhelmed, so incredibly sad, and so unbelievably defeated, that I sat in my car, with a handful of pills sitting in the palm of my hand, and I contemplated taking my own life. Although I didn’t chose to let my depression kill me that afternoon, I still let it win that fight. I let it win because, day by day, I let it take a part of me. I stopped making decisions for myself. I no longer chose when and what I was going to eat. My depression chose. I no longer chose when, or for how long, I was going to sleep. My depression chose that, too. I stopped choosing when I was going to hang out with my friends, I stopped choosing what school assignments I was going to complete, I stopped making so many decisions in my life because, at the time, it seemed easier to let my depression make all the choices for me. And it became easy. Because my depression always chose the same answers. My depression loved the dark; upstairs, tucked away in my bedroom, window shades pulled down and under the covers. My depression loved to eat. Everything. Regardless of the emotion I was feeling and regardless of whether or not I was hungry, my depression almost always chose food. And my depression also loved to sleep. Any and all hours of the day. I continued to let my depression make all of these choices for me, all up until one day, when I chose to make the most meaningful and important decision of my life. I chose to live.
I was a junior in college, home for winter break. One night, I called my cousin and I asked if she wanted to go out. I needed to drink. I picked up a 30 of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a handle of Pinnacle Whip Cream, and I headed towards her apartment to pick her up. She hopped in my car, as we cranked the radio and set off for the highway. In my 1997 Toyota Camry, I quickly accelerated to about 70 mph in the middle lane of highway interstate 93 south. When, suddenly, out of nowhere, my car jolted. All my dashboard lights flashed on, simultaneously, and then off. I immediately went to step on the brakes, only to realize that they were locked and that my power steering was gone. Oh my. This was it. This was how I was going to die.
As sparks began to fly everywhere, the entire hood of my little sedan shot up in flames. I was in a state of utter panic. I didn’t know what to do. I froze. I repeatedly screamed, over and over again in my head, I am so scared! I am so scared! “STOP THE CAR!” My cousin yelled. All four of my windows were locked open. Smoke began to engulf the air around us. I was completely paralyzed in fear. “SAY SOMETHING!!!!” My cousin screamed. When we, as people, become afraid, our thinking is not clear. We become so overwhelmed with our biological and psychological responses, that we cannot think straight. Why didn’t I think to pull the emergency brake? That’s what it’s there for, right? Why didn’t I immediately call 911, while all of this was happening?
I saw an exit ramp within reach. As my car started to slowly decrease in speed, I somehow managed to slightly steer my car in the direction of the exit ramp. But, as the car continued to slow down, the flames continued to grow. At this point, I was hysterical. My thoughts were racing. My mom! My family! I can’t die. My family, oh my god, my family! My cousin yelled, “WE NEED TO JUMP!” But I just couldn’t do it. My entire car was engulfed and surrounded in smoke and in flames, as she yelled again, “THE CAR IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE, WE NEED TO JUMP!”
Explode. Hearing my cousin scream that word… EXPLODE. I had been waiting years for the right moment, to end my life, to end it all. And what would be more perfect than an “accidental” fatal car fire? There would be no fingers to point and no fault to blame. But I was in such an incredible state of shock… I couldn’t believe what was happening. “I CAN’T JUMP!” I was so terrified. My cousin looked at me, as she grabbed my hand and said, “If we don’t jump, WE WILL DIE. And I’m not jumping without you.”
Within seconds, the two of us were counting to three… 1, 2, BAM! I ripped my keys out from the ignition, chucked them somewhere in the car, as we both jumped. As we were running away from the car and towards the main road, I looked behind me and saw all the flames building up beneath and taking over my car. Shaking tremendously, I reached for my phone and dialed 911. “HELP!” I screamed. “MY CAR IS ON FIRE!” I told them exactly where I was and made the dispatcher stay on the phone with me until help was near. BOOM! BOOM! I heard the fuel tank explode, as I collapsed to the dark, wet ground, hyperventilating. Was this really happening?
As the cops approached my cousin and me, they explained that everything inside the car was now ash. Chances were, I wasn’t going to be able to salvage any of my belongings. As I sat there, on the ground, crying about all the things I had lost in my car, including the car itself, one of the officers knelt down beside me and said, “But you didn’t lose your life.” Not only did that day change my life, but it saved my life. It saved me.
Deanna aspires to help all individuals experience self-love, self-worth, self-esteem and a powerful place in society. In 2014, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Education; today, she is pursuing her master’s degree in Social Work. Deanna is currently employed at a university, where she works as an academic counselor and as a mental health counseling intern. She aspires to someday open a private practice, providing therapy to adolescents and families. When she’s not working or studying for school, Deanna enjoys spending time by the water, going on spur-of-the-moment adventures, singing in the shower, and binge watching T.V. shows on Netflix. Today, Deanna acknowledges that we, as society and as individuals, all need to be reminded of just how brave, beautiful and capable we really are.