I. Choose. Happiness.

It was twelve years ago now that I seriously contemplated driving my car into the center divider of the 105 freeway. I was crying, I was tired, and I had no idea why I felt this way. A million thoughts raced through my head. I didn’t call anyone to ask for help, I held on to the steering wheel tightly, and I wondered if anybody would care if I was gone. Would anybody come to my bedside if I survived and was rushed to the hospital? Would the people who hadn’t checked on me in a long time suddenly care how I was doing? The only thing that stopped me was the worry that I would hurt someone else in the process. I composed myself and got myself home somehow. 

I didn’t tell anybody how I felt that night – not even my boyfriend at the time. This wasn’t the first time that I felt that way and it wasn’t the last. I thought I was crazy and even though my life was mostly okay, there was a dark cloud looming over me and I ignored it for as long as I could. That time on the 105 was the closest I ever came to actually following through. What was I to do? I could only imagine what would have happened if I shared this with anyone in my life. They would have freaked out and maybe sent me away. They would have thought I was nuts. 

I sought therapy. I had only been twice before in college and I quit after I accidentally missed an appointment and was too afraid to face the therapist again. In my first session with the new therapist – she explained to me that our conversations were confidential. The only exceptions to that confidentiality were any bits of information that I shared about wanting to harm myself or someone else. So I didn’t tell her. I did tell her that I struggled with motivation. I told her that, even though I had a really bubbly personality, I didn’t have a lot of joy for life. I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror. I told her everything except the really dark stuff. She suggested that I request a prescription for Prozac from my primary care physician. 

What would my family think? Would they know that something was wrong? Would they start to ask questions? I started taking the Prozac and nobody questioned it. Nobody asked me what was wrong. I went from having a million feelings to having no feelings at all. I became a zombie. It was worse than the depression and so I stopped taking the pills and didn’t tell anyone. Nobody really cared that I was taking them – so nobody would care if I stopped. 

Years went by and the depression would come in waves. There were weeks where I’d feel fine and then it would hit again. I quit taking birth control at 25 years old – after six years and that helped tremendously. I was able to look in the mirror without completely loathing myself. But the depression and the anxiety would still come to the surface. 

One night – I got invited to a friend’s graduation party. I was newly single, so I walked around talking to different groups of people, not worrying about having to tend to a date. A guy around my age with a really big mustache pulled out a joint. I had never smoked weed before. In fact, until that night, I was utterly terrified by it. I never allowed people to smoke at my parties and if I found out that someone was a stoner – I pretty much stopped associating with them. This night was different. This guy was really nice and the group that he was standing with was so warm and kind to me. He asked me if I wanted some and I said yes. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. I explained to him that I had never smoked before and he coached me through it. He let me know how important it was that I respect marijuana and never abuse it. That night – I experienced a joy that I hadn’t felt maybe ever. I felt balanced, happy, and full of life. I looked in the mirror and I liked the person staring back at me.

That night changed my life forever. I don’t always share with people that I medicate my depression with weed because some people don’t understand. I grew up in an environment that shamed that type of behavior. Prozac, ok. Alcohol, ok. Weed, absolutely not. So I hid it for years. And I still feel ashamed sometimes. I still worry that people will judge me. But how will people ever know any better- if they don’t educate themselves? How will the stigma be removed if people like me don’t speak up and say – I’m alive because I found something that made it easier for me to exist. 

I found something that makes me want to get up and go. It makes my laughter genuine. It has opened up a part of my personality that is so warm and accepting. It makes everything more beautiful and why would I go towards the darkness when I can stay in the light? Thank you for reading this far. I wanted to write this because I don’t want to hide this about myself anymore. This one is for those of us living in the shadows – hoping nobody will see the hurt little child in us. We can always choose happiness. 

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