Nobody is going to save you.
Not your partner (or the dream of having one), not your family, not your friends, not even your therapist. What they can do is love, guide, and support you through your journey. And they will. And it will help.
But none of them will save you.
You are the only person who can.
Let me take you back to winter ’18-’19. Or summer ’17. Or any other crippling, consistent, multi-month cycle of depression I’ve experienced throughout the past 16 years.
Every night, I would numb the intolerable pain by gulping down a large bottle of vodka. I’m talking about more than half a liter of cheap, hard liquor — Every. Single. Night.
I’m rarely able to throw up when drinking to excess, so I would just pile on the poison, night after night, eating my only junk food meal of the day around witching hour. When I wasn’t drinking, I was smoking my mind out.
My body was screaming at me.
Every day, I would wake up with a splitting headache, drag the empty carcass that was my body to my home desk, and force myself to work.
Back then, in my book, work knew no excuses. I never took sick days, even if it meant stretching what I normally could have written in one hour to six excruciating hours of trying to work the pain away.
All this came with complete social isolation, refusing to step out of my self-imposed jail cell of an apartment for days or even weeks at a time.
Every evening, when my boyfriend came home from work, he would plead me to stop.
He’d sit with me, and hug me, and try to talk to me for hours on end to little or no avail. The hot ugly tears would stream down my cheeks in silence.
When I tried to talk, I could barely get past an incoherent sentence before bursting into harder crying, digging my own grave of self-guilt.
I was on the road to isolating, despising, and likely drinking myself to death.
But it didn’t matter.
I was more miserable than I could ever put into words, wallowing in self-pity and drowning myself in desperation. In hindsight, I think it was my attempt to replace the self-harming from my younger years — that I had vowed with tattoos to never do again — with a “safer” alternative.
During these self-destructive cycles, my boyfriend was worried sick, my best friends were worried sick, and my parents had no idea this was even going on.
Those who did know what was happening showered me with love, reassuring me that I could reach out to them at any time of the day or night to talk. I’m profoundly grateful for their support to this day.
But they couldn’t save me from any of the episodes they bore witness to. And it wouldn’t have been even remotely fair to expect any of them to do so.
I saved myself.
Because I had to, because there was no other way, because I was the only one who could.
There wasn’t an “aha” moment. No miracle. No overnight success story. Quite the opposite.
It was and still is a slow and agonizing process, in which I spend a shitload of time in my head scrambling for traces of solutions. During those drunk-high nights, I gradually stopped postponing my problems and started facing them full on.
That meant weeks of asking myself uncomfortable questions and answering them with brutal honesty.
What can I not control?
The actions of others, external events, my predisposition to mental health problems.
What can I control?
My own actions, the way I react and respond to external events, the steps I take to improve my mental health.
What am I doing to sabotage myself?
Full-on isolation, excessive drinking and smoking, extreme self-pressure and self-hatred, overworking, straying away from what really makes me happy (reading and personal writing).
What are the small steps I can take to start changing my situation even in the slightest?
Force myself to go out of the house, meet up with friends face to face, go to the park, rent out desk space in an office with people that inspire me, officially register my writing business, take on new work projects only if I loved them, refuse to put myself through sleepless work nights, drink and smoke responsibly, read novels, write what mattered to me, for me, and those who need to read it (i.e. Gold Bars).
How will I motivate myself to do this?
By keeping the vision I have for my future alive and applying my merciless work ethic to my entire life, mind and soul included. Work knows no excuses. And this is the most important work I’ll ever have to complete.
In a nutshell, I was unknowingly applying therapy practices to myself. I was doing the dirty, uncomfortable, and hard as fuck inner work necessary if I ever hoped to survive another cycle. I was building my resilience one painstaking baby step at a time.
And it started working.
I can’t tell you when or how specifically, but it did. I pushed myself to start implementing all the small steps I described above, and I keep pushing myself as we speak.
At one point, after continuous conscious action, things began falling into place.
Continuous conscious action can take many forms.
For you, it can mean refusing to wait for “the one” to come around so you can finally be happy. You have everything it takes to build your own damn happiness, even though you might not think so right now.
It’s not okay to burden another person with shit you need to sort out on your own. If and when you do enter a relationship, do your part in making it a healthy one.
On the flip side, it can mean ending toxic relationships you’ve buried yourself in — whether romantic or not. You know exactly whom I’m talking about. The fake bestie, the narcissistic bae, the two-faced coworker.
Transform the trigger you just felt when thinking about them into an action step.
Alternatively, it can also mean saying a big “fuck you” to the job that is subconsciously fueling your misery. Regardless if it’s a corporate nightmare eating your creativity alive or a career path you were pressured into following. How can you expect to grow when you hate 8+ hours of your weekday life?
Use your intelligence and determination to make the shift.
For others, myself included, it can mean finally working up the courage to see a therapist. Although I’m not there yet, it’s among my high priority goals this year. Your therapist won’t save you. However, they will provide proven hands-on tools to guide you through your recovery.
You’ll still be the one doing all the dirty, uncomfortable, and hard as fuck inner work, but you’ll be armed with the right questions, resources, and customized steps.
So, take this as your unsolicited wake-up call.
If you were waiting for a sign or some sort of divine intervention, this is it.
Cut the crap, straighten your back, and stop waiting for a miracle to fall in your lap.
Only you can create it. And once you start, there’s no stopping.
It’s a lifelong commitment to yourself. You’re in this for the long run, and it’s going to be an ugly ride seasoned with failures, downfalls, and slow progress.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve banished alcohol and smoking from my existence and that I’m living my best life as a confident, fulfilled, empowered boss bitch. That’s not how things work, and I’m not about to break our relationship of trust for the sake of trying to pseudo-inspire you.
I’m still doing everything I just told you about, the good and the bad.
I still drink. But it’s one glass instead of an entire bottle.
I still isolate myself. But I make sure that no more than a few days pass before I work from the office or hang out with a friend.
I still horribly fail in the areas of self-care, self-confidence, and self-perception. But I’ve made some pretty cool progress in the areas of self-awareness, self-motivation, and self-saving.
Nobody is going to save you.
But you will.
NOTE: In the case of severe mental illness, medication is often a necessary component. If you have any concerns whatsoever that what you’re experiencing is part of a greater medical issue, please consult a certified psychiatrist for diagnosis and adequate treatment.
Soul Searching is a series in which I approach mental, emotional, and spiritual topics through personal stories, essays, and commentaries.