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You Can’t Cure Mental Illness – Jeremiah Espinoza

Photo Credit: Volkan Olmez

There’s a song released by Scott Hutchison under his solo project, Owl John, called A Good Reason to Grow Old. It tells the story of a man struggling with depression and suicidal ideologies coming to terms with his mental illness and deciding that despite the demons weighing him down, he wants to live his life. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece that speaks to anyone suffering similar maladies. Hutchison explored these themes previously in songs released by Frightened Rabbit, a more prolific band he fronted. But none carried such a positive, hopeful outlook for the future as A Good Reason to Grow Old.

He committed suicide four years later.

The news unnerved me. I didn’t know him personally but I knew his music and heard so much of my own story interwoven within his. Like Hutchison, I deal with a mental disorder. It’s been diagnosed as chronic depression, Bi-Polar II (worst sequel ever), and back to chronic depression again. I’ve taken no fewer than fifteen different combinations of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. And I have spent quite a bit of my adult life battling suicidal ideologies.

Right now, I’m in a pretty good headspace. That it will last is never guaranteed.

The Struggle is Real

Over the past ten years, I’ve had numerous depressive episodes. Some lasted a couple of days, some several weeks. The worst took a year to get through. Statistically speaking, about 25% of you can empathize with what that feels like. For those of you that haven’t experienced it yourself, understand that a depressive episode doesn’t consist of just sitting around feeling sad about things. It’s all out war from within.

Imagine an incredibly loud bully shouting every deep rooted insecurity you have back into your ear incessantly. Imagine that bully keeping you awake for nights on end as you become weak and fatigued. So much so that you become more and more receptive to the damage being done. Because that’s exactly what happens. You wind up so broken that you start believing the horrible things you’ve been hearing. And worst of all, you’re stuck with yourself, this person you’ve grown to hate. There’s no way out.

With any illness, keeping a positive outlook is a vital piece of recovery. What makes mental health issues so dangerous is that the more severe they become, the more impossible it is to attain a positive outlook. Any steps you take toward rehabilitation can feel futile, like you’re using a small bucket to scoop water out of a rapidly sinking rowboat. Committing suicide isn’t inherently an act of selfishness. Even if someone appeared absolutely fine to you, chances are they’d been struggling to keep afloat for as long as they could and finally lost the fight.

In Remission

Last week, I celebrated 18 months since my last suicidal ideation. With the combination of therapy, medication, and supportive friends and family to lean on, I made it through my longest, most destructive episode yet. I managed to come to terms with my illness and decided that despite the demons weighing me down, I wanted to live my li —

And there it is. That same feeling Scott Hutchison had when he proclaimed that he’d finally found a good reason to grow old…

There’s no such thing as a cure for depression. It isn’t the flu; it doesn’t just leave your system after wrecking you for a few weeks. If you are lucky enough to find your way through the darkness to the other side, you can’t just move on. The moment that you take your hands off the wheel is the moment that you relinquish control over your mind.

That’s what I did at the end of every previous episode — celebrated a victory and went about my business. Sure enough, the subsequent episode would go unchecked for so long, it’d be more difficult to overcome when I actually did start addressing it. This pattern crescendoed into a period of my life where it would not be hyperbole to say that literally any moment could’ve been my last. I can’t afford to risk that happening again. Truthfully, I don’t know if I could survive it.

And I guess that’s why I’m sharing my story with you today, as a reminder and a plea. When it comes to your mental health, you can never be too careful. Whether new to the troubles or you’ve been dealing with them for a lifetime, whether they affect you directly or you’re reading this now because you’re concerned about a loved one, it is absolutely critical to remain vigilant. Even when the sun’s shining, keep a lookout for storms on the horizon.

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