As a kid growing up in the 1970’s, the minute I arrived home from elementary school, I’d throw my heavy book bag on the edge of the staircase banister, stick two rectangular pieces of frozen pizza in the toaster oven and turn the knob to the ON position on the small black and white television that sat atop the kitchen counter. Depending on what grade I was in, my choice in shows was either a Warner Bros cartoon or General Hospital. It was my daily routine for six years. I’d sit at the white Formica kitchen table and take a large bite of the sizzling pizza, scream as it burned the roof of my mouth, just before starting my homework. Every so often, a loud beep would interrupt my television show and an image would appear on the screen with the words “This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.” Although I’d become accustomed to these emergency alerts, without fail, a spinning red light would appear in my brain for a split second, the fear that maybe this one time, it wasn’t only a test and we were about to be invaded by “the enemy.” Within a minute, it was all over and I could get back to my beloved Looney Tunes.
Now in real life, I’m reminded of those random, sudden alarms whenever a new and challenging obstacle gets in the way of the progress I’ve achieved in overcoming fears, irrationally catastrophic thoughts and rising above the ubiquitous lure of depression. My journey to the ultimate destination of being able to live a life where peace and joy are possible, despite my chemically imbalanced brain, has taken years of therapy and the right combo of prescribed meds. I sometimes wonder how many times I must pass one of life’s tests in order to prove that I can pass. I’m still here – I’m functioning – even thriving in some areas – yet for the past year and a half I’ve been bombarded by more and more hurdles from every corner of my life, an ongoing race against myself and the universe, to prove that I can take whatever comes my way.
A bit over two weeks ago, all of the compounded stress factors, compiled with strong sensations of anger, sadness, grief and abandonment, brought me to a point, a very low point, where I believed that I had finally failed the test. Despite whatever anyone tells me, I consider myself a failure. Life got the upper hand this time. After almost a decade of learning the tools and methods to combat the emotional triggers and fight the good fight, in my opinion, I flunked out. All of the chaos, the crises and catastrophes that I’ve endured in a relatively short time, have left me traumatized and it’s because of this, I feel I have fallen short. So much of what I’m experiencing is from having major depression and I realize that this illness is contributing to my self-deprecation – and it’s doing more harm than good.
If only I could go back to the carefree days of watching cartoons while munching on pizza – my biggest worry that the Emergency Broadcast System alert wasn’t a test, only a test, that we were being invaded by Martians and needed to seek shelter immediately.
I’m aware that trauma can be treated. I see and read about success stories every day and I’m inspired by the triumphs made by complete strangers and close friends. My desire to get better is potent enough to overcome this struggle. Thankfully I have a terrific support system in place and plenty of people who truly care for my wellbeing. Writing about my trauma is not something I’d expected to do, as it’s so very painful and private. Yet, I suppose that sharing my strife with others who are or have been in a similar place I’m in right now, would be taking my first step in the healing process. Although I’ve fallen this time, my track record for making a comeback is anything but failure.
Adrienne Gurman has over 20 years of experience in advertising, marketing and magazine publishing. She is currently the Vice President of 1212-Studio, a product design company in NYC. A native New Yorker, Adrienne lives with her husband and their vivacious chocolate lab, Anya. Adrienne began volunteering for Bring Change 2 Mind not long after the organization was founded, and has since been a leading advocate for fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness. She has lived with Major Depression since the age of 12. Adrienne writes a weekly blog for esperanza magazine and continues to be a growing voice in the anti-stigma community.