Spring is here, and I’m enjoying it. On most mornings, I’m about my business even before the sun comes up.
My spring ritual is to go outside with my cup of coffee when the sun is rising. In the silent morning, I stand on my porch, sip my coffee and often close my eyes, listening to the birds sing in the trees. They’re anxious for their day to begin. I love listening to them say good morning to each other.
Sometimes I’ll look up and see a flock of geese fly over. In awe, I listen to their honking noises and watch their grace in the sky.
These simple but wonderful morning discoveries make me happy, make me glad I didn’t give up on myself.
Only a year ago, in fact last spring, I was fighting something in my mind that was getting the better of me, taking me over. There were no birds singing and there was nothing in the sky I wanted to watch or witness.
During recent years, a depressed feeling had been with me, but I didn’t feel bad enough to do anything about it. It crept up as I continued to ignore it. Increasingly in my head, there were dark clouds that wouldn’t go away.
Last spring, it was getting harder and harder for me to focus, to pretend things were normal. I started to make rash, unhealthy decisions.
I didn’t know where I wanted to live. The reality is I didn’t have much desire to live at all.
Feeling desperate, I let a friend put my personal belongings in his basement. Until I could figure myself out, I decided to live at the Travelodge in Newport.
I tried to put a good face on it: I would be getting a decent weekly rate, a free continental breakfast every morning and cable television that I’d never watch. There was a liquor store just up the street where I could stock up on vodka and cigarettes.
Pizza joints were all over, and I could have food delivered to my motel room. It sounded like a plan.
I would often go for days without leaving my room or even opening up the shades.
In my motel room, when I wasn’t drinking, I was trying to write. When I wasn’t trying to write or drink, I was trying to sleep. When I wasn’t doing any of the above, I was crying.
Dark thoughts were always in my head. I became obsessed with the idea that friends and family would read about me in the newspapers, maybe something like “Larry Gross Found Dead in Motel Room.”
I told no one about this darkness. When family, friends, editors or business associates would call, I managed to put on the mask and fake it and tell them everything was fine.
This was exhausting. How could I tell them that nothing, absolutely nothing, would ever be fine with me again?
One night I took a Tank bus and went over to downtown Cincinnati, deciding to bar hop. I told myself it would be good to be out and about among people.
I went to just one bar and had just one drink. I met no one, talked to no one and found myself crying in the corner of the bar.
Later, I decided to walk home across the bridge to get me back to Newport. I don’t know which bridge I took. My mind was cloudy.
Crossing the bridge, I remember at one point looking down at the water. I remember thinking if I could just get up enough courage, if I could just get over that railing and jump, I wouldn’t be scared of dying any more.
I would be gone. I would be dead. The terrible state I was in would be over.
That’s when something inside me woke up. That’s when I got really scared.
On that bridge, late at night, early last spring, I began to realize I could be suicidal.
Since that night, I’ve reached out to my family and friends. I had to.
Medical doctors, therapists, medication and recovery programs have been a part of my existence for the past year. I’m thankful for all of it.
I’m still learning as I go, still trying to figure out why I let this depression build up over the years and why I didn’t do anything about it until it was almost too late. Maybe I’ll never know the answer.
There is one thing I do know: Once I decided I wanted to live, I started to get better quickly. Once I chose life, getting past that darkness became easier and easier.
A year later, I have my life back. I know I’ll probably have to take medication for depression for the rest of my life, but that’s alright with me.
I’m not going to be one of those people who think they don’t need that pill when they’re feeling better. I don’t ever want to see that kind of darkness again.
Living at the Travelodge is now a distant memory. My personal belongings are out of my friend’s basement, and I have my own living space again. I consider myself lucky.
I get up in the mornings, anxious to go outside with my coffee and listen to those birds sing. It feels good to be alive.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org