Tubes, connecting to nearby machines, snaked around my chest, tracing the failing parts of my body: heart. Liver. Kidneys. Medicine, pumping at extremely fast rates, pulsated through my veins flowing towards the sickest parts of my body in an attempt to regain functionality. Professionals, using their 50 years of combined medical knowledge together, hovered over my decrepit situation. I could see the stethoscopes dangling.
“She might not make it, John.”
“Lola, can you hear us?”
“Her breathing is shallowed, call RT.”
“Prep an ICU bed.”
I could only faintly hear their slurs of hushed doctor talk. Breathe, I thought. Lola, focus on making it through the next breath. That’s your only task right now.
That was then.
This is now. I am a student leader, advocate, author, blogger, volunteer, and obsessive coffee drinker. I am a dreamer, an enthusiast, a lover-of-all-things-life. And although it was a long, windy road to recovery with no shortage of hospitalizations, medication changes, psychiatrists and psychologists, there was a vivid moment of clarity that remains etched in my mind even today. After watching so many professionals fight with all their might for my life, they showed me this: I deserve life. The grave does not deserve me yet. The grave does not deserve the mounds of unfinished dreams, hopes, goals, aspirations, and desires I possess.
The world needs me. The world needs you.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during that scary hospitalization and I remember what the doctor said to me with eyes of genuine compassion: “Lola, there will be days of pain ahead, but there will also be days of joy and getting rid of the pain means getting rid of the joy. Let’s get you on the mend.”
Depression is a beast; it will fight hard to make you succumb to its ways. But in those days following my attempt, I learned that I am more than my harmful thoughts. Depression doesn’t have the last breath and my thoughts have only the power I give them. Depression is strong, but with the right tool kit and resources, we can be stronger.
As far as I’ve come in my recovery process, I also know that I will wrestle with my mental health for years to come. I am not the epitome of healthy, yet. I’m still a work in progress with many cracks and crevices in my soul and I need learn to thrive despite them. I am a masterpiece, not yet finished. Instead of waiting for the day for it to be beautiful, I am finding beauty in the unfinished work and anytime I get into a rut, I remind myself: The grave does not deserve me yet. I deserve life to it’s fullest.
And so do you.