by Marcus Oakes
I was a typical happy kid. I had an amazing family, I loved sports, and things were good. When I became a teenager it was almost like a switch was flipped. I still loved sports, still had an amazing family, but I wasn’t happy. By the time I was 15 years old, I literally had the worst acne I have ever seen (even to this day). I started taking Accutane, and then it REALLY went downhill. I became very good at acting like the happy boy I once was, but that’s all it was—an act. I had no desire to have friends, I didn’t want to be around my family, all I wanted was to be alone and cry.
The Downward Spiral
Before I even started Accutane, they warned me over and over again about possible side-effects—one of which was depression. Being the “tough guy” that I thought I was, I believed I was made out of steel, like nothing could touch me. I learned pretty quickly that I was not invincible. With the Accutane weighing in, and not knowing that my family had a history of depression, I was hit hard…ridiculously hard.
I didn’t understand why any of this was happening to me. I was a well-known kid at my school and a very successful athlete thus far in my life, yet I had issues that I didn’t think people “like me” would have. After some time, constantly feeling like this ate away at me and I hit what I thought was rock bottom. I was ready to be done.
At rock bottom, I had a plan to never feel this way again. I won’t go into detail because it wouldn’t have been very pretty, but I was ready. Still, something held me back. I was raised to believe in God, but I honestly wasn’t too sure up until this point, especially with how I was feeling.
Instead of taking my life at this time, I decided to pray to God, hoping that He was real. For the first time, I really, truly believed He was real and I knew that I wasn’t meant to die yet.
The Constant Battle
Did I overcome everything at that time? Absolutely not. High school didn’t get much easier. My acne eventually cleared up enough that (aside from the scars that will forever remind me of the past) I looked like a typical high school kid.
As briefly mentioned above, sports was basically my life. I played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track for years. I excelled in track and field; my event was the triple jump. When my coach saw me jump before my freshman year, he basically told me I was on track to easily break the state record. I was the first freshman to be pulled up to Varsity at my school for the entire season in as long as any of the coaches knew. Unfortunately, all of this happened before I started Accutane.
What they didn’t tell me about Accutane is that it can basically destroy your joints. I went from a 5’9” tall freshman jumping high enough to dunk a basketball (too bad my hands weren’t very big yet), to a 6’ tall sophomore that could barely touch the rim. This also led to my loss of triple jump ability and me jumping much shorter than my coach anticipated later on. Losing my athletic ability added to the frustration and feelings of worthlessness. Any chance of participating in college sports was definitely out the window.
It did eventually get to a point where I understood that this was how my life was going to be: miserable (as stated by a one-time therapist of mine). I realized I wouldn’t overcome my depression and everything that goes with it, but that I would learn to cope with it and accept it as part of me. One unfortunate aspect to those that suffer with depression is that the person will often feel comfortable with where they are at emotionally, and they don’t want to be happy. I explained my situation to others by saying that there will be days that are super high (happy) and days that are super low (sad) and instead of having two extremes, I didn’t allow myself to be happy so that when I hit “the wall”, it wasn’t as far of a drop because I was already on the lower end of the scale.
I continued to use sports as a coping mechanism, something to keep my mind off of how I was feeling that day. Music was also a coping mechanism; whether it was singing, playing instruments, or just listening to music, I had a new outlet. The way I felt lead me to find a genre of music that made me feel better (and disturbed my parents, even though it wasn’t as bad as it sounded to them). Screamo music became one of my biggest outlets because I felt that these artists were screaming for me and that they knew how I felt.
The Never-Ending Question
Unfortunately this coping and acceptance of my depression as part of me caused depression to practically define me. The picture I painted with my body language carried into my college years making it very difficult to get out of bed, get to class, or to even do school work. I let my normally good grades slip and I just didn’t care anymore.
I remember very clearly while walking to class, I constantly wanted to jump in front of the passing cars to end it all. As I drove, I constantly felt the desire to swerve into oncoming traffic. I had reached a new rock bottom, and all I could do was ask: “Will this ever end?”
I had seen one therapist—once—and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to go to another one but I was running out of options. I didn’t think that anyone could help me by talking with me about how I am feeling. What I didn’t understand then, is stated well by mental health counsellor Sha-Rhonda Davis “People come to [counsellors] with deep problems, and they need to be able to trust that you will listen to them and do all that you can to help them help themselves.” Therapists don’t tell you what to do. They just help you figure it out for yourself.
I gave in and eventually went to another therapist in college, and I literally could not have gotten a better therapist at that time. I plain lucked out because it was a school therapist and he was assigned to me. I knew as soon as I walked into his office that things would be good there (mostly because he had band posters from his younger, potentially rebellious, days on his wall that I would consider equivalent to the bands I listened to). After about two months of sessions, I began to have a better understanding and felt well enough to continue on my own. I met a beautiful woman that made me happier than I had ever been and I was on my way up again.
Did I finally overcome my issues? The answer is still no. Will this ever end? Probably not, but I should not, and will not let that get me down. I’m sitting here, ten years after I first felt the desire to end my life, still fighting every single day. But this is a fight worth fighting. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ever be bad enough that ending your life would make it better. Phil Donahue said that “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
So the real answer? Giving up is never the answer.
My conclusion to all of this is that depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, is nothing to be ashamed of but is also something you shouldn’t ignore. These issues may not ever go away but you can learn to cope with them. Don’t be afraid of going to see a therapist because people from any situation (rich, poor, famous, etc.) might need counselling, support, and encouragement, due to a problem that they might deem socially unacceptable. There are always people that are ready and willing to help you in your time of need. More people understand than you might think.
Remember: you are not alone and you can make it through. To quote one of my favorite bands, Our Last Night from their song, Sunrise “When the night is cold and you feel like no one knows what it’s like to be the only one buried in this hole, you can make it to the sunrise.”
About the Author:
Marcus Oakes has suffered from depression for over 10 years now, since the age of 15. Through these many years he has learned to face difficult challenges. Very few things have been harder for him than dealing with his mental health. He is a recent college graduate and is in a master’s program for forensic psychology. He is married to a beautiful woman and he helps her run her business, Positively Oakes, from home and he is proud of her for what she also has accomplished. Marcus has spent many days helping others work through their own issues and has learned how to use his life experiences to the benefit of others. He lives by these words: “Everything will work out in the end. If things aren’t working out, then it’s not the end” (unknown).