As of yesterday morning, I heard the words I've been dying to hear since October 31, 2018.
"No detectable presence of disease."
For those of you not versed in the magic of those words, it means I am cancer-free. I have worked my ass off, doing what Doctors tell me, eating better, exercising more, struggling with side effects, living with pain, and figuring out what my life is for so long it's just been ingrained into my mind that I'm in a constant fight for my life, but just when I thought I could relax, I can't.
I'm done with cancer, and that's awesome. Thing is, cancer is relatively simple to fight. You just pump your body full of radiation and poison, you cut out anything that's too big to be killed that way, and you hope that your body outlasts the cancer. Mine did. I'm one of the fortunate ones. Thousands of people a year die from the same cancer I just beat. It's not a small accomplishment, and I recognize that. I'm so happy to be done with it.
The new battle, however is much scarier because I can't control it with a pill or a surgery or blasting it with radiation or chemo. It's something I have to fight against every day, probably for the rest of my life. Something most people don't talk about, are ashamed of, or would never say publicly, which is exactly why I'm doing it now.
My name is Vincent Ferrari, and I suffer from severe depression.
That isn't easy for me to say. I've been fighting this in a half-assed way for most of my life. I've been sticking my chin out, daring the world to hit it, and then grinning as I sucked in all my feelings, failed to address root causes, and prided myself on "going it alone." Last week? I couldn't help it. I had to get help. One week ago today, I started looking for a therapist, and I found one. In my initial survey to establish baselines, she found that I was on the "extreme level of depression and anxiety." On Wednesday I had my first session with her, but I've been in contact with her through the service I'm using called Better Help (affiliate link for a free week for you), which fits nicely into my schedule and affords me constant contact with her, which is good because I need it.
I've been putting this stuff aside for too long. Too many times I've just gritted my teeth and said "I can handle this," but this time last week, I realized I couldn't. I got a flat tire and I had a complete and total breakdown. Normal people don't have breakdowns over flat tires. They just don't. Me? At that moment, it was the end of the world. Was it really? Probably not, but it sure felt like the straw breaking the camel's back.
At the end of my father's life, he clearly was suffering from depression. He died a sad broken man who gave up after pulling through surgery and 3 weeks in a coma. Imagine going through all that and having so little will to live you just let yourself die? At every step in this journey against cancer, I've promised myself I wasn't going to be my father. My father was a good man, but my father was also very ill mentally. He would be alive today if he weren't; I have no doubt about that.
I absolutely positively will not be my father. At my worst I was borderline uninterested in living, and I sucked it up, pretending I was fine. I just wasn't, and I can finally admit that. I went through cancer with a smile on my face, fighting the whole time. My will to live drove me to push myself harder than most people ever will, and in the last few weeks I felt that passion for life dying a little at a time. I didn't want to die, I just didn't care about life any more.
I'm not telling you this for sympathy, for credit, for a pat on the back, or for anything else. I'm telling you this because I'm pretty sure if I didn't you all would have no idea. People going through what I was going through don't always wear it on their face or portray it in public. They may not show any signs whatsoever of being any different from what they were but they might be struggling. Or it may be you. You may be struggling. You don't have to struggle in silence, and you definitely don't have to "live with it." There's no badge of honor for living with depression and not treating it.
Get help. Reach out. Hell reach out to me, if you just need to talk.
Your life matters, no matter how much you either think it doesn't or don't care.
It took a lot for me to do it, but I can see the improvement already. If you feel even remotely close to needing help, you absolutely owe it to yourself, your family, and your friends to getting some, however you're able.
You're loved. You're important. You're needed.