Five years ago today was the last time the lights went out. That was the day I hit the bottom of my black hole. April 25, 2006. I had been falling for awhile but that day I went into a free fall.

I got up that morning and went to a spin class at the gym. I needed something to make me feel better. Since I had gotten clean and sober six years earlier, I could no longer self medicate with a bottle of chardonnay or a joint. Instead, I used endorphins.

I got on my bike at 6 am. I pedaled hard. My lips flapped  like a racehorse exhaling hard. Sweat dripped from my nose and foam formed  in the corners of my mouth. Nothing. Faster. Harder. Faster. Harder. Nothing. No endorphins. My legs wobbled when I got off the bike. No endorphins. No rush. No nothing.

I went home, showered, changed and got ready for work. I walked through the lobby of the newspaper where I work and felt completely disconnected from my body. It was like I was watching myself. I sat at my desk and that’s when the lights went out. I don’t remember if I was crying but I left. Game over. Sayanara. Lights out.

People wondered where I was. The phone rang but I didn’t answer it. I sent my editor a text. I don’t remember what it said, something to the effect “I can’t work. I can’t talk. I don’t know when I will be back.”

Mostly I felt catatonic. It was like I had become numb to the anguish. I couldn’t focus. I stared. Finally, I called  a friend who has suffered her whole life with bipolar disorder I. Horrific rapid cycling. I don’t remember a lot of the conversation – where is your daughter? Are you thinking of killing yourself? You need to go to the hospital?

Instead, I ended up in the office of a nurse practitioner. I don’t remember how I got there – I must have driven myself. I learned later that she and my friends were a frog’s hair from putting me in the hospital. It was one of the worst days of my life, right up there with the days my parents died.

I felt so ashamed and weak and indifferent and hopeless and numb. I stopped eating. I couldn’t sleep. It took two months of rest, therapy, residential treatment and more rest before I was well enough to go back to work. Nothing has been the same since.

I have devoted my life to never, ever falling into another major depression. It’s like there was my life before the depression and now there is life after the depression. I did a thorough inventory of my mental health and clearly saw I had suffered several major depressions before – each one progressively worse.

Odds are I will suffer another. I know that. So, I am always vigilant about how much I sleep, what I eat, the people I choose to be with and how much I work. I’m not always good at it but I keep trying. I know my depression could kill me just as easily as cancer.

I got up this morning oblivious to this anniversary. I went to the gym, the dog park and then to my nurse practitioner for my 3-month check-up. We chatted, she gave me some sage advice, which she reminded me was mine to follow – or not. She renewed my prescriptions, we scheduled another appointment and I left.

It wasn’t until this afternoon that I realized that I had sat in her office exactly five years ago. Barely able to talk. Skinny. Hollow eyed. Not really wanting to live.

Five years, exactly.