There are three dates I commemorate every year: December 18 – my birthday; August 27 – my sobriety date; and today April 25, – the date I slipped into my last – and hopefully final – major depression.

April 25 is the day the lights went out. That’s how I describe it. Game over. Done. I had tried to keep it together but on the morning of April 25, 2006 but I bonked. The woman who had run marathons and triathlons, restored her 80-year-old house and raised her daughter as a single-working mom could go no further.

I got up early that morning feeling spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Crying but numb. I dragged my ass to the gym, thinking the endorphins from a spin class might help. I closed my eyes and pedaled so hard that my cheeks flapped like a racehorse and foam formed in the corners of my mouth.

When I finally got off the bike, my legs wobbled and I waited for the endorphin rush but there was none. Just failure, exhaustion and brutal anxiety

I took a shower, got dressed and went to work. As I walked by the security desk I felt like I had come out of my body. I got to my desk and someone asked me a question. I could not answer. I stood up, walked out and did not return for two months. My boss called. I did not answer. I could not talk. I sent her a text message. Told her I didn’t know when I would be back. I could not eat. My therapist said it was anorexia. I could not watch television. It sounded tinny. I could not follow even a simple plot line in a book.

I called a psychiatrist, got on antidepressants and slowly crawled out of my black hole. Some days I crawled a little ways, only to slide back down. I remember one evening when I could feel the depression lifting. It was like that Claritin commercial when they pull the film from the screen and everything is brilliantly colorful. I was so happy I cried. But within an hour I was sliding back into the hole and it was very dark again.

In hindsight, and only in hindsight, can I see the gifts given to me by that last depression. I became open-minded, humble and patient. I learned to surrender, trust and have faith. I learned how my body – and especially my brain – work.

I learned that my alcoholism and depression are conjoined. Inextricably inseparable and that both must be treated. Medication and therapy are my treatments for my depression. Twelve-step meetings are my medicine for my alcoholism. To quit my meetings is as dangerous and quitting my antidepressants and mood stabilizer.

I learned in those very dark days to get on my knees and pray. And today – happier and more grateful than ever before – I still get on my knees every night. Today, April 25, 2012, if you are in your black hole and your soul is hollow, your face is limp and you can only stare into an abyss, know that this is not real.

It feels real. Very, very real. More real than anything you have ever felt in your life. But it is not. What you are feeling is not life. It is depression. It will not always be like this. Please trust me. Do not give up.

Do not ever give up.

Depressed woman photo available from Shutterstock.