It was a cold winter’s night. The heater was working hard trying to remove the chill from the air, but I still felt frozen. We were whipping along the expressway at 80 miles an hour, but in my mind, everything was moving too slowly, weighted down by the sadness, the madness in my head.

“I can’t,” I whispered.

He groped to grab my hand in the dark. “Yes. Yes, you can. I’m right here. I’ll be here.”

I shrank back, trying to disappear into my seat. “No, you don’t understand. I really can’t. I can’t face it.”

We were on our way to dinner. With both sets of parents. Dinner with the parents, when everyone knew I was slowly going mad. Had watched as I took a baseball bat to everything that was good in my life and set about destroying it.

“You have to, Amber. They’re waiting for us.”

“But I’m brooooooooooken,” I howled through the sobs that suddenly overwhelmed me. “I’m broken and I can’t DO this.”

“What? What can’t you do?”

This. Life. I just can’t, anymore. I can’t do it,” I said, then clutched my head hard enough to hurt and began to sob in earnest.

His hands turned white on the steering wheel, and I could tell he was struggling not to cry himself.

“Stop. Stop talking like that. We’ll get through this, together. We will. I promise.”

Again he reached out, and this time, I let him take my hand. Slowly, my sobs quieted, the agony once more retreating inside my head. When we got to the restaurant, I took a deep breath, stuffed the pain into its closet, and stepped out of the car.

We made it through dinner, his hand clutching mine under the table. Everyone ignored my red eyes. Pretended not to see when I bolted to the bathroom to cry. They forced their smiles and carried on with the celebration, determined to cling to a shell of normalcy.

As for me? I was dying inside. Sunk deep in a pit of depression so crushing that I could hardly breathe. I’d like to tell you that that was the worst of it. The end of it. But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

Before it was over, I had destroyed friendships, sabotaged my career,and dragged my husband to the darkest depths of Hell with me.

This is just one of many, many memories I wish I could erase. But I can’t. And that’s a good thing. Because they serve as a reminder—a warning. Now, when the symptoms start, I don’t ignore them. I slow down, reach out and ask for help.

I was lucky. I survived. Not everyone does. So if you think you might be depressed, don’t wait. Get the help you need.

It could mean the difference between living…and not.