Friday, September 13, 2013

Sharing my story for National Suicide Prevention Week

All week I have been searching for the words to share my story. I know most people who read this blog know me well, and most know my story, or at least parts of it. But I believe so much in sharing our stories, in letting our voices be heard as a way to find hope and healing. I know that the only way to chip away at all the stigmas about things like mental illness, self-harm, and suicide is to talk about them, yet I shy away from sharing my own experiences more than I should, because I still inherently feel that they will change the way people see me. And maybe they have (and will), but doesn't everything? Every word I write here is going to affect the way my readers think of me. So I may as well say what I want.

At one time in my life, I decided that I wouldn't live to see my 18th birthday or my high school graduation. I was battling depression and anxiety. I felt like I wasn't good enough at anything I was doing, and I put immense pressure on myself to be perfect. I thought I was hurting people and burdening them and letting them down, and I couldn't see anything about myself that made me a person deserving of anyone's love or help. And I didn't know how to talk about any of these things because I was afraid of ruining the image of the "perfect" girl that everyone seemed to think I was. Somehow in my mind, suicide was the "easy way out". I thought everyone was as sick of me as I was of myself, and I just didn't have the energy to keep trying to fight the darkness when it never seemed to get any better. Thankfully, the people who I had been able to speak to pushed me to get help--and when that wasn't working, kept pushing me until I found things that did.

It wasn't easy, and it didn't happen overnight.  If there's a time in my life that I can say I am the proudest to have survived, it was my first year in college. I found that keeping myself safe was easy in theory, but difficult in practice when in a very short time I'd become so accustomed to using self-harm as a way to cope. Looking back, the time I struggled seems like such a small period of time in my life, but I still know that it felt eternal, and I don't ever want to be back in that place. And just because you've been pulled back from the edge, it doesn't mean everything instantly becomes lighter. There was still a lot of darkness, a lot of doubt, and a lot of moments where I wondered if it was worth it. And things getting better doesn't happen quickly--it's more like how the sun rises, slowly, so slowly that you don't realize it's getting lighter, until suddenly the light is there. And how you get there will be different for everyone. So I'm not writing this to prescribe solutions, or give you a timeline for coming out of the darkness. But I am writing this as someone who spent a long time fighting to tell you that even though there was a time when I thought it would never get any better, when I thought the world would be better off without me--it can get better. So please don't forget that.

If you want to talk to someone who has been there, I'm here--and there are so many other people in this world who know what you're going through. The more we acknowledge that, the more we can ensure that people who are struggling don't have to be alone.

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