I'm a Survivor: World Suicide Prevention Day

Shot by Natasha Lee  http://www.bynatasha.net

Shot by Natasha Lee http://www.bynatasha.net

Disclaimer: I am not, in any way, promoting or endorsing self harm; just raising awareness to Suicide Prevention Week and mental illness.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This hits home for me. Tears swell up as I write this. I am not always the happy or positive person people think or see me to be. I try to be, but it doesn't always pan out. I hide a lot of pain underneath my bright smile. The scars in this picture above are from when the last time I had a breakdown in 2014. Instead of getting help, like I should have, I resorted to burning myself, and then decided after, to talk to a friend. Not the healthiest route, but I was able to catch myself in time and talk it out. I am not proud of it nor am I encouraging it, but these scars are a stark reminder for me of how far I've come and how much further I've to go. Sadly, I've a few attempted suicide several times in my life, the first time being around 10 or 11. I could write a novel with all of the trauma, experiences, and attempts I've faced and overcome, but I'll start with just one...

Shot on film by Sasha Sheldon

Shot on film by Sasha Sheldon

My lowest point, and the last time I attempted to commit suicide two times within a short time period, was around 8 or 9 years ago (exact year is foggy, I was between 21 and 22), shortly after I was raped at 20, while at University. I found myself in a difficult position, like many other woman with similar stories unfortunately, and did not report it. Add to that my previous history with depression, anxiety, and trauma and an unhealthy relationship, I did not know how to cope. I did not talk to anyone about it. I pretended everything was okay when it wasn't. Suddenly, I was losing the feeling of joy to everything I once loved and found it difficult to get out of bed or do simple tasks. I stopped going to classes and doing any school work. The feeling of hopelessness sunk in, and I contemplated ending my life, and called a friend to tell her I was. She called for help, and I was quickly hospitalized and released the next day, not really dealing with what I'd just done or what I put others through with doing that. I dropped out of school and tried to cope and move on by working 2 jobs, and not really process or acknowledge what I was feeling. That didn't work, and I sabotaged both jobs and lost them. I felt dead inside and believed like I somehow deserved the rape and more. I didn't care about myself anymore. I lost friendships because I continued to negatively put myself down & became too dependent on friends & family to fix things (instead of a therapist), without taking any steps to better myself, and they couldn't keep seeing me like that (I don't blame them). I couldn't eat, sleep, or function; I was deteriorating. I felt I had no purpose in life, and that maybe, just maybe, I was better off dead. Again. I took a bunch of pills and was ready to say goodbye to the world.

As I felt my heartbeat and breathing slow down more and more, I suddenly panicked. Wait a second, maybe I don't want this. Maybe this is a cry for help. So I called my friend up and told her what I did. I was really scared. I'm eternally grateful for her because if I never did, she would've not called for help and I might not be here today. They pumped my stomach and sent me to the hospital for the night for evaluation. I was then sent to a facility to get help, which was the major wake up call I needed.

Shot on film by Sasha Sheldon

Shot on film by Sasha Sheldon

I met a lot of interesting, memorable, and wonderful people. I quickly learned I was not alone with my issues and coping with trauma. It was also frightening, as well. They kind of divided everyone in to two groups, depending on how sound you were. Thankfully, they deemed me pretty sound and aware of my actions at the time, and placed me with the corresponding group, which were mainly 'benzo' and drug addicts. I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect. But when I got to know the others in the group, I realized that they are just there trying to get better like I was. I saw the extreme effects of mental illness too; what years of abuse, violence, drugs, etc does to people. I remember meeting one woman whom I'll never forget- she was kind hearted and a sweetheart, but plagued with years of violence and abuse from an ex boyfriend. She'd be fine one minute, and completely hallucinate and scream for her life the next, worried her ex was going to find her and kill her. It broke my heart and was grateful I wasn't that far gone.

I received lots of cognitive therapy both during and after my stay at the facility to learn how to better deal with myself and my emotions. I went on meds for a while, but only long enough to stabilize myself and re-learn to cope with my depression and anxiety, as I was in such an extreme and low place I couldn't function without them (it's not for everyone). I learned a lot about myself there, and confronted a lot of my past trauma, demons, fears, relationships with everyone in my life, and rape incident. I also had to confront the not so good things about myself and accept responsibility for my actions and learned that my self destructive behavior were negatively affecting and hurting those around me. I received a lot of support from my family and friends, and the friends I felt were not, I realize they were only doing the best they can, and that I shouldn't take it personally.  I had to accept responsibility for my unstable reactions at that time that contributed, and that I was, at times, being selfish for constantly pouring my negative emotions and expecting others to fix it for me, when I had to do it myself. While I was certainly a victim in my traumatic situations, I had to stop victimizing myself and take accountability and control of my actions and emotions to get better. I learned that my emotions are a construct, and that I can really handle myself if I put forth the effort. I slowly found enjoyment again in the little things and my previous hobbies. I no longer wanted to die.

Most importantly, I learned that it is okay to not be okay. 

Nowadays, I am much better at acknowledging any symptoms or behaviors that head toward that direction. I reach out to a friend or family memeber who understands what I'm going through or at least supports me, even if they don't understand it, but are at least willing to. I'll talk to a professional. I write down all of the reasons why I am grateful to be here and those I love dearly, to remind myself that there are people who care for me too and that I have so much to live for. I will literally force myself to get out of bed and do something I normally enjoy, even if I don't feel it at the time.

I still have my struggles, like pretending everything is okay when it's not, which I understand can be misleading for people. It's an internal struggle and I never want to put any burden on someone because of my unhealthy tendencies. It's hard for me to let others in, especially when my feelings and thoughts are extremely dark and vulnerable, and I've known in the past not everyone wants to hear about that and have it push people away. It's a work in progress, but it's gotten better over the years.

I'm sharing this story because I want those who feel the same to know they are not alone. I know there's still a stigma attached to mental illness and I hope to bring a little more understanding and awareness to it. I know it's not easy, as it was not for me, but I hope to inspire others to reach out, if they're ever feeling down. I am here today because I kept fighting and have so much to offer and live for. I'm grateful. Maybe I'll share some of other stories and experiences in another post in the future. I am here for you. Have hope. Thanks for reading.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255

Shot on film by Sasha Sheldon

Shot on film by Sasha Sheldon