Perfectionist. Smart. Beautiful. These are a few of the many positive words that I was known by as a young teenager. On the outside, I was the girl who seemed like she had it all. The girl who had great friends, a boyfriend, was a cheerleader, and more. However, while the outward appearance and demeanor was one that many thought was happy and whole, secretly I had an internal struggle with myself. The things that others saw, I did not.
By the age of thirteen, negative thoughts filled my mind and I struggled to hear anything but my inner critic. I felt like I couldn’t control these thoughts, so instead I tried to control other things. The first becoming my eating. This would start years of battling anorexia and bulimia. Somehow, controlling what I ate and when I ate helped me feel like I was controlling my thoughts and other things going on in my life.
When this wasn’t enough, I began to cut. I didn’t cut to harm myself. I cut to feel pain. I cut to feel something because I felt so numb all of the time. When my anxiety or depression would start to grow strong, it was a way to feel alive. For those who have never been through something of this nature, it makes no sense. Even today, it is still a struggle to feel relaxed and not anxious. I don’t know if it ever goes away completely although I am aware that I do have good and not as good days.
Through all of these things going on, I promised everyone I was okay, and said I didn’t need help. I wasn’t going to cut again. I wasn’t going starve myself or force myself to throw up. I would say whatever anyone wanted me to say because I was too scared to ask for help. Asking for help would mean admitting to all those people who made comments about how perfect I was that I was lying. Eventually, the truth would emerge, and I would let them down, but at 18 years old, I couldn’t stop the negative thoughts from consuming my mind and I felt helpless.
Two days before my senior year of high school, it all came tumbling down. I couldn’t do it anymore. My family and friends would be better off without me and my issues, I thought. That is the day I disappeared to try and take my life for the first time. The world would be better off without me, right? No one would have to worry about me. Would anyone really even care if I was gone? These were some of many thoughts that I had that day. They were thoughts I’d had for a while.
We cannot eradicate this global epidemic unless we all reach out and tell someone: “I care.”Once I made a decision that the world didn’t need me any longer, I felt relief. I felt happy almost, or so I thought. It was the mask of being in a depression for so long and finally “seeing the end.” But angels show up in mysterious ways. As I prepared to leave this Earth, my phone began to ring. I didn’t answer. It continued to ring…and ring…and ring. I finally answered and the voice on the other end was one of my best friends. She knew. I don’t know how but she did, but she knew. All I remember is being asked “Where are you?” I simply replied, “The reservoir.” And somehow, she knew where I was and arrived within minutes. She grabbed the empty bottles now lying in my car, picked me up, and the next thing I knew I was being taken care of at the hospital.
Like so many times before, I told everyone I didn’t need help. I was fine. I didn’t know why I did what I did but there was no reason to get therapy or find out the root of my depression and anxiety. I still did not want to talk about the issues I was having, so I kept pretending. For another two years, I pretended to be happy because that was what I thought I was supposed to do. Deep down the inner struggles still existed though.
It would take a second suicidal attempt at 20 years old to finally make me realize I needed help and that I couldn’t do this alone. This time was different. This time I was tired of struggling and pretending. I just wanted to be normal and feel normal. My family was a huge support during this time. With their support, I began counseling as well as medicine to help with my anxiety and depression.
Through learning about my diagnoses, I realized that I didn’t have to fight these feelings alone. I didn’t have to pretend to be okay when I wasn’t because I had family and friends that truly loved me for me. All the years of feeling like their love came from my outward successes turned into the realization that they truly loved me for who I was and not what I achieved. I also realized the pressure I had been feeling and the thoughts I had were not “crazy.” They were effects of anxiety and depression. Just like someone who takes blood pressure medicine because they have high blood pressure, I needed something to help control my thoughts that felt like a constant whirlwind in my head. I also learned to talk about my feelings, my thoughts, myself really. I learned there were a lot of people walking around that needed to know they were not alone, too.
Fortunately for myself and my now husband and four boys, I survived to see the other side of things. God decided that He wasn’t done with me, and that I had a purpose. Unfortunately, I have lost close family and friends to this battle throughout my life. One of the biggest losses was when my brother-in-law who served our country and came home with PTSD took his life in 2011. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him and wish he was here. The pain of losing him is something that will never go away. I would do anything to keep another family from enduring the years of heartache that we have experienced and to think I was so close to causing this heartache to my family can be overwhelming at times.
This is the reason I am an advocate for Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation. If we can save one life, save one family from enduring what my family does every day, it is worth the investment of time, money, energy – whatever it takes. When I met Misha and Ron, founders of Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation, I knew instantly that we were going to grow close. We cannot prevent suicide unless we watch for the signs in others. We cannot eradicate this global epidemic unless we all reach out and tell someone: “I care.”
We have to be aware by watching others – our friends, neighbors, family, co-workers. We have to create and support programs that advocate for mental wellness. Each of us has a responsibility to make the world better and give to others. If my story, if my involvement in talking about my struggles helps one person, that is one less person who ends their life before they learn to live. That is one less family that has to feel the emptiness of the seat that no longer is filled. That is one more person that knows someone cares because I care, and I hope you do as well.
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Last Updated on September 6, 2023