*Trigger Warning*: This piece deals with issues of depression, suicide, and self-harm.
I wrote out my will when I was 10 years old.
I placed it under my pillow each night, praying that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I would have killed myself already – I thought about it all the time – but I couldn’t figure out how. No guns in the house; all the blades were too dull; nothing to hang myself from; no access to heights.
I had a pretty good life, family and friends, and good grades in school. But I hated living. It consumed me throughout the day and long into the night.
Eventually, my parents noticed something was wrong. I was mopey and pessimistic. So they sat me down and threatened me to snap out of it. After that, I learned not to express my feelings, to keep them inside, and show outwardly only what people wanted to see.
I became broken, stuck with only one visible setting. To others, I seemed to have no problems. I was the perfect daughter, the perfect student. But I was terribly, cruelly alone. I didn’t feel that I had the right to burden someone else with my true feelings. I struggled with my depression, I struggled with my sexuality, and I struggled with my faith.
By the time I went to college, I knew that things had to be different. I began to open up about my faith and sexuality, when I thought that it could improve the quality of my life. I joined clubs. I made friends.
And then, something new happened. I fell in love with those friends, and they came to love me. I became a person that I actually liked. I enjoyed the tasks and activities I was involved in.
But, ever-present, the depression started creeping into my life more and more. This time, though, I didn’t want to die. Or-at least- I didn’t want to want to die. The existence of dear friends in my life led me to seek out help at my university’s counseling center.
While the therapy I engaged in there was intellectually and emotionally stimulating, it wasn’t particularly helpful at keeping my harmful thoughts at bay. I started cutting myself and wearing more modest clothing to cover it up from the observant eyes of coworkers, peers, and friends.
Then, medications came into play, with similar success. When I started openly talking about my plan of killing myself, my therapist called my parents. They wanted to force me into the hospital. Somehow, the counseling center, the school administration, and my parents worked out a plan, such that I could graduate as anticipated. I couldn’t kill myself, but I still cut myself daily.
Only my best friend knew. Even I was surprised that I was able to confide in him.
After graduation, I moved back in with my parents, away from the home I loved so much, back to the home I had fled from just a few years before. Within a week, I tried to hang myself. As fate would have it, my support wouldn’t hold, and I finally allowed myself to enter the hospital.
Two weeks and four medications later, I was released, still having “suicidal ideations” but less likely to act on them. It seems like forever since then, but my doctors and I still haven’t found a medication to help me live a life other than barely functioning but faking it well.
This isn’t a story with a happy ending. This is life with a mental illness. More days than not, it’s a struggle. It’s hard. It’s painful. And for way too many, it’s lonely.
I got help and have a much higher chance at a long life because I had some great friends. They didn’t even know about my depression. Most still don’t know. But I knew that they loved me, and I knew that I wanted to be around to keep on loving them.
So love each other. Care for each other. Listen to each other.
Your friends may not tell you everything they’re going through, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help.
This was written in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week.
For more information, please visit: nami.org