Trigger Warning: chronic pain, depression, suicide
My first year of high school, I was a mess. And I’m not talking about the average freshman, hormonal mess that everyone is their first year of high school. The kind of mess that I was- let’s just say it wasn’t my proudest moment.
On a more serious note, I suffered from severe chronic pain my freshman year, which ranged from daily pounding headaches and erratic ear pain to so much pain in my knees that it often took me a full five minutes to climb up a single flight of stairs at my school. To say the least, it was humiliating. I walked into class late every day, which was expected, given I was such a slow walker that even my closest friends would leave me behind so they wouldn’t be late for class. It was often difficult for me to take notes in class because my hands would shake so hard that I had trouble getting my pencil on the page. People noticed. And I was acutely aware of this, hence the humiliation.
I became very depressed that year. I felt trapped. Trapped in a body that made me weak and slow, a body that stole my independence from me. Trapped in a mind that told me that I deserved to feel this pain, a mind that convinced me that I was not worthy of a better life. Trapped in a never-ending spiral leading nowhere.
And oftentimes, the only escape I saw was death. It became the thing I thought about when I could no longer bear the idea of tomorrow. The idea of death became my happy place, the place where I let myself wander when I wanted to escape my reality.
These thoughts of mine terrified me. And so I did everything I could think of to convince myself to stay, just one more day. Just one more day. Just. One. More. Day. I ripped up a whole pack of Post-it notes into small pieces and every night, I forced myself to pick up one of those pieces and write down one reason to stay. Sometimes I wrote about how I would miss my family and my friends, and other times I wrote about how I would miss cheesecake and purple nail polish and the thrill of writing on the first page of a new notebook. I fought and I fought, and none of it was easy, but I did it because I wanted to survive.
But that was the issue. I was just surviving, not living. And my efforts alone were not enough, and I knew that. And so I made the hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make, but the best decision I have ever made.
I decided to ask for help. I told my family about what I had been going through, which was really tough for me because I knew it would hurt them to hear about the kinds of thoughts I had been having. I told two of my closest friends about my struggles, and I was surprised to find that every single person I opened up to welcomed me with open arms and pushed me to be better. I let myself lean on the people I loved, to find support in their encouragement. I found strength in my vulnerability, and it allowed me to truly start living.
If you are struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, I need you to know that there is hope. It does get better. Today, I watched a butterfly take flight for the first time, and I thought about how I would have missed it if I had left two years ago. There are so, so many reasons to stay, and even though I have no idea what you’re going through right now, I can say with absolute certainty that the reasons to stay will always outnumber the reasons to leave. You are worthy and you are loved.
After months of therapy and open conversations with not only my loved ones but with myself, I am proud to say that I am on my way to happiness. I am living. I am no longer trapped; I am free. Sure, I’m still a mess, but just your average, junior trying-to-decide-what-to-do-with-my-life mess.
I’m happy. :)
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more resources, please visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.