In the past nine years, I feel like I've told the story of my almost-suicide a million times. I've replayed that afternoon over and over, describing the prison I was living in and the simple act I believed would set me free.
I don't like talking about it, really. I am especially good at talking about things without expressing an ounce of what I'm feeling. I have trained myself to recall the hardest days of my life without feeling even a stitch of emotion, but today that feels wrong.
Suicide isn't a lighthearted thing to talk about. It shouldn't be. No one likes to admit that life can get so heavy and dark and scary that humans choose to leave our world. No one likes to admit that they have wanted to leave. No one likes to feel like they've failed anybody else. No one likes to talk about it, but if we don't, nothing will change. The statistics will keep rising and people will keep choosing to leave. We have to talk about it.
This is my story.
I was thirteen when I almost killed myself. I couldn't drive, do algebra, write a real paper. I'd never even read a good book or worn makeup. And though my age prevented me from experiencing a lot of things, it didn't keep me from depression. It didn't keep me from the voice telling me to leave, to give up, to die. It didn't keep me from looking at a kitchen knife as though it were the answers to all of my problems.
I will never forget the how lonely I was that day. At thirteen, I allowed depression to cloud my mind and convince me that I was alone. I was so damn sad. Where there had once been childlike joy and freedom, and a wide smile across my young face, there were traces of shame and fear and hopelessness. I was convinced that I didn't need to keep going, that I didn't need to keep living. Though the words had never been said to me, I was sure that everyone would be better off I me and my mess left the world. So I thought about it, considered the consequences, imagined the momentary pain I would be trading for all that I was feeling at the time. I couldn't imagine life going on past that moment. It was hell.
The important thing is that I didn't die, I didn't give into the darkness. I kept living, by the grace of God.
I would be lying if I said I haven't considered suicide again in the past nine years. If you know me, if you've ever read any of my writing or heard any part of my story, you know that depression can't seem to let me go. It always comes back, like clockwork, with the same habits but a different routine. The thoughts always come back, more passively than before, but they are still there. A few months ago, my counselor looked at me and asked me not to kill myself. I never said I was going to, yet she decided it was a necessary thing to say. I can't disagree with her, but part of me wanted to throw my hands in the air and scream, "If I was going to give into the thoughts, I would have by now!" The temptation cannot seem to understand that I am here for the long haul. I will not give up. I will keep living, keep breathing, and keep believing what is true about me and you.
My hope in writing this is that you can begin to believe that you are not alone. If you feel alone and scared, I hope these words can give you courage. You aren't the only person to ever think the way you have been. You aren't the only person to feel shame in mental illness. You aren't the only person to be afraid of getting help. You aren't the only one afraid of answering the question "How are you?" honestly.
Let me tell you this: Talking about my depression has never been easy, but it has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced. Admitting to other people that I've considered taking my own life is one of the hardest things in the world, but I have never regretted it. Keeping these things to ourselves only allows the lies to build. Allowing shame to make its home in our hearts in minds won't make getting out of bed any easy. Staying quiet about our struggles, whether past, present, or future, will not save lives.
We need each other, friends. We need to hear each others' stories and meet each other in our pain. We need to actively work to crush the stigma surrounding mental illness. We need to be honest. We need to ask hard questions. We need to point each other to the places we can get help. We need to encourage each other to keep living, because every story is worth finishing.