What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
My freshman year of high school was difficult. I had extremely low self-esteem and felt like an outsider, struggling to find a place where I fit. I felt isolated and alone. My depression grew, and my hope of finding friends and a place where I belonged diminished. My mind raced, and I became very negative and thought, “Maybe I’m not made for this life.” My vision was clouded. The mental filter I was seeing through blocked out all the good I had in my life and turned me in to a miserable cynic.
All of my struggles came to a head when my mom attempted suicide, and my brother and I got in to an intense argument that led to a panic attack. I remember feeling so alone and heartbroken. I moved between a couple households in an attempt to escape my situation and the resentment I felt toward my mother and brother. Suicide crossed my mind at various points. It wasn’t until an argument with the family I was staying with and high emotional intensity that I decided I wanted to be done and give up fully.
Thankfully, I was able to get the help and support I needed to see that life is worth living. I began to attend counseling sessions and take medication, and my world opened up. It was as if the heavy, black cloud lifted, and I was seeing in vivid colors again.
In working with patients in crisis, I am familiar with the fluid nature of suicidal thoughts. I acknowledge the reality that they may continue to come and go even after crisis subsides. It’s important not to give extra power to these thoughts and to challenge them as needed. Remember, you are not defined by your thoughts!
It has not been an easy road, but I can proudly say that I have a successful career in mental health, rewarding relationships, and an optimistic outlook. I use affirmations and other coping skills to remember my life matters and life is beautiful. My family, friends, faith, nature, and the patients I serve are all reasons for living. I am grateful I continued living and feel equipped to meet the stressors of life, being confident in myself and those that support me. Life is worth living—you just have to give yourself the opportunity and time to see why.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
I am blessed to have a wonderful family that supports me and friends that are genuine, thoughtful, and encouraging. Most people don’t realize how many people care about them. It’s important to reach out and know that there’s always someone available to talk whether it be loved ones or the 24/7 national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges?
Resilience starts with communication. This could be with others or yourself. Positive self-talk and affirmations have been transformative in my life. You are the only one who truly knows what you need to hear. Seeking outward approval or validation often leads to disappointment. Know that you are worthy! I believe that happiness and peace come from within. I teach and utilize concepts such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). I use CBT to overcome negative and/or distorted thoughts. I use DBT to accept reality for what it is, mindfulness to be present, and journaling to express thoughts and feelings. You are not defined by thoughts and emotions; however, our actions do matter. These skills combined with yoga, singing, and creativity have helped me to lead a more peaceful life. I encourage everyone to be open to finding what outlets work best for them. Above all, remember that building a life worth living takes time and practice. The outcome will be worth the journey.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
My favorite quote is “Comparison is the thief of joy” by Theodore Roosevelt. This life is your own, and therefore, comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful. Instead, lean toward compassion, knowing we are all doing the best that we can.