What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
I have struggled with my mental health for the majority of my life. In my younger years, I didn’t understand that is what fueled a lot of my missteps through life. My unaddressed depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder led me into a life of drug addiction and external validation.
I began my rehab journey in 2013. While I was in treatment in Florida, I was diagnosed with those mental health disorders, but due to extenuating circumstances, I could not continue my treatment/medication and soon relapsed. In 2015, after a series of horrible events, I found myself in South Dakota, starting over with two suitcases to my name. Even after all the years of therapy, and trying to understand my drug addiction, it still didn’t click for me—I was still seeking external validation and love in all the wrong places. I still had no idea who I was or what I was worth.
In 2016 I terminated an unexpected pregnancy, and that is really what I called the “beginning of the end,” after a pretty big downward spiral. While I wasn’t in active addiction anymore, I was still in that addict mentality—the “storm” followed me wherever I went. I had job loss after job loss. I couldn’t even find a way to be honest with the therapist and psychiatrist I was seeing. Eventually the pain was too much, and I attempted suicide.
After that, I had a weeklong stay in a behavioral health unit. I was determined to “get it right” this time—if I could do enough and be enough, all of this would go away. I still couldn’t see my mental illness as something that had to be handled on a daily basis—it’s not something I can just FIX. It’s something I grow to learn and understand.
In the fall of 2017, I attempted suicide for the second time. I had spent an entire month on my couch, not working, not showering, hating myself, my partner resenting me—and I determined that I was not made for this world. It HURT to just be awake. It hurt to just exist. I thought I had done too much wrong, and there was no way my life could get better.
Thankfully, through a support system and the enduring love of my grandparents, I made my way back to North Carolina. I spent the next 18 months finding myself, not looking for a new boyfriend, not chasing a high that would never be enough. I found my way back onto my feet and really discovered who I was and how strong I truly am.
Mental health is not a weakness. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Once I learned to embrace my mental health and my story, and grew to understand that my journey is part of who I was, the real healing began. Now in September 2022, I am currently engaged to the most perfect man and 7 months pregnant with a sweet baby girl. I have a career I love, two dog babies that are my entire world, and the best friend group I could ever ask for. I have made all of my amends, and I am happy and in love with who I am today.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
I can’t say there is a specific thing/resource that has helped me—it’s been a variety of things over the years. Finding a hobby, having a support system of friends and family, having an animal. I’ve seen a few therapists/psychiatrists over the years, and they have helped in their own ways. I did spend some time with AA/NA, and having that network of people was very nice.
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?
I think taking the time to understand and learn your specific mental illness/struggles and triggers is the key to staying ahead of things. Learn about yourself. Build a support group that you can reach out to. Find a hobby to keep you distracted when the days get too hard. Practice emotion regulation.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
It’s OK to have mental health issues. It’s not something you can just “be better” than. It’s an illness that has to be maintained and nourished so YOU can stay healthy.