Note: We said we’d do 30 stories in 30 days, and we hit that goal yesterday—but we have one more we’d like to share with you. MaKaylee’s story is a good reminder that maintaining our mental health is an ongoing process, and we can strive for resilience at any stage of that journey—even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of dark days.
Thanks for finding the courage to share your story, MaKaylee. We support you in your fight.
What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
When I was 13 years old, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer. When I received the news that it was terminal and that I would lose my mother forever, I began to self-harm. At this time, I was also being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. My mother passed away August 24, 2012, when I was just 14 years old.
I was living in Florida at the time with my mother and maternal grandmother. My father lived in Sioux Falls, S.D. After only meeting him roughly four times in my life, I moved to South Dakota in 2013 to live with a person who was basically a stranger to me.
I had already developed depression, and soon after my move to South Dakota, I developed anxiety enhanced with family conflict. I struggled with my mental health, went through many counselors before finding a good fit, experienced inpatient treatment through Avera Behavioral Health and Human Services Center, and came out of that feeling okay. This was 2014.
After graduating high school in 2016, I once again was struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-harm. I attempted suicide in 2017 and in 2018. I got in touch with my family doctor and was referred to a psychiatrist. We spent two years trying multiple medications and doses. In March of 2018, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This illness has been the hardest to overcome. My psychiatrist informed me about DBT, or dialectical behavior therapy. I finally reached out to the therapist that my psychiatrist referred me to in July 2021. As I begin this journey with DBT, I still find myself struggling immensely. My most recent suicide attempt was September 19, 2021. Suicidal thoughts trouble me almost daily, but I am still resilient as ever and pick myself up every morning ready to fight these diseases that try so hard to overcome me.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
Avera Behavioral Health was my first experience of aid. They provided resources on how to help with my self-harming behaviors, and cognitive behavioral therapy resources to help with my depression and anxiety. When that wasn’t enough, HSC was my next best help. In HSC, we had groups for everything: depression, anger, grief & loss, resiliency, and even a survivors group for those who had experienced abuse. I have also had a tremendous amount of help through American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Sanford Psychiatry & Psychology Clinic. Being in touch with people who want to help me and fight this disease has been the greatest success for me.
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?
The greatest challenge in my opinion is believing in yourself. When mental illness darkens your world, it can be hard to feel worth living and hopeful for a better future. I found my greatest strength to be resilience. Speak up to those around you so they can celebrate your successes with you. The words “I’m proud of you” and “You are so strong and courageous” go so far in helping those of us who struggle with mental illness find our resiliency. As a community, getting involved with organizations that help fight against this disease can also help those of us who struggle find HOPE.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
Not everyone’s story is the same. Mental illness is so complex. Also understanding that it is REAL, just as any physical disease, and that it’s okay to speak up about it. Too many people face these challenges in the dark because they are afraid of speaking up because of the stigma behind it. We NEED to lose the stigma.