What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
For most of my life, I never felt good enough. That feeling wasn’t caused by anything or anyone in particular. It just was always there. And the older I got, the worse it became.
When I was 27, I got married. Looking back on it now, one of the reasons I got married was a fear of NEVER getting married because I was already so old. By year 7, I was very unhappy, but figured it was my fault. If I were a better wife, better working mother, better cook … better everything, I would be happy. But I soon began picking up extra jobs, working more hours, because “we needed the money,” but in reality, it was an escape from having to be at home— where I always felt like a failure and where I was miserable. No one ever knew how I felt, though. I never said a word about it, not even to my husband or my family. I always had a smile on my face. Everything was always great. I couldn’t admit I felt like a failure in my own life.
But the stress of trying to keep it all together began to take its toll, and I stopped eating and began cutting. I could pass the weight loss off as a high metabolism and being busy. And I wore long sleeves. I got down to a dangerously low weight, I was having trouble breathing and my heartbeat became erratic. I finally went to the doctor, who wanted to schedule me for a pysch eval. I promised I would eat (which I did) and promised I would keep the appointment (which I didn’t).
During this time, I slowly began to build a small network of people from my church I could trust. I didn’t share much, but I began to give them glimpses of how I felt. And they began to tell me that I was enough. That I was strong and beautiful and worthy exactly the way I was. I didn’t have to pretend to be something or someone I was not. And they were there for me at my lowest moments; when I finally had had enough and almost drove my car into a bridge abutment, one of them answered my call. And a few years ago, when I finally had had enough and abruptly ended my 23-year marriage and started over with no money and no place to live, one of them answered my call. And because of them, I’m still here. I don’t need a lot of friends in this world. I just need the few that will be there through it all. But in order to find them, I had to let them in. And that was really hard. Being authentic and vulnerable is so scary. But for me, that’s when healing truly began.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
For me, it was just my small circle of friends. But I fully support using the mental health community as resources. Therapy and medication are important tools in helping people work through challenging times.
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 the more people share their stories, the more it helps others who might be suffering silently like I was. We live in a world that emphasizes and rewards the perfect lives we see on social media. And that is so harmful. We hide behind filters and work to stage the perfect life. Authenticity and honesty lead to understanding and acceptance. Acceptance helps build resilience and community, and that can change the world.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
People who say they are fine, often are not. And they likely won’t reach out when they are struggling. If you sense that something is off, rather than saying, “let me know if you need anything” (because they won’t), try a simple “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I want you to know that you matter to me. And if you want someone to talk to, take a walk with, or just sit with you in silence. I’m here.” It could make all the difference.