Disclaimer: The following article mentions the topic of suicide or other sensitive subjects, which may trigger negative thoughts and feelings for those currently suffering or still recovering from a mental or mood disorder. Reader discretion is advised.
I’m never sure how to start these so I’ll just start with my name. Hi. My name is Sierra. I don’t want to say I’m a survivor of depression and suicide ideation because it hasn’t disappeared. I’m still battling it in a lot of ways. I’m learning to grow and learn from my depression. I’m learning to allow myself to feel the emotions and not hide them away inside myself. I’m trying to learn that I am worth being alive. I’m learning I am a valid human being no matter what emotions, thoughts or feelings I may have.
My past has been a little different then most. After my parents got a divorce when I was really little, my mom started abusing drugs. In second grade I moved in with my aunt then I was put into state care. The first home wasn’t great. It was really uncomfortable for me. They weren’t nice. I was confused about why we weren’t living with my mom. When we got moved to another home it was a bit better. My mom then got clean and we moved back in. But that didn’t last and soon we were placed back into the second home. That happened a few times. It hurt being moved around. I started to wonder what was so wrong with me that my mom had to abuse drugs. Why she chose them instead of me. I stopped believing things would work out and I started to expect disappointment.
At the end of 6th grade I was still in the system after several failed attempts at living with my mom. At that point my dad had taken my older sister to live with him and my three half brothers but my twin Shawn and I were left in foster care. I felt so unwanted and thrown away. I hated myself and thought the reason why my mom or dad didn’t want me was because I would never be good enough for them. I was embarrassed that my family sucked. My dad’s parents came in and took me and Shawn. I was hurt and sad and so frustrated with myself that my dad didn’t want me. I had a whole list of reasons in my head why and that didn’t help my feelings of being worthless. I didn’t know what mental illness was. I believed the thoughts and feelings I had were normal and everyone thought them, but they were just better than me at dealing with them. No one ever talked to me about what were normal emotions/thoughts and what weren’t. So I was left feeling these different, painful emotions all by myself not knowing they weren’t healthy.
It was around that time that that I was getting really depressed. No one noticed because no one knew what I was like before. I had just moved in with grandparents that didn’t know me or my personality, so I was alone. I didn’t want to say anything was wrong because I didn’t want them to get rid of me. I didn’t want them to think I was looking for attention or just being a “teenager”. They was not normal teenage feelings. These were deep feelings of hurt and feeling so alone. It wasn’t normal but I felt like if I told anyone they would push it aside. I thought they wouldn’t get it and would hate me for telling them. I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin and around other people. I felt like everyone thought I was annoying and no one wanted me around. It only kept getting worse but I still smiled through it all. I was and still am a 4.0 student. I thought that someone who (on the outside) is doing so well can’t have anything wrong. I kept going all through junior high, not letting anyone in until a woman named Val came into my life.
I broke down in her car and told her how much I hated everything. How I felt so broken and alone. I told her how I hated myself and she listened. She sat there and listened while I sobbed. She didn’t judge me or tell me the feelings were normal or “just in my head”. I will forever be grateful for that night. We’ve talked so much about what goes on in my head. I’ve told her how I felt so hurt by my parents and how I felt forgotten and unwanted. However I couldn’t tell her everything. I didn’t tell her how I didn’t want to be alive. I didn’t tell her that I wanted to hurt myself. I kept those feelings so locked up even I couldn’t comprehend them sometimes. I felt so much guilt for feeling those things. I thought everyone would hate me if they knew. I felt like my feelings were invalid. I’m learning now that no feelings are invalid and you should never feel guilty for whatever your thoughts/feelings are. Val helped me know it was ok and she’s the most amazing woman I’ve had in my life because of that.
That wasn’t the end to my struggles. Even though I opened up to someone, what I told her was only a small glimpse of everything. Just because I started talking I didn’t get “happy”. That’s not how mental illness works. It takes a lot of time and healing through the pain for anything remotely positive to happen. And even then sometimes that’s not enough. For me it took me so long to even allow myself to accept my emotions and even longer for me to realize that things were getting really bad.
I thought sophomore year would be great and it would be the year my thoughts would finally shut up. That’s not what ended up happening. Instead they got worse and the summer going into my junior year was one of the hardest times I’ve had with my mental health. I withdrew from my family and friends and didn’t want to do anything. My body image was awful and my thoughts about suicide turned from “it’s not an option” to “how can I end my life”. I decided that if I did commit suicide then I wanted to overdose, but the only problem was I had nothing to do that with. Because of that I tried to shrug it off and keep going.
Starting my junior year was horrible. I was getting more and more into my depression. It didn’t help I wasn’t living with any of my siblings. This made me feel more isolated and like an intruder/burden in my own family. I couldn’t see how anything would get better. I felt empty, broken, trapped, and overwhelmed. I started self harming because I felt like I deserved to feel pain. And if I couldn’t end my life,at least I could hurt myself so I would have physical pain and not just mental pain. I hated my body, so I felt like it would be a way to get back at it and show the hatred I felt towards it. I hid the scars. I didn’t cut on my arm – I felt like people would ask too many questions. I was all about not letting anyone know. I didn’t think I would make it to January 2019. I didn’t think I would finish the first semester. When I did I was so surprised. Going into this year I had a plan about how I was going to end my life and I had the means to do it. I had bottles of pills and several notes. Some were goodbye notes, but mostly they were notes to everyone in my life about why I loved them. If I left, I didn’t want them to wonder what the last thing they said to me was or what I said to them. That’s when I knew I had to get help. I started therapy in February and it was the best decision. After I started and told her how suicidal I was, my plan, and that I had everything ready, she made me give her the medicine bottles until we could figure out a more solid plan about where they should go. I was so angry. I was mad, upset, and frustrated that she took my way out. That she took the only thing that would allow me to finally be ok. To finally breathe. I sobbed in my car for a long time then I had to go back to school to retake a math test. I was an emotional wreck and I still tried to pretend everything was ok. I still tried to show everyone that I was great. I cried through the test and walked out feeling even less like living. I couldn’t function and I didn’t know what to do. With the bottles of pills not being in my possession, I thought of other ways to end my life but I couldn’t even think. I went home, crawled in bed and didn’t come out of my room until the next afternoon. That was hard. I had many times before where I took out the bottles and thought to myself it would be the end but I always ended up crying before I took any of them. This time I didn’t have the bottles and the thought of that really scared me. I now have a safety plan and people I can call, so that’s good.
I’m trying not to make therapy a bad word and I try not to shy away from telling my friends that I go if they ask why I’m leaving school. It’s not something to be ashamed of. I feel like people treat going to therapy like a horrible thing, but it’s not. It’s amazing and is honestly so helpful. Don’t bash it until you try it. Like, no one gets weirded out when someone goes to the doctor for a physical illness. Why is it so different than a mental illness? Because in truth it’s not. They both interfere with life and they are both damaging to the person. Anyway, my main point with that tangent is that, although I thought I should be ashamed for going to therapy, I’m learning you shouldn’t be.
It’s been really hard. I’m not going lie. I tried to deny it to myself that anything was wrong. I didn’t want to be defective in the eyes of others. Or even in my own eyes. I smiled even though I could barely breathe under the mask I painted on so tightly. I still am going through it. I’m still learning and growing in the midst of the chaos. It’s not easy and I struggle. There are moments when I hate that I didn’t end my life. I’m learning not to be ashamed of those moments but to instead try to find out why I think that. It’s a hard process but it’s one that is important. There are days where all I can do is cry and hold back tears but there are also days where I can breathe. It’s those moments, those days, that I cling to. I feel like I am a fake sometimes because I have good days, but having depression or any mental illness doesn’t mean you’re in a negative state of mind 24/7. I’ve always kind of referred to it like being in a deep sea of dark, murky, heavy water. Most days I feel like I’m drowning under the surface, suffocating in the water that surrounds me. Trying so hard to swim up and break the surface for a breath, but never getting close. Some days it feels like a strong hand is dragging me down further into dark water. But some days my head is above water and I get that breath that I’ve been needed so badly. It’s not like you’re drowning every second of every day.
I’m learning it’s completely natural to have a good day. I’m also learning it’s unrealistic to be happy every second of every day. Doing that, pretending everything is great, is really damaging to yourself. You’re fully allowed to have days, weeks, and months where life is crap. You’re allowed to say you’re not having a good day. The thing I’ve learned is you have to deal with it in a healthy matter. You need to find healthy ways to deal with your darkest most scary emotions. For me I dance, run, and I love going out with my camera to a place where it’s just me. I also write when I’m in a dark place. I have a whole notebook and a place in my phone that I can safely write down what I’m feeling and thinking. I’ve filled pages on pages with my depression.
When I was in my darkest moments I hated the thought of having a heartbeat. I hated being able to feel it beat. I now have a heartbeat necklace that has become my favorite one to wear. Especially during stressful/scary life events,like tests, therapy, and other things. Not only does it remind me that I have a heartbeat and to be thankful for that, it also reminds me of my dream to become a doctor, and it helps me remember how much I’ve overcome and the journey of growth I’ve had in the last few years.
I wish I had opened up sooner so I didn’t have to go through my depression alone. I know it’s hard, especially because everyone tells you that you need to be happy every day and if you’re not something is “wrong” with you. But that’s just not true. You don’t need to feel any emotion by yourself. That includes the good, the bad, the positive, and the ugly. Every feeling needs to be acknowledged, and not shoved down. Anything you feel is valid. You’re not anything less because you have a mental illness. You’re not “messed up” or “broken” because you need medicine or therapy. You don’t have to suffer alone. You don’t have to stay silent with your struggle. I always thought that “no one is supposed to talk about these things,” and “it makes people uncomfortable so you have to avoid the topic.” But how can we change how mental illness is thought of, dealt with, and talked about if we don’t talk. If we stay quiet about our struggles, the stigma about mental illness will stay. We need to change that. Because mental illness is not bad. Also, who cares if it makes people uncomfortable. They’re uncomfortable because it’s not talked about to them. And that’s the even more reason to talk about it.