It’s been a year since I sat in my car, wondering if I had value. It’s been a year since I questioned if anyone would miss me, if anyone would care if I was gone. My social calendar was full, my list of to-do’s a mile long, and my commitments to my job and the people around me plentiful. If you peered into my life on any given Tuesday evening, you would think I had everything. A family that loved me, friends that were committed to me, and a career that was blossoming. If you asked the people around me to describe my best traits, the response would be, “kind, smart, loving, charitable, selfless, exuberant, happy, optimistic”. To them, my life was filled with joy. To everyone I misled, my life had everything.
Showing grace and joy and selflessness through darkness is the way I made it work. I am amazing at being the ray of sunshine that can’t be beaten down. I am great at hiding sadness and putting up walls, and being alone. I don’t want to burden, I don’t want to show weakness, I am everyone’s rock, and no matter how bad my day is, my ultimate goal is to make life better for someone else. I am great at hiding hurt, pain, and loneliness.
A year ago, I considered taking my own life. I considered ending my existence because I thought it held no value, I assumed nobody would miss me, and I thought that I didn’t deserve to be here. I scrolled through my contacts, I considered writing a note, but then I thought about why I was doing this, because nobody needs me, and I don’t need to be here.
It had been a transition period after a great loss that changed the course of my life. But the transitions kept coming, and my job changed, my friends seemed to be on a revolving door of new faces and I struggled with just existing. It started with panic attacks and a crippling anxiety from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep from complete exhaustion. I had to seek help from a psychiatrist who decided the quickest fix was to give me medication. So I started taking them as prescribed, but that turned into taking them like candy, and using them to keep from feeling. If my heart beat too fast, if it felt like something was going to be out of my control, it was a pop of a pill to make it better. Little did I know that the thing I thought was helping me get through the transition, was the one thing that was taking my panic and anxiety and turning it into depression.
I shut more and more people out of my head, I was holding to my commitments, being the great employee, and being the super friend that seemed to be happy as can be. All while inside I felt like I was dying, and sharing any of the pain I was going through meant sharing my weakness and so I kept it to the therapist, but while the anxiety seemed to be getting better, my want to end my existence was getting stronger, and I told nobody. It was my secret to hold, and nobody was allowed to know.
The day came when my ‘friend, who became my colleague’ told me to just get over it. “It’s been a while, we get it, you’re sad, things change, just get over it, because its time to move on, we are all experiencing change”. I remember the exact outfit I was wearing when she told me that, black turtleneck, black slacks, and my ‘Oh the Places You Can Go’ converse. I remember looking down at my shoes and thinking, isn’t that ironic. I remember walking by Georgie’s desk and her asking me if something was wrong, and I simply said “No, I am just being professional”, and I proceeded to my own. She followed me, and she said, “If being professional means we don’t get to see your sunshine and smile, then something is wrong”. I remember the tears streaming as I turned my back to the world and just kept repeating to myself, “Get your shit together and be professional, nobody cares for feelings”.
I remember thinking to myself that I needed to stop showing emotion, I remember doing just that. I cancelled everything that week. I locked up my calendar completely from the world, and I proceeded to spend the rest of that week in solitude. I couldn’t share in anyone’s joy, I couldn’t show joy, and I couldn’t pretend anymore. That week I beat myself up, I lived in a fog of my own doing, and I medicated myself into what felt like a coma, except my body was going through the motions, while my brain just stopped. The bottle said take when panic attack begins, so it pretty much translated into take when you feel anything.
I remember thinking if today would be the day. I remember thinking that I couldn’t leave my office without support. So I remember that day, I had all the folders in my drawers organized. I had all the directions needed for training a replacement in the front of every section. I left out the annual calendar of to-dos, and at exactly 2:59, I packed up my stuff and left the building. Saying nothing. I wore my favorite jeans that day, and a black undershirt. I went to acupuncture, sat on the table, and had a quick conversation with her, and I don’t remember if she asked the right question, or if she just caught me at my weakest, but I specifically remember looking at the lamp in the corner of the room, left hand in hers as she took my heart rate down and just blurting out, “I don’t want to live anymore”.
I remember her head popping up. I remember her stopping everything to just ask me the right questions. I think she wasn’t sure how to react, but keeping her calm, she wanted to bring me back from the cliffs edge. And so she asked the right question, “When did you start feeling this way?”, and then we both realized it was when I started medication.
I remember the light bulb going off in my head. I remember the inner struggle of stopping something that has been my crutch for months. I remember thinking that I needed to change something. I remember I needed to give it another week. So I stopped popping pills that evening, and I proceeded to wait through the weekend until I saw my psychiatrist on Monday morning at 7am and said to him flat out, “I think my medicine makes me suicidal”. I explained everything that had been going on for the past few months, and he wondered why I didn’t talk about it in session. I remember thinking I was stupid and being ashamed of my existence.
Weaning myself off of a crutch was one of the most debilitating things I have had to do. The nightmares, the emotions, the constant feeling of failure flooded back the following week, but nothing was as bad as how I hated myself before when I was taking the medications. I remember listening to Taylor Swift on repeat for 9 days straight. Locking the world out, just so I could sort the emotions all out. I refused to take medication until my next session, I was adamant about that when I handed them back to him.
I don’t remember when I stopped panicking. I don’t remember when I found joy in life again, but I remember the moment when I was sitting in a room with friends, wearing silver ballet flats and a pink dress and thought about just how amazing I felt in that moment, treasured, loved. I never told any of them, I never dared to show my weakness outside of medical professionals that I was paying to keep my secrets.
I know my secret ended some relationships, I know my locked up emotions burned some bridges, but I don’t regret finding joy on my own.
The year has not been easy. I have made mistakes, I have built bad bridges that needed to burn. I have made new friends, and have had more people revolve through the door of my life than ever before. However, one of the most important steps of this journey was being able to accept that I am not alone in this fight. Learning to accept that the people around me are there for me just as much as I try to be there for them was one of the hardest things to come to terms with. I was the strong one, I always thought I had to be the strong one, and showing emotions or weakness was unacceptable. Life may have looked amazing, but I was broken, and I needed to learn to lower the walls that I had built around myself to let those who wanted to be there in. I needed to accept help. Leaning on those around me did not come easy, but it came eventually, and it may have taken 9 or 10 or 11 months to come to terms with the fact that I had once locked the world out and wanted to die, but talking out it, opening up about it, unlocked a level of support that had been there all along, had only I accepted it.
Talking about it, crying about it, accepting it as part of my journey, brought me to where I am today. A survivor. I didn’t succumb to the thoughts of loneliness and darkness. I didn’t give up on who I am and who I wanted to be, and I didn’t stop remembering what I had lost, but instead embraced it as part of my story, my journey, my being. Some may have said that I didn’t want to take my life as badly as I thought I did, or else I would have done it, that I was weak. But I say that I am stronger for not doing it in the shadow of darkness, for in the darkest moment of my life I whispered it to someone who helped me find the light quicker than it had been burning out.
The most important lesson that came out of the last year has been learning to own my life as my own, and finding value in myself. I wear a worn out bracelet around my left wrist without shame for it earmarks a moment when I felt pure joy and confidence. It’s once vibrant purple and grey are now faded, turned to a pale pink and spotty brown, the deer charm that once hung from it has since fallen, and once separate strings now tangled together and molded as one. Its meaning great in my life, reminding me as I twist it, of the day I received it over 5 months ago, and I know one day when I am not looking, it is bound to break and fall from my wrist, but its symbolism and reminder of how whole I had become at that moment, of what I was proud to stand for, of the version of myself that was not longer in pieces, but slowly being put together.
Learning to live my life each day to its fullest for myself has not been easy. Finding value in my time, in my passions and being okay with who I am has been a struggle. Being proud of my passions, being proud of who I have become, and the journey it took to get here has been harder than I imagined it would be. However, finding joy in my own life, and making the moment about me has been the most rewarding part of this journey. For if I don’t find it for myself, who else is going to do it for me.
I survived it. A year has gone by, and I am still here, without regrets, for what I survived makes me who I am, and if anything, I am stronger.