Trigger warning: suicide, depression, eating disorders
National Suicide Prevention Week
To some, it’s just another week of promoting awareness for some cause. Just another thing that people post about, one more thing filling up their Facebook feed.
To me, this week is a celebration of life, and a reminder that others are still fighting a battle.
Seven years ago, I was mired in an eating disorder and deep depression. I was watching my career as a concert pianist slowly fall apart before it had ever really begun. Everything seemed to be going wrong, my eating disorder was taking over my life, and I lost the will to keep going. I knew the statistics, and they told me that I would probably die from my eating disorder. Things had gotten so bad that I didn’t see any other end to it. I didn’t think that recovery was possible. I didn’t think that I deserved it.
I’ve often heard people say that those who commit suicide are selfish. I can tell you that nothing is farther from the truth, though. In those moments of utter, black despair, not only did I believe that I didn’t deserve to go on living, or to recover, or to be happy, I also believed that I was a burden to my family and friends. I saw how much it hurt them to see me hurting as much as I was, and I hated myself for it. It seemed like, if I was dead, they wouldn’t have to go on trying to support me as I struggled uselessly against an eating disorder I believed I could never overcome. Yes, they would have gone through a period of mourning, but I honestly believed this was better than drawing out their pain through years or even decades of my struggles, until my body finally shut down from the eating disorder. They could grieve for a time, then get on with their lives. I thought they would be better off without me.
The only reason why I didn’t go through with it is because I didn’t have a gun, and that was the only way I felt like I could be sure that my suicide attempt wouldn’t fail.
I’m not quite sure what changed and what got me out of that incredibly dark place. What I can tell you is that when I started working on recovering from my anorexia, I didn’t do it for me. I still didn’t believe that I deserved it. I did it for my family and for my friends, because I felt like they deserved to not have to worry about me all the time. It took more than a year before I reached a point where I could work on recovery for myself.
I have been out of treatment for anorexia for about four and a half years, now. Learning how to live again and how to accept myself has been a journey. Learning to believe that I deserve to enjoy my life and be happy has been a long road. Many times, I felt like I took one step forward and two steps back. I kept going, though, and I am finally reaching the point where I can say that I am truly enjoying my life again.
A year ago, I finally decided to go on medication for my depression. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I can’t even put into words how much of a difference this has made. It’s like having someone take off a pair of sunglasses you’ve been wearing all your life, but didn’t know existed, and those sunglasses have been making the world look dismal and cloudy and just “blah.” Walking in the sun has been an absolutely incredible experience, and I never want to put on a pair of “sunglasses” again.
The occasional raincloud does still show up an block out the sun. That’s the nature of my depression, even with medication. But I know the sun still exists and that I will see it again as soon as that raincloud blows away. And the rainclouds are getting smaller and smaller, partially because I’m learning how to tell when it’s something I can and should work through, or if I need to take a mental health day and devote time to self care. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m making a lot of headway.
If I could go back and talk to 22-year-old me, I would tell her that it won’t always be this hard. I would tell her that there is help, there is hope, and there is healing. I would tell her that this eating disorder is not the end and that recovery is real. Since I can’t go back and share these messages with younger me, I do my best to share them with the people around me who are struggling.
If you are struggling with suicide today, I want you to know that I am proud of you. I know that it is taking every last ounce of strength you have to simply keep drawing breath. I want you to know that I think you are brave. Braver than you think. It takes so much strength to keep going, and you’ve been trying to struggle on for so long. You may not think you are strong, but you are.
I know it can be hard to believe that things can get better. I know you feel trapped. I know you feel like it will always be this way. Even if you can’t find it within yourself to believe that things can get better, can you believe me? When I was working on recovery, one thing I learned was that I could believe that my friends wouldn’t lie to me when they told me I could get better, even if I couldn’t actually believe it was possible. I relied on their belief that I could get better until I got to the point where I could actually believe it, myself.
This is what I have come to believe for myself. And I believe it for you, as well:
There is help. There is hope. There is healing.
Recovery is real and it is so, so worth it.
You are not alone in these broken places. You don’t have to do this alone.
You can learn to live again. You can learn to love again.
I know you feel broken. I know you feel unlovable. But if you could see what I see, you would see an incredible person, one who deserves to love and be loved. There is nothing that could have happened in your past that can change that.
You may not be able to see the way forward, but I promise you that it is there. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s okay to stumble. It’s okay to fall. If you reach a point where you can’t keep going, that’s what your friends are for. Let them carry you for a while until you find the strength to stand, again.
You don’t have to do this alone. You have friends and family who love you and would do anything to help you get through this. It’s okay to ask for their help and to tell them what you need.
Things will get better. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I promise you, little by little, inch by inch, it will get better.
Life really is worth living.
You really are worth the fight.
It will get better.
Hope is real.
Recovery is real.
You can do this.
You are not alone.
You can do this.
You are worth this.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Trevor Project
Veteran Crisis Line
1.800.273.TALK (273-8255) Press 1