The Hope Connection 10/19/2016
My Experience with Mental Health
I’m not really sure when or how it all started. I’m not sure anyone really knows. I think we can trace it back to the moment we began noticing it, but other than that we’re basically clueless. It just kind of creeps up on you.
I started to notice mine around November/December of 2012 in my sophomore year of high school. It wasn’t like some big shift. I wasn’t happy and fine and then BAM! Next day I’m depressed. Like I said, it just kind of creeps up on you.
All I remember about the start is that I became numb. Completely and irrevocably numb. I stopped feeling anything at all, which made me feel really uneasy. I got around two weeks into this continual numbness before I became desperate to feel something. Anything. And that is when I made my first cut. I thought that maybe feeling pain would be better than nothing at all. It wasn’t much really. I had no idea what I was doing. Just a scratch, especially compared to the things I’ve done since. Afterwards I was completely shocked at what I had done and swore to never do it again. That promise lasted a mere month.
I don’t remember why I did it again or what happened. I just remember my second time cutting being in January. After that second time, I began doing it every couple weeks or so. I’m not sure. I don’t remember my sophomore year very much. It’s all a blur.
The only thing I can pick out is I remember being worried about my best friend, we’ll call her Ashley. I also remember wanting to kill myself at one point. Well probably more than one point, but I was always stopped by one single thought: You have to be there for Ashley. I knew my best friend was going through some tough things and I knew I had to be there for her to help her through them.
As I fell further and further into the world of mental illness, I also learned more about the different types. And I started to become hyper-aware that Ashley almost never ate. I would drop hints and stuff, trying to get her to talk or at least verify my suspicions, but she would throw them off with things like “oh it’s just my diet” and so on. I believed them, until I read a story where the main character had an eating disorder. I realised he used the exact same things she told me. And then I knew.
Now the hard part was confronting her about it. I am literally the worst person with words and expressing feelings. Sometimes I want to or know I have to say something but I physically cannot force the words out. So that in itself was a problem. I also had to find a way to do it without offending or scaring her. And then I had to find the right time to do it. So you can see my predicament here. It took me forever to figure this out and make sure I was almost positive Ashley had an ED before I approached her. It took almost four months. I first began suspecting around February 2013.
Finally on a nice June night, right after school got out, I made my move. It was just her and I at her house and we went out to her backyard to make a bonfire. We joked around and played music as we built the fire up and the sun went further down. I knew this was my chance. It would be the only time I’d get her completely alone and out of earshot from everyone for who knows how long.
We made idle conversation until it eventually died down and we sat side by side, silently staring into the fire. I can’t remember what I said first, though I wish I did. But obviously I stumbled something out that would lead into it. Before I knew it we had both confessed everything. How I had depression, anxiety, was seeing a therapist, and had been cutting. How she was bulimic/anorexic and had cut a couple times too. It was all out there, and it felt nice. It was us against the world. Ashley was the only person I ever personally told.
So throughout that summer I continued to cut. Though by this point I’d been doing it more often. I took to wearing bracelets so I could slit my wrists without anyone seeing the scars. If that area got full I would do it on my hip, just below my bathing suit line. It was all carefully planned and thought out; I was good at hiding.
At some point during the summer, I can’t remember when, the thoughts of suicide returned. But this time I wrote suicide notes. This time I couldn’t think of any reason to stay. Until one girl messaged me on Tumblr. I had posted something earlier like “I’m so done with everything” or whatever and received some replies telling me to hang on. They were all nice and really encouraging, but since I wasn’t in the right mindset they all went right over my head. Except one. I don’t know why this one stopped me, it seems so random, but the girl said “You haven’t seen Pierce The Veil (my favorite band) in concert yet; you won’t get to see them if you die.” And that put my awful thoughts to a screeching halt. I was like Oh my god I have to see them .It was like not seeing them was the worst thing in the world. Not dying, but not seeing Pierce The Veil. Even as I’m writing this now I smile about it. It seems so strange that that is what stopped me. But I guess it proves that you’re not really thinking straight with a suicidal mind.
So with that I’ll move on from summer and into the next school year: my junior year. We’re in fall of 2013 now and I’ve stayed about the same for a while. Still depressed. Still cutting. Though I think I tried, and failed, quitting at least once by now.
Okay so a little background on my friends so you can fully understand how I felt later on in my story. I had been best friends with both Ashley and Samantha separately since 4th and 2nd grade respectively, but once we got into middle school and all of the elementary schools combined I brought them together and we were like the three amigos; inseparable. In 8th grade I befriended another girl called Jess and brought her into the group. I had heard her parents were going through a divorce and, being an expert on the matter since mine had split when I was five, chose to get closer to her in case she was having issues with the matter. So we were all four a thing: me, Ashley, Samantha, and Jess. We always hung out together and were really closely knit. And I was like the connector of everyone. I was everyone’s best friend (I’m trying to say this without sounding stuck up but it’s true). Especially Ashley and I. We did everything together and talked alllll the time, and that’s saying something for me cause I don’t really do that usually (as explained a little bit earlier, my social skills are not quite the best lol). She and I were a pair. Megan and Ashley, Ashley and Megan, we were almost always addressed together and even finished each other’s sentences (and songs). As I mentioned earlier, I thought it was us against the world. Forever. But then it all started to unravel. It happened in September after we all went to Homecoming together as a group. Ashley and her date, Cody, and Jess and her date, Kyle, started hanging out together all the time. They even gave themselves a name. I’m just going to use The Gang. Which was fine with me at first. I didn’t mind. But then they would hang out every single weekend and never even asked Samantha and me anymore. And if we were to ask them they would say they were busy (with The Gang). This led to Samantha and I growing closer because we were left out and didn’t have anyone else to hang out with while Ashley and Jess grew much closer because they hung out all the time. Ashley and I hardly talked anymore. I began to think she didn’t like me anymore, because as some of you may know when you have depression and anxiety, your thoughts are characteristically negative and self-deprecating. I was hurt, really hurt. She was the only person that knew about my problems and I was losing her. At least that’s the only reason I thought I was so broken up about it.
Except I started to have these thoughts about her that I tried so hard to deny. As we talked about Ashley’s ED earlier, you can guess that she doesn’t think very highly of herself and her appearance. So I would think: She’s so beautiful, I wish I could make her see it. And then she would have guy problems and I would think I could treat her right. She deserves the world and I would try my best to give it to her. I thought about her all the time and I became more and more heartbroken about us drawing further and further apart. It was driving me crazy. I denied these thoughts for so long but come early December I finally admitted it to myself. I was in love with my best friend.
I was so angry at myself. I couldn’t like a girl, let alone my best friend! I despised myself for it, and I thought: I need to be punished. I can’t do this and I deserve to be punished for it, maybe that will fix it! That was the first time I cut really deep. My other ones left thin white scars. They were fairly deep, but nothing like the new ones. I specifically cut further up my forearm, right near my elbow, where it was fleshier so I knew it would go deeper. I pressed my razor as hard as I could and made three deep cuts as punishment for being in love with Ashley and then three littler cuts for me, because I liked it and I liked the blood. I stopped there because I needed to be able to hide them. I wore long sleeves for two months straight at least, because these scars didn’t fade away like the others. They were red and blatant, and I later realized that they were never going to go away. Shit. I had to continue wearing long sleeves and even didn’t attend our winter formal dance, just to keep them hidden.
Around that time in February 2014 I was in between therapists. My old one had had to leave. My parents decided to go to my family doctor to see if I was depressed. I told him how I felt and even about the cutting. He put me on Celexa, gave me a new therapist, and convinced me to let him tell my parents about me cutting. They made me promise to stop and I did, for a bit. But then again I’d also tried quitting multiple times before this and that didn’t work either. I was addicted. I enjoyed watching my skin split apart and the blood flow out. It’s sadistic, I know, but I can’t help what I feel. I would do it even if couldn’t feel the pain, just to watch
By the end of February/Early March, soccer season had started and I couldn’t practice in long sleeves, I would get too hot. So eventually I transitioned back into t-shirts and thankfully no one noticed my scars. I loved soccer. It was my favorite and only sport I played. I had been doing it since I was five. This year I made the varsity team, which should have been great, except the coach didn’t like me very well. I hardly played and was constantly afraid of messing up in front of this coach. It started to really stress me out. It became too much for me with practice every day and schoolwork and it seemed pointless to put myself through that when it wasn’t even fun for me anymore. I began dreading going to practice and games. So I quit.
During the months of February and March I was having major problems with my mom. My parents had split when I was five, and it wasn’t a clean split. My mom was still bitter over the divorce, though she would never admit it. Anyway, my mom and I had basically been fighting on and off since I was in fifth grade. We never quite got along and I got in trouble with her a lot. But ever since my older sister, Kristen, had moved off to college, leaving me to be the oldest, our problems increased. You see, all three of us older kids, Kristen, me, and the oldest, our brother Carson, had issues with our mom. I was left to take all her crap since the others were gone and she couldn’t take it out on them as readily. It also didn’t help that Carson stopped talking to her completely, leaving her even worse than usual. So basically things were pretty bad at my mom’s house and I was highly stressed out.
I gained two more sets of cuts during that time. One set on each of my upper thighs that were even worse than before. They were so bad that both didn’t stop bleeding overnight like they usually did and the only thing that kept the blood from dripping down my leg while I was asleep and at school was that I have decent first aid knowledge and knew I had to keep pressure on the wound to stop it. So I had taped gauze around my thigh so tight it probably cut my circulation off a bit, but it worked well enough. Looking back on it now, I may have needed stitches considering the worst cut is almost a centimeter wide. I regret those cuts more than ever. They left horribly ugly scars and now I get embarrassed to be in my bathing suit because I think people will stare at them or ask about them. So yeah, if you ever need a reason not to cut, just think about the mark you’ll be leaving on yourself. I will have to explain to my kids when I’m older what ‘mommy’s boo boos’ are, and that is something I am by far not looking forward to.
Anyway back to the story. Things were falling apart pretty quickly at my mom’s house to the point that I asked to move to my dad’s house like my older siblings had done. My dad tried to work something out with my mom but they weren’t really getting anywhere anytime soon. My mom is quite stubborn. So I decided to move on my own, and my little sister, Lucy, came with me. That pissed my mom off like no other. It created loads of problems, but at least I wasn’t constantly having high anxiety like I had been at my mom’s. This happened towards the end of March 2014.
Spring break was approaching quickly. Ashley and Jess were going to Florida together and it was all they ever talked about (which made me feel like crap to be honest), and Samantha was going with her family and another friend on a cruise to the Caribbean. As for my family, we were going to Disney World. I was excited! My family never goes on vacation because there are so many of us on both sides. (At my dad’s there was us four that switch houses: Lucy, me, Kristen, and Carson, and then two other step brothers that are both older than me. At my mom’s there was the four of us again and then two younger half-brothers). However, my mom was still angry at us for moving, so she told us we couldn’t go to Disney with them and shipped Lucy and I off to our grandma’s for the week while they still went. Which, to put it simply, really sucked.
By the time that was over with we had worked out a new schedule. I would go to my mom’s once a week, every Thursday, and every other weekend like I did for my dad’s before. I had also increased my Celexa dosage and my doctor had added on Wellbutrin. Which turned out didn’t bode well with me. I had been feeling pretty crappy for a bit but I thought I was just in a down mood, which happens, so I didn’t think much of it considering I was depressed and all. But then came the bad day.
It was May 8th and I had to pick something up from an antique shop downtown for a history project, so I had my mom drop Lucy and I off while she went to pick up our brothers from school. She would pick us up after them. Well it turned out that the shop I had intended on going to was closed, so I went to a different one. (My town is small and has like five antique shops all within two blocks of each other). However, they didn’t have what I needed either. So I kept checking other shops until I found the record I needed. Now my mom had turned my cell service off when we moved, so I couldn’t text her and tell her I was going to a different store. Instead I checked every time we left and entered a shop to see if she was waiting by the first one where we had planned for her to pick us up. She was never there. It had already been over an hour and I was starting to realise something was up. I headed to the library where I could use their Wi-Fi to Facebook message my mom and ask where she was and if she was picking us up. She said she had come back to the shop, noticed it was closed, and left immediately, assuming I was disrespecting and disobeying her by not going to where I said I was. My mom told me to walk home, which would take around half an hour (I knew because I had done it before). However I was supposed to be picked up by my dad and step mom in less than that time to go to my stepbrother’s soccer game. Instead of walking, I messaged them to see if they could pick me up from the library rather than the house. Luckily they came to get us. On the ride home I told them what just happened. Rather than supporting me like I had hoped, they told me off and then dropped us off a bit away from the house. Which when I think about it now wasn’t that bad. But I wasn’t thinking straight. When I got home I went right downstairs and locked myself in my room. And then I thought.
If you’re someone with depression or anxiety, just thinking is hardly ever a good thing. Most times it’s negative. And most times it’s cycling. An ongoing train of cynical thought that never goes away no matter how hard you try. It’s like your mind has turned against you. But most importantly, it’s illogical. If you let yourself go for long enough, you could convince yourself that the whole world hates you, even people you’ve never met. It has an intricate way of stringing thoughts together so they make enough sense to you, but no sense at all to anyone else.
So here I am, letting my thoughts get the best of me as I lay alone in my room. It probably went somewhere along the lines of I can’t do this anymore. I can’t make it through the next couple years living in this life I’ve come to hate. I’m tired. So damn tired. I just want to fall asleep and never wake up. I just kept thinking that I don’t want to live my life in this awful, depressive, anxiety-ridden state. I thought that was all the future held for me. I thought it would never get better. By the end of the cycling I had convinced myself that nobody cared. My best friends had found other friends, I didn’t have any friends. My parents were always mad or disappointed in me. The hardest part was my siblings. I’m extremely close with most of them and my mind wasn’t coming up with a reason for why I could leave them, so it just figured that they’d each have each other and would move on with their lives. Everyone would move on with their lives. And while none of this was true, I had convinced myself of it while lost in my own thoughts, and that was all it took to send me over the edge. Just a small misconception that nobody cared. I didn’t want to be alive anymore, so I took the pills.
I had always had a stash of medicine in my soccer bag: Tylenol because I literally get headaches every day and ibuprofen because somehow I managed to get shin splints or tendonitis every soccer season. Add that to a bag of melatonin supplements I kept in my bedside table because I had been having trouble sleeping for a long time now. I called my bedroom finds good enough and took everything I had.
I woke up around two in the morning, disappointed. I wasn’t supposed to wake up. That was the point of taking everything! I figured since it didn’t work I may as well pretend nothing happened and move on for now. I had a stomach ache and remembered I had skipped dinner earlier. I went upstairs and grabbed a bag of cereal and a water bottle to tide me over until morning, hoping it would relieve the stomach ache. Let’s just say it wasn’t long until it came back up. (This part may be gross but I’m just telling what happened) I puked it up and went back to my room to lie down, attempting to fall back asleep, but my stomach wasn’t having any of that. I found myself back in the bathroom not five minutes later. I spent almost half an hour in there retching my guts out before I decided I couldn’t go to school tomorrow and pretend everything was okay. I’d be sick all day! So I went upstairs and got my mom, told her I took a bunch of pills, and went to the hospital.
They ended up having to hook me up to an IV for 36 hours to flush all of the Tylenol out of my system. Apparently I could have completely destroyed my liver or even lost it. Scary, huh? I didn’t think it would be that bad. Anyways, to put it simply my time in the hospital was a mess, not because the hospital was bad, they were great, but because I saw what I had done to people. The guilt could have swallowed me whole. Everyone came to see me at some point: Mom, Dad, stepmom, stepdad, all my siblings, and even our close family friends who I didn’t even think about. I saw how sad they all were and it destroyed me with guilt. Imagine if I had actually died? It would have been 100x worse. That’s what turned me away from the idea of attempting suicide again. Kristen was the worst. We were really, really close. She was a mess when she came and was mad at me for a while after. She even had to go to therapy to work through it. And all I could think was how it was my entire fault. By Saturday afternoon my IV had finished and they found an opening in a mental hospital for me. I went home, packed myself a bag, and we drove the two hours to get there.
I will tell you right now that my time in the mental hospital was one of the best experiences of my life. People think mental hospitals are scary and full of crazies, but they’re not. It was almost like staying at a camp, that’s the best analogy I can come up with, except they also sort out your medication for you. We each had a room and roommate and planned out schedules for the day. For example: breakfast, group therapy, life skills, lunch, journal time/room time, gym, art room, dinner, lesson time/another therapy session, recap and reflection, free time, lights out. And the place was filled with people like me! Most of us were in there for suicide attempt, cutting, addiction issues, anxiety, etc. It was all people my age going through similar things as me. I made a lot of great friends there and learned a lot of great lessons there and I will cherish them forever. I spent ten days in the hospital and returned to school on a Wednesday. I told everyone that I had been sick because I was the last person people would expect to be suicidal, I mean, I’m salutatorian, and because mental health isn’t exactly a hot discussion topic, it’s something people hide. So I hid it, telling everyone I had been sick. And I’ve come to regret that decision.
Two days later I got called down to my guidance counselor before first block even started, which was weird. She tells me that one of my classmates died unexpectedly in her house last night. She didn’t say the word ‘suicide,’ but she didn’t have to. I knew by her wording and I think she knew I would figure it out quickly. A girl in my grade, in my first block class even, had commit suicide the night before, on a Thursday night, exactly two weeks after I had attempted. The likeness between us still haunts me to this day.
Everyone else was told in first block. I watched a lot of people break out into tears. My teacher couldn’t even finish telling us she was too upset. One of my best friends who is basically my brother put his head down and silently cried until someone suggested he go to see his counselor. That hit hard. He was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known. I just wrote in my journal the whole hour, which was a coping skill I had just learned at the hospital. (I can attach that if you’d like).
Throughout the day there was group therapy sessions in the library and the school brought in other counselors to aid in the aftermath. So many people went to those. People that were close to her and people that hardly knew her. I think that just shows that suicide affects so many more people than you think. She probably thought she didn’t matter but yet half the school has t-shirts or bracelets in her memory now. I know I wear mine every day.
Fast forward to the present and here I am writing this out, glad to be alive. Sure, there are bad days still, but there are good ones too and I have learned to take them both in stride. I haven’t cut since May 2014 when I went into the hospital. It’s now February 2015. I’m pretty proud of that. My medications are all sorted out and if I need them adjusted, I can just ask. I know how to deal with things now and if I don’t, I just ask. It’s amazing the help you can receive if you make yourself open to it. I’ve worked things out with my friends a bit and made some new friends along the way. I have accepted that things change and we may not always be friends forever. I have an amazing girlfriend now, who I help work through some of the same things I’ve been through. And now as I enter my last semester of high school ever and am about to go off on my own, I plan to devote my life to helping people like me. No one should be alone and everyone deserves help. I hope by sharing my story it will show others that things can get better; I know they did for me. THERE IS HOPE.