There was a time in my life when I didn’t think I’d see past the age of 18. Well, 24 years later, I’m still kicking around, telling my story as a survivor of suicide and an advocate for mental health.
Mental illness entered my life at an early age and ended up setting up shop, inviting friends, and adding new diagnoses to my already complicated young life.
From body dysmorphia to depression to anxiety to attention deficit disorder, it all seemed never-ending. But before any label could sew itself into my being, there lived a frightened young teenager trying to make sense of the madness that was happening in her head.
After three suicide attempts—the last one being the most severe—we finally got down to the problems.
I was a young girl with mental illness.
I was hooked up with a social worker and put on medication to try to manage my outbursts and keep me alive.
And alive I stayed. Even through disordered eating, manic and depressive episodes, and anxiety attacks. I stayed put.
RELATED: New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression: Why All Of Us Must Share Her Friend’s Plea
Things became more complicated when I became a mom. As if I wasn’t going through enough already, the stars above decided my plate wasn’t quite full enough and delivered me with a dose of postpartum depression and anxiety.
My world, once again, turned upside down, and I felt lost, alone, angry, sad, and a collection of other emotions that would run through my veins for what seemed like an eternity.
But, as I’ve done before, I fought my way past it, and I stayed put.
So, what’s it like giving and nurturing life after almost taking my own?
Well, I’d say it’s beautiful, scary, confusing, complicated, and rewarding. I’d say that although it’s incredibly challenging, it also fills me with a desperation to keep going.
After I had my son, I spent hours upon hours struggling with the idea of suicide and wishing myself away. I couldn’t do this anymore. It was too hard. It was too much. The thoughts and images that plagued my mind were frightening, and I didn’t think I was strong enough to bring up a human being. What was I thinking? was a thought that lingered in my mind.
But again, I stayed. And I stayed because there was no way I was going to leave this small, innocent being without a mother. There was no way I was going to let my mental illness win, like it almost did 20-odd years ago. While the thoughts were terrifying, I had a bit more clarity this time around, and I had a bigger picture to look at than ever before.
I had to do some hard thinking on this. I wagged my finger and sternly told my depression it was not going to dictate my life. I stared down my anxiety like any mama bear would do and went back on medication to help me manage.
Needless to say, I won the biggest battle of my life. I’m still here.
Giving life after trying to take your own is something words cannot completely describe. It’s feeling elated that you were able to push past the thick fog and come out on the other end where the sun can shine on your face. It’s feeling empowered that you were able to make a rational decision through one of the darkest periods of your life. It’s feeling accomplished, even through fear, and knowing you are stronger than you give yourself credit for.
In a way, my child saves me every day. He gives me a new reason to keep fighting the good fight. Any suicidal ideation I may have at this stage of my life is immediately squashed like a bug under my shoes. I just can’t go there.
There are times–even today, five years after his birth–when I’m looking for the towel to toss it in the ring, throw my hands up, and be done with it. But then he saves me. There’s nowhere I’d rather be. There’s nowhere else I can be.
My child’s life gives me purpose beyond my own.
He gives me a reason to keep ticking even when I find myself wanting to walk toward the quicksand, looking for it to swallow me whole.
I’m always pulled back, like a baby in a Jolly Jumper. I can never stretch too far before I’m sprung back into place by those huge metal coils and forced to reassess.
Your mental illness may never truly leave you. It sticks with you even if it may take yearly vacations here and there. Being a parent with a mental illness–or three–can feel like a losing battle with all the extra stressors, but it’s not.
Like I said, my son saves me.