Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I wanted to share my story.
I just turned 30. With this age comes a lot of funny stories and happy memories, but the dichotomy of life brings the painful reminders and scars too.
Though I have experienced good moments, often these positive events are outweighed by the dark pull of negative events from the past, unhealthy thought loops, and poor coping mechanisms.
I am the survivor of child abuse.
As a kid, I thought my life was normal. I did not know that yelling, hitting, or anger, was not something other families did. I developed behaviors and thinking processes from these hurtful experiences that have followed me throughout my entire life. Though I am an adult now and can recognize I have the choice to better myself, I am afraid there is no set cure for my c-PTSD or General Anxiety Disorder, only ways of managing it.
I tend to have a lot of black holes in my memory from my childhood, but the pieces of dominant memories saved are those that have sparked feelings of fear, terror, complete unpredictability and lack of safety. To this day, I revert to those intense feelings when there are certain triggers. For example, I could watch a movie and suddenly go to a dark mental space because a scene could have brought me back to my childhood. This also applies to sounds, smells, conversations, people, everyday life, and even recurring dreams.
Self-harm is something I have done since childhood and I learned it through the abuse. I would punch myself in the head during elementary school because I thought punching myself was the way to learn how to remember information. I would sit and hit myself while reading books, practicing my spelling, doing math homework, because I honestly thought this was how to retain information. Anytime I would practice with my parents around, they would do it to me, so I thought it was normal.
Though I do not punch myself anymore, I have recurring negative self-talk, a poor self-image, and have self-harmed in various ways.
My self-esteem was shaped during these years too and has impacted my self-worth and the way I develop relationships with others. From the outside looking in, I hid my anxiety and pain, but during moments of self-destruction I would tell anyone and everyone who would listen to me because I desperately needed love and validation, something to give me worth. I did not know how to regulate my emotions or express myself. I was emotionally stunted.
To this day, I need time alone from others and this may last for months. Relationships exhaust me and I often feel guilty for not being there for the people around me but I need to build these walls in order to feel safe. Other times, I let people walk all over me and I tolerate it for longer than I should because I seek a connection. I feel like my mental health is a giant contradiction. I crave belonging but at the same time I run away and reject it. It takes some very special people to be patient with me.
Suicide is something that has come as a wave of thought throughout my life. I remember the first time I began to think about suicide was when I was 15. Many thought I was angsty, but no one took the time to listen and understand why I did not spend time with my family, why I slept for so long after school, why I never left my room, why I didn’t shower or take care of myself. Instead, it was met with more emotional abuse, the constant belittling, the comparing to others, the expectations that I could not meet. If it wasn’t for my friends or hobbies, I do not think I would have made it through or found something to live for.
Art became my way of expression. I dove into ceramics, drawing, music, and photography. Photography is what stuck the most to me. I was able to show the contrast of my life in photos. I felt like a light with a dark cloud looming over me, and it showed with my work. I could express myself and let out the emotions.
As a young adult though, I began to overwork myself. I had full time university and often had 2 jobs. My hobbies took a backseat and I lost who I was as a person. I would come home from a long day and cry, wishing it would all end. These dark emotions would last weeks, where I would eat, cry, sleep, self-harm, while simultaneously trying to find an external source of happiness.
Even to this day it is a challenge to be comfortable with me and find happiness and pleasure through my alone time and hobbies. This is because my worth as a child was always externalized. Everything was based on conditions.
Though I am 30 now and have had treatment, therapy, and medication, I still have relapses. My most recent relapse was in May 2020. With therapy, I learned coping mechanisms and had a plan in place for a situation like this. For the first time in my life I called Samaritans, a mental health charity that provides emotional support 24/7 through their hotline. After letting all my sadness out, crying with a stranger, I was able to think more logically. Samaritans not only let me release my feelings but helped me plan on how to get additional support.
Suicide is preventable and I hope those of you who have read this know that you can get through these emotions. You are not alone. To get help please reach out to the Samaritans, they are here to listen: https://www.samaritans.org/
I learned that my problems are fixable and to take it slow, one day at a time. I also learned that surrounding myself with good people encourages me to fight everyday through my anxiety. I know I am not fully cured, but I have improved over time. Progress at any size is worth a party. I am wishing you well on your mental health journey.