Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Writing this blog post feels like one of the hardest things I have had to do and yet, what is so hard about writing out my story? That is the real question! Why is my anxiety through the roof, just thinking about putting a piece of my story on this page? I believe the real reason is my life on the outside, by all accounts, is great without a care in the world, however what most people don’t do is actually share what is going on in their lives. I have chosen to become a mental heath advocate for this very reason. I feel it is so important! Because by me sharing information about myself could help others feel they have the ability and strength to speak up and ask for help without feeling guilty about feeling the way they do. At some point down the road, I will be able to share my entire story, but for the purposes of this post, I am going to briefly explain why strength and hope over adversity is something I live for every single day.
Looking back at my younger years and well into high school, my fight or flight response was nonstop due to my home environment. Too much for this post, but let’s just say it was very toxic. At the time, I really didn’t understand what I was feeling and thought what I was living in was “normal”. When I entered high school, I was severely depressed, but on the outside, I was living the time of my life. I had lots of friends, I was in band and I was able to hide my feelings deep down. That was until I was alone of course! Because I didn’t know what was really going on with my thoughts and feelings, I started to lose myself. I feared going home every day due to the environment, so I did everything I could not to. I stayed after school to practice for band, I ran track, played football, joined after school programs, and so on. Being part of these programs gave me strength, hope and the basic knowledge that life outside my home, could in fact, be so much better than it was.
The middle of my Freshman year, my home life was at its worst. After a very traumatic event, I ended up moving in with my best friend and his family. I lived there for almost two years. I kept saying to myself, “So this is what a real family is supposed to look like?” During this time, I was selected to attend a youth leadership program and I was accepted to march with the Toledo Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps. While I was away during a weekend camp with the Glassmen, the director came into rehearsal and called me out to come with him. I walked into a room off the practice area and sitting on the couch was my best friend and his mom and dad. At the time I could only think that my mom was dead, because that would be logical, and they were there to tell me, but I was wrong. You see, before I had moved in with them, I had written out a suicide letter. I was so lost and I couldn’t see any future where life would be any better than it was. I was in such a better place living with them, and having someone to talk to, I had completely forgotten I had written it. I ripped the letter out of my binder about a week after I moved in and thought I threw it in the trash, but it missed and went under the bed. My “Second Mom” was putting clothes away and found the letter under the bed. They drove all the way to me, in the middle of the night, to make sure I was okay! By some kind of chance, I have been fortunate enough to have some pretty amazing people come into my life which has made all the difference in the world.
My life has been full of ups and downs, although I have gained all this knowledge, I still struggle every single day! I have had two suicide attempts since leaving high school. The second one, I almost didn’t make it out. I live everyday to be as positive as possible, and to show love and kindness to everyone I meet. Not a day goes by that my emotions are not all over the board, but I fight to keep my head clear of the negative narrative which constantly plays in my head. To this day, I continue to share my story to help every single person who needs a friend or someone to just listen. You can live whatever life you choose AND being diagnosed with a mental health disease does not define you as a person!
I have so many examples of times where I “thought” life was over as I knew it, and every time my strength and my hope gave me the ability to overcome what was in front of me. I share this little part of my life to do one thing, prove all the stigma, stereotypes and prejudices wrong. Too many times people assume those with mental health diseases are unable to live fully functioning lives, hold steady jobs or are dangerous. We have the ability to live our best life, all while struggling with mental diseases. Society has placed so many labels and stereotypes on individuals with mental health diseases all before they even get to know that person. Please know that you are not what society has placed on you, and with education we can help change the narrative on mental health.