Trigger warning: Discussion of a suicide attempt and a suicide loss
Last week I learned about the tragic death of a student at the local university I attended for my Freshman year. At first, I just felt sad for the student who died, his family, and the university community because it was a freak accident that some staff and students witnessed, but then student’s death was ruled a suicide. I instantly felt like the life was sucked right out of me when I heard the news. The student who died was only 19 and a Freshman. It took me right back to my Freshman year.
My 18h birthday was the first day of classes at the university. I was elated to be away from home for the first time (even though it was 20 minutes away from home) and instantly loved living in the city! To me, this meant a new chapter and the end of my mental health struggles (boy was I wrong about the latter part!). My first semester was a slap in my face because my classes were so hard (I was a biology major, the hardest program at that school) and I felt like everyone was able to handle the stress of it all except for me.
I fell into bad habits like distracting myself from my issues by getting involved in a million activities. I was in 4 dances for the dance ensemble, American Chemical Society, biology society, etc. on top of having a serious boyfriend. I wanted to do it all like I thought I had done in high school, except I did everything except for take care of myself and make my mental health a priority. After spending too many hours dealing with panic attacks and feeling distraught about school, I decided to change my major to undeclared and enjoy exploring my options.
It was a scary, but positive change for me. During my second semester, I was able to solidify my friendships with an amazing group of friends, I was able to spend more time with that boyfriend, I got to really enjoy dance, and I had straight As. I was living the life I always wanted…until my depression came back with a vengeance. I stopped functioning over time. I isolated myself more, I lost my appetite, I didn’t want to bathe or take care of myself, and worst of all, I started to lie to my dear friends. I would hide in a computer lounge and tell my friends I had gone to my classes.
I experience a feeling of hopelessness I had never known before. Instead of seeing life through rose-colored glasses, all I could see was gray. I would drink on the weekends and seek excitement, but I felt hollow. I couldn’t share my feelings with my family, who didn’t understand my mental health diagnoses and weren’t really empathetic when I struggled. The thought of telling my friends what was going on would trigger a panic attack.
Then came the terrifying daydreams. I would lie on my bed and picture myself dead with a suicide note written in blood on my wall. I was both horrified and comforted by the image, but I knew deep down that it was time to seek help. I asked my boyfriend at the time (who I had been dating since senior year of high school and didn’t live far from my campus) to go with me to the emergency room of a nearby psychiatric hospital to get help.
At this point in time, I suffered greatly from internalized stigma and after waiting hours to be seen, I mustered up all the courage I had, but all I could say was that I was “really sad” instead of saying that I wanted to die. The nurse gave me the number for outpatient services and told me that they couldn’t help me in the ER because I wasn’t “bad enough”. It immediately sent me back to all the times when my experiences and mental illnesses were invalidated because people didn’t think what I was going through was that bad.
I felt like that was it…the end of the line. I did what I was supposed to by seeking help and it wasn’t enough. I was more than ready to stop existing, so after my boyfriend took me back to his place, I attempted suicide while he was in the bathroom. Luckily, he interrupted me and it was the moment that started my long, winding recovery journey. I left that university to go to community college and focus on my mental health after talking with the amazing counselor that was at the school at that time. Unlike me, the student who died at that university will never get the help he deserved and it scares the sh*t out of me knowing that I could have been a body found by someone else.
Since my attempt, I experienced what I like to call “suicidal attacks” where my mind would default to suicidal thoughts when I underwent immense stress, but the feelings lessen after a few hours or after sleeping. I’m very thankful that I haven’t felt like dying in a long time and that I’m no longer depressed thanks to therapy and lot of work on myself. I share my story so that people can feel comfortable talking about their struggles, but I also fight for better mental health care since people can’t get the help they need once they get courage to speak up if they can’t afford doctor appointments or don’t live near a therapist. I continue to live for the lives lost to suicide and to help prevent more people from dying before they can find peace while they’re alive. It’s been 7 years since my life almost ended and I’m so thankful that my story continued. Please keep reaching out for help if you feel like you’re struggling<3
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Trevor Project LGBT+ friendly Lifeline/TrevorChat/TrevorText: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now
Transgender Lifeline: US: 877-565-8860 CA: 877-330-6366
List of lifelines for various countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines