** WARNING: This post contains a section that discusses suicide and depression. It could possibly be triggering. If you are struggling with these issues I would suggest either skipping this post and reading others or skipping to the end of this post. I promise there is a happy ending. **
Today I am twenty-three.
For some, birthdays are no more than a regular day, maybe some presents, or good wishes and cake. Nothing ever really changes when you turn another year older. It’s not like you wake up and suddenly have matured a year. It’s a gradual process, and your birthday is just a marker along that path.
My family has made a big deal out of birthdays for as long as I can remember. We (the whole family) would wake up and open presents before we all went our separate ways to work or school. We would pick out a special birthday dinner – whatever we wanted – and probably have a party (or two…or three) at some point.
This year I have a different outlook on my birthday than I ever have. I have never been more thankful to be alive.
I’ve never been happy to be alive.
I mean, I probably did when I was younger, but at that age you don’t understand the whole “life” thing yet.
As a child, I remember that I had this vague idea in my head that I wouldn’t live to be 18. I had a small voice in my mind that said by the time I reached 18 I would have gathered the courage to end my life.
I had a twisted sense of hope that came from knowing my life would end soon enough, ending the consuming fears and misery. I thought it was just a feeling or maybe my fragile, mental state saying that it was “Gods will,” however, I can now recognize it as depression. On some level, I must have known that it wasn’t completely normal, because otherwise I’m not sure why I never said anything.
I woke up on my 18th birthday. I felt shocked, relieved, hopeful and distraught, all at once. I pulled myself together enough for the next year and a half to make the world believe I was OK, to make me believe I was OK. That’s when things started to unravel. I began spiraling downwards, convincing myself this time I wouldn’t live to see 20.
I was 19 when I first attempted suicide. I cringe thinking to those days. Thinking the words: I am unlovable.
The years that followed my whole family was in continuous crisis mode. They never knew what the next day was going to hold. Heck, I was so far removed from reality that I didn’t even know what the previous days looked like never mind the coming hours.
Somehow [clearly through the grace of God], I made it through countless life or death situations.
I don’t know how many times I have tried to end my life, nor do I know the exact number of streets I’ve crossed, [purposely] without waiting for cars to pass first.
I can’t count the exact number of scars on my skin from each time I carelessly slid a piece of metal through, silently hoping I would bleed to death and never wake up.
I don’t know how many hours I have been lost along train tracks waiting for a train to come and end it all.
I have walked across this train track bridge [the view now terrifies me!]:
*Bridge photos from London Free Press
If a train had come while I was walking across this bridge I would have not survived. I had hoped I would slip through the holes between the pieces of wood I walked over or through the sides.
*But this excruciating, long chapter of my life is closing.*
I’m well on my way to recovery!
Twenty-three is fresh.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have been working towards bible college for as long as I can remember. I am moving into a transitional chapter of online courses and I am already halfway through my first course: Intro to Old Testament Studies. I’m loving the content!
I have said this is a transitional chapter because I’m practicing the coping skills I’ve perfected while living a very simple, low-stress life, now in a more stressful life. It’s proving tough but I’m happy to report that there have been no suicidal thoughts that have come with any intent. The thoughts are more fleeting. They come almost out of habit.
My brain doesn’t work the same as it used to, nor does the rest of my body. I have been out of school for 4 years. Those things themselves throw some consequential challenges into life.
I got a 77% on my first midterm! I’m proud of that. I worked extremely hard and did not think I could manage more than a 60.
Good & amazing things have come from this chapter!
LIST OF GOOD THINGS/ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING “DISABLED” YEARS:
I had extra time to spend hours reading Gods word and just resting in His presence. Not everyone gets this wonderful opportunity.
My personal relationship with God is stronger than ever. My desire to experience Him, love Him, and obey Him, is sometimes more than I can handle (In a good way)!
I was diagnosed with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that had been going on for 11 years before diagnosis. I don’t know when/if I would have been diagnosed had I not started having seizures.
I have overcome treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, after the better part of three years was spent in a psychiatric hospital.
I’ve overcome some intense psychotic episodes.
I have a better ability to empathize with other people’s sorrows. It’s the kind of empathy that you can only gain from going through a dark and difficult time.
I have completely stopped self harming. (Nearly 2 years without cutting!) Just a day ago, an ER nurse even commented on my scars looking old.
*I also now view self harming as a completely ineffective coping mechanism, but because of the addictive nature it is still tempting.
About 4 years after the OCD diagnosis, the disorder is almost managed now!! **HUGE HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT THAT REQUIRED AN CRAZY AMOUNT OF WORK**
I have my own website/blog that actually gets a large number of views (that is if I actually post…oops…)
I have been doing a lot of painting and drawing **even with a tremor!
I have trained a service dog! (With a lot of help from family, a friend, and a trainer). Now I have an incredible, life-saving dog! I wish I didn’t need her as “medical equipment”, but she keeps me laughing and I constantly talk to her. (I have learned that when you are alone in public, it’s much more fun to pet a dog than to awkwardly pretend you are texting someone…)
I have had time to draw, write, and spend time with my family before I prepare to move away for school.
Now I see that this life I live is actually so wonderful! So long as God continues to use my struggles for His glory (I have no doubt He will), I don’t mind them being there.
For a long time, birthdays acted as a sort of ‘countdown’ of my life, filled with nothing but doom. Now, they serve as a source of hope and strength, reminding me I have – and will continue to – overcome.
I have come a long way in the past few years. Now I’m able to look back and say I survived. Now I’m able to look forward and say I can continue surviving and thriving.