"An Open Letter to Young People Struggling, From a Suicide Survivor" Huffington Post artic
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Our community is struggling with a rash of inconceivable suicides of teens and pre-teens. Every new death is a blow to the already raw hearts of this community. There is blame thrown here and there, everyone looking for a steady target to throw off the pain that we all seem to be drowning under. No one has an answer for saving our children from this pain, which seems to be pervasive, not only in our community but all across the nation and around the world.
With every new death there is much conversation -- first in shadowed whispers, then growing to a fevered roar. What I keep hearing, over and over again, is parents saying that they don't understand. They can't possibly understand someone, especially a young person, being so very low that they would even think to take their own life. I would like to nod along and remember my teenage years as carefree and lovely as those around me seem too. But, even a simple nod would an egregious lie. You see, when I was 17 years old, I was swimming in the black water of a deep, dark depression -- a depression that I could not ever see myself coming out of and in those dark days I tried to blot out my own life several times. I am so thankful to have not been successful at taking on my own life and I strongly believe that I would have never made any suicide attempts had I known the truth of what was to come in my life.
If you are in the bowels of your own depression and are contemplating taking your own life, I want to say to you what I wish someone had said to me during those very dark days, when I felt terribly alone and was sure that living in this unspeakable pain forever would be my destiny.
You are not alone. As far as we have come in the 20 years since I was a teenager, mental illness is still stigmatized. This means that for every person brave enough to say that they struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolarity -- there are likely hundreds more in the wings who are not ready yet to take the stage and come forward about their own struggles. There are people struggling in your town, in your country and all over the world at this very minute. There is not a single pain that you feel that is not being felt by someone else at this very moment, somewhere in the world.
Depression is a liar. It will tell you that you are worthless, that no one cares, that you are better off dead. None of what it tells you has any basis in the truth. None. Many of the ideas in your head are completely baseless and false. I implore you to never take any kind of extreme action without talking with someone else first, as hard as those words may be for you to say. You will shake off this beast of depression and will look back someday and be shocked that you listened to the pleas of this raging, ruthless liar. Do not be afraid to talk back when the beast whispers in your ear. You may not feel it right now, but you are so much stronger than your depression.
You need to seek help. This part might seem very hard. Maybe you haven't told anyone how low you are feeling. Maybe it seems easier to stay quiet. I ask you, fervently, to tell someone you trust. Seek counseling, try medication, find friends that you can be truly honest with, meditate, get outside. There are so many ways of feeling better and no two paths to mental peace are the same. If one counselor or doctor doesn't help, try another. If your meds don't help, ask your doctor to adjust the dose or try another. Know that you do not have to do this alone. There are people out there that help people through this everyday and they are waiting to help you, too.
You are not your depression. This is not you. This experience will forever change you and be a part of you, but it is not and will never be the real you. This is not the way you are going to feel for your entire life. This is a temporary chemical disruption of your brain, nothing more. Experiencing depression is part of the human experience but is not who you are as a whole. Do not let this take over your entire identity.
There is so much good ahead of you. This is the most important thing that I have to tell you. I know you've heard the words that every young person hears, "These are the best days of your life." Well, I cry bullshit. I want you to know that when I was struggling, not even wanting to live another day, my worst fears were that this was true and my life- which was so painful that I was living moment to moment, was only going to be downhill from here. In truth, my life has blossomed beyond belief and I am truly happy. My life now does not in any way resemble those dark days. There are so many good things ahead of you. SO MANY. It's okay if you cannot see them now, but please trust that they are there. Please trust that you are, indeed, in the darkest days of your life but that there is light ahead.
Keep moving forward. Some days this may be all that you can do, even when your depression wills you to crawl into bed permanently- to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Trust that there is a brighter future if you keep going, as impossible as that idea might seem in this moment.
I see you there -- struggling through each moment, and I want you to know that I have been there and there is a way out. There are so many out there, just like me, that are so grateful to have not been successful in their suicide attempts and are pulling for you to not choose to blot out your own light. We, the survivors, understand that you are not living day to day, but moment by painful moment. We are holding space for you to reach that moment that is easier, the moment that is not full of pain. I know you will get there, if you simply keep moving forward. I am so very glad that I did.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.