Hey friends, I’m really glad you stopped by CWS today because we’re talking about a very important topic that’s close to my heart.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. As long as I can remember, my heart has always ached for those who struggle with mental illness and everything that can come with it. Mental illness, self-harm, and suicide have such a stigma to them and it needs to be broken. People need to seek to understand all of these things rather than judge those who struggle with them. It’s time people decided to be there for one another.
I want to share part of my story with you. I have shared briefly in years past about my journey through mental illness but I wanted to get more deep and raw today. Please, note that my experience with everything I’ll be sharing doesn’t mean that everyone has the same experience. Everyone struggles differently, especially with the topics I’m opening up about today. Bear with me. All of the pieces will fit together, including the celebration of overcoming.
*Potential trigger warning.*
I first time that realized that I was depressed was in the 8th grade. I felt low all of the time. My whole being felt heavy and weak, and I felt extremely disconnected. At such a young age, it was hard for me to process what I was feeling and going through. I remember the first time I heard other people picking on those who dressed a certain way and that they looked “emo”. I felt so bad. I didn’t dress how they did but some part of me knew that I understood what they were feeling, or at least something very similar.
Not only was I dealing with my own issues and insecurities, but some home life issues started to grow and grow more at that time in my life. Nothing directed at me and nothing violent at all, but some family issues. All of that tied up with my own stuff that I had going on inside of me brought me a ton of pain. I still didn’t understand it all, though. I kept trying to analyze why I was depressed. And looking back on those years, I realized I also started dealing with anxiety back then and I just didn’t know it. But I could never figure out the root of it all. And to be honest, I don’t think there was ever an initial “root” of it all but instead, it’s just part of how I’m wired. And that’s okay. The frustration of not understanding and life feeding into it all brought me to experimenting with self-harm.
Self-harm is something that’s very misunderstood. I know it’s hard to understand why people who self-harm do that to themselves but you can’t sit there in judgment and condemnation. It’s a very real struggle and those who struggle can’t explain it to you.
I’m not going to get into all of the details but self-harming myself made me “escape” and feel calm. I remember the first time I self-harmed. It just happened. I was so upset about everything and did it. I felt shame after doing so but I felt calm after it. I told myself I’d never do it again… but I just kept doing it. I couldn’t stop. Cutting provided me with a temporary escape from my emotions and pain. I didn’t actually want to die or kill myself. I just needed relief.
So many people jump to the conclusion that those who self-harm are suicidal, and most of the time that’s not the case at all. We need to break that stigma.
But, sometimes, it can lead to an even darker road where suicidal thoughts come into view.
I became addicted to self-harm and it continued throughout high school and into my early college years. I tried to stop many times over those years but I always kept relapsing. Self-harm is an addiction. People can’t “just stop it” or “knock it off”.
For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Christian University. I remember going to meet with the Residence Director at my college at the time. I shared with her about my depression and struggle with self-harm. It was scary opening up but it felt good to get off my chest… but then a few minutes after, I regretted it. The RD told me that the college couldn’t have people attending there if they self-harmed and if they were really that depressed. Yep. That’s literally what she said to me. She then continued and said that the next time we met she was going to have me sign a “contract” saying that I wouldn’t self-harm. I never went back. (And thankfully, she left the college after that semester.)
To be honest, talking about mental illness and all that can come with it and how most of the church deals with it, I could go on for days. That’s not my goal with this post, though. But just know, I really know how misunderstood it can all be in the church world. It’s one of my passions to help change that.
It got to the point that suicide did start to cross my mind. I didn’t ever think I would do it but suicidal thoughts started to always be present in my life during my first year of college. I felt alone and unwanted – by others and myself. I was sick of struggling the way I was and I thought that if I was dead, it’d all stop and everyone would be better off.
I thought about how I’d do it if I ever decided to. The thoughts were persistent. It almost became a fantasy for me some days. It was a very, very dark time in my life.
Even throughout all of my struggling, I somehow always held onto hope. I think it’s because I was so rooted in my faith. Even on my worst days, I still clung to hope and would convince myself that God would equip me with the tools I needed to fight through everything. And He did. Praise be to God that I was able to fight my suicidal thoughts.
I started to do really well with fighting my urges to self-harm during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. My thoughts of suicide also subsided during that time. I was proud of myself and felt like I could really overcome it all. But, then I relapsed.
Soon after, I met my now husband, Michael. I remember first sharing with him of my struggles. He was there to listen and really sought to understand. He was my anchor through the storm, second to the Lord. I am so grateful that the Lord brought Michael and me together. I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if I didn’t have Michael in my life.
Today, I am standing in victory. I am over 5 1/2 years clean from self-harm. I remember thinking these years of overcoming would never come for me. While I am free from self-harm, I’ve got to be real with you here and let you know that I still have bad days. I still have days where I’m tempted to go back to my old struggle. I have days where I still battle suicidal thoughts. These days will always come. But, I am so much stronger than it all and I’ll continue to fight.
And so I kept living.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and this week (September 9-15) is National Suicide Prevention Week. Take this week to learn and channel all that you learn into your lifestyle. We need to be raising awareness for suicide and preventing suicide all of the time, not just one day or one week out of the year. Everyone should be compelled to be a part of the change.
This is our time to step up, to be available, to reach out, and to have serious conversations. This is the time to band together to prevent suicide. We need to have honest conversations about mental illness and suicide. We can’t ignore it. We need to address it. We need to love on those hurting and struggling.
WHY THIS MATTERS:
- 800,000 people die by suicide globally each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds.
- Suicide rates in the United States have risen 25% in the last 20 years.
- In the past decade, the suicide rate among young people ages 10-17 has increased by more than 70%.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally.
Hope is real. Help is real.
Your story is important.
Tomorrow needs you.
If you’re struggling, ask for help. Reach out to someone you trust. Let them help you get connected with a professional. You are not weak. You are not alone. There are people who understand.
You are loved. You are needed. You are of so much worth. Don’t stop fighting! Never ever let go of hope. Tomorrow needs you.
So much love to you all. I hope my story was able to provide hope to those of you who need it. Please, never give up. There is so much good ahead.
*I am not a mental health professional. If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional.