I’m a 21-year-old, about to graduate college and become a teacher. The first time I seriously considered suicide, I was seven years old.
I’ve struggled with mental illness all my life. I’ve been misdiagnosed more times than I can count–according to different doctors, I have everything. Every mental illness you can imagine. It’s hard to ask for help, but even more frustrating when “help” can’t seem to figure out how to help you. It was years before I received the accurate diagnosis of Bipolar II and PTSD, and could start receiving proper treatment.
Even when I began taking medication and getting therapy, it was a struggle. Nothing happens magically. I still have urges to cut myself and drink too much, although the temptation to drive off a bridge has passed. My attempt was nearly two years ago now, and I’m beginning to feel so glad that I didn’t succeed. Despite the daily struggle, I’ve found meaning in being a teacher–in helping others get through their own struggles. I’ve found out that the weaknesses in me, the parts I hated for so long, gave me the experience to empathize with others and guide them to a healthier path. I still have nightmares and PTSD breakdowns. I still feel the bipolar swings, although I have learned control. No more wild binges followed by crushing self-resentment. I’m still working on forgiving myself for some of those times, but I think I’ll be able to come to terms someday. Two years ago I thought the only way out of that dark place was suicide. I felt weak and I hated myself for it. Now I remind myself every day that my illness does not define me, and that I cannot hate myself for being sick in this way any more than I could hate myself for having the flu (alright, I might hate myself when I have the flu, but I recognize that I really hate the virus. Or I ought to).
Long story longer, I don’t have words to make it right for you. I won’t give you the “everything will be okay,” even though I’m starting to think that’s true. Coping with mental illness, I think, is a little like going through puberty–it’s painful, and we can give advice, but ultimately, the way you cope can be found by you and you alone. The bright side is, I believe in you. I think the entire No Stigmas community does.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are struggling with–I say this with the deepest, most vulnerable sincerity at the bottom of my soul–I love you. I love you. And you are not alone.