I was 18 years old and had sent in applications to three private colleges and a safety school. But I didn’t see myself there. I didn’t see myself anywhere. I wanted to vanish.
Sometimes I sat in my prestigious school with all my genius classmates and just tried to make myself disappear, molecule by molecule. I usually only succeeded with my hair; chopping it off various times to make myself feel smaller or less visible.
I went from passively suicidal to actively suicidal in a matter of minutes.
I never told anyone how much I thought about suicide. I grew up going to Catholic Church, and I believed it was one of those big unforgivable sins that blackened your soul for eternity. For years I told my therapists that even though I was depressed, they didn’t need to worry about suicide. As much as I thought about it, I didn’t believe I would ever actually do it.
Then, my belief changed.
One morning I heard my alarm ringing. I buried my head under the pillow, like that would make the morning go away. My roommate threw a book at my legs to get my attention. I felt bad that my alarm was also disturbing her rest, so I sat up, turned it off, and vowed to myself this wouldn’t go on much longer. I went from passively suicidal to actively suicidal in a matter of minutes.
I suddenly believed I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have the energy to get up and do everything that I was supposed to do each day. I have narcolepsy, and I felt like what I was doing every day wasn’t living.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts the sleep-wake cycle. So while it was difficult for me to sleep through the night, it felt impossible to stay awake during the day. I lived in a constant battle with sleep.
I dutifully swallowed the stimulants the doctor prescribed, and then I waded through the fog with a buzzed feeling, my head overcharged with energy that my body was too tired to use.
I felt like I was all alone. No one understood the war I had with my body to wake up enough to think clearly. On top of that, I was wrestling with my sexuality. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings toward women because I knew it was against my religion.
I had held it together for so long. I had been living with secrets for as long as I could remember; All through primary school and middle school where I kept smiling and earning perfect grades. At this point, I was beyond tired of pretending everything was going to be okay.
I don’t know why I survived my suicide attempt. But when I woke up in the hospital, I didn’t have the epiphany so many describe. I wasn’t grateful for a second chance at life. I felt robbed of my escape.
The next seven months were rough. I was stuck in the limbo of trying to find a way out of life and keeping up appearances to avoid admittance to another mental health facility.
I tried renewing my zest for life by going on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. I prayed like never before, hoping that something would light a fire inside me and inspire me to keep living. I prayed to stop having impure thoughts and feelings that riddled me with guilt.
When nothing worked, I became reckless and played with danger, not caring about the consequences of any of my actions. Every day was a gamble, will I live or will I die. Nothing felt important or meaningful. I did whatever I felt like without considering the future.
Somehow, before I finished the online high school coursework that would qualify me to move on to college, I decided I was going to live. After seven months of searching for the exit, I started looking ahead.
I resolved to live for myself and to stop caring what anyone else thought about how I did it. I chose life because it made me feel more empowered than choosing death. I forced myself to make the choice because living in limbo was torture.
I chose life because it made me feel more empowered than choosing death.
That day I went and got a tattoo. It’s an ambigram that says both Life and Death, but life is facing me. I chose life even when I felt like it hadn’t chosen me. I knew my family didn’t approve of tattoos, but I wasn’t doing this for them, it was only for me.
My battle with depression wasn’t over then. My struggle to accept myself was far from over.
It was years before I found the relief I needed to live with ease. I quickly fell back into old habits, trying to please everyone around me and neglecting myself. But my tattoo was always there on my left wrist, reminding me that I had made a promise to myself.
I fell in love with a woman when I was 20 years old. I fell so hard and fast my Catholic guilt and fear couldn’t keep up. In that relationship, I started to soften and open up.
I was 24 years old when I found a therapist that was able to get to the root of my depression and help me stop the cycle. After years of suffering and darkness, a weight was lifted from my shoulders, and I felt like a new human.
He introduced me to energy therapy, which has empowered me to take back control when those negative emotions come creeping back in. Before I learned about energy therapy, I didn’t have the tools to manage my emotions.
Looking back, it makes sense that I felt so horrible. I had been on a roller coaster for years, letting my emotions control me, never knowing how to manage my reactions. I didn’t even like myself, much less love me.
With narcolepsy, often I would get off that emotional roller coaster and collapse for hours, in the most fitful sleep full of nightmares and hallucinations. I was baffled by how I could have so little energy. But every time I woke up, the emotions were there, they never went away. I fed them my energy, and as a result, I never felt okay.
I’m sharing this so that anyone else who is feeling this way may be able to see that it doesn’t have to stay this way forever. No two experiences are alike, but you can make your own decisions, and you can take back the power over your emotions.
If energy therapy isn’t for you, look for something that is. In my case, doctors and medications kept me stable while I found something that worked for me and who I am.
…we have to choose life first. And we have to do it for ourselves.
Now, I live my life on my own terms. I have visited over 30 countries, many of them alone. Traveling solo is one way that I can focus on me and show myself that I am worth every ounce of energy I put into my life.
I still don’t believe that suicide is selfish. I know what it is like to feel as if there is no other option. But the truth is, there are always options. We may not see them from where we are standing. That is why asking for help is so important.
In my case, shifting my purpose for getting up in the morning made a massive change in how I felt. It wasn’t a cure, but it enabled me to keep moving forward. The more I learned about myself and how to love myself, the more I wanted to see and do.
Mental illness is a severe problem, but for most of us, it shouldn’t have to define us for the rest of our lives. We should be able to find empowerment through medical treatment, or alternative treatments, depending on our situations. But we have to choose life first. And we have to do it for ourselves.
From the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Website:
World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.
Originally posted on www.kaylamdouglas.com on World Semicolon Day, April 16, 2019.