Surviving Suicide — A Story of Hope
Charlotte Underwood shares the story of her father’s suicide and her own struggles with severe depression.
“I am so excited to start and I am confident that I am going to be able to live a life where I am no longer shackled by my illness. There is no cure, that’s true, but between helping myself and the help from mental health, I know I will manage it.”
Those are the hopeful words of Charlotte Underwood, a 22 year old mental health advocate making her home in the UK. Those words stand out because listening to Charlotte’s story, hopeful is the last emotion you’d expect from someone who has been stifled with severe mental health issues for nearly her entire life.
Sex and substances are what Charlotte abused to quiet the feelings of loneliness that clouded her life. She would go to sleep crying and walk out of the house in the middle of the night. In her own words, Charlotte “lost what it felt to be myself.” Charlotte was just 14 when the symptoms started showing itself more loudly, but she knows it’s something that has always been with her.
Years past and Charlotte continued to struggle with depression. Then at 18, her life was completely turned upside down when she learned that her father committed suicide.
“I still remember my mother coming into my room in a panic and telling me he was gone. It was as if the world zoned out and all my feelings went. It was a lot to process and I couldn’t understand it at all.”
I have to pause when I read this. To think about myself at 18, what my life was like and the things I had to deal with. Everyone has their own burden, but to lose a parent so suddenly, so unexpectedly and in a manner that can be so confusing, I can’t imagine how I would possibly deal with it.
Charlotte struggled with losing her father. Her depression worsened and drove her into a darker place. Not having her father became unbearable, and so Charlotte tried to take her own life.
“I just felt like the universe wanted me dead. I felt like my life was so unfair and in honesty, it was. I’ve been through so much at such a young age and for a long time, I had no support and certainly no way to let out my emotions. I just wanted the pain to end and in truth, I wanted to see my dad again. To hug him and not live a life without him in it.”
Charlotte’s story could’ve been tragic. Her story could’ve ended like far too many young girls and boys who turn to suicide as a logical solution to their feelings being numbed. But there is a reason this piece started with hope and excitement. There is a reason Charlotte is still here today and she recognizes and accepts that she has a purpose.
“I have found that a mixture of learning self respect and saying no, following my own path, dreams and goals, bouncing on my trampoline in my living room (you can’t help but smile when bouncing), and writing daily, has helped me miles in my recovery.”
A recovery that Charlotte admits is a rollercoaster. One that she gets on everyday knowing it will be a battle. But Charlotte has found a new passion for life and that passion is expressed through her writing. Between her personal blog and her sharing on Twitter, Charlotte has been able to transfer those feelings of pain to paper, and transform her life and the life of others in the process.
“My only goal now, my passion and dream, is to carve a world where stigma is gone, where there is more support and treatment options from mental health and where suicide no longer becomes such an ever growing cause of death. I have purpose and this dream and it gives me every desire to fight for this till I’m 100.”
Charlotte knows how close she came to losing it all. She admits to living life recklessly after her father passed and not caring about anyone around her. But she eventually realized that she wanted to live. That she is alive for a real reason and much of that is tied to the person her father was before he passed.
“My father, ironically, spent most of his life saving lives and preventing suicide. He was not an advocate in his eyes and yet so many families still have their loved ones alive today because of my dad. I would like to think that my purpose was to carry on his work. To continue on his empathy and understanding of people.”
I get the feeling that at times, even Charlotte is happily surprised at her progress. She has found a husband who loves her and they share a home together with their dog, all things Charlotte never thought she would possess. And the future you ask? Well, Charlotte has a pretty good grasp of what comes next.
“Success for me is taking back ownership of my mental health and my life. It’s making something of my time on this earth that I can be proud of, so I know I didn’t waste this chance to make a change in the world, even if it’s small.”
Charlotte, there is absolutely nothing small about your achievements already.