One day, you’re 14 years old, sitting on your bedroom floor wondering what’s “wrong” with you. You don’t feel “right.” The adults in your life say that it’s just a phase all teenagers go through. But you know, deep down, that it’s not a phase. It’s something that isn’t “normal.” Do “normal” teenagers have thoughts about death and dying? Do “normal” teenagers fantasize about different ways to kill themselves? Because as far as you can tell, they don’t. The kids in your class are trading notes and laughing in the hallways with their friends, your friends are complaining about how hard their homework is, everyone else is excited about the big football game on Friday. And you? You’re searching the Internet on the best way to kill yourself and how to make it look like an accident.
You tell your parents that it’s hard to focus in school, so they take you to see a doctor. The doctor says it’s ADD, so they give you a bottle of little blue pills and say to take one every morning. So you do, but they’re not working. “It takes a couple of weeks for them to start working.” The doctor says. So you hang in there, but they still don’t work.
You start hurting yourself. You begin to look in the medicine cabinets and think about what kind of pills and how many of them will “get the job done.” Is this really normal? One day you take those pills–32 to be exact–but then you get scared and tell your dad who calls an ambulance and you’re rushed to the hospital where they stick an IV in your arm to flush all the medicine out and you’re sent to your first stay at a psychiatric hospital. It turns out you have a mental illness. Finally. Finally, it all makes sense. Finally, people tell you that this isn’t “a normal teenage phase.”
Countless numbers of different medications, seven therapists and nine other hospital stays later, you’re 19. You’re 19 years old and you look back on those days, those days that seemed so dark and hopeless and lonesome and you were sure you were going to die because you couldn’t live like that anymore, and you sigh in relief. Because you did make it through. And even though you’re not 100% better, you’re on your way. The darkness is still there and you still struggle every day, but you are alive. You’re alive and you’re breathing and you’re laughing–for real–with your best friends and you know that even though a lot of the days are really hard to make it through, you know you’ll make it. Because you have before and you can do it again.
You realize that the good days begin to outweigh the bad, and even good things still happen on the bad. That’s when you know you’re moving in the right direction. Even though you still mess up and fall sometimes, you’re confident you will come out of it. Because when you look back at that 14/15/16/17 year old girl who was sure she would kill herself because she was sure there wouldn’t be any more good days. You look at her and you smile and you say “Thank you.” Because it was her bravery and her perseverance and her courage to keep breathing and keep living that got you to where you are today. You’re happy you chose to keep living, because those good days did come. And you’re certain there are more good–maybe even better–days to come.
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