Seven Years Stronger

Many of you have come to expect this post from me each year. Whether you’ve been with me from the beginning when it started as a Facebook post or when I posted it as a blog for the first time last year was your first time reading about my story, it’s no secret this is something I do every year.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been called to share more authentically and openly. I’m not totally sure what that looks like yet (I think I have a bit of an idea, but I’m not 100% sure yet) but we’ll see where that takes me. For now, getting my story out and reflecting on how far I’ve come as each year passes works for me.

You would think this would get easier, too. I first spoke openly about it on a church retreat when I was 17 and started sharing VERY openly about it four years ago, but this is still very anxiety-inducing for me to talk about so openly. But it’s important, so I do it.

So anyway, deep breath, here I go, yet again.

Content warning: Self harm and suicide

You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.

When I was 16, you couldn’t have gotten me to hear those words no matter how hard you tried. I hated myself. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Genetically, I didn’t really stand a chance since both sides of my family have a history of depression and anxiety and I suffered a childhood trauma before I even hit double-digits, which really threw my brain chemistry out of whack. Dealing with life became more of a struggle than it should be, and once I hit high school the amount of stress I was dealing with skyrocketed, as it does when you begin taking advanced classes.

When I was fifteen, the depression became overwhelming to the point where I can’t even remember most of my high school experience, and when I was sixteen, I started using self-harm as a way to cope with everything going on. I was struggling to stay afloat, and even the things that brought me joy couldn’t keep me going.

But why do I talk about it today? What makes today so significant? This day seven years ago was one of the worst days of my life. On March 26, 2012, I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore. I made the decision that night to take my own life so I didn’t have to deal with the pain anymore. I’d worked out the details in my head, and turned to self-harm in the meantime to hold myself over.

That’s how bad I was: To hold myself over.

Thankfully, my mom found me in my room before things could go too far, and about an hour later I was in the car with my parents on the way to Community North Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. When they found out I was planning on killing myself and considering I had a backup plan for my backup plan, they decided it was best for me to stay in their teen psychiatric ward for a few days.

Even though I was only in there for a few days (I was focused on recovery and the doctors described me to my parents as “one of the most compliant patients they’d ever seen”) it was a terrifying experience that still haunts me to this day. My triggers from it are less severe, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still panic a little when I get a hospital bracelet put on me (don’t even get me started about the smell of hospitals).

Why am I talking about this publicly though? Well I want to start by saying that I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for me (Very important, I don’t want pity). I simply think that education about mental illness is extremely important, and it will be easier to talk about the less we make it into some giant taboo. Mental illness has faces, and many people you love deal with them every day. I don’t want people thinking I’m weak for what I’ve gone through and what I struggle with; I want those in similar situations to know that it can, and it will get better. In fact, here’s some great things from the past seven years of my life that I almost missed out on:

So much love for Jordan and Lita

I finished high school and still have some key friends. Would I go back to high school? Absolutely not, but I got to student direct a musical and have a leading role in a play. I survived a class that challenged me more than any class I took in college. A few of my friends from high school are some of the people I talk to every day, and they’re some of the people that keep me going. Even the ones I don’t talk to every day never fail to make me smile.

I graduated from Ball State–a semester early. I had some major mental health lows during my time at Ball State, yet I still managed to graduate in December 2017, a semester early. During my time at Ball State, I had the privilege of being a part of Cardinal Communications, which even interviewing for was a huge step. I also served as the secretary for Ball State’s PRSSA chapter and even attended the PRSSA 2016 National Conference.

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Race Marketing family photo on the last day of racing last year

I had an internship that I loved–which lead to a job that I love even more. When I was at Ball State, I really thought I was going to go into a normal job at a normal PR agency. Enter my internship at Harrah’s Hoosier Park, and wow did that change. I was fortunate enough to get the job I wanted after graduation (which I still can’t believe) because of how hard I worked as an intern. I love all of my coworkers, and each of them are a light in my life in their own way. I’ve been in this role for about a year now, and I’m so thankful for it every day.

Beth and Jenny are the best

I’ve gotten to lead fifteen retreats with Saint Susanna. Saint Susanna, my church, has always been another home for me, and leading retreats has always been something I’ve loved to do. Something about leading as an adult really made the experience more fulfilling and I felt like my eyes were opened to more of what was going on.

I’ve learned to love myself. I’ve always considered myself an acquired taste; You have to spend a bit of time with me to realize that you like me. But I’m comfortable in my own skin (most of the time) and I’ve learned to love me for me. I surprised myself when I ended my relationship with my high school boyfriend, because I had put all of my worth into being with somebody. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be alone, and it’s almost more fun. I also discovered the “You Are Enough” quote from Sierra Boggess, which has been huge in my recovery process and even in my life as a whole.

There are so many more great things that have happened, but I think these are the big ones. Would I like to say that I’ve been perfect and say I’ve never had self-harm relapses or thought about suicide in the past five years? It would be nice, but I’d be lying. It has been over two years since I’ve last hurt myself, though, because I’ve started taking my mental health seriously and I’ve started to make sure I try new coping mechanisms even when things are going well (working with makeup being the newest, and wow that’s a fun one). This past year has held some of my highest highs and my lowest lows, and I’ve learned so much about coping with how I’ve gotten through it.

Again, I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. I just want to stop the stigma about mental illness, and also I want people to know that they are not alone. If you or someone you know is struggling, needs someone to talk to, or has any questions about anything I’ve talked about, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Having a support system for things like this is important, and I don’t want ANYONE feeling alone like I did. 

So now again, everybody say it with me:

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are options. The suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, or if you’d prefer to text someone instead of call, you can text CONNECT to 741741. You don’t have to go through this alone. There are always people that will listen to you.