“I don’t want to be here anymore.
I’ve made the date.
I’m going to kill myself on the 17th.”
As I read these words, the very ones that I wrote one year ago, I can physically feel agony that I was in. I was planning the end to a life that I believed would never get any better. I remember feeling the urge to end it all right there in that moment. I held my broken body tight trying to muster up the courage to make it through the next five days. On the 15th, I was traveling to Montreal with my parents. I knew I couldn’t do it before then; if I died, they wouldn’t go and they deserved to go. So, I decided it’d do it after. I didn’t have anything else to look forward to, and it had to be done before I celebrated another birthday on the 22nd. With all of these thoughts flooding my mind, I barely got any sleep that night.
Fast-forward to October 12, 2017
No longer hopeless, but hopeful.
No longer broken, but whole.
No longer suicidal, but alive.
Some of you may be wondering… How? How did she overcome the desire and longing to end her own life? How did she feel alive again?
Well, it was a monstrous mountain. It was heavy; it was rocky, but it was not impossible.
In January 2017, after months of self-harm and the on and off desire to end my own life, I received the diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These labels, which may frighten some, actually filled in the missing pieces. My thoughts, feelings and behaviours began to make sense. Now, it was time to fight my demons and take back my life.
I stopped drinking alcohol on January 16th. I’ve been sober for 271 days (and counting).
I began Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in February.
I have been self-harm free since February.
I began focusing on my love of yoga and mindfulness.
I practiced letting go.. of everything in life, even my thoughts.
I rid myself of toxicity and negative influences.
I began Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) in May.
PE allowed me to face the abuse and torment I experienced. I was able to let go of the fear and anger I felt towards my abuser.
I learned to radically accepted (but not condone) the traumas of my past.
I completed 6 months of DBT in August. I have learned how to appropriately deal with my [often] abrupt emotions. I have found a sense of calmness in the present.
I have learned to challenge my distorted thoughts which, in turn, has diminished them.
I have learned the importance of self-love, self-care and self-acceptance.
I no longer ruminate over the past or worry about the future. I have fallen in love with my present life.
I understand that some days will be hard, but there is nothing that I can’t handle.
I have found peace and purity.
For those of you who may be deeply struggling, please know that it does get better. This is not the generic cliche, but the voice of someone who has reached rock bottom many times since the age of 12. It will always get better, but we can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. We have to do what we can and ask for help from others. It is possible to gain control over our lives again – but we have to take the first step. We can all experience what it means to feel alive. And we all deserve that.
The hurt I’m feeling nobody can see. I use a smile to cover it up. I cry myself to sleep each night in hopes that I will not wake up. But that doesn’t matter because nobody knows. Nobody will ever know the true pain I’m feeling. The ache in the heart and water that fills my eyes. Each morning I wake up miserable and can’t help but wonder why I’m still here. I don’t belong here. Nobody truly knows who I am and what I want from life; to be honest, I don’t either. I’m lost in this huge space, this world of noise, with no direction of where to go. I’m broken inside to many tiny pieces that do not have the ability to be put back together. I’m the deep cracks built within a rock. No matter how hard anyone tries, the flaws just won’t go away. Nothing will change me. No one can. Not even I. I have become something I am stranger to. Each day I feel myself die inside a little more. The days fly by and nothing changes. I’m still broken and hurt. But one day I know it will all stop. I’ll be free and finally experience true happiness.
When I read this piece, I can feel my heart ache. I can still remember the excruciating pain that I felt. But before I begin, I want to clarify what I meant by “free and finally experience true happiness”. I wasn’t talking about the butterflies, rainbows and flowers kind of happiness. I wasn’t imagining the happiness that I’ve finally found 6 years later. I was imagining the freedom and happiness of no longer being on the Earth. I was envisioning that day that I finally gave in and ended my life.
This pains me. I cannot believe that I was so hopeless at age 17. I hadn’t went to prom yet, I hadn’t graduated from high school yet. I hadn’t… I hadn’t…. I hadn’t.
But, in my mind, I had experienced enough. I didn’t think that things would ever get better. I had been struggling with anxiety for four years. I had developed bulimia nervosa. I began to self-harm. I had lost a friend to suicide. I had severe depression – not yet recognized by the outside world. I gave up thinking about true happiness as I was consumed by sadness and pain. My brain saw a tragic ending to my story and with that, came the happiness that I was so desperately seeking.
This is where I want to touch on the topic of teenage depression. As many of you know, teenagers are very susceptible to suicide. Why? Well, the teenage brain is not fully developed. They lack the development of the prefrontal cortex and executive function. This means that they struggle with decision making, staying rational and seeing beyond the intense emotions that they feel.. This helps explain why teenagers are impulsive and ‘emotional’. Teenagers often view their situation as ‘the end of the world’ because in their brain, they cannot see things ever getting better. This is not to minimize what they are going through. Their feelings are valid, but their interpretations of the duration of sadness and pain is exaggerated.
The reason that I touch on this topic is because I lived this. I had tunnel vision. I thought that the pain that I was feeling would last for the rest of my life. And, I couldn’t live like that. I thought that I would have to end my life in order to feel happiness.
But, no. We may feel as though things will never getting better… that we will always be sad. We will never get better. We will never get over heartbreak. We will never live without a cloud of despair. But, that just isn’t true. We can overcome, and we can thrive.
For any of you who feel like you cannot continue on, please know that there is so much support and love out there for you. I’m not saying that things will be easy and that there is a quick fix, but recovery and happiness is possible. You do not have to suffer alone. You do not have to go through your hardship by yourself. Please reach out and ask for help.
If I hadn’t reached out, I would not be here today. I would not have found a job that I love. I would not have experienced graduating from University, going to Prom, smiling at my reflection in the mirror, etc. I would not have met my best friends. I would not have seen the true beauty in living. I would have missed out on so much. Things are not over for you. Things are just beginning.
Keep on shining,
Left picture: Living on the edge until I finally gave in to my urges. 2011.
Right picture: Recovering and learning to be in love with the life that I have created. 2017.
In university, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was one of the many psychological disorders that intrigued me. I couldn’t read enough research about the ruthless impact trauma has on our emotions and our behaviour. It fascinated me how our brains and neurochemistry could completely change due to trauma.
However… no amount of reading and research could help me when I needed it the most – when I was forever changed by PTSD.
If you’re reading this, you may not even know what PTSD is and that is absolutely okay. In some ways, I wish that I didn’t know what it was either. I wish that I was still caught up reading and reading about it, not living with it.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating mental illness that affects some us after exposure to trauma. Despite contrary belief, PTSD does not only impact soldiers, but average human beings as well. Any one who has experienced colossal trauma (natural disaster, abuse, neglect, life-threatening illness or car accident) is at risk of developing PTSD. And, unfortunately, I was one of those “average human beings” who was diagnosed with PTSD.
Side note: *My list of trauma is not a definitive. *
I was officially diagnosed in mid-January 2017 after months and months of severe, incapacitating symptoms. I am far… far… f a r from recovered, but I felt obliged to share my experience with PTSD as it is often overlooked. Few people know what PTSD is and the excruciating impact it can have on it’s victims.
Like all disorders, PTSD manifests differently person to person. My experience may be different from yours and that is okay. All of our experiences are valid.
Post-traumatic stress disorder has crippled me with:
This began shortly after I was removed from the abusive relationship that I found myself in. I returned home… well maybe, my body did… my mind was somewhere else. I couldn’t feel anything. My body shut down. I couldn’t process what the hell just happened. I couldn’t even remember what had happened… my brain wouldn’t let me. I felt absolutely nothing. I couldn’t remember words. I had no thoughts. I simply couldn’t function. I spent days on end staring blankly at the wall, unable to do much at all. I felt completely gone. So far gone without return. This emotional numbness carried on for a couple of days. I felt as though he had taken my soul from me. I felt like nothing.
As time went on, I was able to feel again. Like a light switch, I went from numb to frantic. For days, I felt nothing and now I was feeling absolutely everything. I continue to have days where the pain takes over and I shut down. Gone, yet again. Each time, wondering how much longer things will be this way.
Avoidance and Isolation
At around the same time that I became emotionally numb, I began to isolate myself. If you know me personally, you know that I am an extreme extrovert. I love parties, social gatherings and meeting new people. However, something in me changed. I began to fear people – even those I have known for a very long time. I questioned everyone’s motives and intentions. I began to label others as bad – inherently evil. He became everything that I saw. I saw negative qualities in others that may not have existed at all. My memory of him and his malevolence flooded my life. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want to see anyone. I just couldn’t. I wouldn’t let myself.
After much persuasion from my family and my therapist, I pushed myself to go out – but not without significant anxiety. I flinched walking past men on the streets. I could literally feel my skin crawl. I held my breath as I walked past strangers afraid of what they may do. I was conditioned to expect violence.
Leaving the house was exhausting. I was sore physically and mentally. However, with exposure, things have gotten much easier; though I still isolation myself more than your average person. I rarely attend parties or social gatherings anymore. The way that I see it is if I don’t interact with humans, no one can hurt me. And no, I’m not being rude, I am protecting myself. I’m working on rebuilding my self-esteem, self-love and self-acceptance. Please give me time.
I honestly didn’t know what hypervigilance meant until I was diagnosed with PTSD. For me, hypervigilance is constantly being on edge. When I’m out and about alone, I’m continuously checking over my shoulders. It’s like living life through a constant stream of anxiety. It’s pure torture and I despise it.
Negative beliefs about the world
All men are evil.
All men are abusive.
All men are incapable of empathy and love.
All men are to be feared.
People are inherently bad.
Our world is corrupt.
Trust me, I never used to feel this way – but it’s what trauma can do to a person. It can change your whole perspective of the world – in the blink of an eye.
Negative feelings towards self
Often times, my mind decides to replay all of the awful things he said to me. After hearing these words relentlessly, you start to believe them.
You deserved this.
You let this happen.
Maybe if you didn’t…
Maybe if you would have…
I am subjected to graphic night terrors that throw me into full fledged panic. They are often painful scenes that I have been desperately trying to forget. Some are real memories and occurrences while others are just a fabrication made by my mind – both equally agonizing. I usually wake up crying in a drenching sweat. I have to check my surroundings around 20 times before I can finally allow myself to relax. I have to tell myself that I am safe and that I am okay. I think the most treacherous thing about my nightmares is that every single night I fight the urge to sleep as I am so terrified of what memory will come back to haunt me. Thankfully, as of now, I’m down to about two nightmares a week. This is major progress as they used to be a nightly occurrence.
Flashbacks are utterly crippling as they take you by surprise and bring you right back to the traumatic moment in seconds. You don’t know when they will creep up on you; you can’t always know all of your triggers. My flashbacks come in hot and heavy distorting my reality and suffocating me.
I can still remember the nights he abused me perfectly. I can remember the clothes I was wearing the nights he hit me. I can remember the exact locations in our apartment. I remember the exact words and phrases I cried as I begged him to stop. I can remember the sound of my skull striking the floor. I can remember the pure horror. Sometimes these sounds and images flood my mind and I can’t escape them… feeling as though I am right back there. Helpless.
Disgust in Intimacy
The thought of another human touching my skin makes me queasy. No, thank you.
Sometimes it feels as though things will never get better. That things will forever be this way and I will never be free. It’s as if this excruciating pain will cloak me for the rest of my life. I hope that one day it will finally leave me alone, but sometimes it feels like that day will never come. And, I have to accept that.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a happy ending to this post. Most of the time, positive and encouraging words flow out of me like a waterfall. But, nothing positive has come out of having PTSD.
Maybe still being here to be able to write this article is enough.