It will always get better, but we can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.

Breathe in.

Journal entry: October 12, 2016

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“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.

Breathe out.

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.

Keep smiling,
Emily

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I would have missed out on so much

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.

-2011

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,

Emily

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.

The Sober Vacation of a Lifetime

Vacations. 

We all want them. We all need them. And, to be honest, we all deserve them.

We rationalize treating ourselves to a little piece of paradise by working hard during the year. Often times, we take vacations to get a break from reality for a little while. Maybe we’ve been going through a rough time, or maybe we’re simply celebrating a special event. Either way, we take time out of our busy schedules to breathe.

When most of us (Canadians) imagine the perfect vacation, we picture unlimited sunshine, sandy beaches, exquisite foods, and copious amounts of alcohol. This description used to fit me perfectly. In fact, every vacation that I went on I was so focused on what I would drink next that time flashed before my eyes like a shooting star. I missed out on many precious moments because I was too intoxicated by the thought of alcohol (and the alcohol itself).

Yet, this March break, I stayed sober and it was the best vacation of my life.

I didn’t miss a second. I was present and I soaked all of it in like the Florida sun on my skin. I saw every deep orange sunset. I tasted every sweet pineapple. I felt every grain of the warm sand in between my toes. I was immersed in the beauty of my vacation, and I blissfully remember it all.

I didn’t wake up in the morning with a throbbing headache or a flutter of regrets. I didn’t hold my stomach tightly and pray for the pain to go away. I woke up every single morning ready to experience more – to see more, to feel more, to hear more. To see the sun glistening on the blue water, to hear the chatter of loved ones catching up, to smell the saltiness of the ocean and to feel myself relax and be at peace. Finally.

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In a world where alcohol in shoved in our faces and we believe that maybe if we just have “one” drink we’ll be more outgoing and adventurous, it is so very important to take a step back from it for a while. To fully indulge in life. To see the beauty of everything around us. To be free. 

I never wanted to admit that there was anything wrong with drinking heavily. Isn’t that how we have a good time? However, now that I have seen the other side, I have felt the freedom and I will never go back.

I have now been sober for 57 days and I have never loved myself or my life more.

“Getting sober just exploded my life. Now I have a much clearer sense of myself and what I can and can’t do. I am more successful than I have ever been. I feel very positive where I never did before, and I think that’s all a direct result of getting sober.” – Jamie Lee Curtis

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, please know that there is support out here. You do not have to fight alone. You do not have to stay in the dark. There is light. I promise you, there’s a brighter day.

Keep on shining.

Emily

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Resources in Canada:

Canada Drug Rehab

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Canadian Addiction Helplines

Drug Rehab

Free E-Book on How To Get Sober

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