"Listen, Lucy: I graduated from high school in 2008, and have since gone on to marry the love of my life and give birth to a beautiful daughter. She is the reason I feel the need to s hare my story, because I don't want her to ever doubt her abilities, worth in this world, or be ashamed of her journey.
My mother had me at 16 so we had a very close bond that allowed us to sort of grow up together. I was a happy and outgoing child, an honor roll student, making lots of friends and always trying to bring laughter to those around me. Nothing obviously apparent happened to me that would signal a red flag to my mother, but a storm was brewing inside of me, lying dormant until I was 14 years old.
In the 8th grade, I started to experience my first panic attacks. I remember spending many days in the nurses office, just trying to regain control of breathing, feeling like I was moments away from losing consciousness. On one instance that still sticks out to me, I went to get my assignments for the class that I had missed due to a panic attack. I expected all adults to be understanding of illnesses, whether physical or emotional, but instead the teacher mocked me, asking "what do you have to feel worried about? You're 14." That was the moment I realized that there is a stigma with mental health issues.
By the next school year I had become distance, isolating myself from my friends and family. They were worried and sought a therapy for me, but I had learned to be a good actress and assured them I was okay. At that point, I was cutting myself in secret, trying desperately to find some sort of release from the depression and anxiety.
On January 2nd, 2005 I decided to end my life. It had been a thought that had crossed my mind many times before, but I finally reached the point that I had given up. I recall the moments that I said goodnight to my mother, my step-dad, and my baby brother. In my mind, it was the last time I'd say goodbye to them. After they had gone to sleep, I went downstairs looking for a sharp knife, but couldn't find one. I grabbed the sharpest butter knife I could locate and pressed hard against my wrist. Fortunately, it wasn't sharp enough to break the skin. I cried myself to sleep, wondering how I got to this point.
The next day was our return from holiday break. I walked into homeroom and asked my teacher for the hall-pass and proceeded to go to the guidance counselors office. When he called me into the room, I told him that a friend of mine tried to commit suicide. As he shut the door and asked me some more details, the dam broke and I burst into tears. I confessed that it was me that had wanted to commit suicide and that I needed help. I was admitted to the hospital that day.
Two inpatient stays, a near death overdose suicide attempt, and countless hours of intensive therapy later, I was able to return for the end of 9th grade. Instead of returning to the kind words of my fellow peers, I felt even more distanced than I had before I had sought treatment because I was known as the girl who "went to the psych ward". Luckily, I had a strong support system and a lot of therapy tools to keep me on track and able to ignore most of the negativity. However, I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am. Not all teens can cope with the backlash they face from exposing their flaws to the rest of their peers. As I've gotten older I have found comfort in seeing support groups and other outlets become more available for those facing similar issues. I wish that I had something like that to turn to when I thought there was no other option. Often, I imagine if 26 year old me were able to go back and give advice to 14 year old me, I would have told myself that things will get better, no matter how dark it seemed. Your website has especially touched me, and I think it would have provided a sense of security to see that I was not alone in my struggles. I have no doubt that you've saved lives, because you would have helped me think twice about ending mine.
Thank you for being a light for these kids, a safe place for them to go, and an ally for them to reach out to. You can't imagine how reassuring it is to know my daughter will grow up in a society that, while not always understanding of mental illness, is seemingly on its way.