Choosing Life

Choosing life didn’t even feel like an option when I was depressed… 

I was 18 years old, and for the previous months, I had been applying to colleges. But I didn’t see myself

Depressed woman with short hair
This was me in April 2010

there. I didn’t see myself anywhere. I wanted to vanish. Sometimes I sat in my prestigious school with all my genius classmates and just tried to make myself disappear, molecule by molecule. I usually only succeeded with my hair; chopping it off various times to make myself feel smaller or less visible.

I never told anyone how much I thought about suicide. I was raised going to Catholic Church and I believed it was one of those big sins you could never be forgiven for. For years I told my therapists that even though I was depressed, they didn’t need to worry about suicide. As much as I thought about it, I didn’t believe I would ever actually do it.

Until my belief changed.

One morning I heard my alarm ringing. I buried my head under the pillow, like that would make the morning go away. My roommate threw a book at my legs to get my attention. I felt bad that my alarm was also disturbing her rest, so I sat up, turned it off, and vowed to myself this wouldn’t go on much longer.

I suddenly believed I couldn’t do it anymore. I did blame a part of it on my diagnosis of narcolepsy. I just didn’t have the energy to get up and do everything that I was supposed to do each day. I dutifully swallowed the stimulants the doctor prescribed, and then I waded through the fog with a buzzed feeling, my head overcharged with energy that my body was too tired to make use of.

I felt like I was all alone.

No one understood the war I had with my body just to simply wake up enough to think clearly. Climbing

messy dorm room with loft bed
My actual dorm room

down from my bunk required more energy than I could muster some days and I would fall back asleep before managing it. I had held it together for so long. I had been living with narcolepsy for as long as I could remember; All through primary school and middle school. But then I had managed to keep smiling and earning perfect grades. At this point, I was beyond tired of pretending everything was going to be okay.

I don’t know why I survived my suicide attempt.

But when I woke up in the hospital, I didn’t have the epiphany so many describe, being grateful for a second chance at life. The next seven months were rough. I was stuck in a limbo of trying to find a way out of life and trying to keep up appearances to avoid getting taken back to the mental health facility where I had spent my ‘recovery’.

I tried renewing my zest for life by going on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. I prayed like never before, hoping that something would light a fire inside me and inspire me to keep living. When nothing worked, I became reckless and played with danger, not caring about the consequences of any of my actions. Many of those experiences only made my life harder.

I made the decision that I was choosing life.

Somehow, before I finished the online high school coursework that would qualify me to move on to college, I decided I was going to live. I decided to do it for myself and to stop caring what anyone else thought about how I did it. I chose life because it made me feel more empowered than choosing death. I forced myself to make the choice because living in limbo was torture.

That day I went and got a tattoo.

It’s an ambigram that says both Life and Death, but life is facing me. I chose life even when I felt like it hadn’t chosen me. I knew my family didn’t approve of tattoos, but I wasn’t doing this for them, it was only for me.

ambigram wrist tattoo with word life and death when turned upside down

My battle with depression wasn’t over then. It was years before I found the relief I needed to live with ease. I quickly fell back into old habits, trying to please everyone around me and neglecting myself. But my tattoo was always there on my left wrist reminding me that I had made a promise to myself. I was 24 years old when I found a therapist that was able to help me get to the root of my depression and really help me.

He introduced me to energy therapy, which has empowered me to take back control when those negative emotions come creeping back in. Before I learned about energy therapy, I didn’t have the tools to manage my emotions. It makes sense to me that I felt so horrible. I had been on a roller coaster for years, letting my emotions control me, never knowing how to manage my reactions. With narcolepsy, often I would get off that emotional roller coaster and collapse for hours, in the most fitful sleep full of nightmares and hallucinations. I was often baffled by how I could have so little energy. But every time I woke up, the emotions were there, they never went away and as a result, I never felt okay.

Depression doesn’t have to be forever

I’m sharing this so that anyone else who is feeling this way may be able to see that it doesn’t have to stay this way forever. No two experiences are alike, but you can make your own decisions and you can take back the power over your emotions. If energy therapy isn’t for you, look for something that is. In my case, doctors and medications kept me stable while I found something that worked for me and who I am.

woman on the beach at sunset holding seashells
I choose to be excited about sunsets and seashells

Now, I live my life on my own terms. I have visited over 30 countries, many of them alone. Traveling solo is one way that I can focus on me and show myself that I am worth every ounce of energy I put into my life. I still don’t believe that suicide is selfish. I know what it is like to feel as if there is no other option. But the truth is, there are always options. We just may not see them from where we are standing.

Asking for help is important.

In my case, shifting my purpose for getting up in the morning made a huge change in how I felt. It wasn’t a cure, but it enabled me to keep moving forward. The more I learned about myself and how to love myself, the more I wanted to see and do. If you can’t do this on your own, find someone who can help you do it!

Mental illness is a serious problem, but for most of us, it shouldn’t have to define us for the rest of our lives. We should be able to find empowerment through medical treatment, or alternative treatments, depending on our situations. But we have to choose life first. And we have to do it for ourselves.

 

This post was inspired by World Semicolon Day, April 16, 2019. 

 

If you are interested in learning about how to get to know yourself better and be empowered to choose life every day, contact me or sign up for a free life coaching consultation.

 

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