Choosing Life

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

One morning I heard my alarm ringing. I buried my head under the pillow, like covering my head in cotton would make the day dissipate. My roommate threw a book at my legs to get my attention. I regretted that the sound was also disturbing her rest, so I sat up and turned it off.  As I hunkered there below the ceiling taking shallow breaths, exasperated before even leaving my lofted bed, I vowed to myself this wouldn’t go on much longer.

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 understood 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, even I didn’t believe I would ever actually do it.

Until my belief changed.

I suddenly, I couldn’t do it anymore. I did blame a part of it on my diagnosis of narcolepsy. There wasn’t enough energy to 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. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts the sleep-wake cycle.  That means even though I spent enough hours “sleeping,” it wasn’t quality sleep so my body and mind still felt exhausted when I woke up.

messy dorm room with loft bed
My actual dorm room

Climbing 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.

Giving Up

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. I was a failure. I even failed at giving up. The next seven months were rough. I was stuck in limbo. I wanted to find a way out of life. But I was also trying to keep up appearances.  I wanted to avoid getting taken back to the mental health facility where I had spent my ‘recovery’.

I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my trip thinking it might renew my zest for life. Praying became a compulsive habit I used trying to dispell the depressive thoughts like demons.  I begged God for something that 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. Some of them had repercussions that haunt me to this day.

I made the decision that I was choosing life.

Somehow, before my high school graduation, 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. No friend or family member said, “the right thing” that made me see the light.  Nothing anyone else did had an impact at that point.  I knew that I couldn’t keep hanging on by a thread. So 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.

A Promise to Myself

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 actually started a new battle, me against my suicidal ideations. And some days we were at war. Before making this choice, I walked alongside those fatal thoughts. But now, I was determined to kick them out of my life for good.  They showed me that suicide isn’t always a choice, there were days I felt powerless against those urges. I still can’t explain where they came from or how I kept them at bay.

Finding Some Relief

It was years before I found the relief I needed to live with ease. After making this promise to myself, I fought the war to stay alive, but I was still in survival mode. I quickly fell back into old habits, trying to please everyone around me and neglecting myself.  When I was 24 years old, I found a therapist that was able to 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.  No one taught me what to do with emotions when I was growing up.

Getting Off the Roller Coaster

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, every time the roller coaster stopped I would collapse for hours, in the most fitful sleep full of nightmares and hallucinations.  But I never actually got off.  I was lying there on the seat to go on the next ride when it started up again.  The roller coaster of emotions never went away, and therefore I never felt okay.

Using energy therapy I was able to remove the restraints, stand up, and get off the ride.

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 or wrong. Everyone is just doing the best they can do with what they have. I know what it is like to feel as if there is no other option. Sometimes the options exist, we just may not see them from where we are standing.

Asking for help is important.

If I hadn’t gone to see that therapist, I don’t know if I would still be here today.  He used various alternative methods including the Emotional Freedom Technique that gave me incredible relief in a short time. However, there is no permanent solution.  I have learned to be a practitioner in EFT and reiki for my own self-care and well-being. I have been in the process of improving my emotional, spiritual, and mental health for a very long time now and the journey isn’t over.

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, you can find someone who can help you do it!

What can we do about it?

If you have a friend who is struggling with mental illness, the best thing you can do is be there for them.  Let them know that you are there to listen. And when they come to you, don’t judge them, practice active listening.

If you are struggling and your friends are not as supportive as you want them to be, remember that we are all human.  Most of us are not used to talking about our feelings. That can make it difficult for our friends to be supportive or understanding when we need to talk about ours.

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, and/or alternative treatments, depending on our situations. But we have to choose life first. And we have to do it for ourselves.

 

Posted on 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.  

*Disclaimer: I am not a therapist and if you are in need of mental health care, I will refer you to a specialist in that area.  Life coaching is suitable for those who get into depressive moods but are not clinically depressed.  For more information about what a life coach is, read this.

 

 

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