My birthday is in two days. On August 23, 2015 I will be 27 years old. I don’t know how I feel about that. I never thought I’d get here to be honest. Only nine years ago, making it to my high school graduation and an 18th birthday felt like a pipe dream. It wasn’t because I was failing classes or dodging bullets, I was mostly scared of myself. In order for this to make even a little bit of sense, I need to tell a story. It’s one I’ve told in bits and pieces before, but I guess it’s time to put the whole story together now. I will be discussing suicide and depression so keep that in mind before reading on.
I was 17 years old when I started my senior year of high school. I was an above average student, passing all of my classes, and even taking a few advanced courses. I was also the very last girl left in the engineering program at my school and extremely proud of that fact. My teachers, my family, and friends saw a lot of potential in me and pressured me to be the absolute best I could be. I know they all had the best of intentions, but that pressure had a terrible effect on me. I never felt that I was good enough, I always wanted to be better. If I got a B on a test, I wanted an A. If I got an A, it should have been a higher A. If I scored perfectly, I was angry at myself for missing the extra credit question. I wanted pure perfection. If I didn’t get perfection I would spend weeks agonizing over how I was the worst, the stupidest person to walk the earth and I would never make it into any college.
Eventually, the college crunch hits and it’s time for SATs, ACTs, scholarship deadlines, FAFSAs, and college applications. In addition to this, I have the regular senior stuff (homecoming, yearbooks, prom, and graduation) to worry about. I come from a poor family and every last one of those things costs money. A significant amount of money. It was just me and my mother and she had bills to pay so everything else came out of my pocket. I worked as many hours as I could at the shoe store I was employed at and tried my hardest to make sure my grades didn’t drop. When I wasn’t working on homework or at work, I was at college recruitment events or looking everywhere for scholarships. Every waking moment of my life revolved around getting into the best college. My mother and brother were sure to remind me whenever they could that I would be the first in the family to go to college and to not let them down. Once again, I was sure they had the best of intentions, but the added pressure just weighed me down even more.
The second half of my senior year is when everything becomes a blur. That was when I snapped. I remember being in my living room, but I don’t remember why I was there. I was crying uncontrollably and I couldn’t breathe properly. My mother was there trying to calm me down, but nothing she said could penetrate the massive cloud of terror that enveloped me. That’s one thing I remember to this day, absolute terror. It felt like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark pit that was slowly closing in on me and I couldn’t escape. My mother didn’t understand what was happening and I couldn’t articulate what I was going through at the time. Somehow I calmed down and I was left alone. From that point on, it was like watching a movie. I felt myself get up and move away from the couch. I found a bottle of pain pills, emptied it, and lined them all up. I began to take the pills, one by one. The next thing I remember is waking up in my bed and continuing as normal.
While I didn’t succeed in killing myself, I did succeed in scaring myself. I knew if I did it once, I could do it again and when I did it would be much easier. I stopped making long term plans because I no longer knew if I’d be alive. My milestones became daily, weekly at the most. I took my SAT, I got some scholarships, I applied to college, and I graduated high school. Once I found myself in college, I had no idea what to do. College is all about setting yourself up for a career, but I had no idea what I wanted to do because I couldn’t bring myself to think that far ahead.
For the next few years I found myself just doing enough to get by. I left school after two years for a plethora of reasons and moved back home and started working a shitty retail job. After that I got married, moved across the country, got pregnant, and dealt with deployments and more moving. Here I am, almost 10 years after that first (and only) suicide attempt still struggling to think long term.
I’ve seen and done so much in my life, but I’ve held back from even more because of my own insecurities, doubts, and fears. I’ve been so scared of falling back into that pit I was in ten years ago that I’ve tried to maintain a nice, safe middle ground. I’ve thought for so long that if I just got by, I could make it to that next day and stick around a bit longer. That’s just not enough anymore. It’s not enough. I know that if I want to live, truly live, I need to put myself out there and do some scary things. Most importantly though, I have got to stop holding myself back. I can be my own worst enemy and that has got to stop. All of this is so much easier said than done though. Let’s see if 27 is the year when I finally let go.