Survival Is Worth Celebrating
A guest post by Jennifer Black
Many of us can pinpoint moments in our lives which have shaped us into the people we are. For some, it might be starting college or having their first child. For others, it could be meeting someone or achieving a personal goal. For me, it was going to a hospital for trying to commit suicide after I became deeply depressed in 2012. I chose to admit myself for a week in a mental health facility to work on myself. It was not an easy decision, but it was one I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I’m not writing to say everything was great. At times it was miserable. I shared a room with someone who was convinced I was going to kill her. I had to shower without a door. They woke me every morning at 3:30am to take my vital signs. I met people who were constantly in and out of the hospital because they didn’t have the support they needed outside of the hospital. Our daily routine included activity time, group therapy, mealtime, outdoor time, and bedtime. It was not a demeaning schedule. It helped us have structure so we could get better. I grew close to people who came from different walks of life. They were the ones going through this with me. Being hospitalized was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but looking back on it now, I believe it was really what I needed. I not only needed medication and a safe place, but I needed some intensive therapy; some ideas of ways to release some feelings.
Some ask why I’m so open about my past, and sometimes present, struggles with suicide. “Aren’t you scared of what people think? Aren’t you scared they will judge?” No, I’m no longer afraid of what others think. Other people’s opinions don’t scare me, but my own brain still does. I hid my pain because I was afraid people would think I was weak. I was afraid my darkness made me ugly. I was afraid that if anyone knew the kind of thoughts I had, the thoughts that told me I was worthless and didn’t deserve to live, they would treat me like I didn’t deserve to live.
In October 2012, after getting out of the mental health hospital, I received the horrible news that my best friend from high school had committed suicide. To think that, while I was going through my struggle, he was going through his. I’m always sad when I hear news of one of us dying. It could have been me. But it’s a great reminder of why I need to continue talking about suicide and sharing my pain.
My pain doesn’t make me different from you. It doesn’t make me less than you. My darkness isn’t ugly. It’s a beautiful bridge that connects me to you and connecting through pain is the most powerful, transformative connection I’ve ever experienced.
Over the course of my journey I’ve learned many skills for survival. There are a couple that I would like to share:
The first is simple, but does not come easy: be kind. We have all heard the Golden Rule to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but many of us don’t treat ourselves very well. It’s hard enough dealing with all these emotions without the extra internal battle, but we need to treat ourselves like we deserve to be treated. No matter what your thoughts tell you, you deserve to be loved and taken care of.
The second skill I have learned is forgiveness. The people in your life, who love you, are going to screw up; saying the wrong thing on your worst days, unintentionally making things harder for you at times. However, they are trying to navigate your healing just like you and-- I’ll let you in on a secret: they may not know what they’re doing, but they are trying to help. It is important to learn to forgive them. My husband is my biggest cheerleader. He has stood by my side during the dark times and certainly celebrated with me on the mountain tops, too. I have opened up to him in ways I could never share with anybody else and for that I am truly thankful. But I also know there have been countless times when he has not had a clue what was going on; times he desperately wanted to help, but couldn’t. Although not as severe as in 2012, I still struggle with depression and he’s there every step of the way just like my family.
I’m not writing this to get sympathy. I’m writing this to share my story and hopefully help people in crisis know that survival is worth celebrating.
About the Author: Jennifer Black is 24 years old. Originally from Colorado, she is now stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma where her husband is currently serving in the United States Army. She struggles with learning disability and depression.