“I am not my attempt”

I woke up Tuesday morning in a hospital bed, with no feeling in half my body, wondering what the hell happened. Nurses barraged me with questions: “What year is it?” “Do you know where you are?” What’s your name?” To my surprise, every time I tried to answer, all that came out was garbled gibberish. One of the nurses, sensing my confusion, explained to me that there was an excess of amitriptyline in my bloodstream. That was when all the memories of the previous night came rushing back: the 23 small pills in my hand, the lump in my throat after swallowing them all in one gulp, the anxiety, the tears, the hopelessness.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve suffered from a crippling self-esteem, which led to severe depression. I always perceived any misfortune that happened to me as a result of my ineptitude, and learned to hate myself. By the age of 13, I had suicidal thoughts everyday and saw no sense of purpose in life. Too scared to let anyone know, for fear that they would try to put me on medication in a mental institution, I kept my depression well hidden. Under my façade of cheerfulness, no one knew I was helpless on the inside- not even my parents or closest friends. For 6 years, I kept all my feelings of inadequacy inside, hoping that they would eventually go away. By senior year, I was tired of constantly hiding my depression, and saw no point in going on with life. In an act of desperation, I took the entire bottle of my migraine medication, unaware that the next few hours would be the most terrifying experience of my life.

According to my mom, she and my younger sister found me in the middle of my room the following morning, having a seizure. It had been seven hours since I had overdosed. The nurses told me it was a miracle I had survived, and an even larger miracle that I recovered without any brain damage. However, my ordeal wasn’t over- I was condemned to an “inpatient ward”, or a nice way of saying mental institution. I was devastated at the news. Mental wards are for crazy people, right? I’m not crazy! When I arrived at the inpatient ward, they stripped me of anything I could possibly use to harm myself- from shoelaces to shaving razors- and I was kept under constant vigilance until I was discharged four days later. I was allowed one hour visits each day, and phone calls were extremely limited. Although I would never want to repeat my time at the mental ward, it was an extremely eye-opening experience. I met people there who I never would have assumed belonged in a mental ward. I saw drug addicts, abuse victims suffering from PTSD, teenagers with eating disorders, and others like me- who had also hit rock bottom and tried to take their own lives. We’re not all crazy; we’ve just been overwhelmed by life.

I’ve always been too scared to talk about my suicide attempt or my time in the ward; I didn’t want my friends to think that I’m insane. The negative stigma that has been placed on receiving psychiatric help in society has only been detrimental to those, like myself, too terrified to admit that we need help. We need to realize that getting help is not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s a sign of strength. I am not my suicide attempt, and I won’t let my past define my future.