Four years ago this week, I checked myself into the hospital for suicidal thoughts and started to make major changes in my life. At the time, I just wanted to be able to feel more than "meh" and "totally freaked out or depressed" in my everyday life.
I'm not there yet. And honestly, it's frustrating. The past year has been tougher than I'd like to admit, largely because I can see ways to improve my life and mood, but I haven't been able to get myself to do them.
Like, I know that I'm still comfortably numb on routine and pessimism a lot of the time. I know that I settle and succumb to anxiety more than I would like. (I am definitely an introvert, but I've gone full hermit this past year, even for me!) I know that I eat horribly and don't get enough exercise or sleep, and that those shortcomings hurt my mood and overall health.
I know these things, and yet I don't change them--which doesn't really make me feel good about myself, you know?
But then March 20 rolls around and reminds me that I have been in a much much darker place than I am now and have come out of it. That I am capable of changing my life for the better. I may not be in love with my life at the moment, but hey, I'm still alive! So as much as I get annoyed with myself and wish that I could just FREAKING DO THINGS without battling anxiety all the time FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, at least the fight is between fear and growth these days, and not life and death. That is huge.
While my struggle with anxiety and PTSD wages on, here are a few things that have added stability to my life over the past four years and helped me to move away from suicide:
Admitting that I had a "problem"
This is the first step, right? No one else knew that I was feeling suicidal until I accidentally told two friends the day before going inpatient. Owning such an "ugly" truth and admitting it to other people felt awful in the moment but has been very freeing in the long-term. Before, I felt like I constantly had to hide my true feelings because they would freak other people out. But allowing myself to be a "burden" to a few trusted people and admit how bad I was feeling lifted a burden from me. Those friends didn't run, and one even took me to the hospital. In addition to saving my life, admitting my feelings helped me to then open up to other people and see that I don't have to hide my true wacky neurotic self from the world. :)
This has probably been the number one game-changer in my life. I used to hate journaling, even just the idea of journaling. Any time I did try to sit down and write about my feelings, I would just end up writing about boys I thought were cute, HA! But post-inpatient, I started journaling regularly and found that it actually worked for me. I don't force myself to journal in any way (so no schedule or set number of pages per day)--I just write when I have an insight that I want to explore more, or when I want to calm myself down if my emotions are spiraling. Writing really helps me to slow down my thoughts and take off the anxiety goggles so that I can see a stressful situation as it really is.
I had never been in therapy (aside from the college counseling center) until after inpatient, and having a trained professional to talk to and unpack my feelings with every week has been incredibly helpful. Therapy has helped me to be less scared of my emotions, to begin to discover my authentic self (who dat?), and to understand myself better--especially why I do and feel things that never really made any sense to me before.
Discovering my path to healing
Once I started exploring my suicidal thoughts, all the stuff that was under them--the stuff I was trying to push down or run from--started coming to the surface. UGH. But honestly, it helped. The first time I read about the symptoms of Complex PTSD (at a therapist's suggestion), it was a big aha moment, like, "Hey, I'm not a freak! There's something real going on here, and a 'something' can be helped and treated! A 'something' can get better!" 🎉 It was an uplifting experience, like, oh my God, there's a way out after all! And I'm on that path now, thanks to therapy (of course), and also EMDR, inner child work, and bodywork. It's a bumpy road at times, but things are definitely better than they were before.
Final note: It feels important to mention that I am on medication, but I didn't highlight it above because a.) I was on medication pre-inpatient too and b.) I don't feel like it has been the biggest source of change in my life/mindset.
There is certainly still work ahead of me, but that idea operates on the premise that I will be alive to do it, which is a very good thing indeed. Happy Rebirthday, self. 💖🎂
And for anyone reading this, your rebirthday could be today, or tomorrow, or any day you decide that enough is enough with something making you miserable. Progress is always possible; I am living proof of that. ❤️