I worried that I would be a burden to any partner who I managed to lure into my life.
When I was fourteen years old, I tried to kill myself.
Whether my brain chemistry, raging hormones, a recent breakup, or chronic low self-esteem were to blame, I can't say for certain. Often, depression doesn't seem to need a reason. Like an uninvited house guest, it simply shows up when it wants to.
I swallowed a bottle of extra strength pain killers (that I had been carrying around for a week) and waited for them to take effect. I had never felt more numb.
Tears moved down my face but I didn't feel sad. I walked around outside in five degree weather wearing a t-shirt, but I couldn't feel the goosebumps that I saw on my arms. I felt nothing. I was the same way before I had taken the pills. My depression ravaged every feeling out of me. I couldn't access any of it.
Had it not been for an amazing friend who managed to track me down, I wouldn't be alive today to write these words. I was admitted to a children's hospital and was put on suicide watch for a number of days.
It felt like prison-lite. No belts. No shoe laces. No metal cutlery. For some reason, I was the only child on the unit who wasn't allowed to use metal cutlery, and the other kids looked at me as if I were extra dangerous because of my plastic utensils. I would be lying if I said that I didn't feel like a bit of a badass for getting special treatment, even in this context.
The worst part was seeing the looks on my parents' faces during visiting hours.
Before seeing their faces, I had managed to convince myself that they would be better off without me. Truly, I thought I was doing them a favor when I sat down and started ingesting those pills. In truth, the loss would have affected the course of their entire lives. Every time people asked them how many children they had, a lump would appear in their throats, even decades later.
When they visited me in the hospital, their eyes were already red from crying. They looked more exhausted and in pain than I felt, and I felt immediately guilty. "This is the pain that you cause people," my mind scolded me.
Looking back from today, it's difficult for me to grasp the thought processes that I remember going through.
One of my absolute greatest fears was that, since I was more prone to anxiety and depression than others, I would forever be difficult to love. I worried that I would be a burden to any partner who I managed to lure into my life. More than that, I felt deeply unlovable.
This is how shame works its way into our hearts.
Guilt says we did something bad (i.e. "Your actions caused your parents pain"), whereas shame says that we are inherently bad (as in, "You only bring pain to your parents lives because you're a terrible person").
It has been fifteen years since I tried to take my own life (my first and only attempt). What I've learned since then is that not only are we lovable despite our flaws, darkness, and mental health issues, but we're lovable with those things. Furthermore, we're often the most lovable where we feel we deserve love the least. Our pain and darkness is what deserves love first.
With the people that we meet and attract, we're shown parts of ourselves that we didn't know existed. Everyone you know acts as a mirror to you and is an opportunity to help you heal something that you have difficultly facing.
Since my suicide attempt, I've had the good fortune of being loved by some of the most incredibly compassionate women I could have ever dreamt of. And their collective message was the same: While your darkness doesn't define you, it ultimately makes you shine that much brighter in the world.
Your struggles have made you who you are as a person. The depth of pain that you experience gives you that much more empathy and compassion for others who are in pain.
Every experience you have ever been through has only served to make you grow, to make you more resilient, and to make you more compassionate to the experiences of others. Everything you've been through, whether it was immediately apparent or not, was a gift.
Regardless of any mental health struggles you've experienced in your lifetime, you're still worthy of love and belonging. Nothing will ever change that or take that truth away from you.
If I can leave you with one message that you can strap to your metaphorical shield on your darkest days, it would be this: You are beautiful, complete, and whole. You are worthy. You are lovable. Always.
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This article was originally published at stigmafighters.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.