There is only one real reason I am writing this story, and that reason is you.
Of all of the pieces I have written for xoJane, the one I receive more email about is this one: "50 Reasons Not to Kill Yourself."
It blows me away that words can have so much power sometimes, and it also makes me so grateful for their power. Every few weeks another email comes in ("...I was googling and I was in a bad place and I just wanted to say thanks..."), and I've been wanting to do a followup piece ever since I received the very first message.
I always write back to every person essentially the same thing, except a little bit different. Which is this: These messages are the words that help me keep going. So never underestimate your power to help every single person around you, too.
To do this follow-up in the best possible way, I asked s.e. to help me come up with a question that would generate advice that would be as helpful and impactful as possible. The question we came up with is this:
"What would you tell your past self when you were feeling at your worst to make it through?"
I've collected the best of your answers, and I thank every single one of you for reading and for contributing your own advice in the comments below as well. And if you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800/273-8255.
You are loved more than you will ever know.
1. Don't worry about being fixed because you're not broken.
"When I am in a terrible place, I have always told myself that I am going through whatever it is that I am going through in order to be able to better empathize with other people going through similar situations, and that I will be able to use this experience to help other people get through it. Which makes the pain feel like it has a purpose. Also, I try not to label what I am going through as good or bad (or terrible, as I did above) and to remember that everything is exactly as it is meant to be." -- Jane Pratt
2. Tell yourself: "I'm so deeply proud of you. Never forget that."
"The person in the mirror will get even more beautiful if you open your heart to others. "
3. You won't always feel this way.
"Feelings are not facts. Your depression and your addiction are lying to you. They want you to believe that you are worthless and hopeless and that you will always feel this way. But you won't always feel this way. You might not even feel this way for very long. Your feelings are not facts and they are not the truth." -- Emily McCombs
4. Life will change.
"When I'm really feeling dark, it's hard for me to accept promises that it will be better, or that the situation will improve, or really any kind of optimism. I argue with myself or with whoever it is that is trying to cheer me up, reminding them that in life there is no guarantee things will turn out well. However, reminding myself that my life will change and it will be different, though not necessarily great or better, is easier to accept."
5. You are not alone.
"The big one for me I think is: You are not alone. There are people out there who are going through what you are going through -- and many of them have been able to find an even keel through love and support. It's okay to admit that you are struggling and to acknowledge that yes, things are pretty f-cking sh-tty right now." -- s.e. smith
6. Good people exist.
"My present self would tell my past self that life doesn't have to be like this, that life won't always be like this, and good people exist and adulthood truly means the freedom to discard expectations (your own and others'). You will be happy, even if your life looks totally different than you ever thought it would. I would also warn myself: depression and mutual misery is a poor foundation for a lasting relationship. Lastly, I would tell myself that Cymbalta and Klonopin really work miracles."
7. Talk back to your life.
"My worst times and my darkest thoughts tend to be when it is literally the darkest; at night. At my absolute worst times I've gotten through the night by embracing the hopelessness in a way that almost makes it come full circle. It becomes me talking to my life, talking to Hope, talking to Tomorrow, like "I know you're bullsh-t and you have nothing for me. You suck, Tomorrow. Now...a tiny part of me also knows I'm being irrational right now, so on the off-chance that I'm wrong, I'm gonna stick around one more day and I DARE you to show up, Hope." It doesn't magically "show up," of course, but being a rude, foul-mouthed bitch in my mind has gotten me through some unbearable nights. I would go back further and tell myself to be as much of an asshole in my mental chats with my depression as it can be to me. Obviously this is not a long-term plan or suitable for all occasions, but at my worst times it has been about living through the night." -- Pia Glenn
8. Everything is temporary.
"Nothing lasts forever, not even the profundity of grief. My lowest points in life have been the times I've felt the most challenged, the times I've grown as a person, and the times for which I feel, in retrospect, most grateful. What I wish I could have told myself is that I am worth coming out the other side. That I deserve to heal from pain. I used to see pain and drama as a badge that would elicit empathy or attention from other people. If I could, I would hug that person and tell her that life isn't always nice or fair but it's a hell of a lot better when you love yourself."
9. Reaching out shows strength.
"It's OK to be depressed, it's OK to admit it, it's OK to ask for help. You are not weak for reaching out, it is a show of strength. You are allowed to feel things, you are allowed to feel pain. But that pain and depression does not define you. You will get through it, and it will be hard, but in the end it will be a memory." -- Louise Hung
10. You got this.
"The most important war to win, will be the one against yourself, and it is winnable."
11. Give yourself credit.
"No matter what picture has been painted, everyone is dealing with their own crippling sh-t. And the truth is, most people don't have time to judge anyone else's struggle. They're trying to get through another day just like you are. If you can get just get one thing done today, you're doing better than a lot of those people. Give yourself credit for that one thing and try for two tomorrow." -- Gabby Keegan
12. Shift your perception.
"Happiness is a choice and there is always a lesson to be learned from a difficult hardship. Whatever it is that you're going through, it is transient and you can decide how much weight you want to put on that particular problem. Shift your perception and expect something positive is coming your way, always." -- Donna Kim
"In this moment it is NOT okay. You hurt, it's scary how bad it hurts, I know. Remember when it hurt before? Then that one funny, great, silly, loving moment happened? When you laughed until your sides hurt? When you loved so much you thought your heart was going to fly out of your chest? That will happen again. Breathe."
14. This too will pass.
"That this is only one tiny slice of your life, and that the farther you get away from it the harder it'll be to remember the details." -- Kate Conway
15. Don't listen to voices that are not helping you.
"I would say despite the overwhelmingly loud voice in your head, you are a good person. It will pass. I also tell myself that even though it seems terrifying, go outside. If I can't bare to do it, try again tomorrow. I was crying uncontrollably two weeks ago. This was my inner dialogue."
16. Give yourself credit for this very moment.
"This worst is over, and look, you're making it through. Everything will be okay again soon." -- Mandy Velez
17. Don't be ashamed of your pain.
"It is okay to hurt; there's no good or bad reason. It's okay to be really mad at people who guilt trip me to keep me alive. It's okay to wish they would just say, 'I want you here. I would survive if something happened to you. It's not about that. I want you to stay, because I think you're great, but if you can't stay, I understand. I'll love you no matter what.' And when those well meaning people who are too afraid to say that, don't, I would say it to myself."
18. You are worthy, even at your worst.
"I know it is hard to see it now -- but you are and will always be more than this moment in time. You are worthy, you are wonderful and you are filled with unlimited potential. Do not let the insecurities of others affect the shining star that you are." -- Brittany Driver
19. Screw stigma.
"Screw the stigma attached to using medication. It does make things better, and screw what other people think about that. I fought against going on anti-depressants for years, in part because I was afraid that they wouldn’t work and I would be out of options, and in part because of all the opinions that other people have about them (they’re no more effective than placebos, it’s what weak people do to avoid normal emotions, you won’t be your authentic self, etc.) Even though it took close to two years to find the right medications and dosage, I now have no doubt that drugs saved my life and I wish I had started sooner."
20. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend.
"Confide in someone about how you are feeling, and let them help you. It is probably the best thing you could do for the person you know who needs the most sympathetic handling right now: you." -- Frank San Filippo
21. Go outside.
"Keep doing whatever tiny normal things you can do. Eat, even when it’s like chewing cardboard. Go outside and walk around the block, even if you have to go back to bed afterwards. Sleep as close to normal hours as possible, even if it means using medication."
22. Focus on the things you can change.
"I can think of a very dark time where I felt everything was imploding around me -- there was almost no aspect of my life that was going right. I wanted things to feel better, I hated the life I was in and I focused on comparing myself to others and focusing on my failures. And then as a birthday present I got a tattoo that says 'Que Sera, Sera.' And since then I have developed a lighter mindset, I am more appreciative of what I have, and I try to focus on the things I can change instead of the things I can't. But if I could tell myself one thing and knew I'd listen... I'd say 'You'll live. And oh what an amazing life it's going to be.'" -- Liz Black
23. You don't need to hide.
"Ask for help and let people give it. Mental illness is isolating in part because it feels humiliating. But people who love you don’t need you to hide this part of yourself. And even letting a friend bring you food can be such a relief at times when you’re afraid of the grocery store."
24. Let it go.
"This feeling is just temporary." -- Claire Lower
25. Know you are in there.
"Other crazy people make better friends. My best friend, who suffers from anxiety/panic disorder, has been the greatest comfort to me through my last two severe depressive episodes, and through my day-to-day struggle to function. Being able to express the things I think to someone who isn’t distressed or repulsed by them is invaluable. I also am able to look at her and know that someone who has these issues is still a worthwhile and lovable person, even at times when I can’t see that about myself. After CBT and different combinations of medications, I’m mostly stable. There are still deeply sh-tty days and weeks, but not months. And once in a while, I get a day where I feel joy and know that myself is still in there and still worth trying to save."
26. Stop beating up on yourself.
"Really -- the self-deprecation you think is protecting you is only making you feel worse. You think you're just pre-emptively saying the things everyone is thinking, but the only people thinking those things are assholes whose opinions don't mean anything to anyone who matters. Look in the mirror and like what you see. Like yourself. You're unique and so long as there is just one of you out there, you might as well have some fun, stop hating yourself and embrace the light." -- Allan Mott
27. Find solace in humor.
"Being alone is hard. Sometimes it feels like more than you can handle. But any time you feel lonely or ashamed, a bit of wit restores your control. This cleverness is more than solace; it is strength. So don't despair. You will be better for it. You will be loved."
28. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this moment.
"I still ask myself and family and friends on sh-tty days, 'Will this matter in ten years? Will I remember this? Will it be a blip on the huge radar screen of my life? Will this be an anecdote or one of those things I only half remember because it was so insignificant even though it feels like EVERYTHING now?' Because in most cases the answer is that it won't matter, it is insignificant in the grand scheme of your life and a minor plot device in the movie of your life that doesn't affect the arc of the story in any important way. Okay some days your grandma dies, those days suck. But the things you think are awful and unimaginably insurmountable? They're not, they're just happening this moment. One of my teachers had a mantra to say during times I felt panic or anxiety, 'There is absolutely nothing wrong with this moment.' He would say to just repeat it. Even if it felt untrue. And like mantras do, at some point, the sounds become the truth. It may sound like a platitude but it works for me."
29. Just keep going, and look to art to show you how.
"God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand." -- Rainer Maria Rilke (via Hannah Johnson)
30. You don't want to miss what's going to happen next.
"Ride it out. The story's not over. You don't want to miss what's going to happen next." -- Elizabeth Nelson
How would you answer the question?