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By Kamillah Gray
I was 12 when I had my first suicidal thought.
It wasn’t bad at first. My darkness took up a corner in my thoughts. It was there, it was noticeable, but it wasn’t in the way. I went into middle school, and began to see how I was different from the girls around me. Boys didn’t notice me. I sat at lunch alone.
As my sadness grew, so did my darkness, I was scared of the changes I saw within myself. I was losing me. The bright, confident, young girl, who loved to make friends and play outside. I had become a stranger to myself.
I started writing more about being these new found feelings in my journals. I was worthless. I was ugly. I was weird and stupid. The darkness was cold around me. It was uncomfortable, and I was shivering. I didn’t like this feeling.
I told my mother how I felt, and I went to the doctor. There the word was labeled to the cold I felt. I was diagnosed with depression. I could remember the Zoloft commercial with the cute little balls bouncing around. That’s all I knew of it. I was subscribed Prozac, and sent on my way.
A day or so later, as I looked at the bottle of pills, I grew angry.
“I don’t need these pills to be happy!” I twisted open the bottle and turned on the faucet. The pills began to dissolve, and I started panicking at the unexpected result. I had destroyed the entire bottle. When my parents would ask if I was taking my medicine I would lie and nod, not wanting to tell them the truth of the fact that were now a murky paste.
My depression covered me like a blanket. All I saw was dark. All that was filled in my head was dim thoughts.
“I hate myself. I want to die. I deserve to die. I feel so alone. No one understands. Why do I suck so much? No one likes me. Why me? Why do I feel this way?”
I’d look in the mirror and hate what I saw. My nose was too big. My eyebrows were too thick. My clothes were childish. I wanted to change my skin color to fit in. Everything about me was wrong. My depression covered my sight so I could not see reality. It whispered lies into my ears. It enclosed my world and everything was frightening. I was safe in my room, in my bed. The outside world was dangerous.
Then I made the transition to high school. I remember on the day I was registering for classes, I sat in the guidance office crying. When my mother inquired as to what was wrong. I told her I was scared. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to be put into another position where I felt everyone’s eyes were going to be staring me down and dissecting me from the inside out.
I was the student every teacher loved because I sat in the back, never talked and did my work. While fights broke out among the students, and they cursed at the teacher and walked out, I was in my own little world. It was lonely, and quiet.
I remember coming home frequently and boarding myself in my room. Lights always off, shades were drawn, and rock music coming out of my stereo. Lyrics that described the isolated aching feeling I felt inside. It was as if they wrote these songs just for me. I cried as I related to each and every word.
But even how hard it got, I told myself it wouldn’t get worse. I wouldn’t self-harm, or try and take my life. I would never be that bad. So imagine my own surprise when after my freshman year I proceeded to get drunk with the alcohol in the house while my mother was away, and bring a razor to my skin the first time.
I said I wouldn’t do it again.
I did actually get better. I was in a period of remission in my sophomore year of high school. I felt okay with life, and shook its hand like an acquaintance. I was the usual 16-year-old in high school. Dating, grades, and drama. I was even making some friends. I felt at peace.
But the darkness doesn’t let go that easily. It still lingered in the back of my head, waiting for a time of weakness to wrap itself around me again. That time came when I got into an abusive relationship. I broke down. The whispers about me around school were getting to me. I sat down with a shot glass and a bottle of ibuprofen, crying into the phone. My boyfriend at the time did nothing. He said simply, “See you in Hell” and hung up the phone.
The next night I was in the E.R. getting evaluated. I’d never see my mother cry. She is a strong woman, made of cement and brick, it was hard to break her down. Seeing the tears coming down her cheeks asking what she did wrong will haunt me forever. Knowing I caused those tears.Realizing her fear that she could have lost her child.
I would punish myself for the stupid things I felt I had done. All the anxiety and shame I had pent up inside me. The pair of scissors became the only thing that could make me feel alive and punish me at the same time. Seeing the blood made me feel connected with other people. I wasn’t such a freak. I was still human. I was still alive.
There was the fear that I wouldn’t live to walk across the stage at my high school graduation.
The fear that the darkness would take me forever.
10 years later…
I’m still alive.
Not only did I walk across the stage 4 years ago, but in another year I will again. This time it will be with bachelor degrees in English and Psychology.
I’m 22 now. College hasn’t been easy. I’ve realized just how misunderstood mental illness is. How quickly people push it aside and claim it’s no big deal. Well, I have 10 years of medicine and therapy under my belt to tell you that mental illness is very much real, and it affects deeply.
In my second year of college, I was admitted to a mental institution. I was the youngest at 20, but I met some of the kindest people you would ever be lucky enough to meet. People who could pass you by on the street and you would have no idea the internal everyday battle they are fighting.
I soon began to realize, there are other people in my position. Fighting depression, or any form of mental illness, feeling alone, and stumbling in the darkness without a hand of comfort and support.
When I graduate, I plan to get my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. I plan to reach out to as many of those young people fumbling around in the dark and clasp onto their hands. I want to hug them tight and say, “You are not alone.”
It took me a few years to realize, I am not my depression. It is simply an intruder in my head that I am working on kicking out the door.
I’m still fighting, and by no means is it easy. Trying to love yourself after 10 years of disgust makes me want to quit. Looking into my own eyes and saying, “I love you” is one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I will keep fighting. I will take my life back, and make the most out of it. I don’t want another year of my life to be taken. I don’t want another decade to go by with me feeling like I waste space.
As I work on my battle, I keep in mind the others fighting with me.
“You are beautiful. You are strong. You are loved. Don’t give up. You are not in this alone. I promise.”
You are not your mental illness.