I’m still here, despite my own best efforts
To be perfectly honest, I had no plans of seeing the next day. The only thing I really knew is that, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t live another day.
“You’re the worst.”
I must’ve said that to myself 1,000 times on the way to that point. I don’t know which time I first meant it.
I used to jokingly say it because I’ve always had a self-deprecating sense of humor. I like making people laugh, and I’m pretty easy to laugh at. I thought if I was the one telling the joke, people weren’t really laughing at me. I stopped believing that. My self-esteem plummeted.
I was smart. I was top nine percent in my high school class. It matters because four years ago that was enough for an auto-admittance into the University of Texas. It matters because that was what I based my identity on.
I was in all honors classes. I didn’t have a study hall senior year, so I could take two sciences. I made all A’s because I loved learning and hated failing.
Somewhere in college, things stopped coming easily for me. I started hating failing more than I loved learning, and then I stopped loving to learn. The grades followed.
That was my entire identity. If I wasn’t good at school, what was I good for? “Nothing,” I’d tell myself. I stopped caring.
There’s not an exact date of when I started thinking about suicide, and if there is, I’m not going to mark it on a calendar.
My insecurities and doubts kept getting louder. I didn’t want to try anymore. If I tried and failed, I would prove the voice right. If I never tried and failed, well, I just didn’t try.
Last spring, I had two panic attacks within 12 hours. The second one felt like I was having a heart attack.
I found two things: my faith and my courage.
I realized I couldn’t fix myself, and more than anything else, I needed help. For me, the Counseling Center worked. It was slow and frustrating. I didn’t get better right away.
My low point came when I was getting help, but it would’ve come regardless. Someone showed me an article about a cross-country runner who had committed suicide. Even though our struggles were different, I saw so much of myself in her that it triggered something inside me to act.
Now, I know that her story is not my story, just like my story is not yours. Mental illness is not one-size-fits-all. Others would have reacted to the story differently.
I was still pretending that everything was OK with me. It wasn’t, and I finally admitted it to myself, to others.
I went back to counseling. I celebrated my 21st birthday by working, which, if you know me, is exactly how I would’ve wanted to spend it anyway.
I relearned how to think, how to take these negative thoughts and reason my way past them. Every time I told myself I’m the worst, I reasoned my way into not only stopping that train of thought but forgiving myself for some mistake. It took time. I still struggle with it. I’ve stopped hating myself.
The anxiety and paralyzing fear of failure are still there. Those will never really disappear. Some days and weeks are worse than others. It’s a constant, exhausting battle with myself.
You see, it’s been nine months exactly since I wanted to end it all and nine months exactly since I discovered I wanted to live more than anything else. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fight and live.
Kelly Ward is a senior majoring in journalism. She is the Digital Managing Editor of The Crimson White.