I Used to Say 'If I Make It to 20, That Would Be Enough'

As a little girl, I remember telling my family, “If I make it to 20, that would be enough for me.” My answer remained the same until I was discharged from my last hospitalization five years ago. For over a decade, psychologists droned out the basic psych evaluation questions and I easily recited the same thing every time: I don’t see, hear or talk to people that aren’t there. I’m not homicidal. I’m not suicidal. The latter always felt like a lie because in a way, it was. I hadn’t seriously considered extinguishing my own life, but I don’t think I would have cared had it been put into someone else’s hands.

One morning in eighth grade, I woke up and I couldn’t will myself to leave my apartment for school. I had just been discharged from my second hospitalization and I couldn’t handle the thought of even trying to catch up on the work I had missed. I held onto the knob of the front door and stared at it for a while before making my decision. I opened and closed the door so my mom would think I had left, went back to my room and sat at the bottom of my closet. I guess it’s ironic I didn’t call myself suicidal, yet I literally put myself in a wooden box. I stayed in there for five hours until my mom found me. I thought she would be furious, but when she slid the closet door open, I saw how devastated she looked — in that moment, I realized the reality of the situation and my mental illnesses. I hadn’t just skipped school and stayed home. I had put myself away, given up and didn’t care if the world kept spinning without me.

I didn’t know it at the time, but everything I said and did contradicted what I would reel off during psych evaluations. Recently, a family member asked me if I remembered what I had said about living to 20. Until she said it, I didn’t realize how scary it was for people to hear me say things like that. For a brief moment, I went back to a place of feeling like a burden, but remembered the people who care about me would rather have me in the worst state possible than not have me at all.

I’m writing this not to silence those struggling, but to remind them there are people who care, even if they can’t see it yet. I keep the nightmares, memories and trauma with me, not so I can embrace the pain and choose to stay in my crucible because it’s easier, but so I never forget anything when I feel like writing — because it’s worth it if I reach at least one person.

I’m writing this on my 20th birthday to remind myself I did make it to 20, and I get to tell my own story.

This post originally appeared on the SU Active Minds blog.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was the moment that made you realize it was time to face your mental illness? What was your next step? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

What would you tell someone who’s feeling hopeless about their mental illness? Tell us in the comments below.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Depression

The Symptom of Depression We Don’t Talk About

You may think you know a lot about depression. You know people with depression can feel sad and empty much of the time, have changes in appetite or sleeping habits, be fatigued, have decreased feelings of pleasure in things that would normally bring them joy and possibly even have thoughts of death and dying. But the one symptom of depression [...]

When Depression Is Like Being Stuck in a Winter Jacket

My facade is like a thick winter parka. The depression and anxiety I’ve suffered from have zipped me up in this down jacket to protect me from the storms that come and go in my life. At first, the jacket is nice and warm, and I put it on when it just starts getting cold [...]

'You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide': When Exercise Can’t Outsmart Depression

A few years ago I met with a new personal trainer at my gym. I’d recently run a marathon and a handful of half marathons, but without any upcoming races, I was having trouble sticking to a workout schedule. At least, that’s what I told him. We spent the first 20 minutes of the meeting [...]

When Speaking Up About Depression Is What Saves You

The hyperventilated breaths, the burn in my lungs, when I finally let out a long exhale to slow my breathing. I settle. My mind settles.  I’ve been here before, far too many times. My mind has taken off, wandering into the dark places. Opening subjects out of my mental file cabinets I don’t like to [...]