Friendly female doctor hold patient hand in office

“It’s not your fault.”

Dr. D got down on her knees, forced me to make eye contact and said very clearly… “It’s not your fault.”

It was less than 48 hours after my last suicide attempt. I don’t remember a lot of what was asked of me that day. I don’t remember a lot of what was said, but I do remember those four words. Dr. D knew exactly what she was talking about.

After hearing my story and seeing the multiple medications the doctors and clinics had put me on in another city, she could say with absolute certainty…. this was not my fault.

Let’s jump back a few months.

I knew something was wrong. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt like my life was swirling around me… going too fast or not fast enough but always dizzy. I would spend hours crying. Countless hours of my day just lying in bed. Going to school or keeping up with homework was just too much to deal with.

So I made the decision to get help. I went to counseling over a course of a few months. One counselor said I had depression. Another said anxiety. Everyone else said it was “typical college student stress.”

Things continued to escalate with every medication they prescribed.

On top of my uncontrollable emotions, I had the worst migraines I have ever had in my life. They lasted for days. So they gave me more medication for that as well.

By the time I found myself in Dr. D’s office, I was on a cocktail of medication – most that were very clearly labelled not to be taken with each other. But the manic mind does not say to read the paper that comes with your prescription. The doctor would do that… right?

Things went from bad to worse, and I spent over a month going to the emergency room, telling them I felt suicidal. Telling them I didn’t feel safe. Asking for help because I knew something was wrong. They would have me wait until a crisis counselor would come down, usually hours after I had arrived. I was exhausted by the time they got there and then they wanted to talk. It was the same conversation every single time.

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“Why do you feel suicidal?”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Are you having thoughts of harming others?”

“Why do you feel this way?”

After answering the same questions, they would deem me safe to go home. The last time I went in, I looked the nurse right in the eye and told her I was going to kill myself. I looked the doctor in the eye and told him I was going to kill myself. I looked the crisis counselor right in the eye. I told him I was going to kill myself. They sent me home a couple hours later.

There’s no need to for anyone to relive what happened between that time and this moment with Dr. D. The whole point of this post is to write about a moment of kindness related to my health that didn’t seem significant then, but is important now.

That moment was when Dr. D said those powerful words:

“It’s not your fault.”

Those four words are written on a sticky note above my desk. Not as an excuse for my actions… I truly believe we should live with the consequences of our actions. I leave it there as a reminder that living with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder allowed a lot of things to happen. A lot are things I am ashamed of. But those words put my past manic actions into context. I can sleep soundly at night knowing had I not been manic, I wouldn’t have acted the way I had.

That moment where Dr. D stood up for me — that was where my life began to change.

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. D again a few months ago. She had no idea who I was… but I knew her. I told her I was an old patient. I told her a short version of my story, and as my eyes began to water and my voice began to crack, I thanked her for those four words – now on a sticky note on my desk – and told her how they were a main part of my healing.

Dr. D retired a few days later. I am so thankful for her and the work she has done. It’s doctors like her who make a world of a difference for those of us who are diagnosed and/or struggle with a mental illness.

Dr. D, if you’re reading this, thank you. You were the first doctor to see my illness for what it was. You were the first doctor who stood up for me and demanded a recovery plan. Well done.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by megaflopp

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1. Thank you for seeing me at my worst and still loving me. I know it must have been incredibly difficult to see me like that. It was hard for me, too.

2. Thank you for never giving up on me, even when I gave up on myself. You are the reason I forced myself to stay alive after the second attempt.

3. Thank you for sitting up with me when I felt alone. I know it was probably hard talking to me in that state. I truly did appreciate your efforts.

4. Thank you for not seeing me as a lost cause. I looked in the mirror and saw nothing but wasted space and rotting potential. In my eyes, I was worth nothing, but through your eyes, I started to see myself as something.

5. Thank you for not making me talk about it before I was ready. I know you wanted to know what was going through my head when it happened. I know it was hard to comprehend why I tried to end my life.

6. Thank you for reminding me I am loved. The thoughts that always ran through my brain told me otherwise.

7. Thank you for joking around with me like you always did. I needed that hint of normality in my life when everything else was a mess.

8. Thank you for the extra hugs. I was never a big hugger, but looking back the hugs definitely brought a smile to my face.

9. Thank you for giving me some space when I needed it. I know it must have been hard to leave me alone when I was still in such a fragile state. You probably worried about what I might do to myself when I was alone, but I really did need my own space to heal.

10. Thank you for loving me more than I loved myself. Your love and support pushed me to keep breathing, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to stay alive. I may not have loved myself enough to keep living, but my love for you kept me alive.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Liubov Marchuk


I am frequently asked about the pizza slice tattoo on my ankle, but I have never publicly shared the story behind it.

This story is not my own, and I have reason to believe a lot of the important information has been changed due to privacy of the real person who experienced this. But the way I heard and understood this story is the way it will remain in my mind, and it is something I think about regularly.

In a high school elective, we were invited to take the Suicide Prevention Training via a local crisis line. During the process, we were told a story about a woman who called the line and the first thing she said was:

“I dropped my pizza on the floor!”

When I first heard that, I laughed. It’s OK, you can too. My mind immediately went to, “Well, buy a new one” or something along those lines.

Fortunately, the member of the crisis line stayed with the woman and gathered more information. It seemed that it was near Christmastime, and the woman couldn’t afford gifts for her loved ones. She sat at a mall that day and ran into an old high school friend who had become a successful lawyer and was married with kids. The woman must have felt quite small in comparison, as she still lived with a roommate and both of them relied on welfare to get by. Once a month, when they received their checks, the roommates could splurge a little and buy a 2-for-1 pizza.

Of course, you might understand the importance of this pizza now. When she dropped it, it felt like the last straw. She felt like she just couldn’t do it anymore.

This story rang in my ears for a long time. It made me realize that even though something as little as a pizza can feel like life or death, depending on your circumstances. Suicide, depression, even simply bad days are all subjective. This is important to me because no matter who I talk to, I am reminded that they are all fighting a battle. When a person says, “Oh, it doesn’t matter…” I always tell them this story because… if it’s affecting them, then it matters. It’s their pizza slice at that moment. To me, that battle may sound trivial or little, but to them? It’s their entire universe, their entire mental health, their entire life. That’s OK. That’s their pizza slice.

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

My chemistry professor stopped in the middle of his lesson this week and turned toward the quiet the room of freshman.

“If there’s one thing I would change about Washington and Lee students,” he began, “I would wave my magic wand to make you all less afraid of making mistakes.” He went on to preach about how mistakes contribute to the most efficient learning.

This week also happened to mark the third anniversary of Madison Holleran’s death. When my professor turned to the class, I couldn’t help but think Maddy was somehow speaking to me through his words. Maddy’s story has been publicized across the nation, as people over the last three years have become even more infatuated with the girl than they were before her death.

I knew Maddy as a teammate my freshman year. She was a track star, a soccer phenomenon and an academic genius. The girl practically had a fan club, made up of high schoolers, parents, news reporters, sports fans, teachers and coaches.

She had led the Northern Highlands Girls Soccer team to consecutive state championships. She set and beat her own records on the track. She was a member of the National Honor Society. She was absolutely stunning. She was a role model to us little freshmen, someone I personally admired for her beauty, humility and grace. More importantly, she was the daughter to two of the most loving parents in town. She was the middle sister to a crazy group of five siblings. She was the best friend to some, although she was honestly friendly with the whole school.

This is Holleran’s story as told by ESPN.

For those who don’t know the tragic events of Madison Holleran, I’ll provide you with the basics, although the over 700,000 hits from a Google search of her name can also serve that purpose.

On January 17th, 2014, Maddy left her UPenn dorm room to walk around the city of Philadelphia. She stopped at Rittenhouse Square to Instagram a captionless, scenery picture of the tranquil park lights just as dusk began to creep in on the end of the day. Maddy proceeded a block away to a parking garage. There, she would end her own life. Every person that has heard this story seems to have his or her own opinions about Maddy’s “cause of death.” While there’s no doubt that she struggled silently with anxiety and depression, both the media and Madison’s parents have rationalized this tragedy.

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Most seem to think Maddy fell off the metaphorical pedestal that she — and we all — had constantly placed her on. People claimed when UPenn turned out to be harder in all aspects of life (socially, athletically and academically), she couldn’t quite manage the struggle. They said she didn’t know how to cope with her less than perfect college life and felt like she couldn’t ask for help. They said Maddy was the girl who once had it all.

Maddy ran after perfection. But now where is she?

While part of me hates how publicized this personal tragedy has become, her story does serve as a lesson to help students for the better. This is especially true in college, where the rigor of classes, intense social scene and demanding schedules can be quite hectic.

Maddy’s loving parents have since started a campaign for students, under the slogan “It’s OK to not be OK,” made famous by ESPN coverage.

In my chemistry professor’s 14 years of teaching at this school, the one thing he would change is our willingness to make mistakes, to be wrong sometimes, to struggle and ask for help. Whether this be by raising your hand in chemistry class to take a risk on a question you don’t quite understand or taking advantage of the free counseling services on campus, the idea remains. Might I add, college may be the last time there will be eager professionals at your full disposal.

College has its demands, but it also has an amazing, uplifting community. There’s no need to maintain a façade at all times with all people. Whether you find an outlet in a best friend, professor, coach, counselor or RA, it’s important to have someone with whom you can let down your walls. In the coming months, especially during the infamous college winter blues, I hope all of us students can support one another, cope with the tough stuff and most importantly, ask for help when needed.

When we find ourselves chasing unrealistic excellence, let’s slow down and take a step back. The only consolation I can give is that no one at this school, no one anywhere, can catch perfection.

For more information about Maddy’s story or how to give a kind donation, please see The Madison Holleran Foundation.

This post originally appeared on The Odyssey.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via In Memory of Madison Holleran Facebook.


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

Dear suicidal me,

You might probably have zero mental strength to read this.

But I beg you to try.

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for holding on till now. It is no ordinary feat. I know you probably feel like you are “weak” and haven’t done well enough, but believe me, you have done really well.

Your emotional sensitivity has put you through some difficult and unpleasant times. You fought back, got hurt and fell down, but you still kept getting back up.

Even in times of intense mental distress, you were able to function well in life with good academic performance and family and friends. Anybody would be surprised if you told them you had mental health problems, because you hid it all and worked hard to be “normal.”

Yet, now things have changed a bit. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety. No matter what the doctors call it, your problem isn’t letting go. Because of this, you have been in a lot of pain. Lots of pent-up feelings, lack of people to share them with, occasional temper tantrums and the desire to live a normal life in spite of all this, have caused a lot of stress. While you want to live life and face its challenges, your mental health decides to barricade your path. Brain fog, the inability to concentrate, physical ailments and loss of interest in almost everything in life has put you in a state where it is difficult to even get through the day.

You had managed it for many years but now you have decided to stop doing so.

Don’t feel guilty. Many in your place would have felt like giving up, whether they care to admit that or not. Phrases like “never give up” and “keep fighting” lose their meaning after some time. So, it is only natural you want to stop the pain. You don’t want to die. You just want to put an end to your struggle.

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But all I ask you is to look back at how far you have travelled. While the pain may not have ended, your ability to handle the pain and function in life has improved over the years. You are stronger than you were when this all started. Even if your brain tells you that you did nothing, don’t believe it. Like your therapist said, you are doing mind-bogglingly well in spite of all this. That’s the reality.

Just think and answer this question. Do you really want to give up now, after all this journey? The end may not be in sight, but it is still out there. All you need to do is push yourself a bit more, like you have done till now. Moreover, if you kill yourself, you will pass on the pain to your loved ones.

If the answer to that question is a “no,” don your armor once again and step back in the battlefield like you always do.

Maybe this time, you might end up winning the war once and for all!

With lots of love,

Your honest and loving self.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via dzima1.


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

It is an incredibly surreal feeling, knowing this is actually happening: 1,193 days after Harry’s death, the words are finally being spoken out loud. The words that rip my heart out, each time I think on them. The words that I know, without a shadow of doubt, need to be said, need to be heard… and yet I really (quite desperately) don’t want to be the person who speaks them out loud.

Surreal.

It is the other Harrys that become more important than my fear, that keep driving me forward. Every single parent I have spoken to, who has lost a child to death by suicide, has expressed this same sentiment: I would do anything to be able to stop another child doing this, and shield another family from this unbelievably painful loss. We don’t want to continue to meet new members, in this club that no one wants to be a part of.

So this is my anything, then: this is the moment I get to sit in front of a camera and say the words, in the best way that I can today.

In this surreal moment, in my lounge room, I want to whoosh back in time, and instead of placing a hand on either side of Harry’s head, as he sat on the edge of his bed, and kissing his head goodbye, I want to stay, and ignore the fact that I need to go home and eat dinner, and ignore the fact that I need to get up for work the next day. I want to stay, and sit up with him all night, to ensure he makes it into tomorrow.

I want the whoosh so bad, I want my old life back, the life that includes the boyo and has absolutely nothing to do with TV cameras in my living room.

Whoosh.

Even in the night terror zone though, even there, I can find comfort. Last night I was blessed with an incredibly sweet memory of me, 22 years ago, lying in bed with my newborn son. I held my wee miracle baby in my arms in the quiet darkness, and I was completely overwhelmed by the love I felt for that tiny wee dot, sleeping contentedly in my arms.

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Being a mother has given me a strength I would never have believed possible. I am able to sit in my lounge room, and in the most surreal way possible, speak the words that need to be heard. The words that stand staunch, and remind me that depression is an illness, not a weakness. The soft and gentle words, that drift into the darkness inside, and speak quietly to me of lightness and love. The words that whoosh away any lingering stigma, and let me know that it is OK to ask for help.

The words that cry out: because they absolutely must be spoken out loud.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Kuzma

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