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People Who Attempt Suicide Need Compassion, Not Criminal Prosecution

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Where I’m living right now, taking your own life or attempting to do so is considered a grave sin and must be punished accordingly. I am currently facing a hefty fine or imprisonment of up to six months for attempting suicide and also for having medication in my possession that is illegal in their country — even though I have a certified prescription from my home country for it. Although I am an expat and not Muslim, I live in their country and must abide by their rules and law.

I had the opportunity to retract my initial statement and “phrase” it differently in order for me to walk free. However, I felt this would deny everything I believed in. I not only wanted to stand firm by speaking the truth even when it was the hardest thing to do, but also not to minimize the toll depression can take on those who live with it. Telling them what “they wanted to hear” would simply sweep this immense problem under the rug and the desperate focus mental health needs will get lost.

Some countries are more focussed on hiding negative statistics, the economic stability a healthy flow of tourists will bring and their image, that they are ignorant as to what is truly going on with the working class and the toll mental health issues have on the emotional well being of its citizens. According to an article published on The National, “Doctors believe that although many know more about mental health issues now, the stigma associated with these still poses a global challenge.” Also, many health insurance companies do not cover psychiatric problems, which adds to the stress and concern of people who cannot afford treatment and then prevents them from seeking further help. Although a lot of effort has been made to bring awareness to mental health issues and thus encouraged people to seek treatment, there is no follow through. So, not only do many expats find themselves alone, without family or friends for support, in a foreign country where they cannot afford the help they so desperately need, but they also face criminal prosecution when they end up hitting rockbottom and attempting suicide.

After leaving the public prosecutor’s office earlier this week after being questioned, alone, for almost an hour, I realized something. I realized why being treated and tried as a criminal for an illness is not going to resolve anything. One of the biggest triggers for my mental health issues is stress, anxiety and lack of sleep. I attempted to take my life early September 2016 and shortly after I was discharged from the hospital, I had to give my statement to the police. They confiscated my passport and the investigation has now been going on for almost six months. Therefore, for six months I have been dealing with feelings of guilt, shame, fear, disappointment, loneliness, despair and agonizing over what will happen with my future — all adding to my worst triggers of being stressed and having anxiety, which leads to little or no sleep.

I understand that I am not exempt from any country’s law, but criminal punishment is not the solution. With depression you already feel like a worthless human being that will not amount to anything and feel like you have failed yourself and everyone around you. To then be ostracized and prosecuted on top of that only adds to the critic inside of you. Instead of sentencing you to prison or inflict a fine that you cannot afford (after all, you did struggle to afford the treatment in the first place) we should be finding ways to help people who struggle with mental health issues. Being new to a foreign country, not knowing many people and only having my husband as a support system, I didn’t know how or where to find help and I didn’t want to be a financial burden. I had to deal with the emotional roller coaster of being a newly wed, quitting my job (therefore being completely financially dependent on my husband) and moving to a Middle-Eastern country, leaving my trusted psychologist of 15 years as well as family and friends behind, and my dog which has been a form of therapy in so many ways. My entire world fell apart and I fell into one of the worst depressions I have ever experienced. Not only is awareness crucial for mental health issues, but creating the means to obtain help is vital. Without help and the proper support system awareness means nothing. Going through this experience has truly humbled me, but also it has been difficult to remember who I am. It is heartbreaking to be treated like a criminal when I am not; I am a good and honest person. People who live with mental illnesses are not “less than” — we are still us. We can still laugh, love, care, dream and hope. We also seek connection and companionship. Mental illness is not reserved for any race, religion, social class or sex. Anyone can fall victim to its cold grip and we must all work together to lift the stigma surrounding it.

Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have known that when I woke up in the hospital, I would face another form of prison. When you find yourself in such a deep, desperate and dark place that you feel like you have to die by suicide just to find peace from the monsters plaguing your mind, I would l say that you have been punished enough and don’t need another prison to do so.

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.

Thinkstock photo via IgorKozeev

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What It Was Like to Be on Suicide Watch in a Psych Ward for 16 Days

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

16 days.

I was in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital on suicide watch for 16 days. I attempted suicide twice within 12 hours. 16 days of eating plastic food, sleeping in a slightly too uncomfortable bed, having meeting after meeting with a psychiatrist, night after night of laying in bed wondering what was to become of me. 16 days of being a psychiatric patient who could barely function some moments.

patient's hospital bed in psych ward

16 days.

It seemed like I was in there forever. The stifling off-white walls and blue hospital gowns submerged in bottles of pills to sedate the pain makes you feel like you’ll never leave once you’ve been admitted. The screams were the worst; patients yelling back and forth at each other and the nurses doing their best to help. An enclosed nightmare is what I would define it as.

author looking into mirror wearing blue hospital gown in psych ward

16 days.

Each day was the same routine: Wake up, have breakfast at 7:30 a.m., take meds at 8:00 a.m., wander around aimlessly until 9:00 a.m., go to groups until 12:00 p.m., have lunch at 12:00 p.m., go to groups until 2:00 p.m., wander around aimlessly until 5 p.m., have dinner at 5:00 p.m., wander around aimlessly until 8:00 p.m., have a snack at 8:00 p.m., wander around aimlessly until 11:00 p.m., go to bed at 11:00 p.m. Repeat the routine again the next day. Over and over and over again. It was sickening.

hospital food in psych ward

16 days.

The deafening echoes of the voices of the other patients jostling around the back of my mind. “Bunch of assholes they are,” “I’m afraid I’m losing God,” “I can’t hear a word you just said,” “I just called the FBI and they will be at the door and they will find the bombs that are all around the building … tomorrow no hospital,” “My husband was murdered, my brother was murdered, my whole family was murdered,” “Nobody ever said that to me before,” “So you’re the one in school,” “What are you studying?”

patient's arm in psych ward hospital with tattoo and apparatus

16 days.

The putrid smells that wreaked the hallways still burn my nostrils. The cries, the pacing of feet back and forth, doors opening and closing, the locked doors, the fights, the squeak of the food trolley arriving, the vicious mood swings, no motivation, the hopeless looks, the doctors and nurses; on and on and on. Like a vicious cycle of horror that never ends.

author in psych ward with hospital bracelets

16 days.

I was one of the lucky ones. I brought a few books to read and my laptop to write and do some schoolwork whenever I felt up to it. It wasn’t often but I managed to get some things done. Other patients took to drawing or doing puzzles or even writing. We got 20 minute breaks throughout the day if we had the green privileges bracelet. I had one.

patient's feet in psych ward

16 days.

I made some amazing friends there. Funny I know, to think you could make friends in the psych ward. But I did. These people were not “crazy” or different to me. They are real people struggling with real illnesses, just like I am. I know that whenever I feel alone and need someone, they will be there. They are my support group just as much as my family and my doctors are.

patient holding coffee cup in psych ward with tattoo on arm

16 days.

I cannot thank those who went through this rough time with me enough. Day after day they were there, loving me and giving me the support I needed. Even when I was acting out or screaming or crying or feeling hopeless, they were there. They walked through fire for me and I am forever grateful. They were a true blessing for me.

patient's table in psych ward with books and flowers

16 days.

This morning at 11:30 a.m., I was discharged from the hospital’s psych ward. I walked the long corridor to the doors leading to freedom and beyond for the very last time. No more blue hospital gowns or plastic food; no more stifling off-white walls, uncomfortable beds and screaming patients. No more scheduled vitals check and blood work. No more of any of it.

patient's armband

16 days.

Now as an outpatient, I am able to return to society and go school. I am able to go for coffee with people I enjoy spending time with. I am able to live with my mental illness in a manageable way. I am in no way “fixed” or 110 percent better. I never will be. But I will do the best I can to live a “normal” life without letting my illness stop me.

16 days.

Recovery is complex, and in no way a “quick fix.” It is grueling and long and can feel useless at moments. I will admit I have felt that way at times during my time in the hospital. I used to think the doctors would make me better and I didn’t have to do anything. Wrong. I had to work my butt off to get to the place I am in right now. It was very difficult for me. Seeing what other patients were dealing with made me feel sorrowful, which made it extra difficult for me to learn how to cope with my illness. Coming from me, recovery is hard!

16 days.

I want to express to you that I am who I am and I will never be able to get rid of my illness or become “fully cured.” Mental illness is something I will live with for the rest of my life. I have accepted that fact. But even though my illness is lifelong, it should not be life-limiting. I should be able to do all the things I want to do, like travel, study, work, etc. I should not have to succumb to the grasping claws of my illness. I am not my illness.

16 days.

Writing this has been freeing for me. I feel more confident in my words and I will hopefully feel the same in my actions going forward. This is a reminder to me that I am worthwhile and a precious gift from God. I am worthy of life and all that it has to offer.

I am human.

xoxo

-E

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.

Images via contributor.

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6 Things I Learned About Recovery From My Stay in a Psychiatric Hospital

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After my first suicide attempt, I had a serious conversation with my family and my doctors and was admitted into a psychiatric hospital. While it wasn’t always easy to be hospitalized, my stay there was very beneficial in many ways. It taught me many things about myself, about recovery and about life. It made me grow and mature psychologically. Here are some of the things I discovered and learned during my stay:

1. Recovery is never a one way trip or a straight, direct road.

There are always ups and downs during recovery, including good days and bad days. Accepting them and dealing with the best way you can is the most important.

2. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down.

So don’t count those times — you’ll only get discouraged. What matters is the number of times you get back up again.

3. Surrounding yourself with positive things and positive people is of utmost importance.

When you struggle with your mental health, your biggest priority should be your own well-being. Don’t waste your time with people that bring you negativity.

4. Taking a break from your usual life and routine may be exactly what you need.

This can help refocus yourself and redirect your life in the right direction. A stay in a psychiatric hospital may be an option offering you that.

5. A hospital stay can give structure to your life.

You may need to learn more structure and need more shape in your life. A hospitalization can also offer you this, if you need it.

6. Happiness is not always a choice.

You cannot always “choose” to be happy, especially if you have a mental illness. However, in some cases, recovery can be a choice. This is because recovery can only occur if you 100 percent want it — it will never happen by chance.

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 monkeybusinessimages.

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How Josh Rivedal, Creator of the i'Mpossible Project, Advocates for Mental Health Awareness

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In honor of World Health Day, I want to introduce you to my good friend, Josh Rivedal, creator of The i’Mpossible Project. Back in 2011, after almost taking his own life and thankfully getting help, he decided to dedicate every day going forward to bringing awareness to mental health issues, suicide prevention, diversity and social change. In 2014, he launched The i’Mpossible Project to encourage others to share their stories. Two years later, he published the project’s first volume of stories, “Reengaging with Life, Creating a New You.” Volume two, “Changing Minds, Breaking Stigma, Achieving the Impossible” will be released this upcoming November 2017.

Josh and I connected through The Mighty. He asked me to contribute a chapter to this latest volume and I happily obliged after learning more about his mission. You can read my story, “Kicking Postpartum’s Ass” and 49 other extraordinary stories of survival by preordering your copy now.

Meet the incredible and incredibly inspiring Josh Rivedal!

Q: Who is Josh Rivedal?

A: “I’m originally a New Yorker living in Los Angeles the past 15 months. I am a former actor (Broadway, regional and I still do voiceovers) and playwright. I have three books out, all on mental health in one way shape or form, and have a fantasy novel series I’m working on selling where all the spells are in Spanish. I created a mental health based curriculum called “Changing Minds,” which incorporates lecture, storytelling and improv theater. I like boy bands (don’t judge), bacon, playing the piano, writing and my kids have two bunnies and a guinea pig that make me smile. The kids make me smile, too.”

Q: What’s The i’Mpossible Project?

A: “Our mission statement says, ‘we’re an organization that creates seminars, workshops, curriculum, books, music and plays designed to entertain, educate and engage on suicide prevention, mental health, storytelling, anti-bullying and diversity.’ Yes, I wrote that for our website so we could look a little fancy schmancy because sometimes that’s how you have to roll. But basically, I started this project back in 2014 first and foremost to help other people tell their stories. I had already been telling my story for almost three years and it was saving and changing lives. I wanted to give back and make my work go beyond and last longer than just me, Josh.”

Q: What is your story?

A: “For more than six years I’ve been telling my personal story via an autobiographical, 30-character, one-man play paired with training in suicide prevention and mental health, ‘Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt.’ I’ve toured internationally with my one-man show in theaters, high schools, universities, juvenile detention centers and one college biology lab. Following my father’s suicide in my early 20s, a lawsuit from my mother over my father’s inheritance and a break up with my long-term girlfriend—all in the span of 20 months—I fell into isolation, silence and melancholy that eventually had me contemplating taking my life. But I got help, first from my mother and then through trusted friends and professional counseling, all because I took a risk and opened up about my pain. Now, after each presentation, I talk about my recovery process and how I found a way to reengage with life. After nearly every show, incredible people — complete strangers who might feel voiceless or worthless or simply unheard — confide in me powerful, personal stories on how they’ve overcome tremendous odds in their lives. These stories not only change my life for the better, but also the life of the storyteller. We each took a chance on ourselves and said, ‘I am possible.’ These stories are a means of celebrating the human spirit, inspiring others to say ‘I am possible,’ and ultimately contributing to improving mental health of its readers.”

Q: What led you to write the book?

A: “Initially it was a blog and then I saw an opportunity to go beyond the web and create something on a different platform that could be passed along from one hand to the next. I saw possibilities that went beyond it being just a book, but more so as a Swiss army knife of sorts or a multi-pronged tool, one which would enable research that would educate on both the art and science about why storytelling is an important component of a healthy society, inform peers and clinicians on how to tell stories more effectively in an effort to leverage action from the listener, demonstrate how stories can be used to drive change from top down (administrators, clinicians, assistants, to consumer) and bottom up (consumer, community representative, legislator), provide framework for peer advocates to tell stories in order to provide hope and healing and to drive change to better inform media messaging (blogs, copywriting, film, ad placement, marketing) on social justice issues, specifically mental health, suicide prevention and diversity. #booyah.”

Q: What stories can we find in volume two?

A: “This one is all on stories of mental illness with hope, healing and humor sprinkled in. These true tales from real people who have achieved incredible feats in the face of overwhelming odds, showing ‘impossible’ is just a state of mind and anything is possible. An entrepreneur using his battle with alcohol abuse to empower others, an award winning high school student who battled bullying, self-harm and an eating disorder to become her best self and an actor who calls his depression ‘my frenemy Dewayne.’”

Q: How did you choose your authors?

A: “Selecting storytellers wasn’t super easy. I knew about half the people in the book and the other half were a mixture of people whose work I was a fan of, bloggers or people doing good work in their field.”

Q: What’s the ultimate goal for The i’Mpossible Project?

A: “Ultimately I’d love to have a multi-volume book series (at least one per year and a minimum of ten different volumes). I want our messaging, seminars, curriculum and media work to help reduce or eliminate the stigma around getting help for mental health conditions and speaking out about social justice issues. I’d like to reduce the suicide rate to zero. And I’d like our curriculum to be adopted in schools and workplace setting all around the globe.”

Q: What’s one last thing you’d like to leave us with?

A: “Be the change you want to see. Someone had to create change for it to be the way it is now. Why can’t you be the spark that lights the fire to change the world? No one is too insignificant to do big things — a mosquito would be considered insignificant until you spend the night with it in your sleeping bag. Get your inner mosquito on and change the world in any way you can.”

To learn more about The i’Mpossible Project and preorder your copy of “Changing Minds, Breaking Stigma, Achieving the Impossible,” click here!

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.

Photo via contributor.

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Why We Need to Prioritize Quality Mental Health Care for LGBTQ Folks

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

Growing up, especially as a teenager, I fought against a plethora of self-destructive tendencies as I came to terms with my sexuality. My depression and anxiety were persistent and overwhelming, and throughout my teenage years, there were scattered instances when I almost took my own life.

Then there were the nights I disregarded the value of my existence — those nights are countless. There were the four hospitalizations for alcohol poisoning, the many mornings of waking up in vomit, the nights of getting home – or not getting home – and having absolutely no recollection of how I how I got there.

Looking back, these moments and behaviors terrify me. I am now overall happy and stable and I have come to love myself. I now treat my mental illness like a physical illness. I do not allow it to take over my life, but I take my self-care seriously, as I know the dire consequences should I not.

Like many people who struggle with mental illness, I felt utterly alone in the battles within my head, completely isolated in my illness. But as I got older, I learned beyond struggling with chronic depression, there was also a correlation between my struggles and my sexuality. LGBTQ people — especially teenagers — have much higher rates of suicide, suicide attempts and substance abuse than their peers.

LGBTQ Health Awareness Week ended a week and a half ago. The week aims to raise awareness about LGBTQ discrimination and disparity within the health care system. At a time in our country when accessible health care is at risk of moving backward – and the recently failed American Health Care Act (AHCA) explicitly threatened coverage for mental health and addiction services – mental health care for LGBTQ people needs to be a major part of this discussion. We cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of quality accessible mental health services for teens, particularly for those who identify as being LGBTQ.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), studies indicate the rate of substance abuse disorders among the LGBTQ community is between 20 and 30 percent, whereas the rate of substance abuse for the general population is closer to 9 percent.

According to the Trevor Project — the leading national organization in providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24 — suicide is the second leading cause of death for all young people ages 10 to 24 (accidents are the first). While their statistics state one out of six high school students nationwide seriously considered suicide in the past year, the rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for young LGB people and two times greater for questioning youth, than that of straight youth. Furthermore, the Trevor Project’s statistics show LGB youth are somewhere between four and six times more likely than their straight peers to have their suicide attempts result in injury, poisoning or overdose that requires medical treatment.

The suicide attempt rates for the transgender community is staggering. The Trevor Project’s statistics state 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt and 92 percent of these individuals reported their suicide attempts happened before the age of 25.

Beyond providing support and services to the LGBTQ teens and youths themselves, these suicide and substance abuse rates can be lowered through societal change, as well. The Trevor Project’s statistics show rejection, bullying and abuse greatly exacerbate the likelihood of an LGBTQ young person resorting to self-harm or suicide. The Trevor project statistics state “LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection” and “Each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times, on average.”

We have to keep talking about these statistics, because they do not just reflect numbers. They tell the stories of real LGBTQ people in pain. As gay activist and journalist Dan Savage says, “It gets better,” but we all have to fight for progress to ensure this message stays true.

If you’re feeling suicidal, or just needs a safe place to talk, you can call the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386.

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

Thinkstock photo via Bet_Noire.

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8 Quotes I Revisit When I'm Having Suicidal Thoughts

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Let’s talk about something more deadly than sharks, snakes, cars and lightning. Let’s talk about something that is seen by some as cowardly, selfish, a sin or simply incomprehensible.

Surviving and fighting on is brave, but I would never call suicide selfish or cowardly. Rather, the intrusive thoughts of suicide can create a cloudy barrier that causes the person affected by it to forget a lot of external things. It’s easy to convince yourself you are a burden when you are not. It is easy to think the world will be better off without you when it will miss you dearly. It is easy to think that this will be the only feeling you will ever feel for the rest of your existence, when that is not true.

I am currently dealing with suicidal thoughts. They are vicious bastards. At the moment my depression is too bad to see the light.

I have to remind myself that the last time I had extremely intrusive suicidal thoughts, a few years ago, and held on, I have had so many wonderful experiences, made some amazing friends and made some treasured memories. And on a more simple level, I have also enjoyed yummy food, funny TV shows, cool movies, nice moments and good hugs. Of course, I since then I have had some pretty rubbish and extremely lonely and heartbreaking times too (I swear, I am not being melodramatic!), but it was worth holding on for the good times.

To get myself grounded, I revisit some of my favorite quotes about suicide:

(Out of context, that was a morbid sentence, but bear with me. These are the ones that resonate with me.)

1. “People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief from pain. Remember that relief is a feeling. And you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel the relief you so desperately seek if you are dead.” — resource from Aston University

2. “You can’t predict when new options might appear. It’s impossible to know what might happen if you just wait two more days. If you act on your thoughts now you’ll never find out what could have been.” — How to Cope With Suicidal Thoughts, WikiHow

3. “You’re cared for. It may feel out of reach now but you will be OK. The world can’t stand to lose you. You matter and you’re here for a reason. You can make it through whatever it is you’re in.” — Reddit user AlexeiVostrikov 

4. “You are loved, more than you have allowed yourself to believe. You are disappointed in yourself far more than you have disappointed anyone else. You have lost sight of what makes you magical and interesting in other people’s eyes. Work really hard to believe this, faking it until you make it. You are never alone, never, never, never. There will be good people who will help you do this.” — Reddit user Odd_Bodkin

5. “Depression is smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.” — Matt Haig, author of “Reasons to Stay Live.”

6. “You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.” — Matt Haig, author of “Reasons to Stay Live.”

7. “I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. Those reasons can stem from the past — the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers — or from the future — the possibilities we would be switching off.” — Matt Haig, author of “Reasons to Stay Live.”

8. “Feeling suicidal is the worst you are ever going to feel. This is it. This is rock bottom. Things cannot possibly get any worse than feeling alone, depressed and suicidal. The only way things will go from here is up.” — my friend, Meg L.

Please don’t just become a memory. Be a comment on Reddit that makes me laugh. Be a video that goes viral that I can thumbs up. Be a stock photo with blinding white teeth for advertisements. Be a new person to meet at a party. Be someone’s best friend when online gaming. Be the baker of an average birthday cake. Be a tired customer at a supermarket.

You can be grumpy and tired and sad and stinky and in pain, as long as you are alive.

Call that helpline. Post on that forum. Tell that loved one. Get professional help. Stay strong, even when you feel weak. Stay safe, even when you want to hurt yourself. Hold on to what could be. You are unique and you are literally irreplaceable.

Follow this journey on Encyclopedia of Recovery.

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.

Thinkstock photo via Stockbyte

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