What Birthdays Mean to Me as a Suicide Attempt Survivor
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experience suicidal thoughts or have experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
To some, they are just another day. Maybe with the exception of some birthdays when you gain privileges such as driving, voting, drinking or renting a car without extra fees, nothing ever really changes when you turn another year older. It’s not like you wake up and suddenly have matured a year. It’s a gradual process, and your birthday is just a marker along that path.
But to me, birthdays — especially my upcoming 23rd birthday — mean so much more.
I started self-harming when I was in sixth grade. The depression and anxiety that drove me to self-harm continued to get worse as I progressed through middle school. I was in eighth grade when I made my first suicide attempt. I was too scared to tell my parents what happened.
During that time, I remember feeling completely hopeless and convinced that depression and anxiety would take over my life. I remember thinking I wouldn’t live to be 18 years old, because surely by that point, I would have ended my life.
Those years between that day and my 18th birthday are a fuzzy blur of anxiety and depression, drug addiction and rape, coming out and bullying. All I remember is the bad experiences and the twisted sense of hope I had that came from knowing I would end my life soon enough, ending the pain and misery.
It was during these years, shortly after being raped by three students who wanted to “make me straight,” that I made my second attempt. I was 16. It was a way to escape not only the pain, but also the fear that someone would hurt me again. I was an out queer teenager in the deep south with unsupportive parents and very few accepting friends. Matthew Shepard — a gay man who was brutally murdered — was the only gay person I knew about at that time, and his story shook me to my core. I continued to be convinced I would never live to see 18, believing if I didn’t end my own life, someone else would.
But somehow, I woke up on my 18th birthday. I felt shocked, relieved, hopeful and distraught, all at once. I pulled myself together enough for the next year and a half to make the world believe I was OK, to make me believe I was OK. That’s when things started to unravel again, and I spent the next year or so spiraling downwards, convincing myself this time I wouldn’t live to see 21. Three months before my birthday, I made my third — and hopefully last — suicide attempt. This was the only attempt I was ever hospitalized for, the only attempt that came close to actually ending my life. And that scared me.
I started getting serious about recovery, and while the journey is never over, I have come a long way in these past few years. Now I’m able to look back and say I survived. Now I’m able to look forward and say I can continue surviving and thriving. My teenage self never thought I would make it to 18, but here I am, almost five years after, with a desire to keep living as long as possible, so I can do and accomplish all that I dream about.
For a long time, birthdays acted as a sort of countdown of my life, filled with nothing but doom. Now, they serve as a source of hope and strength, reminding me I have and will continue to overcome.
If you’re feeling suicidal, or just needs a safe place to talk, you can call the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Unsplash photo via Annie Spratt.