What I Would Tell My 9-Year-Old Self Who Wrote, 'I Want to Die'
Editor’s note: This story discusses suicidal thoughts and sexual abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, 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.
When I was 9 years old I wrote in my diary, “I want to die.”
To this day I’m not sure why I wanted to die. But I still remember writing it.
I am not even sure what to say next…
I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder… and that’s just one diagnosis of over 20 things “wrong” with me. However, my PTSD has shifted my life in a way I never thought would even be possible. I had dreams of dancing as long as my heart was beating. I had dreams of traveling around the country and the world exploring art and learning endlessly about the beauty and the struggle of life through the lens of an artist. I had dreams of playing music on stage. I had dreams of becoming a person who could help change the world through art. I was on my way until something changed — something gradually began to suck the life out of me until I could barely walk and move. I was on the couch for a month straight and had to stop dancing. I haven’t danced since the summer of 2011.
I had been living with bipolar disorder type II for a few years after being wrongly diagnosed with unipolar depression. I had it under control with medication, therapy, healthy eating and exercise. A few months before I stopped dancing I started getting intense headaches and small bouts of something that felt like dizziness. The feeling was so strange, like I was somewhat detached from reality and couldn’t see… except I could see. My eyes were seeing, but my mind wasn’t. The headaches became so bad I had to stop dancing. I began to have a buckling right leg and low-grade fevers. Then it was chronic pain everywhere. Then it was abnormal movements on my right side of my body. Then it was what looked like seizures. I was chronically exhausted and had no idea what was wrong with me. Eleven months of doctor appointments and they told me I had psychogenic non-epileptic seizures and basically a neuro-psychologically-based illness called conversion disorder. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I had been doing so well after all the terrible nightmares I went through of struggling with bipolar disorder, two car accidents, numerous injuries from dance, etc… What on earth could cause this psychosomatic illness? I was in complete denial.
It all started coming to me slowly — hint by hint I started having gut feelings of something bad. I wasn’t sure what it was. I began to have unexplained extreme fear and anxiety. I couldn’t sleep at all. I had bouts of dissociation so bad that I had no idea where I was or who exactly was inside of me… After many months of whys, whats, hows, whos, wheres, and endless nightmares, I began to piece together enough evidence.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, ongoing harassment, rape, sexual assault, and car accidents. I don’t want to even admit it.
The turmoil my family has gone through with all this… I can only imagine what my amazing, loving, and giving parents feel. I lost friends and felt like I lost my life.
I lost my ability to dance, to drive for four years now. I have a fear of walking outside half the time. I wake up every morning so anxious I have to take my meds immediately and still feel like I don’t have control. I still have to struggle with acceptance of what happened to me. I struggle with the fact that I barely even remember what the hell happened to me. I had a dissociative break and had to quit working for six months two years ago. I’ve attempted suicide three times and almost tried many other times. My stress is so high, I think I could power the entire city of Chicago with it.
Along with this diagnosis of complex PTSD, I also managed to get endometriosis stage 3, post concussion syndrome, and multiple musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. I think I listed about 22 or so diagnosable ailments.
Here’s how I function:
- I managed to land a job as a pilates teacher with a boss who became my friend and is my landlord and understands my health situation.
- I have two different therapists who work together. One is a somatic experiencer (body-centered therapist) specializing in trauma, and the other helps me with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and trauma work.
- I go to physical therapy for my post concussion syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome and bulging discs in my cervical spine.
- I try to keep up with exercise.
- I try to do as much cooking as I have energy for and learn more about healthy eating.
- I lower my expectations of myself and am OK with not doing dishes or cleaning up.
- I have a dog who helps get me outside.
- I am lucky to have a family and boyfriend to be there for me and help me when they can.
- I allow room for mistakes and misery and then find a way to work with it instead of fighting it. Being perfect is boring.
- I have medication and medical cannabis in Illinois.
- I just do the best that I can.
I have days where I just cannot function, and then somehow I end up making it to the next day.
I think of myself as a warrior. Finding power inside of me is hard because my little self wants to take over a lot. I find my nearly 30-year-old self instead and see if she can be strong for my little self.
If I could go back to my 9-year-old self writing that statement, I would tell her, “You’re the strongest person I know.”
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.
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.
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