Milly Smith Shares Side-by-Side Photos to Show 'Being Suicidal' Isn't Always What You Think

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When someone dies by suicide, the grief that follows often comes with shock. How could a person who seemed so [fill in the blank here] kill themselves? These deaths often teach us that suicide does not discriminate. There is no “type of person” who takes their life, and the signs of being suicidal might not be as obvious as we think.

To show that being suicidal doesn’t have a “look,” Milly Smith, who runs the Instagram account @selfloveclubb, posted two pictures of herself struggling with suicidal thoughts. In one, she looks more “classically” depressed. In another, she’s smiling and wearing makeup.

Tw: talk of suicidal tendencies. . “You don’t look suicidal”… I remember these words coming from the Dr’s mouth right after I’d just told him that I was having thoughts of suicide. I remember in that moment my 14 year old self felt invalidation, dumb and embarrassed; something no one in that mindset should have to feel. I left feeling confused, what was I supposed to look like? A bottle of pills in one hand and a suicide note in the other? Those words nearly cost me my life, that judgment, those stupid stupid words. . I remember the night just last year that I spiralled and overdosed in my living room. I remember thinking to myself “I can’t get help, I don’t look suicidal, I don’t fit the bill, they’ll laugh at me”. I remember thinking I must have looked the part, must have been wearing the suicidal costume properly when I woke up in Resus as all around me were concerned, worried and sad faces. By then this could have been too late, i might not have been there to see those sad faces if my partner hadn’t of saved my life. . This, this is the danger of thinking mental health has a ‘face’,a ‘look’. This is how stigma, ignorance and judgement towards mental health/suicide affects those who are poorly. . In both these photos i’m suicidal, perhaps not in the same way but on both of these days I had suicidal thoughts racing around. . Stop the judgment. Stop the stigma.

A post shared by Milly Smith ????????☀️???? (@selfloveclubb) on

When Smith was 14 years old and struggling with suicidal thoughts, a doctor told her she “didn’t look suicidal.” This comment made her feel invalidated and ashamed.

“This is the danger of thinking mental health has a ‘face,’ a ‘look,'” she wrote. “This is how stigma, ignorance and judgment towards mental health/suicide affects those who are poorly.”

Smith is known for busting stereotypes on her Instagram, which has over 163,000 followers. In the past, she’s posted about her chronic illness, the physical side effects of medication and about how depression doesn’t have a look.

You can read her full post about being suicidal below: 

“You don’t look suicidal”… I remember these words coming from the Dr’s mouth right after I’d just told him that I was having thoughts of suicide. I remember in that moment my 14 year old self felt invalidation, dumb and embarrassed; something no one in that mindset should have to feel.

I left feeling confused, what was I supposed to look like? A bottle of pills in one hand and a suicide note in the other? Those words nearly cost me my life, that judgment, those stupid stupid words.
.
I remember the night just last year that I spiralled and overdosed in my living room. I remember thinking to myself “I can’t get help, I don’t look suicidal, I don’t fit the bill, they’ll laugh at me”

.
I remember thinking I must have looked the part, must have been wearing the suicidal costume properly when I woke up in Resus as all around me were concerned, worried and sad faces.
By then this could have been too late, i might not have been there to see those sad faces if my partner hadn’t of saved my life.
.
This, this is the danger of thinking mental health has a ‘face’,a ‘look’. This is how stigma, ignorance and judgement towards mental health/suicide affects those who are poorly.
.
In both these photos i’m suicidal, perhaps not in the same way but on both of these days I had suicidal thoughts racing around.
.
Stop the judgment.
Stop the stigma.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Lead photo via SelfLoveClubb on Instagram

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When You Have to Find Reasons to Live Every Morning

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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.

Every day when I wake up, I have to decide if I’m going to live or die. I think this is a question a lot of people don’t notice they answer, as they always chose to live. They may never have reasons to choose otherwise. But each night, as I escape from the torment of my mind, I know I will have to decide in the morning to stay or to go.

Some days, I have better reasons than other days. On a good day, my reason to live will be to see my niece grow or enjoy the snow of the coming winter. I look forward to the changing of the seasons, the spices of autumn and Halloween. I find things that make me want to stay alive in the long term and see what life has to offer. Sometimes I can afford for these reasons to be off into the future a ways. Other times, on the not so good days, those reasons can’t coax me out of the thoughts. On these days, I search for anything, anything at all that I can find some sort or meager excuse to live for, and I give myself a reprieve; “If you make it to this, then you can reconsider. Once you’ve gotten this, you can see if there are any more reasons.”

Sometimes, I wake and can’t identify a single reason I’d like to stay alive. Everything seems painful, useless, hopeless and lost. On those days, even the smallest excuses to postpone my suicide are sufficient. I want to hug my cat one last time. I’d like do the dishes so my partner doesn’t have to do them. I’d like to style my hair. I want to listen to that one song, just one more time. I want to feel the pressure of putting my wedding ring on. I want that plushie I ordered in the mail to get here. I want to get Italian ice. I want to let the waves of the Atlantic splash upon my feet. I want a cup of tea. I’d like a bite of chocolate.

Every day I try to find reasons, big or small, to put off my suicide. Just one more song. Just one more sunrise. Just one lasts goodbye. Just one more dinner at my favorite café.

And sometimes I worry and wonder what it will be like when I wake up and can find no more reasons. I hope that day never comes. I hope I can always find something worth staying for.

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 vgorbash.

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Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Still Surviving My Husband’s Suicide

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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.

In my opinion “suicide survivor” is such a strange term, but I haven’t thought of a better one yet. “Suicide survivor” sounds to me like someone attempted suicide and lived, but that’s not what it means. The term “suicide attempt survivor” applies to the scenario of someone who survives his or her own attempted suicide. By contrast, I am a suicide survivor, meaning I have survived my husband’s suicide.

I’m not sure one ever reaches a point where she has “survived” her husband’s suicide. Done. Check. Finished. Love doesn’t work that way. Loss doesn’t work that way. It’s not over. It evolves with me. I will not get over it. I incorporate it. I integrate it. I still — yes, 10 years after the fact — talk about Sam and his suicide. I learn to live with it, but it’s not that I simply subsist in a state of melancholy. I find meaning and love and joy. I live my life with passion and integrity and gratitude and laughter and intention and momentum and a full home and an even fuller heart. None of which cancels out Sam’s death. None of which precludes the sporadic incidence of debilitating fear and heart-stopping anxiety. Loss and love and joy exist together. A big, beautiful mess of a life. That’s what it’s like.

Let me be clear on the issue of being widowed: All the ways to become a widow suck. There is no better or worse here. There is only bad. Period.

I still receive mail and even the occasional phone call for Sam, usually telemarketers, but also our local frozen yogurt joint letting Sam know his favorite peanut butter fudge will be featured this week. Some days this irritates me; some days it amuses me; some days it reduces me to tears. His photographs are in albums, in frames on the piano and displayed prominently on the family room wall. His handwriting appears on a random Post-it note, an old anniversary card and inside the front cover of a book. I introduce Sam’s cousins as mine, not only because it is easier than explaining the relationship, but after all we’ve been through together, I’ve simply commandeered them as my own. “Cousin,” for the record, is a word I love. There’s no confusion about cousins. Everybody knows a “cousin” might be a blood relative or might be that person (regardless of relation) who shows up at all the critical moments with a glass of champagne or a hug or both. The one who knows exactly what to say or when to sit silently. The one you count on. Now I even call Sam’s mother and father mine, because they have been parenting me for 27 years. Some days this annoys me, some days it makes me laugh. Some days their constant love humbles me to the point of tears.

I think about Sam every day — in phrases I hear that he would have said or would have found amusing, in restaurants he enjoyed, in experiences we shared, when I happen into a classmate of ours at lunch on Lake Avenue. In moments I wish he could see for himself, especially when I look into the eyes of his sons, or watch them graduate, or laugh at the hilarious things they say, or hold them tight when they crash and when life has disappointed them again. His children are suicide survivors, too.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but then it was.

Somehow this man I had known and loved for 17 years lost his way. Somehow he left me, his children, his mind and a note behind on that clear, fall Saturday afternoon, in an effort to end whatever emotional and physical pain he had been enduring. It was impossible to believe, but somehow it was true. The psychologists call this step in the process “radical acceptance,” meaning you don’t have to condone the event, but you do have to accept it, which sounds abundantly reasonable and straightforward — in theory. In practice, my first thoughts every morning for months were, This is not my life. This cannot be my life. This was not supposed to be my life.

I did not want Sam’s suicide to define our lives, but like the lightening bolt scar on Harry Potter’s forehead, Sam’s suicide has marked us in significant, permanent ways. Suicide is a complicated death — the ensuing recovery is likewise marked with an array of feelings, stigma and setbacks. In the balance somewhere between the crushing punches of abandonment, betrayal and death and the light-filled promises of presence, love and joy, we press our way forward. We aren’t done yet. We carry Sam’s legacy with us – his laughter, his intelligence, his warmth, as well as his fears, his flaws, his death. We carry him in his wholeness, as a husband, son and father, as a competent professional and as a man who struggled with debilitating back pain and depression. We continue to heal. We persevere, we laugh, we thrive. We are a family who lives with joy and disappointment, and laughter and tears; we remember, we pray, we hope.

If “suicide survivor” means Sam’s suicide didn’t kill me, then I guess the term is accurate, but I bristle at the limits set within the words themselves. I don’t want to be identified by the ways in which I’ve struggled (or the ways he did). It is true that his suicide was unimaginably hard to recover from, but “suicide survivor” puts too much emphasis on my widowhood and not enough opportunity for my post-widow-life. I do not want to be merely a survivor, I want to thrive. I want to be a warrior princess, an emissary for hope. I want to be named after an ancient goddess. I want a superpower and a cute outfit, but “Wonder Widow” gives an altogether wrong impression.

I do not mean to understate the gravity of Sam’s death. I do not want to imply that his death was somehow a gift. His life was the gift. Life and death are intertwined, of course, but suicide is unbearably confusing. If Sam had perhaps suffered a fatal heart attack from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect while he was picking up trash at the park after the kid’s soccer game, or died in a fatal car accident en route downtown to volunteer to feed the homeless, we might have experienced less shame, but the loss would still have been unfathomably painful. Somehow he thought we could live without him, and I resented his confidence. Somehow, we did, and I drew strength from his faith in us. That he could leave us both infuriated and comforted was one of the conundrums we have learned to live with.

“Suicide survivor” does not begin to speak to the full range of my experience. Then again, neither does the more familiar word “widow.”

When Pandora came to earth as a mortal, she was given a jar, but she was not told its contents. When she opened the lid, as any self-respecting, curious, intelligent woman would do, a tumult of evils — death, pain, selfishness, neglect, illiteracy, menopause, exclusivity, narcissism, cancer, gossip, fear, poverty, pride — quickly flew out to afflict mankind, each wielding its own unique brand of ugly. But a single blessing remains in the jar: hope. Her name is Elpis.

Too bad “Princess Elpis” sounds like a total drip.

Hope seems so small a power against everything evil — her small, pale, yellow self sitting humbly at the bottom of the jar, too slow to fly off with all the nasties on their worldwide adventures, her gossamer wings still folded neatly at her sides. She speaks softly but confidently, I’m here. I’m with you. I will not leave your side.

She seems a singularly unremarkable force against so formidable a foe.

When Sam completed his death, he unleashed all manner of horribles. Doubt, shame, shock, blame, fear, abandonment, suffering, sorrow, listlessness, confusion, loss, guilt, rage, regret, isolation. They swirled around me and my sons and our extended family and friends with a fervor that left us breathless. Hope seemed fanciful and ineffectual in the face of so much pain, a total myth. And yet… she was relentless with her loving presence.

Despite the overwhelming darkness, light did shine.

Friends showed up on my doorstep with tears in their eyes and gallons of ice cream in their hands. Telephone calls, notes and emails all arrived with messages of love, love for me, love for my children, love for Sam. Even on my darkest days, I had something to be grateful for. I had two reasons to get up and going every morning. I survived. I was determined that my sons would go on to have lives filled with love and joy and faith, but this would require that I likewise continue to build a life with more love and more joy and more faith. I moved from breath to breath. Within the terrifying silence, I began to hear a soft heartbeat and a voice I recognized: I am here. I am strong. This is my life.

If you had told me 10 years ago that Sam would end his life on a clear blue October afternoon, leaving me and our two young sons, I would have told you that you should really stop smoking whatever you were smoking. If you had continued predicting my future, insisting I would later fall in love with a handsome widower and open my heart to his two teenage sons, that we would get married, blend together a family with our four sons, two cats and a dog and add an “ours” puppy to the mix, I would have told you that you should really share whatever you were smoking.

That was never going to happen. But then it did.

Finding my way after Sam’s suicide was not something I ever anticipated having to do. It was harder than I could have imagined, but my life is also more blessed and meaningful than I could have dared to dream. I am not merely surviving; I am living a full and beautiful life.

There is, I should note, one aspect of the term “suicide survivor” that appeals to me. There is a whole community of beloved souls who call themselves suicide survivors: parents, children, spouses, siblings, friends and partners who have lost a loved one in this terrible way and who continue to find light in their lives. The loss might have introduced us to each other, but it is the love that unites us, a shared faith that death cannot extinguish the light of those we love, a mutual hope another’s suicide will not overshadow our own lives. This community embodies the untold possibilities for those who continue to live whole-heartedly.

I haven’t yet come up with a better term than “suicide survivor,” but when I do, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, I will say this: I am a suicide survivor.

sam

Follow this journey on Sushi Tuesdays.

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.

Photos via contributor.

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This Wedding Story Proves Small Gestures Can Have a Big Impact on Someone Who's Suicidal

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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.

Preventing suicide seems like (and most of the time is) a terribly complex and daunting task. From advocating for means reduction to fighting for policies that make health care more accessible, it’s a worldwide issue that can feel intimating to tackle.

But sometimes, suicide prevention also looks smaller. A text. A kind gesture. A memory. A song.

A story posted on Quora is an example of what little gestures can mean to someone who’s suicidal. Kevin Walsh, who was answering the question, “What is one moment in your life you thought could only happen in a movie?” told a moving story how his future-wife stopped him from attempting suicide when he was a senior in high school.

He wrote:

Once upon a time I was 13 at a summer camp and the prettiest girl I’d ever seen walked right up to me and said “black is a good color on you.” No idea why. We chatted and became friends, exchanged AIM screen names (it was the time) and stayed in touch for a while.

photo of Kevin Walsh and his wife when they were young
Photo via Kevin Walsh

We fell off each others’ radar some time in high school, but I can promise you that not a day went by that I didn’t think about that girl. Even now I’m not sure I can say why – something about her just stayed with me.

In my senior year I went through some dumb high school stuff that seemed earth-shattering at the time, and fell hard into depression. I resolved to take my own life, wrote a note and went to where I planned to end things.

Somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds before I would have committed suicide, my phone rang. I checked the caller ID – I couldn’t die not knowing. It was a number I didn’t recognize, so I picked up and it was her.

I asked her what was up and she said she just felt like she had to call me. At that point it had been a year since we had spoken, and at that moment she just had to call. Long story short, she pried, I spilled the beans and she talked me out of it. I mean she literally said “What? Don’t do that.” And that was that.

She made me promise to call her the next day, and we hung up. That night I started writing the words which, ten years later, I’d propose with.

 Kevin Walsh and his wife on their wedding day
photo via Kevin Walsh/photo credit Chantal Pasag

 

 

 

We wanted to know who else had an amazing story like this, so we asked people in our community to share with us surprising or seemingly small moments that helped them when they were feeling suicidal.

Here are some of the stories they shared with us:

I was Googling least painful ways to die, and Google recommended I call the suicide hotline. I had just locked myself in the bathroom and was 100 percent set on doing it. I called because I didn’t want to be alone, but the person on the other end of the line talked me down and saved my life.” — Nadia N.

“Something deep down inside of me said that I am stronger than my illness, that I could overcome these feelings, that I was worth happiness. Glad I listened to that inner voice or I wouldn’t be here today.” — Carrie W.

“When I was close I was sitting by a bridge crying and people were just walking past ignoring me. One person stopped and asked me if I was OK. He stayed and talked to me for a while until I was brought home. That stranger saved my life.” — Jaclyn D.

“I was on the tube station platform waiting… and then l fleetingly saw the driver and the thought of what he would feel — the guilt and the horror — stopped me. Strangely, not thoughts of the affect upon my family or friends, the impact upon a total stranger stopped me.” — Tracey W

“When I was 17, I was preparing myself. Giving away my possessions to close friends. I went to school where a friend had invited me to church that Wednesday night for youth. I had said yes and ended up going that night. Sure enough, the youth pastor was talking on the subject of teen suicide. I felt like she was speaking directly to me, she made me realize how much I had to live for. Now it’s almost 10 years later and I am married with three beautiful children. I never thought I’d be able to live such a beautiful life, but here I am, still thriving..” — Tara S.

“As I was about to go through with it, my phone got a text. It was a friend (now my partner) telling me that they loved and cared about me, that something inside was screaming for them to tell me right then and there. I still struggle with the thoughts and ideation, but I haven’t made a serious attempt since that last one.” — Erik T.

“I had a friend write on his Facebook page his final goodbye and it shook me to the core. I was going to try myself around that same time. Instead of me trying, I reached out to help him and reached out for help for myself…” — Laine W.

“My niece being born. It’s a bit strange since she’s not my actual child, but I suddenly felt hopeful about the future. She’s now 3 and has a nearly year old baby brother. I’m grateful every day for changing my mind.” — Jane L.

“I held the pills up to my mouth and there was a small voice inside of me that said, ‘Not today. Give it one more day. Tomorrow will be different.’ And the next day was different. I was still having thoughts but I wasn’t actively suicidal. That’s now my mantra. One more day.” — Sandy S.

“Believe it or not, I was ready but I heard a sound. I looked up and there I saw a dog. We made eye contact and I just couldn’t do it after that. He just looked at me with those eyes that asked ‘But why?” His name was Dash. He was a mix breed. He wasn’t even my dog.” — Tessa Z.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins Open Up About Depression and Suicide

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The music world and its fans have still been processing the deaths of both Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, who recently died by suicide within a few months of each other. Now, the Foo Fighters have joined the ranks of musicians speaking out about depression and suicide to let fans know they’re not alone.

In an interview with radio station The Rock FM, Foo Fighter bandmates Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins got candid about how both Cornell’s and Bennington’s deaths affected them.

“When it comes to someone like Chris Cornell or Chester, depression is a disease,” Grohl said. “Everybody kind of goes through it their own way. I can’t speak for anybody else’s condition, but the hardest part is when you lose a friend. And I just always automatically think of families and band mates, because going through something like suicide, it’s a long road.”

Grohl is no stranger to suicide loss. The Foo Fighters frontman played drums in Nirvana when its lead singer Kurt Cobain died by suicide in 1994.

He said people need to take mental health and depression more seriously:

There’s a stigma attached to it. That’s unfortunate, because just like you take care of yourselves in every other way, I think that it’s important for people to really try to take care of themselves in that way too. And it ain’t easy, life’s hard.

Hawkins added that you never know what people are going through, no matter how successful they are. The drummer said:

That just goes to show you, it doesn’t matter what’s in your bank account, or how many hits are on your YouTube page, or all that kind of crap. It all goes out the window if you’re not feeling right… If it looks like someone’s down — way down — check on them.

You can watch the entire interview 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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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I Planned My Suicide Weeks in Advance

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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.

Last December I attempted to end my life. Everyone thought it was a spur of the moment decision. It wasn’t. It was planned for weeks before.

I had decided what my very last meal would be, where I would be, how I would do it and I knew why I wanted to leave. All I needed to decide was when. It didn’t go as planned, and for that I am grateful. If it had of gone as originally planned I am certain I would not be here today. My last meal was going to be pancakes, chocolate and nachos. I wanted to be at home. And I knew I didn’t want to be here for a single day of 2017.

I was so depressed last year, I was working in a place where I was bullied and made to feel worthless by some of my co-workers. I was angry at the world, I didn’t understand how come I had a mental illness and other people were fine. I was upset I had lost so much weight. I hated myself because I had self-harmed again.

Nobody knew I felt this way or what I had planned. I appeared happy. I would go to the gym every day and fake a laugh and smile. Sometimes the smiles were real, but rarely.

The gym is my happy place. I love the gym, the ladies there are amazing and treat me like a person, not an illness. I would go to work and I loved my job and some of my co-workers were amazing. Some of my co-workers treated me poorly, like I couldn’t do anything because I had health problems and like I didn’t have feelings. I tried talking about it and ended up feeling worse. After work I would go home, binge eat and cry myself to sleep.

I hated my body, I had lost half my body weight and was mortified about how wobbly my thighs were and I hated my arms. I was told every day how good I looked, but I never believed anyone. I am my own worst critic. I had been self-harming again. Not only did I feel like I had failed because of that, I knew the scars would be permanent and didn’t need to be reminded of my feelings.

I wanted to die. I just had to work out when. I was going to slip away at home and thinking about it made me so happy. I ended up attempting to end my life in my workplace, after a particularly bad moment. If it hadn’t been for my co-workers calling the ambulance for help, I would be dead. I am thankful to them for saving me. I wish I had never attempted to end my life but I’m so thankful it didn’t happen as I originally planned. I would not be here today if it had. I am so grateful for my life now. It’s not perfect, but it’s my life. I am so appreciative of all my imperfections now because they make me who I am.

I am self-harm free since that night.

I am a different person since that night.

I am heavier now, but I no longer let the scales define me. I feel happy, the number on the scales in no way defines how happy I should be.

I no longer let anyone make me feel worthless. If anyone makes me feel bad about being who I am, I make the decision to be kind to them, but not keep them as a friend.

I smile and laugh every day now, and there is a light in my eyes again.

I am more positive about things in my life.

I no longer go to the gym to lose weight, I go to the gym to feel happy and fit, to be strong and to feel confident.

I am more confident now than I have ever been.

I am thankful I am alive.

I always was told that life gets better, but I never believed it to be true. I was wrong. No matter what is happening to me, it will work out in the end.

No matter what is happening in your life, know you are loved and cared about. Know that you are amazing. You are strong and life is worth fighting for.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself, you are worth it.

It really will get better.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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

Thinkstock photo via MariyaLavchieva

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