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My Mental Illness Stole Months From My Memory

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or suicidal ideation, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Every now and then I get reminders. Little triggers that take me back to where I used to be. I have completely lost whole months of my life to mental illness. It was so awful and dark and I was so ill, I simply cannot remember it. My mind has chosen to erase it from my memory, perhaps to protect itself. Perhaps because the pain of remembering is so much worse than not knowing.

Even now, years later, people tell me stories of things I did at my worst. In moments of desperation, hopelessness and fear. Words that came out of my mouth, violence towards those who loved me and so desperately wanted me to be well. People say I screamed and cried for hours on end, day after day. That I was so desperate to die. And that sometimes, while being held down by eight members of staff on the floor of the seclusion room, people were physically injured because of me. Hell, people lost their jobs because of me. People now see therapists because they were the ones who found me seconds away from death and I guess that kind of thing stays with you.

I make no excuses for how I behaved while I was ill. Yes, I was ill, but I’m ashamed and saddened by actions. Mental illness turned me into a monster and I destroyed real, human relationships because of it. I am incredibly grateful to those who still chose to love me when I was at my most unlovable and that is something I will never be able to repay them for.

I read reports about my own life and remember nothing and that scares me. And the worst part is I don’t know how much else I did that I cannot remember.

I don’t know if I will ever have all the pieces. Some of the things that went on inside my head didn’t make enough sense to be documented.

It’s little mundane things we take for granted that remind me of the hell I went through.

Right now the pieces of the past are still fresh, wounds still open. But I am learning. I’m learning to get dressed for college without thinking first of the strings in my hoodie. And when I sharpen my pencil I am grateful not to think about the blade in the sharpener, but instead that I can draw more accurate graphs in maths. And when I put on my necklace that matches those of my friends, it reminds me people care about me and I’m not as alone as I think.

Because every day is a struggle no matter how many times I thought it was the end, the truth remains, I survived. I don’t believe in the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The things that didn’t kill me have left scars that may never go away. I believe you make yourself strong. You might not notice you are doing it, but every day you wake up and fight, you grow stronger. Don’t let anyone minimize your personal strength. You didn’t choose to get ill, but you have to choose to recover. You make yourself strong, so you can put yourself back together.

Maybe one day I will make sense of it all. But at this moment, all I have is now.

Yes my past hurts, but I consider myself stronger for having endured it. And though I can’t go back, I have a future waiting to be written and it looks nothing like my past.

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.

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Thinkstock photo via isaxar.

Originally published: April 4, 2017
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