Queen’s faces of mental illness: Surviving self-harm & depression

As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Lifestyle is featuring personal stories from Queen’s student each day from Oct. 6-10. We’ll be continuing the initiative throughout the year with monthly stories. If you’re interested in submitting a story, please email journal_lifestyle@ams.queensu.ca.

WARNING: This piece talks about self-harm and suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

When I was in high school, I’d read about the concept of self-harm and wondered why anyone would do that. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t understand until it happened to me.

It began when I was in grade 10. I didn’t even notice it happening, I just wasn’t happy. I found that insignificant issues were upsetting me beyond the point of normality. It took the slightest provocation to set me off and I’d be sobbing uncontrollably.

When my mom told me that babies are a lot of work, I began accusing her of regretting my birth. It felt like every time she tried to start a conversation with me, she was accusing me of something.

I thought my friends didn’t care about me and my family didn’t love me. I began cutting myself, to gain a sense of control in my life. When my cousin and friend cancelled plans to see a movie, I did the math, trying to figure out how many pills I’d have to take to kill myself.

My mom saw me and knew this wasn’t normal. These triggers wouldn’t have caused this reaction in me just a year earlier. She pushed me to see a doctor, yet I insisted there was nothing wrong with me and that she was the aggressive one.

When I finally gave in, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and referred to a psychiatrist, who helped me find the right treatment plan. Looking back now, I can see the difference in me. What I thought was my mom’s hostility was really mine. I was completely unaware of myself and it’s frightening to think that if my mom hadn’t been paying such close attention to me, I might have continued to slip away.

Still, through the years, I feel it again — that unbearable pain that I can only describe as everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The urge to hide in a dark room, curl up in a ball and scream until your mind becomes numb in an attempt to cope.

I’m thankful every day for my mom’s love and the part she played in saving me from the struggle that I still deal with from time to time.

When I was thinking of ways to kill myself, I’d think through my options. What would be the fastest, most painless way to end it, without leaving a gruesome mess behind for my family?

I stopped when I thought about my mom finding me. That image was far worse than any pain I felt and that kept me from acting.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Many people don’t have someone as protective and watchful to notice a change and intervene.

Everyone needs to know these signs, so they can recognize the illness in themselves, or someone close to them. It could save a life.

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