Suicide Prevention: My Story
By: Amrit Abbasi (@amritabbasi)
For anyone reading this, thank you so much. Laying out my insecurities, my challenges, my weaknesses – it’s hard. I’m basically laying myself out like an open book that anyone can freely judge. As I sit here and write this, I know I’m putting myself in a very vulnerable position but if even one person can benefit from anything I write, then that’s enough for me.
First off, I’d like to say sorry to anyone I have ever hurt, whether it was one year ago, or ten. I can’t go back and change what took place, but I have learned over the years, through my own struggles, words hurt and they do stick. Whoever had the bright idea of saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” did not know what they were talking about. I am so tired of hearing people say “they’re just words”, because although yes, they are just words, words are extremely powerful. A couple of years ago, I texted the people whose numbers I still had, people who I know I had hurt in the past, and I apologized. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same because it is extremely cleansing and it made me feel so much better about myself as a person. You have no idea how much people think about hurtful words that have been said to them, even if you yourself thought it was something small.
I know you guys are wondering how this all ties into suicide prevention, but in order to tell you, I’m going have to tell you “my story”. I’m not doing this for attention or sympathy or pity. I’m doing this to encourage everyone out there to stop the stigma surrounding mental health/suicide.
When I was around 7-8, I started getting these little “episodes”. The first time it happened, I was at an airport and I remember it as if it were yesterday. The world around me started fading and everyone’s voices were far away. The world was spinning, but not fast, very slow. My heart was beating, my hands were shaking, and I didn’t tell a soul. To this day, I’m still in awe that I was able to ignore it. Then it happened again. At the beach, at the mall, at school, at restaurants. You name the place, it happened there.
Fast forward to 7th grade, and I set up a Formspring account. For those of you who don’t know, Formspring is a website where you can send people questions – anonymous or not. I know, I know, stupid idea. I think the worst part about that experience is I didn’t know so many people hated me. I had a good amount of friends, but I was quiet for the most part. I didn’t know people thought I was ugly and fat and stupid and a b***h, a wh*re, a sl*t. People told me nobody would ever fall in love with me and that I would be better off killing myself. I hated going to school because I knew people were judging me. The worst part? I liked school before that because school was my escape. My home life was a mess. I wish I had the confidence to go into what happened in my household, but I don’t. In my eyes, it was very traumatic. I just remember there was a lot of fighting and screaming and I never, ever considered it to be my home. In my eyes, I didn’t have a home. The violence I experienced at home, through my childhood, changed me as a person. I had nowhere to go anymore and I slowly sunk into depression. This is also around the time where I started losing faith in my parent’s religion.
Once I had gotten to 8th grade, I had pushed practically everyone away. I started skipping school. I knew people were asking about me, but I ignored it. I heard people talking about possible self-harm and I ignored it because I was terrified of confronting the truth. I wasn’t concerned with my well being. Although I had had “episodes” in the past, they got worse and worse. My parents didn’t understand and didn’t know what to do. They went from calmly asking me, to screaming at me every day, asking me what I was doing with my life. Did I want to be successful? Did I want to go to school? Did I even want to have a life? Truth is, I didn’t know anymore. Finally after months of skipping school practically every other day, my mom took me to the doctor. I was diagnosed with GAD and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. You’d think that after you find out what’s wrong with you, after searching for years, you’d finally feel at peace with yourself. But you don’t. In my case, I hated myself more. It’s like, after I was diagnosed, it was finally real and I was officially f**ked up. Maybe they were right. Maybe I really did amount to nothing. I started therapy and after a few sessions, my parents pulled me out, believing I was “cured”.
For those of you don’t know and are too lazy to do a quick internet search, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) is “a psychological disorder characterized by excessive or disproportionate anxiety about several aspects of life, such as work, social relationships, or financial matters”, or in other words constant worry about practically everything that goes on in your life. Panic Disorder is “a psychiatric disorder in which debilitating anxiety and fear arise frequently and without reasonable cause”, or in other words getting scared for no reason at all which then forces on a panic attack. Lastly, Agoraphobia is “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed”, or in other words. being scared of and usually avoiding places where a lot of people around (which then triggers a panic attack). I usually just tell people it’s a fear of being in public because it essentially is. Every time I walk out of my house, I am putting myself at risk of a severe panic attack aka the “episodes” I was referring to.
As freshman year rolled around, I decided to change my outlook on life and be positive. I went into high school happy. I think what people don’t understand is I had dreams for school. I used to imagine myself surrounded with many, many people. I imagined being class president. I imagined going to parties and messing around because that’s what teenagers do. But it didn’t happen. Freshman year wasn’t terrible, but I was almost just walking through my days numb. Same routine every day. I still skipped school. I had friends but I only had a couple I could actually rely on. I smiled a lot for show. I tried to tell my story during Be The Change (an event you can look into if you’d like), but I choked. I know I should have gotten help then, but I didn’t. No one ever told me what a mental illness was. No one ever told me that it was serious. Perhaps I thought I was overreacting. I didn’t want to be selfish. So, I kept quiet.
Sophomore year was the worst year of school I ever had. My family was having problems again during the summer, and I entered the year completely depressed. I walked into school every single day (well, the days I wasn’t skipping) with my headphones in, my music blasting as loud as it could go. I lost so many friends that year. Only a couple people stuck around (one who still continues to support me from 200 miles away!!), dealt with my mood swings, and loved me unconditionally, and I could never be more thankful for them. Finals week came around and while taking my first final of the day (second day of finals), I suffered from a panic attack, and slowly started slipping into unconsciousness on the way back from the bathroom. Although I was scared of school before, this event completely traumatized me. I was terrified of going to school. I spent all day in the counselor’s office, every day. Some of my teacher’s even became snappy with me. They didn’t understand. Nobody did. My mom pulled three of my classes and I started taking those online. When you’re depressed, you have absolutely no motivation, and I knew that. After trying for a couple months, I gave up and I failed all three classes. Would I graduate? Maybe. Maybe not. But I didn’t care about anything.
Junior year I had switched to doing Running Start/Dual Enrollment in hopes that I could regain control of my life. I did really well with my grades, even making up the classes I had failed the year before. I felt better knowing that I didn’t have to go to high school anymore, but I was in no way “cured”. Junior year was a good year in the way that I avoided any situation where I could have a panic attack. I was very lonely though. I only talked to a couple people all year. I tried to figure out my place in life. I decided I was going to start up a Mental Health Club at school and although I put all my effort into it, it just didn’t work out. I’m still hoping to start that up this year.
So now here we are. I’d just like to say that I am not this person people think I am. I’m so hurt when people think I’m lazy when I’m actually unable to leave my room some days. People think that the reason I don’t go to school events is because I’m a b***h and I don’t appreciate the effort people put into these events, but THAT IS NOT TRUE. I wish I could go. God, I wish I could be a normal teenager and go to football games and cheer at pep rallies and walk into class every day. But it’s so incredibly hard for me to do so. My biggest memory from high school is spending days eating lunch in the bathroom because no one cared enough to ask if I was okay. You see that s**t in the movies and one day you’re doing the same exact thing and it hurts. My whole point of this is to please open your eyes and look around you. Talk to people who are isolated from everyone. Compliment everyone. LOVE EACH OTHER. If people would have done this for me, I imagine it would have been a much better experience for me. If the few friends that I do have gave up on me (you guys know who you are), I would not be here today. I am trying to emphasize that you guys cannot sit in these cliques for the rest of your lives and ignore people that don’t fit your ideal friend group. High school is the smallest part of your life. 20 years from now, no one’s going to give a f**k that Johnny was the quarterback of the football team (sorry, Johnny). You know what people are going to remember? They’re going to remember the people who brought a little light to their dark days. I recently just started therapy again, and although medication was my last resort, I also was put on an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication after being diagnosed with clinical depression. It is so amazing to get everything off of your chest. If you’re struggling, please talk about it. It is okay to talk about this. It’s not anything to be ashamed about. I am not ashamed of who I am and the battle I have fought. The battle that I am still fighting. You shouldn’t be either. Everyone is fighting a battle, even if it is something small. Instead of creating more war, help people fight their battles. Spread love. Spread positivity. Give people chances. Again, if you’re suffering, please get help. Please talk about it. Please stop the stigma around this.
Lastly, to anyone who ever told me I wasn’t good enough. To anyone who said I was incapable of being loved. To anyone who ever said I should take my own life:
I am good enough. I am loved.
I deserve to live.
And so do you.