Thankfully, I’m Alive: Raw, Real, and Relevant

We talked about National Suicide Prevention Week last week, but it was more information and facts based, rather than transparency based. 

I feel it’s important for me to be honest about my past and present when it comes to my own mental health. That way if you are reading this, you can know you are truly not alone. 

My anxiety/depression journey started while I was in college living in Greenwood.

I have had anxiety since I was a kid, (manifested in different ways—another transparency topic in the future), but not necessarily the depression side of it.

In high school and some of college I was a genuinely, happy person. 

I was always on the go, always making new friends, and ambitious as hell… then life took over and I did not know how to properly cope with everything being thrown at me.

 I ignored it for a while because I did not know what I was feeling, or why, or how to make it stop, so I pushed it away.

“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.”  J.K. Rowling 

I believe these underlying feelings are a subconscious reason I chose the counseling path after receiving my teaching degree. I felt led to help people. I didn’t want people to feel the way I felt (especially children).

While I was in graduate school I did a lot of partying, making bad decisions, etc. and while I felt it helped at the time… ultimately it led me to feeling lonely inside. 

I started retreating from family, friends, acquaintances, and anyone I knew in general. 

If people came over to our house and I wasn’t mentally prepared to hangout with anyone, I would go sit back in my room with the door closed for my own peace of mind. 

I did not understand why all of these anxious feelings were making me feel this way? 

I could talk to a brick wall before I started getting these feelings, so I didn’t understand what was happening?!

I finally decided to tell one of my doctors what I was feeling and he started me on a low-dose anti-depressant. I am not against medicine by any means, but some of them do not work for some people, while it’s the best thing invented for someone else. 

It is definitely a trial and error process trying to find what works for you. 

Some people do well with the first medicine they are given and that’s great, but we do have to understand there is no magic pill.

 It does not mean you have to be on a medicine forever; some people find forever is what works best for them, but others can take it for a short time to “re-balance” and then take it on and off (under doctors orders of course). 

It’s personal preference between you and your doctor. 

The medicines (yes, plural) I tried first (before I took the DNA test to see which medicines would work best for me) did not help. 

One of them I specifically remember making me feel like I was spiraling down a long tunnel that I would never be able to climb up from. I did not know what to do. I was studying all of this; why couldn’t I understand why it was happening to me?

I left Greenwood to pursue a dream of living and counseling in Brooklyn. I was there on and off for a little over a month bouncing around, finding an apartment, interviewing, etc. and things just weren’t right. 

I thought I had found the place I was meant to be, so why are all of the signs pointing me the other direction? 

I prayed endlessly trying to find direction. 

I screamed to God to help me, help me find my way. 

One cold January morning I was supposed to meet my broker to look at an apartment that we thought would work. He called and said he double booked so he had to meet with the other person, and then would head my way. 

No big deal.

He told me to find the key in the lock box and just show myself around. 

I could not, for the life of me, get that damn key out of the lock box. 

I finally got it out after cussing and who knows what else. I head up to check out the apartment and the key will NOT work in the door. I am not joking when I say I sat there for 20 minutes trying to get this key to work.

 I finally decided to start praying right there and I just asked God, “Listen, I am ready (sort of) to accept that this is not my place if this is not where I am meant to be, but please let me know. I need a sign. Let this key slide right in and if so, I know you are telling me this isn’t my place.”

 I took a breath, gathered myself for what was about to happen, and tried the key one more time. 

It went right in, effortlessly, like it was made for the door.  (Lol)

I called my broker and told him I couldn’t do this anymore and I appreciated him helping me. I then stood in the middle of a bustling, Brooklyn street and just cried. 

I bawled like a baby. 

I did not know what else to do except go back to Aiken to start my internship. 

My life is not what I thought it would be and I was not where I thought I would be at this point in time. It was a defeating feeling. 

I finished my internship in Aiken and my depression started worsening. 

I had no motivation, I had no desire, I had no will to do anything except potentially end my life.

Depression can tell you nasty things that aren’t true about yourself. Don’t listen to that little voice demeaning your worth, listen to the other voice fighting back saying “Hell no, that’s not me. I know I’m better than these thoughts.”

Depression can tell you nasty things that aren’t true about yourself.

I spent some time going to a local mental health facility everyday for a few months to try and gain better coping strategies and to not feel so alone. 

I started seeing my individual counselor once a week regularly.

I started trying anything I could to put myself in to a better place mentally. 

…then I got sick.

That is another blog post (chronic illness) for another time, but let’s just say that set me back tremendously. I really was not where I thought I would be at this point in time. I did not understand the point of living, nor what my purpose was anymore. 

All I know is that I still wanted to help people.

There has been a lot of ups and downs since, but my story still isn’t over, and neither is yours.

Your situation is specific to you and you alone. 

No one else in this world has gone through exactly what you have gone through, past or present. There are other people out there who may have felt the same way you have, or do, but it may not be for the same reasons and it can still feel entirely different from person to person. 

No one can feel what you are feeling; that is why it is important to reach out if you notice yourself starting to slip into that dark place. 

This takes mindfulness.

We should be proactive in prohibiting ourselves from getting to that place. Easier said than done some days, I know, especially if something unexpected happens. If you have personally felt what it feels like to be at the bottom of the barrel, or rock bottom, you will know/understand how important it is to try your best to keep from getting to that low way of thinking.

It’s harder to climb up the farther you fall, but nothing is impossible, especially with a little help.

Suicide is a topic that is seemingly (and understandably) more difficult to comprehend, especially if you have never personally experienced any feelings related to it. 

Some people often wonder, “How could someone ever feel that way?” or “That’s selfish,” or, “I just don’t understand.” 

I genuinely tell people when they express to me that they can’t comprehend the act of suicide, “Be thankful you can’t, but be empathetic and understand other people do have those feelings and ask how you can potentially help.”

“Did you really want to die?” “No one commits suicide because they want to die.” “Then why do they do it?” “Because they want to stop the pain.” – Tiffanie DeBartolo

Have a real conversation with someone you may be worried about, even if you aren’t sure what to say. Most of the time it’s not about saying anything, but about listening and being there for that person.

You are there to listen, not try to change the way the person is feeling. 

How hard it is to change yourself? 

Then you may understand what small chance you have in trying to change another. 

It’s the fleeting moments to someone who struggles with these thoughts that are scary. 

In those moments, anything can happen, and quickly. 

I can say that with validity because I have felt those moments. 

I have felt that there is nothing worth living for.

I have felt the helplessness that my body and mind feel when I’m in that place. 

I know the unworthiness your mind tells you that you are. 

I have felt that weight deep upon my chest (and still do some days).

It’s important we learn how to cope with this if and when it does arise. 

Find something that works for you in these moments, not everyone else, you

People can say “do this/do that,” but if it’s not something you personally connect with, it will not be sufficient enough.

Do you ever see happiness around you and wonder, why can’t I feel that? 

Why can’t I feel the freedom they seem to feel with the wind blowing in their face?

The reality is, we never know what anyone is dealing with inside, so the people we envy could be dealing with a lot as well. 

We have to remember perspective is key.

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Amanda Widener

My name is Amanda Widener, born and raised in Aiken, SC, and I am 29 years young. I have three fur babies, two cats and a dog: Kimchi, Luna, and Oliver. I love to read/write, garden, eat dark chocolate, and encourage others. I will mainly be discussing life in general, mental health, chronic illness, and relationships. My mind does tend to wander sometimes, so don't be surprised if another random topic sneaks its way in there. 

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