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I Am Still Here

7 Dec 2018 — 4 min read

By Sara Wagner

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Sara Wagner

An Open Letter, From a Grieving Sibling

If you’re like me, you have experienced a moment: a point in time in which you felt you could go no further, that no version of your future could be worthwhile. Perhaps you’ve had many of these moments. Living with the daily struggle of a mental health condition, this sort of moment can feel like a lifetime.

My moment happened on December 21, 2012. I was 26, struggling with undiagnosed PTSD, severe depression and a litany of family problems. Separately, these issues were difficult, but together, they seemed impossible. A few days before Christmas, a co-worker discovered my plan to end my life, and I was transported to a nearby hospital.

It was the lowest point of my life.

I had reached what I felt confident was the point of no return, living in fear and anger constantly. My mind felt like it was stuck on repeat. I relived my worst memories daily, unable to feel anything but rage and resentment. I lost touch with my sense of reality. It was as though I couldn’t process being in the present, because the past played continuously in front of my eyes.

I found it difficult to explain how I was feeling to those who loved me. They withdrew, which only added to my feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.

But I am still here.

I struggled for a long time, because the memories were so powerful. I couldn’t understand how these thoughts had such power over me, until I realized that I had never spoken of these feelings out loud. These thoughts gained their power from my silence. It was only when I placed my trust in my best friend, my husband, and spoke of them that I was able to begin the process of moving forward.

I had kept my desire to end my life secret, because I had felt ashamed and embarrassed. I felt weak. But as I began to open up about my struggle with suicidal thoughts, and shared them with my husband and also my mother, I found that even as the thoughts remained, the urgency they carried was lifted.

Since that time, I have learned ways to cope with these thoughts when I have them. One of the most effective, I’ve found, is to trust someone with them. Painful thoughts have power only when you struggle with them alone. By sharing them, you can begin to take away the guilt and shame that they are sometimes accompanied by. This takes away their power, and you begin to overcome them.

I realize now that we do not have to be ruled by these thoughts, or give them power. We are not required to hide in fear of judgement when struggling with suicidal thoughts. Help is always available, and while it may not always seem so, there are people all around who care about you, even some that may not know you yet. By sharing your thoughts and speaking your fears, people will listen, and will help you take the power from those thoughts, using it to build a new path towards your own well-being.

The truth is, no matter how far I’ve come from my lowest point, intrusive thoughts about ending my life still, at times, creep in. I know what can be triggering for me, and that’s useful, but learning to avoid these triggers is not the only option. Each day, I fight a battle that nobody sees. There are moments that lead to flashbacks, smells, or places, and I must make a conscious effort each day to remember what is real, and what is now.

I am still here. I have learned that while the past is painful, it is behind me, and every step towards the future takes me further from it.

When I begin to feel the anxiety and pain knocking at my mind’s door, I close my eyes. I focus on deep breaths, and think about the happiest moments of my life in great detail. I think about how it smelled, what sounds I heard, and who I was with. I play the moment like a movie in my mind. These moments can be as simple as remembering the way a summer breeze felt on a beautiful day, or as complex as a favorite memory with my daughters. I breathe with it and I allow myself to become lost in the warmth that the memory brings. It is a momentary aid that has brought me much comfort throughout my life.

I used to think that recovery was a path that had to be paved quickly to avoid any bumps. I now realize that placing the stones of patience, fortitude and self-worth one-by-one will sturdily pave the way.

You aren’t alone on that path. There are millions of us walking it with you, standing by your side. There is help, and there is hope.

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