Shame: (n.) a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.
From the time I was 16 until I was almost 23, shame ruled my life. How could someone who was given so much in life feel so hopeless? How could someone who seemed to have it all together be struggling with addiction?
No one can know I’m struggling.
Is this pain ever going to end?
I am beyond help.
No one will care if I’m gone.
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind the week leading up to my suicide attempt. When I thought I had adequately pushed my friends away and convinced myself that they would be better off without me, I locked myself in my house and attempted to end the pain.
When I felt like I would soon be closing my eyes forever, I got a text from a close friend saying, “Open your front door.” I had texted her one-word responses all night hoping she would leave me alone. My inebriated self couldn’t fully grasp this text.
Why is she here? I can’t open my front door; it’ll be synonymous with opening the door to my secrets. If I open the door, my lies will come flooding out.
My friend texted me again. I began to panic but stumbled to the door and opened it.
Shame said, “Don’t drag anyone into your problems.”
Shame told me, “You’re not worthy of hope.”
Shame whispered, “You are never going to get better.”
Shame screamed, “You don’t deserve help!”
Community: (n.) a unified body of individuals.
She said we needed to talk. I tried to build another wall as fast as I could and acted like everything was fine, but she already knew about my self-injury. Everything I had struggled with for the past seven years was on the table, and I felt exposed. She made me promise her I would start going to counseling.
That night I learned that your community doesn’t leave you when you’re hurting. When you hurt, they hurt with you. But your community doesn’t only empathize with you; your community also supports you while you fight for freedom.
Community said, “No one is ever truly alone.”
Community told me, “You impact people’s lives.”
Community whispered, “You are important.”
Community screamed, “You are loved!”
Recovery: (n.) the act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty; the return of something that has been lost or stolen.
For me, recovery started with talking to one friend. Then it involved seeing a counselor and a psychiatrist. Now I know recovery will be a lifelong adventure, and the more I learn about my ability to recover, the more I understand how important it is to be outspoken about the reality of mental illness. I am not alone in my fight, and it’s important for others to know that as well.
Recovery said, “Mental illness is not a character flaw.”
Recovery told me, “Your story is significant.”
Recovery whispered, “You shouldn’t be ashamed of your past.”
Recovery screamed, “Your story is one to be shared.”
Shame told me I could never change. Community proved my friends and family were there for me. Recovery taught me the importance of speaking out about mental illness.
I hope you know you are not alone.
I hope you know you are loved.
I hope you learn to let go of stigma.
I hope you let your community embrace you.
And I hope you learn to believe that recovery can be yours.