Editor’s Note: If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, the following story may potentially be triggering. You can contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741 from anywhere in the U.S.
My name is Lauren and from the outside, I’m just your average 23-year-old. My dog is my best friend and I love to travel. Photography is my passion and I watch too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. From the outside, you’d never guess that I have tried taking my own life nine times over the past three years. People often tell me that I’m always smiling, even when I don’t realize it. I guess smiling is my way of coping with the torment mental illness has inflicted on me. Or maybe it’s just to protect people from the immense pain I’m feeling on the inside.
It’s hard to put into words all I have experienced and the journey I have been on over the past few years of dealing with mental illness. Seventeen psychiatric hospitalizations, four days in the ICU following my worst suicide attempt, three separate stays in residential treatment, too many ER visits and ambulance rides to count, more than a dozen different therapists and psychiatrists, PHP programs, hundreds of medications and the list continues on and on.
My struggles with mental illness are not something I’d ever wish on anyone. I wish I could better explain what it’s like to be in my shoes – to wake up every morning afraid to live. I often describe how I feel as drowning, being underwater and struggling so much to make it to the surface – and every time I almost reach the surface, just falling back down again. Drowning and suffocating. Those are two words that best describe how I feel.
Many people ask me why I have these struggles, why I have tried taking my life so many times, why I haven’t “gotten better.” The answer isn’t simple – mental illness isn’t simple. It’s an illness and I can’t explain why I have it, I just do. I wish I knew why I haven’t found healing and peace – but I have to believe that there is a reason for all of my pain and suffering. There has to be.
So I continue fighting – minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Because beyond all of my pain and heartache, there is a beautiful world out there that I want to be alive to experience.
Written by Lauren Clements