I recently reached out to the community to see if I could find people to share their stories related to mental health. I love sharing my own story but I would really love to share the stories of other people. I’m just one person but there are so many ways to experience mental illness beyond my own. I was blown away by the response. I have a list of about 10 people who are interested in talking about their mental illness. I offered them the choice to either be interviewed or write the blog post themselves. Most of them have opted for the opportunity to get an interview, which I am really excited about because I get to go meet new people in person and perhaps make some new friends. The first story that I am going to share is from Samantha, not her real name. She wanted to remain anonymous. I met her for coffee this past Saturday and we had a fascinating discussion where she poured her heart out and told me all about her history with anxiety and depression and her two suicide attempts. I am going to try my best to convey her story below. Trigger warning because there are details about her suicide attempts included. Please feel free to comment and I will pass on your thoughts to Samantha!
Samantha is from a small town in Ontario and grew up without a lot of friends in school. She first noticed something was wrong with her around the age of 13-14 years old. After breaking up with her first girlfriend, anxiety and depression began to creep into her life. She battled with this in secret for years, along with the fact that she hadn’t yet come out to her parents. Her older sibling had a bad experience with it themselves, so Samantha kept that hidden for years, which also contributed to her depression. Unfortunately, she was young and didn’t have a job, so she didn’t feel like she could stand on her own two feet. That led to being dependent on her parents. No one really knew about her depression and she was really closed off about it. She didn’t seek out any resources. Samantha also engaged in self harm as a way to release frustration and emotion. This always made her scared to have someone intimate in her life who would see the scars and then they would need to be explained.
In university, it started to get really bad and her depression and anxiety went out of control. Samantha wasn’t studying something that she liked in university but felt pressured to keep doing it. Her depression and anxiety was so severe that she stopped doing schoolwork. She felt like her life only consisted at the time of school and work, with no time for herself or to see friends or to get better. She decided to drop out of school.
After this, Samantha felt like she was going nowhere and this led to her first attempt at suicide. She didn’t have any social support, couldn’t see a way out or a solution and couldn’t rationalize that there were people that cared. For her, it was hard to get help and bring that conversation to someone. She couldn’t talk about her problems and felt worthless. It’s hard to trust people with that.
One morning, Samantha called in sick to work and thought “This is the day I am going to kill myself.” She tied a rope on the beams in the basement of her house and stood on a chair. However, she panicked at the last moment and as her foot kicked the chair, her arms reached out and grabbed on to the beams. There was a table nearby so her feet were able to perch on it, but she was having a hard time holding herself up and couldn’t figure out how to get down.
At that moment, Samantha decided she wanted to live and to get better. She managed to unlock her phone on the table with her toe and call someone. The police came but they didn’t see any movement in the house so they weren’t sure whether they should come in. They assumed she was already dead so they were going to wait for the detectives to arrive. But Samantha started banging on the ceiling and screaming. There was the serious concern of whether her arms and legs would give out or slip. The emergency responders heard her and broke the door down with a battering ram. They cut her down from the ropes and took her to the hospital.
This is when Samantha’s parents first found out that something was wrong. Of course, they didn’t know how to react. Samantha saw her dad cry for the first time in her life and it made her finally understand that suicide affects other people, not just herself.
She was sent home from the hospital early even though they typically have a policy that someone who made a suicide attempt needs to be kept for three days. They let her go home to be with her family and provided her with referrals to resources.
Samantha saw a psychiatrist and was finally diagnosed with severe depression. She also went to go see a doctor who diagnosed her with anxiety instead of depression. So two different doctors provided different diagnoses. She felt that she had both.
Samantha started seeing a therapist who also identified with being gay, which made her feel more comfortable. Eventually she stopped going to therapy because she didn’t like it and wanted to figure out her problems on her own. Samantha also didn’t want to take medication. Now, she attributes the stigma around medication to that decision.
A little while later, she met a girl from Toronto. The first year of their relationship was long-distance but then Samantha moved to the city to be with her.
Samantha came from a household where she felt restricted to express herself and her emotions. But the depression and anxiety was still there when she moved on her own and had the freedom to be herself, which was frustrating. She started to abuse over-the-counter medication and alcohol. Samantha also started to have violent outbursts at home because she didn’t have any outlets to express herself. One day, it got so bad that she was arrested. She went through a program to deal with the anger issues and addiction.
At the time, Samantha was living paycheck-to-paycheck. She felt like her life was a failure and started to think “What’s the point?”. This is when her second suicide attempt occurred. It was a few months ago, and she only had a little bit of money left before pay day and just had enough to buy two boxes of sleeping pills. After purchasing the pills, Samantha sat on her bed and started taking them one by one. She was texting to say goodbye to her girlfriend in an abrupt way which alarmed her. Her girlfriend left work and came home and found Samantha. She tried to make her throw up the pills or go to the hospital but Samantha didn’t want to. She actually felt fine because she hadn’t yet taken enough pills to get sick.
Her girlfriend told her that if she wanted to remain in the relationship, Samantha needed to be in therapy. It didn’t feel like the last time with her parents though. Samantha didn’t feel forced to go. She actually felt like she wanted to and that it would make a difference. Now, she is more determined to get the proper help she needs. She feels that therapy provides an outlet for her to talk about her problems without feeling like she is bothering her friends and family. It allows her to connect with someone who is passionate about mental health and who gives her insight on her life in an almost anonymous setting.
I asked Samantha why she wanted to share her story. She wants to share her story because she doesn’t think mental health is talked about enough. She wants to help people with mental illness and give someone the help that she never let herself have. She wants to volunteer and do public speaking as well and help people learn from her mistakes.
I was proud of Samantha for sitting in that coffee shop and telling all of the story to a complete stranger, to be shared on the Internet with the world. It can’t have been easy but it is a good first step for her to move onto the path of self-acceptance and self-love. By owning her story and telling the world, she will help show the real impact of mental illness on real people and the need for more resources so people don’t slip through the cracks like she did. I am positive that Samantha will make a difference.
If you want to share your own story with me, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!