If you're reading this, I did it. And so can you.
A year ago, I found myself continuing on a road I'd been down before. I grabbed a knife and carved lines into my forearm, desperate to feel anything that wasn't hopelessness and despair and craving affirmation from the pain that I wasn't as weak as I felt.
If you had told me that night that I would make it a full year without engaging in this destructive behavior again, I wouldn't have believed you.
The desire to self-harm didn't disappear overnight. It required a 1 a.m. phone call - at the lowest point of my life and the highest point of my depression - to a stranger at the other end of the National Suicide Hotline, a stranger I was so embarrassed to be speaking to that I didn't tell her my real name, begging her to stop me from killing myself. And she did.
It required me to tell someone, to become open and vulnerable among my friends, to admit that no, I was not fine, and yes, I do need you. I needed friendship more than ever, I needed their strength to give me strength, I needed their conversations to give me something to think about, to laugh about. And they did.
It required an angry visit with my doctor, her relentlessly grilling me with questions, wanting and needing to find the root of the problem so she could help, leaving my appointment in tears, but with a new prescription for Lexapro, in hopes it would help. And it did.
It required the sadness of my parents, the wonder of what was happening to their little girl, their only girl, and why. The “Alexis, you have to stop this” and “Alexis, we love you more than you know and don’t you ever forget it.” And they do. And I won’t.
It required me to remember my dog, how sad he is when I leave for college, how happy he is when I come back, how sad he would be if I went away and never came back.
It required me to make the changes that were stifling my progress, changing my major for the third time, changing how I filled my days, changing who I spent my time with, changing my mindset from “I can’t” to “I can,” being an active participant in my own process for getting better.
It required me to tap into an unknown strength, to stop because I had to stop because I had to stop feeling this way. It was a strength I didn’t know I had, but I had it, and I used it.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be feeling as great as I do today, right now, I never would have believed you.
If you’re reading this, better days are coming. And you have the strength to make it until they get here.
Alexis G., University of Virginia