That doesn’t mean it’s easy — being vulnerable is scary. But sometimes, having the courage to share your story gives someone else a reason to keep fighting.
The day it happened, my mom found me and immediately rushed me to the hospital, where I spent just under a week hooked up to an IV as doctors attempted to normalize my kidney function and monitor for any signs of permanent damage.
In North Carolina, anyone with a mental illness who shows signs of endangering themselves can be involuntarily committed. Because of this law, the doctors filed a petition to have me committed upon leaving the hospital.
As soon as I was released, a police officer escorted me to a psychiatric facility, where I was told I would remain indefinitely. I don’t remember much about my time there — most of the memories have been repressed — but I do remember it was terrifying. The facility I stayed at treated its patients like prisoners; not once did I undergo any sort of psychiatric treatment. It was the most dehumanizing experience of my life.
This is probably the hardest piece that I will ever write, but it might also be the most important. I always say that we need to be more comfortable talking about mental health, but even I haven’t been nearly as open as I could be.
I haven’t even been honest with myself. I’ll be the first to admit that I often feel ashamed of what I’ve been through and scared to share the true extent of my past with the world.
That ends today.
I’m sure there will be people who will look at me differently after reading this, but that’s OK. I’m not writing this for them. In some ways, I’m writing it for me — because even five years later, I still haven’t come to terms with it all.
But most of all, I’m writing it for anyone whose past, present or future is even remotely similar to mine. I want to show them they’re not alone, even when it feels like nobody in the world understands. Believe me when I say there is somebody out there who does. Somebody who knows what you’ve gone through and is struggling in much the same way that you are.
Knowing someone like that would have made all the difference in my life five years ago. So if vulnerability is all it takes to save someone else’s life, I’ll do it a thousand times over.
I’m a survivor. I can’t escape my past, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never wanted to.
I carry it around like a weight on my shoulders. Some days are harder than others, but the trauma is always there.
Nevertheless, it’s shaped me into one of the strongest people I know. I’m tough and resilient as hell. And even on my worst days, I’m proud of who I’ve become.
To all my fellow survivors: I see you. You are my heroes. I hope you never stop fighting.
(Writer’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741. UNC students can also call the 24/7 CAPS hotline at 919-966-3658.)