38 days ago I entered an essay contest that asked me “How do you live life on your own terms?”.
38 days ago I sat down at my computer and wrote the hardest words I ever wrote.
38 days ago I told the story of the night I decided to finally end everything- including my life that felt too full with all the things I couldn’t handle, the feelings that were anything but good, feelings of suffocation and panic, regret and despair.
I wrote without stopping, editing or thinking. I wrote the night out exactly as I remembered it, gently peeling off the layers of time to recall a night that I had worked hard to get past.
And when I was done? I cried. Oh, I cried. But not with shame or with embarrassment or even with sadness over what had transpired and just how close I was that night, I cried because I realized how far I’d come. By pushing “send” and sharing my story that I had come further than I had ever imagined. I had gone from feeling helpless and without a voice to realizing my voice is how I can help.
It is a contest and there will be a winner. I’m not going to ask you for your vote. I would be a horrible politician. I’ve never managed to find a way to gracefully request someone chose my story over another, to pick the words I selected over the thoughtfully selected thoughts of a fellow writer. I would be thankful if you read what I wrote. I believe that the more people know about mental illness and how those who are going through it view themselves and the world is important. The stigma attached to mental illness will only disappear when we have more people willing to share their story.
I’m not going to ask for the votes of family or friends. There will be no mass email attached with a plea. Those closest to me have lived that night once and watched my fall into despair and I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to relive it.
I don’t need you to pick me. Because 38 days ago I cried with the realization that the only vote that matters is my own.
I picked myself that night.
And that’s the only vote that matters.