A Letter To My Younger Self, On The Day I Tried to Take My Life

Kimberly Zapata

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Hi, you. I don’t know why I’ve never written to you before. Maybe it is because what’s done is done, because the past is unchangeable, and because your depression is incurable — in fact, it’s still here. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t know what to say.

I cannot protect you from the anger and pain. I cannot save you from the sadness, or from yourself.

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Maybe I haven’t written to you because writing to you means believing in you — believing in myself. It means I must love myself. It means I must hold out hope, for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and because addressing you means addressing a hard-to-swallow truth: the fact that I wanted to (and tried to) take my own life

Well, I’ve never written to you before, but I am now. I’m changing that today, because you deserve better. Everyone who is suicidal deserves better. So please, if you’re still here, keep reading this, because you are worth it. You matter.

You see, I know that right now you, the teen girl with so many fears and dreams, are hurting. There is an invisible war raging in your mind, and you are the attacking force as well as the defending one. Your illness makes you both friend and foe. 

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When most people hear the word anxiety, they think of the condition in its most extreme form. They imagine Hollywood-like portrayals of an attack, things like trembling, shaking, and breathing into a paper bag. But anxiety is more than that. Anxiety takes control of your body. It causes your vision to blur, your heart to race, and your stomach to turn. . You feel a general sense of discomfort and unease. . Anxiety causes your body to feel flush, and you break out in a cold sweat. You sweat so much it soaks your clothes. . Anxiety causes your chest to tighten. You struggle to breathe. But most of the time anxiety is more subtle — and more insidious. . It is days spent Googling potential catastrophes. I’ve had cancer, diagnosed my daughter with appendicitis, and I was sure my newborn son had RSV. . It is nights spent “sleeping” with your eyes open, believing every sound is that of an intruder and wondering how you’ll escape. I’ve worried where my family will go, or hide. . It is insecurity. I ask my husband a dozen times a day if he loves me because I believe he can't love me. How could he possibly love me? . Anxiety turns unanswered calls or texts into “statements." It makes you believe your friends and family are annoyed by you. It makes you believe they do not care about you, and suddenly their silence is proof they hate you. . Everyone hates you. . Anxiety is crippling and irrational fears. You cannot get on plane because it may crash. You cannot go to a work event because you are uninteresting and unimportant. And you cannot leave your house because anxiety is worry. . Anxiety is stress. . Anxiety is fear. . Anxiety is picked skin, chewed lips, and bit nails. It is ticks and habits which you use to try and keep your symptoms at bay. . Oh, and did I mention anxiety makes you believe everything is your fault? . Everything. . But anxiety is also a con artist. It is deceptive. It is deceitful. Anxiety lies. . So if you are struggling today, remember: You are good enough. You are strong enough, and you are brave because you keep going. You keep living, and you keep fighting. . Don’t give up. #health #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawarenessweek #anxiety #realconvo

A post shared by Kimberly Zapata (@kimzap) on May 14, 2019 at 12:16pm PDT

 

I know that right now, you feel hopeless. You believe this pain will not end. It cannot end, and you want out. You need out. You have to make the “shit stop.”

I know that right now, you feel like a burden. You believe your friends and family will be better off without you. You believe everyone will be better off without you. Listen to me when I say it’s not true.

Right now, you are exhausted. Working is hard. Going to school is hard. Even showering is hard; the smallest tasks seem monumental. You are snappy and short-tempered. You feel broken, useless, pathetic and apathetic, and you are be struggling to eat and sleep.

And I know that right now, there is a tape playing in your head telling you you aren’t good enough; you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, or “normal” enough. It tells you that you are worthless. And that tape is loud. Her voice is deafening.

But stop. Breathe. (Seriously. Breathe. I’ll wait.) And listen, really listen: What is the truth?

The truth is you are not bad. You are not crazy. The truth is there is help and hope — yes, even for you.

My life — your life — is proof of that. 

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I was 17 when I tried to kill myself for the first time. I don’t know why. Not really. I mean, I do know what I was thinking. The voices were telling me: “You’re stupid. You’re useless. You’re pathetic. No one likes you. No one cares about you. No one wants to be with you. You should kill yourself. Everyone would be better off without you. Hell, the world would be better off without you.” . But why I chose that day — and that moment — remains a mystery. No journal entry exists from June 21, 2001. . The dark page (which I should have filled with pale, gel ink) remains barren and untouched. . Regardless, June 21, 2001 was the day I decided to kill myself. So I walked to the store and bought a bottle of Tylenol and a can of Coke. I took the pills and, eventually, I passed out. . But a strange thing happened later that evening: I woke up. Alive. . Unfortunately, when I opened my eyes and saw the nicotine-stained ceiling overhead, I wasn’t happy. At all. I remember thinking how pathetic I was, how useless I was, and what a failure I was. (I mean, I couldn’t even kill myself right: who does that?!) And I felt that way for more than a year, i.e. I entertained suicidal thoughts every single day of my senior year. But then I graduated and went off to college. . I moved to a new city in a new state where I got a new psychologist, a new psychiatrist, loads more help, and — perhaps most importantly — found hope, and life began to shine a little brighter. . Even the darkness seemed a little lighter. . That said, I’d be lying if I said my recovery has been perfect, because it hasn’t. I tried to take my life again at 20 and suicidal thoughts and ideations are still something of a norm. But today I am thankful that I sat up, and got up. Today I am thankful that, on that June day, I woke up. . Alive. . So remember: you are not helpless. You are not hopeless. You are not alone, and there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. . I promise if you hang on there is light. . #worldsuicidepreventionday #suicidepreventionmonth #suicideprevention #health #mentalhealth #love #light #hope

A post shared by Kimberly Zapata (@kimzap) on Sep 10, 2018 at 2:24pm PDT

Make no mistake: Things will get worse before they get better. You will lose your faith, and some of your friends. You will lose all motivation. Your grades will start slipping. Your head will keep spinning. And you will want to die. You will pray to God to stop your heart. To cease your breath. To give you the strength to cut deep enough, or the courage to swallow enough, to make it all go away.

But eventually, I promise, it will take a turn. Please wait. Hang on until that day when the weight on your chest will lift, the fog in your mind will clear, and the feeling that you are drowning will pass. 

The waves will settle. You will come up for air.

That day will be beautiful. You will see the stars again. The sun will warm your skin and heart. I remember that day.

But to get there, of course you have to fight. You have to stand up to yourself, and for yourself. You have to get uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. You — I — will need to see more than a dozen different therapists and psychiatrists — in three different states.

But please, you have to stay.

I’m asking you to stay.

You’ve made it this far. There’s only a little more time before the sunshine. So hang on. Stick around, okay?

Because you matter. We matter. I matter. 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, or text “START” to 741-741 to immediately speak to a trained counselor at Crisis Text Line.

These affordable mental health apps are no substitute for a professional, but they can help.

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