Sara Brown
August 01, 2012 6:00 am

I grew up watching the havoc of depression and mental illness take over people’s lives. I’ve witnessed family members have countless mental breakdowns, go in and out of hospitals and cry enough tears to fill an ocean. I was determined, to not have to deal with the same struggles as members of my family.

Little did I know, these struggles were coming for me anyway.

I went off to college filled with dreams of conquering the undergrad social scene, while dominating academics with my major in journalism. By sophomore year, I had an amazing group of friends, my own radio show at our college radio station (of which I was awarded DJ of the Year!), a great RA position and an amazing part time job. I had everything I wanted.

However, slowly but surely my mood started to change. I would feel more lonely then usual even if I was with a group of friends. I would have crying fits and no idea why I was crying. As a child constantly surrounded by mental illness, I knew what was happening to me. If you had a childhood like mine, you knew the symptoms and warning signs. It was a mental checklist in your head that never left. A checklist you used to judge your behavior against your family’s to make sure you were still “normal.”

I could have just asked for help when this all started happening. But, I didn’t. Seeking help meant I was crazy just like them. I might be many things, but crazy wasn’t going to be one of them. So, I suffered alone. I thought if I just tried harder, excelled more in academics, participated in more extracurricular activities, then maybe I would be happy again.

It didn’t work.

In fact, things just got worse.

By the end of October, I spent most of my days crying or sleeping. I hardly left my dorm room, which meant I never went to class or to my job. I was flunking out of school, gained an ungodly amount of weight and was losing friends. Everything I worked so hard for was now falling apart. It all seemed so hopeless. The only time when I would leave my room is when I went on my regular walks. I have always enjoyed going on leisurely walks outside while listening to my iPod. I forced myself to continue this routine. I had a usual route that I would walk that involved walking over a bridge.

One day I was walking over the bridge and stopped. I walked over to the edge and watched the cars zoom by below. I figured that I was so high up that if I jumped, I would die instantly from the impact. If not, then surely because of the cars hitting me. From then on, I had non-stop thoughts of how to end my life. I made a plan one night that I was ready and willing to follow.

The plan, was to slit my wrists in my dorm room. I didn’t write a suicide note, which looking back, is strange since I’m a writer. I guess I had no more words left. I had no idea how to explain to my family and friends the pain I was in. Any letter trying to give some great insight into my suffering just seemed trivial. I just couldn’t live like this anymore. End of story.

That night, I smashed a large glass vase and immediately grabbed the sharpest piece. I rubbed it gently against my wrist. Sharp, indeed.

Perfect! I thought.

However, I couldn’t go through with it. I just thought about the person that would eventually find me and that phone call someone would have to make to my mother. In hindsight, I didn’t really want to die. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this. I just had to make a change.

I put down the piece of glass and wrote a email to the counseling center at my school. I expressed how I was depressed and worried about my well-being. I left out the part about wanting to kill myself, convinced they would send me away. I hit send on the email and then cried myself to sleep that night.

Thus, began months of intensive counseling and therapy. Sure enough, I got out of the dark hole I was in.

When I was healthy again I decided I wanted to help others who were going through similar struggles. I didn’t ask for help for so long, because of the stigma attached to mental illness. Working with great organizations like To Write Love On Her Arms, hopefully I send a message to those suffering that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

(Image via Shutterstock).

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