This week (or for as long as I have volunteers), I’m featuring a series of guest posts about depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. My hope is to convey how many people face these challenges by providing a platform for others to share their stories. Today’s post is by Jessilyn Justice. Jessilyn is a copy editor at Alabama Media Group, a regular contributor to Venn Magazine and Birmingham magazine and, most importantly, a dear friend.
This November will mark 11 years since I attempted suicide. I was in seventh grade, barely 13 and so lonely despite my friendships that I thought it would be easier to swallow an entire bottle of Tylenol than face my schoolmates.
I’d struggled with darkness for probably two or three years before that night. For someone so talkative, there would be days at a time where I wouldn’t say anything at all, taking in my surroundings and evaluating how much I believed everyone else liked me.
All I remember from that night was the stomach ache from hell and waking up in the hospital with my mom helping me drink barium for the CAT-scan, regaling me with tales of Curious George having to drink it so they could see the puzzle piece he ate.
The hospital diagnosed it as a ruptured cyst, and I don’t think I came clean to my parents until four or five years later.
By all outside appearances, I shouldn’t struggle with depression: I have a strong family life, good friends, a job in the career I want to pursue, but that doesn’t stop the anguish of not having the fortitude to climb out of bed in the morning to face the world again.
I cut myself for five years
, hiding the wounds under clothes, though the scars are still visible to this day. When I was 18, I got a tattoo meaning “for I have been set free, liberated, unchained and unleashed,” and then I snapped rubber bands against it to the point where it swelled.
I’ve been in and out of this routine, in and out of counselors’ offices and the church pews.
I have a hard time seeing what other people see and me, and that’s when the darkness starts to edge its way back in. All through college, I was afraid to admit my struggles, afraid my ultra-Christian university would judge me for backsliding into a story that was supposed to be a testimony for how God can heal. I was so afraid that as a Christian, I shouldn’t be experiencing depression, that if I truly believed in what I said I believed, that God would grant me this magical peace and happiness about my life. I was afraid to admit to the darkness, fearful of the judgement of other Christians.
But then I discovered that talking about it helps, that there are many people — close friends, even — who’ve experienced the same thing. Depression attacks people in different ways, and having honest conversations about it can only lead to you conquering your own battle.
Someone close to me told me something revolutionary a few months ago: “It’s OK to not be OK.” It’s OK to admit you’re struggling, it’s OK to admit you hate your life. It’s not OK to be rude and take it out those around you, blaming them for your situation. But it is OK to look at your life, identify your unhappiness and seek ways to be healthy.
Would you be willing to share your experience with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or other mental-health illness? Email me at cjATcarlajeanwhitleyDOTcom. I’d love to share your experience as a guest post.