Throughout my entire adolescent and adult life, I don’t remember a time where I felt mentally stable.
I had my first experience with death at 12 years old when home intruders murdered my grandmother. A year later, my grandfather passed away from heart complications, triggering my very first anxiety attack. Year after year the anxiety attacks got worse until, at age 16, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and clinical depression. A few months before my 17th birthday, I tried to commit suicide for the first time.
There were so many things that had led to that moment; growing up as a progressive in a country stuck in its old and regressive ways, the constant pressure to excel academically, experiencing my first heartbreak and never feeling like I fit in no matter how hard I tried.
I felt lonely. I felt worthless. I wasn’t good enough for my country. I wasn’t good enough for my friends. I wasn’t good enough for my parents. I wasn’t good enough for the boy I loved. So, one day I decided that I was better off dead.
At 16 I was left with stitches, a week long stay at our local mental institution and taken to multiple religious leaders to be “fixed”.
At 18, after my first year of university, I was raped. I never reported it and for a year I didn’t deal with it.
At 19 I hurt myself a lot. I figured physical pain was easier to process than emotional pain. I failed a lot of my exams and coursework. I barely passed the year.
At 19 I tried to take my own life again.
I started my PhD when I was 20 years old and for the first time in my life, everything felt okay. I was working on something I was so passionate about; I had made new friends that I felt comfortable around and I had started dating someone who made me very happy.
A year later, everything started to fall apart again. My depression got worse so I was struggling to socialise and couldn’t’ get into work anymore. I was picking arguments with my partner out of frustration with myself. With every day that went by I felt more numb and tired. I was sleeping most days and barely looking after myself.
At 21 I tried to take my own life for the third time.
At 21 I ended up in the hospital very ill.
At 21 I had to take time off the PhD.
At 21 I felt like I had hit rock bottom.
Not speaking up before it was too late was my biggest issue. When I struggle with my mental health, I keep things to myself and push people who want to help me away.
This past year I tried to open up to colleagues, friends and family whenever I was feeling low and struggling. I started seeing a therapist who has been helping me deal with all the problems I had internalised. I started spending more time with people who made me feel good and cut myself off from people who had negative effects on my mental health. I channelled all my energy into my work, hobbies and my relationship.
The 16th of November 2018 marks a year since my last suicide attempt and I’m celebrating. I’m half way through my PhD. I’m a few weeks away from celebrating my two-year anniversary with my partner. I’m a few weeks away from presenting at my second conference. I’ve seen some of my favourite artists perform live. I’ve travelled to wonderful places with my partner and my family. I have been loved and looked after by beautiful people. All these things I would have never been able to experience had I been successful in my suicide attempts. I’m celebrating a year of pain and struggle but also growth and healing.
A few months before my 23rd birthday I am: happy, hopeful and confident I will get through whatever life throws at me.
This article was written anonymously.