In September 2016, I had my first suicide attempt. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t see it coming. I have been fighting with anxiety and depression since the passing of my father when I was six years old. I would have frequent anxiety attacks because of a constant fear of everything around me. It was not until grade eleven or so that I became comfortable being on a SkyTrain around large groups of strangers. I become very fearful when someone I love does not answer a phone call, or is late to meet me–my mind dreams up all of the worst possible outcomes. This feeling has resided in me for a very long time.
From a very young age I was dead set on becoming a surgeon, however my first year of university proved to be much more difficult than anticipated. I started to validate myself by the grades I got and my weight. I began closing myself off to the outside world, and I refused to go out with my friends or meet new people. I felt useless. I began using laxatives regularly and excessively, especially when I performed poorly in school. My whole life became my studies, working out, and watching what I ate; I became miserable and drew into myself even more. I failed two classes that first semester. I felt like I had no value and that my father was looking down at me in frustration. My bad habits continued into my second semester.
I began to feel hopeless and frustrated because I thought I would always feel this way. Growing accustomed to that shadow standing over you is one of the worst parts of mental illness. I have had frequent panic attacks to the point where I am unable to move my hands because I am not allowing enough oxygen to my limbs.
Mental illness is incredibly difficult to deal with, and I am offering my support, time and compassion to anyone struggling with it. Dealing with extreme anxiety and self doubt in an academic environment like UBC has truly brought out the worst in me. I am still fighting every day with my illness, but I have made the step towards realizing that my academics, physical appearance, and everything that is so embedded in our minds as making up our role in society, do not matter if I have thoughts of ending my life daily. When those thoughts are constant, it becomes harder and harder to fight them off. During an extremely difficult time last September, I became so exhausted with my inability to control my anxiety and depression that I attempted to take my own life.
To those that are in this position, as I am sure many are, please remember that your value is not the percentage that shows up on Connect. It is not the number that shows up on a scale, or the number in your bank account. When suffering with mental illness, of any sort, you are already a fighter, and take pride in that. Do not ever let that be in vain because of external circumstances. The mental health community, as I am beginning to find out, is a beautiful one, filled with people that want nothing more than to help one another. I still prefer a quiet night in, but I am less afraid of meeting new people, and because of this I have built the best support system. I do not use laxatives anymore–two people in my life really aided in making sure that I was eating and taking care of myself, for which I will forever be grateful. I do not know if I will be a doctor one day, or a physiotherapist, but I will not let that be something that makes my anxiety stronger.
I will be stronger than my mental illness, no matter how long it takes.