I’m not sure when I realized I wasn’t going to live past 21. I say “realized” because, at the time, it didn’t feel like a decision. I saw suicide as a possible solution, but I didn’t consider it something I was capable of. I had no suicidal plans; instead I dreamed of accidents. I figured one day in my late teens I would accidentally ride my mountain bike off a cliff, and my last feelings would be the joy and terror of falling, akin to riding a roller coaster. I thought the only thing holding me back was fear of death.
Luckily, that fear of death stayed with me. After I turned 21 I began to lose the confidence I had always felt; a confidence brought on by the belief that what I did didn’t matter. I struggled to make plans, since I hadn’t expected to make it to this milestone. I had no career goals, savings, or even an idea of how I wanted to celebrate my birthday – something I had planned in detail every year before. I spent 4 years struggling and spiraling downward, but luckily, and I mean very, very, luckily, I had friends and family who cared about me and paid attention and helped me realize something was wrong, and I got the medical help I needed.
This year I’m turning 31. It’s 4 months away, and I am already planning my birthday. Every year since my 25th has been the best year of my life. Sometimes it feels like every week is better than the week before.
This month is mental health awareness month. Listen to the people around you, your friends and family. Don’t brush off the nagging feeling that something may be wrong. More than 1 out of every 20 people has a mental health disorder. Too many of those people do turn to suicide, whether it’s an official plan or just a series of dangerous life choices that might lead to an “accident.”