Editor’s note: This article mentions self-harm and suicide.
Opening up isn’t really my thing — it never has been. I have always been stubborn and struggled with sharing my personal battles with others, even when I want to. I guess part of me feels guilty like I shouldn’t feel this way. But after a lot of thought, I decided that I need to do this, not only for myself but for so many others out there that are struggling to open up and that shove their feelings and thoughts deep away. For those of you struggling, I simply hope that my story can help you.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was 17 years old and was officially diagnosed when I was 18. Most people close to me didn’t know until well after the fact, many people still don’t know most of the details. I have always tried to convince myself that this is something I can confront on my own, but over the past almost three years now, the biggest lesson I have learned is that I was very wrong. I guess one of the biggest reasons I decided to open up and write this was because I recognize that even now I still don't handle things the way I should. I close myself away and try to keep it inside the best I can, I smile when inside I’m struggling and want to lie down and give up.
I regret a lot of the things I have done when it comes to handling my mental illness, I still can look down at my wrist and remember the night where I was so distraught and lost that I harmed myself. I can still remember the nights where I was close to ending my life because I was so lost and I felt so empty and broken. Thankfully I never let those thoughts and emotions come to fruition, but I have struggled with suicidal thoughts. I often find myself awake at night until the early hours of the morning laying in my bed with thoughts circling in my mind while I feel an eerie emptiness inside. I regret some of the habits and crutches I have leaned on to try and alleviate the pain. I regret the ways I have treated people who wanted to help me.
To those people who were always there and have done everything they can to help me, I’m sorry and thank you. I know I haven’t always been perfect and shown it, but what you have done means everything to me. I think the most painful thing for me is wanting to be happy and to be better more than anything, yet I can’t do it. I have fought this as a personal, solo battle for far too long and it has made things so much worse. I have lost people I truly cared about and to be honest, it still keeps me awake at night. So to anyone struggling I ask you to please not fight this on your own. Allow the people who care about you to help you. Open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Your battle can not be a solo venture, because when you’re tired and you’re weighed down by everything, you need others to help fight that battle for you.
The most important thing I have learned, and that I feel I need to reiterate, is that asking for and accepting help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. You are not a burden on people and you should never feel guilty for feeling the way that you do. So many people are struggling the same ways that you are and you are never alone. My story is one that I hope can help people see the light and seek help from others like I wish I would have. I made a lot of mistakes and I have lost a lot because of it. The last thing I want to see is someone go through what I have because of my choices. I wish every day that I would’ve made better decisions and gotten help and admitted I couldn’t do this on my own. But I made the decisions I did and I have to live with the aftermath and simply try to be better each day.
My final message that I hope any of you that may be struggling can take away from my story is to get help. No matter if you open up to a therapist or a loved one, every little bit off of your shoulders helps. You can’t carry everything yourself without collapsing. You are never alone and things will get better no matter how bleak and dark things can be at certain moments. I am going to leave you with a quote via Uncle Iroh from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” which I find very fitting to many going through the struggles I have: “sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving you will come to a better place.”
Austin Knippelmeir is a sophomore sports media and communications and broadcasting double major. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org