Stay. I Found What I Was Made For.

In honor of World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) and To Write Love on Her Arms Stay. Find Out What You Were Made For campaign. I wrote my own story about why I stayed and how grateful I am that I’m here today.

When I was 15, I was drawn to the TWLOHA tent at Bamboozle Music Festival. My best friend had no clue that I was spiraling mentally or that I had weight issues or was feeling pressure to conform, but she followed me to the tent without question. As we learned about Renee Yohe, I grew emotional due to my connection to her story. Without a mention of my own struggles, I walked away with a t-shirt, comforted to at least know I was spending my money on something that might help me in the future.

After the festival, I wore the shirt from time to time. Less than I wanted because I feared being asked about the organization and essentially having to tell my own story.

I wish I could go back and tell my 15-year-old self how important it was to tell my story. Maybe if I had spoken up sooner, I wouldn’t have ended up in a hospital four years later.

Most of my teenage years were spent running. I ran from what was troubling me, pushing it so far down that I convinced myself I was OK, too. Soon I was headed off to university without another thought or second guess. I continued running until a breakup and failed exam happened in the same week—resulting in me entering a counseling center for the first time. I walked in with the label of “test anxiety,” but left with a diagnosis of anxiety and clinical depression. In true me-fashion, I set off in sprint.

But eventually the metaphorical burn in my lungs and fatigue from running gave way to a crippling panic attack.

On July 12, 2011, I sat in front of my floor length mirror prepared to self-harm for the first time. But before I could, a text from a friend came through asking me if I had heard Demi Lovato’s new single “Skyscraper.” As I listened to the song (on repeat), I got up off the floor and somehow made it into bed, tears streaming down my face until I finally fell asleep.

It wasn’t long after that, that I asked my mom for help. Together, we found a psychiatrist and I started taking antidepressants before the first semester of my sophomore year started.

But as the months passed, instead of feeling “cured,” I started to feel numb. I knew how I should be feeling. I knew what was suppose to make me happy, angry, or sad. But I couldn’t feel a thing.

The guy I was kind of, sort of seeing, was unreliable; My workload grew more intense; I was failing my classes. And the icing on the cake came when the counselor on campus I had been seeing regularly just up and left.

I didn’t want to get out of bed that morning but I did, knowing I had a counseling appointment at 10 a.m. As I waited in his office, a woman walked in and introduced me to my new counselor. I kept asking where my counselor had gone and why he didn’t say goodbye. He said he’d never abandon me … not like my father.

That night brought on suicide attempt number one—or more so, a massive call for help. I overdosed on my anti-depressants. I grew ill and fearful. In a state of panic, I reached out to my long distance best friend—the only person who knew just how badly I was suffering. With her and her mother’s (a retired nurse) help, I stopped taking the pills, drank water, and slept. The episode caused me to miss Thursday’s and Friday’s classes, leaving me only further behind.

Fast-forward to Sunday evening: My suite mates were already asleep. My roommate was out with her boyfriend. And I had a massive test on Monday and over 100 pages to read before I could even study. I picked up the bottle of anti-depressants, promising to only take one. I don’t remember if a pill made it to my mouth, but I do remember throwing the bottle against the door, watching them dance across the floor. I hated the control they had over me. I hated that I had no control over anything… I darted to the closet and retrieved the hidden bottle of vodka, hoping it would help me to not care anymore.

I don’t remember asking for help that night—but it did come.

My memories are still scattered together: My friend hugging me. Her calling the security office for help. Being tucked into bed. And then being walked over to the counseling center the following morning, where I was escorted off campus in an ambulance to the hospital.

It’s been 2,128 days since I tried to take my own life. But it’s been less than a year since I admitted to myself that my suicide attempt was indeed a suicide attempt.

The hospital paperwork deemed me suicidal—a good portion of the reason my university placed me on academic probation at the time. With freedom of no longer being a student, I decided I wasn’t going to stay anymore—so I started running, again.

Three months after my suicide attempt, I moved to another state. I worked hard to get to a place where I was happy. But I wasn’t always. So I continued to travel near and far, and halfway across the world. Until, five years had passed and I found myself back in my hometown again. It was there I realized that the lessons and the growth and the change wasn’t going to be found in a new state or a foreign country, but inside myself. I just had to face it. I had to stay and face it.

“Stay” has multiple meanings to me: Staying in one location. Staying committed. Staying in my head so I can figure out what’s going on. Staying on this planet.

I’m still learning the first one. I haven’t found a permanent home, but now I’m searching, not running.

But I do plan to stay committed to myself and my recovery. I do plan to stay and sort of out my emotions even when they seem overwhelming. And I do plan to stay on this planet—unless they declare Mars inhabitable, in which case, see you later!

My suicide attempt is something that defines a part of me, just not all of me. I know that without hitting that rock bottom, I wouldn’t have reached such great heights today.

This year, two of my biggest dreams came true: becoming a published author and growing into the person I needed when I was younger.

I also became a self-care mentor, and now have the opportunity to go into health classrooms to speak with high school students about mental illness and the importance of self-care. (How. Cool.)

I’ve also stayed for even more important things like, hearing my baby niece say my name for the first time, watching my eldest niece graduate from the fourth grade, reading new books that become new favorites, writing a second novel, feeling the sand beneath my feets, and the sun rays heating up my skin.

If I hadn’t stayed, I would have never known what I was made of. What I was capable of.

Days are difficult sometimes. I start to unravel, but I’ve learned how to put  myself back together. My anxiety is sometimes heightened and my depression sometimes taunts me. But still, I stay.

It’s a permanent word in my vocabulary. And I want it to be part of yours, too.

Stay. Because the sun has a way of rising every morning and setting every night—filling the skies with hues of pinks, purples, and oranges.

Stay. Because every second, waves crash upon the sand, gripping and reaching at the shore, only to draw back into the ocean and try again.

Stay. Because you’re meant to walk on this ground, head held high, the world in your hands.

Stay. Because you matter and that’s the only reason you need.
Stay. Because even when you feel helpless, you are not hopeless.

Chelsea Lauren

Chelsea Lauren is addicted to drinking coffee, writing in cafes, and walking the beach. A New York native, she recently moved to Melbourne, FL and found having conversations with her character’s on the beach is the perfect cure to writer’s block. To learn more about her, check out “About Me.” Her debut novel, Underneath the Whiskey, is now available on Amazon.

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