The following content is written by my sister, Katie Perez, and references depression, anxiety and suicide.
At 25, I never expected to spiral into a deep depression. I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression since kindergarten so mental health struggles aren’t new to me. But this time it was different. This time I had destructive thoughts that I’d never experienced before.
Daily migraines and personal situations first led to constant urges to self harm. While others resort to alcohol, drugs, and violence, my version of self harm was an eating disorder and cutting my wrists.
After months of wanting to hurt myself, I “succeeded” when I had my eating disorder. For me it included binging, purging and laxatives. Then the urges to cut arose. I attempted twice with my sharpest kitchen knife but was only able to scratch the skin. I’ll never forget that feeling of disappointment and relief at the fact I wasn’t able to break my skin with the knife. It was a confusing and terrifying moment.
Unfortunately, my last attempt was successful. It was by far my darkest night. All I wanted was to feel something besides all the negative thoughts in my head. I thought physical pain would distract me from the mental pain. So I grabbed my nail clippers and cut into a vein on my wrist. I remember wondering if I could cut deep enough to pass out. I remember thinking, “it’d be a cool feeling to pass out from cutting even deeper.” I remember thinking, “I wonder how much I could bleed before I get lightheaded.”
Luckily, my mom called me while I was cutting and drove right over. To be honest, I don’t know if I would’ve stopped cutting if she hadn’t come over. I will forever owe her my life.
After that night I wore long sleeves and a band aid for 2 weeks. But things didn’t get better. It didn’t help. Although my MBA program, which caused me a lot of stress, was coming to an end, my migraines weren’t letting up. My migraines were so debilitating, that most days i couldn’t even make it to work. If i did, I had to leave early because the pain was too much to bear.
Having to be in bed in the dark all day put me in an even darker place. I just wished I could sleep for the rest of my life so that I could avoid the pain. What’s the point of living when you’re forced to be in bed all day? This is how the suicidal thoughts entered.
Fortunately, my mom knew I needed help and we went to the ER to see if they could help with my migraines and depression. When they asked if I had suicidal thoughts, I cried and nodded. That was how I ended up in the psych unit. I was only there for a few hours but it was awful. They took all my stuff and had me change into a papery, green shirt and pants. The unit was dark and cold. They kept the curtain open to watch me so that nothing happened. I wish they worked on making it more welcoming. You’d think they would set it up to make you happier, not more depressed … right?
After I was discharged, my dad was terrified I would do something. So the next day, my mom called around and found somewhere I could get help. She was able to get me into a treatment facility for mental health. She helped me realize I needed to step back from work and get the help God knew I needed. On January 22, 2019, I began treatment for overnight care. I stayed in their residential program for 30 days, then moved to the day program. The past two months have been emotional and overwhelming, but it has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
I’m not sharing my story to gain pity. I’m sharing my story to let those struggling know that you are not alone. More people than you’d think keep their mental health a secret. It’s easier to mask the pain with a smile than to face it.
I’m sharing my story to let you know it’s okay to ask for help. Pushing through the pain alone is weakness. Asking for help is strength.
I wish our society encouraged conversations about mental illness and provided more resources to treat mental illness. We must help break the stigma of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. I hope that this helps at least one person speak up. Because there truly is light at the end of the tunnel.
I am in no way cured, but I have made immense progress. I even got a heart tattoo around the scar I now have on my wrist from cutting. This simple tattoo means the world to me because it represents something so powerful – the importance of self love. It’s a daily reminder that I can and WILL overcome the demons inside my head. It’s a reminder that although self harm seems easier, self love will always be more effective.
You are not alone, you are not weak, and you are not defined by your mental illness. Ask for help. Put yourself first. Break the stigma.