When I was fourteen, I didn't want to live past age twenty-one.
I rarely talk about this, especially not so bluntly or so publicly. But today, I felt like I needed to. Seven years ago, I didn't realize what I was feeling wasn't normal. I didn't know it was dangerous. Conversely, I also didn't know anybody else knew what I was feeling or could relate to it. I was torn between the fear that either nobody would understand what I was feeling and so if I opened up, they just wouldn't know what I was saying, and the fear that everybody felt this and it was normal, that feeling like I didn't want to keep living for much longer was a part of life everyone experienced and I just had to suffer through it. I honestly believe that if I didn't have my fiction to pile some of my feelings into, I would have had to face them directly, and might have ended up in a much darker and more dangerous place.
When I was fourteen, I didn't want to keep living past age twenty-one because I couldn't imagine life as something I could enjoy. I couldn't find joy in anything anymore and I didn't think that would ever change.
But it did. It did change. I'm twenty-one now, and I'm so, so glad that I have many years still ahead of me. The life I once used to dread has become my greatest dream. I've rediscovered the joy that used to evade me constantly. Even with anxiety or caffeine making my heart race right now, sitting on the couch with a cuddly little kitty sleeping on my legs, a fuzzy blanket, a good thick fantasy book, and soft music playing? That's the good life. So, to my past self, I promise, it gets better. You won't be in that darkness forever. You will rediscover what it means to be happy. You won't always face the future with such dread. You will find joy again in the things that used to excite you. It won't always be easy, and in some ways, that darkness will always be with you, but you won't always be in the pitch-dark cave you're in now. You will find a way out into the soft twilight and the cool morning, the darkness just shadows lurking behind bushes and wrong turns on wooded paths. Here's the secret that will keep you going through the darkest night:
It gets better.
So don't give up because you think the rock-bottom you've hit will be the rest of your life. It won't. You will find solace in realizing that the thoughts you live with aren't normal, but they aren't unique either. A fictional character and an author that becomes one of your good friends will help you see that constantly hating yourself isn't normal or healthy but it is something you can walk out of, a pattern you can break. You'll leave the church and pastor that haunt you. You'll find grace in the God that never meant for you to beat yourself up with the Law you were never able to live up to, finally realize that sanctification doesn't mean you're a failure if you're not perfect now that you follow Jesus. Your crazy hormones will come under control, and while they will still mess with your head worse than they probably should, you'll be able to recognize that for what it is. Your health will come more under control, and for the days when it's not, at least you'll know you're not alone in that either. You'll make friends that won't drift away and desert you and be able to handle it when others do. One day, you'll be able to talk about this to others and you won't feel anymore the crushing weight of being alone.
If you're someone who feels like I felt seven years ago, just know that you're not alone. And that this darkness you're feeling isn't all you'll ever feel. It gets better. I won't lie and say that it's always easy, that I'm completely cured and the darkness is completely gone. I can't even say quantitatively what made it better because I don't really know. But life gets better. You will live and love and laugh and dream and you will find happiness again. And you will be so happy you're living to experience it all. Even the darkest times. Even the stress and the anxiety and the college classes that make you want to rip your hair out and the waitressing experiences that leave you in tears and the triggers that remind you of the darkness that still tries to take over sometimes. Because now that you've faced wishing you were no longer there to experience it all, every day that you do experience it is a gift you never thought you'd be glad to have.
And also, just know this: fiction can save lives. It sure saved mine.
All my best,
(P.S.: the book series that saved my sanity and probably my life is just amazing and frankly everyone should go check it out right away and yes, I'm not ashamed to make this a post about mental health awareness and a book promo)
Also, if you're ever experiencing thoughts about ending your life or simply wishing it would end by natural causes, don't hesitate to call 988 immediately. Don't be afraid to get help.