Content Warning: This post contains information about depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm, which may be triggering to some survivors.
"Everybody Lies," Raquel Lyons
“I don't know if I'm strong enough to keep on living. I don't know if I'm strong enough to stay alive.” - From May 28th 2015
“Goodbye doesn’t come easy,
But letting go can be so beautifully freeing.
I’m one with the stars now,
Mixing into the universe,
There’s always so much more that could be said,
But I hope these words have fed some comfort,
It will be okay, I know it.
Letting go doesn’t have to be bad,
It can be releasing.
And we all need to be released.” - From ‘May Our Souls Rest Tonight’ written May 29th 2015.
“The biggest thing I want to say is a HUGE THANK YOU to so many of you who have reached out to me in the past week, through comments or notes, genuinely you aided me in finding my own strength to get myself help.” - From June 2nd 2015.
I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on self-harm and suicide obsessions by my university’s Counseling Center in the fall of 2014. Featuring journal entries from my deviantART account, this is a part of my story.
“There’s something in my head. Something that tells me: Kill yourself. Nobody cares about you. Nobody would know. Jump off the building. You're just lying. You're full of shit. What if - ? Are you sure? But I don't want to, right? Or do I? Do I want to do that? I don't think I do. I don't...right? Nobody should know about the nothing. Don't tell anyone. It's just you and me. Why can't you just jump? Why is this so difficult? So pathetic. So weak.” - From November 22 2014.
Within that semester, the OCD was rough. I once missed my class because I got stuck in the stairwell for forty-five minutes, sitting on the floor too afraid to move because I might have pushed myself down the stairs--even though I had absolutely no intention or desire to hurt or kill myself. I withdrew from my friends to spend more time with the OCD in my head, because it told me it was such great company and that I only needed it and no one else. I stopped showing up at Photography Club meetings, which I was President of and all other management had fallen out, which left people frustrated and upset by my lack of absence and more by my lack of integrity. People said they would help, but I had too much doubt for the both of us to know whether or not to believe them.
When I could manage the suicide obsessions, self-harm obsessions appeared. Then I tried scratching myself to see if the thoughts would go away (they didn’t--and came back tenfold worse), but it took me a while to use that method of self-harm. I hit myself with car keys, bit myself, scratched--before I settled on the scratching and stuck with that. It was a constant oscillation between the two obsessions, and I felt I couldn’t handle both at the same time. My emotions would swing from anxious to angry to depressed to apathetic. It was a frequent cycle of emotions and obsessions and compulsions and I don’t know how I didn’t drive myself up a tree and off of it.
I remember wishing I could kill myself but being so anxious by that same thought that I knew I wouldn’t be able to. So then I wished other people would kill me. I remember thinking that suicide was out of the question, but self-harm? Self-harm was doable.
I recall once sitting on a ledge at school when it was damp outside from rain and the semester was rearing to a close. I remember what it felt like to dangle one foot over the edge and that while some people passed me by, only one person told me not to do it. And no one else said a thing.
“But it was cold and I felt bad for calling the self-harm hotline because I don't cut myself and I felt bad if I'd call the suicide prevention hotline because I certainly wasn't feeling suicidal either. I know a lot of this was precipitated by such an intense feeling of desperation, of "needing to do something".” - From December 31st 2014
That desperation; that moment where darkness seized my vision as the thought crept into my brain: “There’s nothing you can do.” That’s what suddenly gave me those so called ‘guts’ to kill myself. I knew then that suicide was the ‘only way out’ and that it was such a marvelous idea, and I didn’t know how I hadn’t thought of it sooner.
What I thought was merely OCD at the time, turned into the monstrous combination of intense OCD and depression. The next day I woke up and for eight hours I didn’t move an inch on my bed, curled up in a fetal position, dreaming of death as an escape. The glorification stunk from miles away, but I was too deep in it to see it.
“I tried to kill myself on Tuesday, January 6th. Those are still strange words to utter from my lips, let alone type or see upon the screen. I'm glad I'm alive; I'm annoyed it didn't work. I'm horrified, disturbed, nauseous; it gives me a headache - why did I take the pills? Why didn't I take more?” - From January 18th 2015.
But then things started to change, slowly, gradually. I started one round of medications, that didn’t work well for me, so I started on another. That one did. We upped the dosage. I was hospitalized on January 29th and March 2nd. I got a psychiatrist. I started coloring--drawing, practicing art therapy. I started to learn about treatment, about SMART goals, about recovery. I started to grow in strength.
“Additionally, I am hopeful about the future. One of the things I've come to terms with in the past couple of weeks, is that I need to be there for myself, my true self, as I have before when I only had OCD. That means, saying "No" to intrusive thoughts about harming myself. Saying "No, I will not do that. I will not harm myself, I will not try to kill myself." And, even further, the most difficult thing: "In this moment, I am choosing life. I choose to live another day. I choose to stay alive, in spite of the part of me that wants nothing more than for the pain to end. Today, I choose to lay compassion and kindness over my pain - not more pain over pain." - From March 18 2015
“Give yourself credit today. You're getting through this moment, and you're going to get through the next one. You're working through this the best way that you can based on what you have available to you right now. Treat yourself well, kindly. I believe in you.
And, genuinely, I'm glad that you're still here. I'm glad that you exist, I would be sad if you left.” - From April 29th 2015
The spring semester was winding down and life was taking its toll. I made it through finals, but by the end of May and a three month waitlist ahead of me for the OCD-Institute, I felt suicidal again.
Yet, I got help. June 2nd began my third hospitalization.
“It has come to my attention by various professionals that I have in the past glorified suicide and self-harm, to myself, and since what I say comes out in writings or artwork or journals, you guys probably got a whiff of that too. My apologies!
Speaking of.... It also has come to my attention that I lost myself somewhere down the line of having OCD, having depression, having suicidal ideation and just became them. Or, put another way, I started identifying myself as OCD/Depression/suicidal” - From June 15th 2015.
And here, I began writing journals about positive music that inspired me and gave me hope, positive coping strategies, focusing on my recovery, doing art features. In November 2015 I was admitted into the OCD-I for five weeks where I got much help, treatment, wonderful groups and the ability to be my authentic self.
In December I created a group on DA called Recovery-to-Wellness. At the end of January 2016 I returned to school.
At this point in time, I’m somewhere around ten months clean from repetitive self-harm, with three lapses to that timeline. I’ve joined NAMI In Our Own Voice as a presenter spreading mental health awareness across Massachusetts. I’ve written articles for the Mass Media, our school newspaper, regarding my own experiences with mental health.
While I’ve been feeling safe more of the time, I’m recognizing I need a bit of a reboot with a partial hospitalization. I dream of giving a TED talk a couple years from now about my mental health experiences. I’ll paint my own front door with a pastel iris over a green background. And I’ll keep on recovering, because I am strong enough, after all.
About the art:
Raquel is one of my students at UMass Boston and I see her every day. I know her story well. So getting to her writing from her DeviantArt page—another topic she often discusses with me, as it being an incredible outlet for her to share her experiences. So it was wonderful to read more of her progress to this point in her life. I also used her DA screen name for the title of this story, as it is also a reference to the TV show, House, which is one of Raquel's favorite shows.
Raquel is a very brave human being that shares her story with many people and I admire that about her because it's so necessary in our culture. Raquel is active in the recovery community in the Greater Boston area and spreads the ideas of coping strategies and self-love while also managing her own struggles with her mental health.
Which is funny because in our Share Your Story submission page, survivors are given the option to be anonymous and Raquel responded, "You can plaster my name on a billboard if you'd like =)" So that should give you an idea of the type of person Raquel is when it comes to sharing her story.
So when it can to creating Raquel's piece of art, I knew it needed to be bright just like Raquel's smile! Raquel did request a tree and had the wonderful idea of having me mix the word, "recovery" into the roots of the tree—which I thought was a great idea! So I had fun with it. I love doing this sort of line work and am glad I got to do some for this piece.
I'm so thankful for Raquel sharing her story and I hope it inspires more folks to do the same. Raquel and I are hard at work on the UMass Boston campus, spreading positivity and coping strategies and I can't wait to see what happens next! Stay tuned!