When I first experienced thoughts of suicide, at about 10 years old, I never thought about the possibility of it being tied to my mental health or the other way around. I just knew I felt both empty and weighed down and I wanted that feeling to end. I did not realize that I should receive help until almost 10 years later when a horribly failed group friendship exposed a pattern of self destruction, self hatred, loneliness, anger, and eventual shame. This dark spiral led me to destroy paths of success and meaningful relationships with people.

I started to speak up about how I felt to those who remained in my life and who never left, despite everything. I may have felt lonely, but I came to realize I was never truly alone. Even if I couldn’t vocalize what I wanted to say, I broke it down to “help me.” Five years later, I would finally be paired with the most inspirational therapist I ever met in my life who encouraged me to keep fighting everyday and reminded me I had goals to achieve.

The most difficult part about mental health is having a safe space to talk about it and be open. I was not provided with that space as a child, and I cannot blindly continue such a social tradition because it’s a stigmatized subject. I want to provide that space for others to become healthier and functional, not perfect or even to “fit in society better.” You fit in the way you need to be your best self.

I’ve made it my personal mission to create spaces for these tough conversations by attending DBSA support groups and being a part of the Young Adult Council to contribute to resources for young people navigating a mood disorder. Being in control of my mental health, for me, comes in the form of helping others.

These are an additional source of support along with my individual therapy. There is something calming about being around people who “get it.” The good, the bad, and the ugly. I can expose my raw sides and have several other individuals who have experienced the exact same thing. Sometimes I get great life suggestions or a different perspective.

To anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide: There will be a day in the future, in your moments of clarity where you’re sitting or standing in a place you never thought was possible. It may be a small moment where you are looking at a really old tall tree or landing in a new country. You’ll smile. It may be a small moment where everything seems aligned and correct finally. Those are the golden nuggets that make this life experience worth it. It’s even better when you get to share those nuggets with people in your life who care about you.