By Lindsay Gottlieb
Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide, self-harm, and mild substance use. You may want to stop reading if these subjects upset you. This article is merely for educational purposes.
After losing someone to suicide and going through her journal in which I read some of the most disturbing material I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes, I figured it was time to write about how much mental health matters to me. My name is Lindsay Gottlieb, I am fifteen years old, and today I’m here to explain why I didn’t give up.
I used to think that alcohol and nicotine would solve my problems— a buzz for a short while, and then back to reality. I actually used to take Benadryl to force myself asleep when I couldn’t stand to be awake. Unfortunately, these are bound to cause larger problems in the future, and I was able to acknowledge this and stop before it got bad. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts since about seventh grade, and it is likely that I still have not experienced the last of them.
The hardest thing about having thoughts to take my life is fighting the urge to act upon them— especially when, in my situation, I had already written a note and thought of a plan. The last unhealthy coping mechanism I plan to talk about is self-harm. I have intentionally cut myself only twice, and both times resulted in immediate regret and major internal conflict: Why are you like this? What went wrong with you? You’re such a defect. You might as well take the next step.
I don’t wish these thoughts on my worst enemy. No one deserves to think that their life is any “less worth.” I’m not here to persuade my reader to pity me and my sob story, as these unhealthy coping mechanisms are a thing of the past. I’m glad to have emerged as a stronger person.
In that vein, recently, I created a Google Form for my peers on social media, asking them why they choose to push forward each day. I knew that many people (including myself) would not be willing to share such sensitive thoughts with their name attached to it, so I left the form completely anonymous, so that people could say what they wanted without worrying. Below are a couple of my favorite responses. (Participants agreed to have their submissions used anonymously in this article.)
I have such appreciation and respect for those who are able to share these kinds of thoughts with me. I have gotten more responses than what I have selected to put in here, but some of them, I believe, should be kept private. As someone who completely understands what it’s like to struggle, I consider myself a resource for my peers. I may not be professionally trained in psychology and therapy, but I have been available to listen when my closest friends have struggled.
In this article, I was able to share some of the thoughts of my fellow students to let them know that they are not alone. However, I haven’t given myself much time to reflect on my initial question: What keeps me going? The best answer I can give is that I’m not entirely sure. I could give the general answer of how my family loves me (and how my cat brings me more happiness than any human I’ve ever met), but I consider this answer to be self-explanatory and universal.
I would prefer to come back to this question in a number of years and answer it more in-depth so that my reflection is more specific to my situation. I have big hopes for the future, and I live to see them one day. When they do happen and eventually are the reason why I wake up each day, well, I’ll get back to you on that one. In the meantime, my “big dreams” are to present myself to the best of my ability, and that’s really all I can ask of someone.