Mental Illness: ‘It will get better for you’

Molly Carl
Head Copy Editor

“It gets better.”
I repeated these words to myself, cloaked with bitter irony as, two years ago on April 19, 2013, I swallowed a handful of Ativan and ibuprofen, wrote a note and laid down to the greatest sense of peace I’d known in a long while. I was relieved to finally feel my eyelids close on what I’d decided would be the final act of my life.
Through some miracle, the boundless love of friends and no thanks to Lancaster Regional Medical Center, I pulled through after spending a Friday, Saturday and Sunday high as tits, yet functioning fairly convincingly, while retaining no memories from that weekend. The first thought post-attempt that I remember having was, “Dammit, Carl. You couldn’t even do that right.”
The first time I hurt myself was in seventh grade. I’d tripped and fallen and rammed my elbow into the corner of my dresser, and discovered a macabre delight in smashing the gigantic bruise that formed against any surface I could find. The physical pain made me feel better about the emotional pain I had inside.

Mental illness artistically represented (Photo courtesy of www.joellePoulos.com).
Mental illness artistically represented (Photo courtesy of www.joellePoulos.com).

At the age of 14, after being tested for all sorts of hormonal and glandular issues that may have accounted for my constant lethargy and irritability, I was diagnosed with depression which went untreated for a year – no meds; no therapy.
At 15, I started on what was essentially considered a child’s dose of Zoloft which, in severity, ranks right alongside lithium and bloodletting in my mind. For two and a half years I remained on this dosage which was strong enough to give me all of the negative side effects (e.g. worsening depression, lack of concentration, increased thoughts of suicide, etc.) while receiving none of the positive ones.
It wasn’t until the first of two trips I took to the psych ward my senior year of high school that I got placed on a functionary dose of Zoloft and started to see some improvements.
I headed off to college with the assumption that I was now “fixed” or “cured” of my mental illness. My first year at school was fine; I made lots of friends, got good grades and didn’t have any real difficulties going through everyday life, aside from the gnawing undertones of self-hatred and self-doubt that I assumed would vanish on their own. I was wrong; they didn’t.
Sophomore year my world was hell.
It got to the point where I was existing on a diet of cigarettes and Amp energy drinks, spending entire days asleep and only leaving my room to attend class. My depression began to worsen, and I tacked anxiety onto my mental health docket. By the time I’d finally decided to end my life I’d become a living nightmare. I verbally destroyed the people I cared about and pushed people past their capacity for kindness and understanding; I thought that, since I couldn’t love myself, I would do whatever I could to make the people who had stuck by my side realize that they couldn’t love me either. By the time I decided to kill myself, I’d done my best to try and ensure that not a person in my life would care if I’d died.
I was wrong.

Artistic representation of struggling with mental illness (Photo courtesy of www.imgkid.com).
Artistic representation of struggling with mental illness (Photo courtesy of www.imgkid.com).

The people we have in our lives, the people who care about us, they do so not in spite of who we are but because of who we are. The people I hold closest to me have seen me in every conceivable state of disarray imaginable, from bleeding slowly in my bathtub while I sliced my skin repeatedly to deliriously drunken fits of depression, and everything in between.
I am alive today because of the people who loved me when I couldn’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror.
I am alive today because I kept fighting.
It has been two years almost to the day since I had found myself in a place that no person should ever have to be, where I thought that if I couldn’t go back in time and ensure I was never born to begin with, I might as well remove myself from the equation before I did any more damage. Since then, my diagnosis has been changed to Borderline Personality Disorder, a larger umbrella that encompassed both depression and anxiety, as well as other issues that the medications would not address. My psychiatrist and I adjusted my medications and found an alternative means of therapy that addressed my psychological issues.
The uphill battle was a slow one; I put my faith in people who didn’t deserve it and let the ill-informed opinions of others influence the way I saw myself. I shed a lot of blood and tears during my recovery, and there were days when every step I struggled to take forward put me six steps behind. I lashed out irrationally and bottled up way more emotions than I should have, but I kept going.
Two years after the worst day of my life, I am an entirely different human with an all-new look on life. I understand empathy and the knowledge that every single person has his or her own battles and struggles, no matter how internalized. I know that no single person is worthless and that no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts or how much you struggle, you have to keep fighting.
As Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up.”
Do you know why?
Because after nine years, it got better for me – and it will get better for you, too.