“In the past, have you ever attempted to seriously hurt yourself?”

She means have I ever tried to kill myself.

I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans.

“Um, yeah. I’ve tried to kill myself,” I counted with my fingers in my lap, “…about, a handful of times.”

A handful. A neat five little fingers. I summed it all up to that.

What couldn’t fit into a handful was the nights on the cold linoleum tiles of my dorm room floor sobbing, imploding, tucking all my body parts into each other in hopes that if I became small enough, I could cease to exist. What I couldn’t count with five fingers was the number of times the words “stupid”, “pathetic”, and “worthless” circulated through my mind every minute. What couldn’t fit into a handful was the heavy mornings feeling paralyzed, was the layers of clothes to hide my cuts, was my uncanny ability to immediately construct a way to hurt myself with any objects in sight after walking into a room. It was the dignity-stripped full body sobbing at the party, on the bus, walking home, begging my friends to leave me fallen next to the dumpster in the rain. What I couldn’t count on five fingers was every failed medication, every bad grade, every extra pound, every dollar of debt, every wrong word or awkward pause, every tiny disagreement, every mess I made because of my illness. What I couldn’t fit into a handful was the profound burning hatred I had for my existence.

I was being assessed by a psychologist at a psychiatric treatment center to determine my eligibility for admission. I fought with myself for months over whether I was “sick enough” for inpatient treatment. I fought with myself for years over whether I was actually sick. Here, in this room, for the first time, I found myself relentlessly and entirely fighting for myself. Fighting for help. Fighting for my life. I was tired of holding myself together, so I cracked myself open and poured everything out.

It was the first time I spoke the words out loud.

Speaking up is what helped set me free.

Stigma is a strong force. It stuffs sufferers behind closed doors, alone and in the dark, until they feel like they don’t belong with others in the light. People are uncomfortable with things they don’t understand, so they feed into stigma, attaching lies to mental illness and suicide or not acknowledging it at all. It isn’t easy to speak up about your pain. It might feel uncomfortable, wrong, terrifying – but it does get easier. Your voice is the most important instrument you’ve been given, and no matter how small or shaky or hoarse it feels, it is there so you can use it. For yourself. For others like you. We all need help sometimes; there is no reason to be ashamed of what you’re feeling. You don’t have to fight this alone. Set yourself free.

Five fingers is a wave to an old friend in the distance. Five fingers is running them through your hair in the comfort of a hot shower on a winter morning. Five fingers is petting your puppy as she falls asleep in your lap. Five fingers is curling them around someone else’s. Five fingers is a high five with a stranger. Five fingers is carrying your best friend’s suitcase when he finally saves enough money to visit you. Five fingers is gripping them around the knob and opening that door and reaching out…

With each of my five fingers, everything could have been gone.

I feel like I see things through brand new eyes now. Every day isn’t easy, but if recovery is real for me, it is real for you. You can feel alive again. You are worthy of feeling better, no matter how far or how deep you’re coming from. You were created for a reason. The strength you possess is so much bigger than your scars and the tangled thoughts in your mind that tell you otherwise. You bring gifts to the world that you might not be aware of yet. Your story is beautiful in a way that no one else’s will ever be. Give it a chance. Stay with us a little longer and give life a chance.

Open the door. Reach out. Speak up. I believe in you.

Leah's Bracelet


Comments

16
  • Lynn Warner

    What you have written is beautiful. You have a gift with words. I will share this and hope many of my Facebook friends will read it.

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    • Leah Bartlett

      Thank you so very much, Lynn. That means so much!

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    • Denna

      Denna Denna

      Reply Author

      Wow, I’m in tears reading this. I can relate on more than one level… I lost my best friend to suicide 10 days before my 21st birthday. I was a cutter, burner, and attempted at least 4 times. I also have PTSD and have suffered debilitating depression from several things including sexual abuse. I lost a son to an accidental overdose. And have had at least 2 of my 6 children go thru each thing I mentioned. One is attending her 2nd funeral of a friend who took his life last week. Thank you. For writing exactly what I needed to hear. Thank God I heard it today.

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  • Jennifer brAdley

    Your struggle comes alive in your writing and is captured so well in these words.

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    • Leah Bartlett

      Thanks so much, Jennifer!!! And thank you for reading!

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  • Linda P.

    Thank you for your words. It helps me know what to say to my loved one who is in treatment.

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    • Leah Bartlett

      Thank you for reading my words! I am so glad I could help.

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  • Rando person

    Thank you!

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  • ShaN

    ShaN ShaN

    Reply Author

    Very nicely written…. My daughter is struggling on the inside. One would NEVER know it by being around her or talking to her. I’m trying to understand how a girl who seems soooo happy, soooo strong, soooo positive, surrounded by family and friends, active in sports, does well in school, can be going thru this internal pain and suffering. I will show this to her and keep on encouraging her to open up. Thank you.

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    • You Matter

      We are concerned for your daughter as well. Please encourage her to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The call is free and confidential, and crisis workers are there 24/7 to assist. To learn more about the Lifeline, visit our website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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  • 666

    666 666

    Reply Author

    Im going to kill myself.. …. 29 days….

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    • You Matter

      Thank you for reaching out to us! We’re here for you any time, day or night, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you’re struggling. Don’t hesitate to call us if you need support!

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  • MNL

    MNL MNL

    Reply Author

    Five fingers was my hand, gripping a bottle of pills that I have been saving as my exit strategy. Today I surrendered my stash to my doctor and now I’m feeling extremely vulnerable. I couldn’t bare to have them at my disposal because I know I can’t be trusted, and the truth is, I can easily replace that stash, but for right now -it’s gone, and I’m still here.

    There is an expression, “you can’t unring a bell.” How does this internal misery ever go away? How do you cure this thought cancer?

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    • You Matter

      Thank you for reaching out to our community here and sharing your story. Remember that the Lifeline is here for you at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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  • DebbiE G

    Thank you so much for this, Leah. It’s a strong, beautiful piece. I lost my brother last spring – he took his life. I know he struggled with the darkness for so long. But I’m learning, there IS hope, and I just shared your story which I know will give strength to others to hold on, that we need them, and while it’s hard, it can get better and all of us want to help. Thank you for being here, for being strong and brave. I want you to have the spectacular life you deserve! Take care of yourself.

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  • Tommy Rodgers

    I want to say thank you to the You Matter movement. I’m not in the typical age group that this group focuses on, however, you all helped me at a very difficult time of my life.

    My Situation….
    Not to long ago, I hit rock bottom emotionally and -despite having a long history of being very much again suicide as I have lost people to it and I know how it feels to be left behind to handle the aftermath- I attempted to take my own life. It had been building for a while, but I had not noticed as I have been dealing with my manic ups and downs my entire life and just thought it was the “norm”. I didn’t realize that I needed help or even that I could get help.

    After spending a week under observational care at a local mental hospital, I began out patient day group therepy and daily assessment sessions with my psychiatrist. My first day I was given a diagnosis of bipolar II, severe anxiety and co-dependant personality. The diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. Despite the wonderful compassion of the counselors and the group, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wow, I’m seriously messed up and will never be stable. I almost wish that I had succeeded in killing myself, so I wouldn’t be a burden to anyone anymore.”

    The Smallest Things Can Have the Biggest Impact….
    Fortunately, I managed to talk myself out of those thoughts, however, I was still spiraling down the trail of anxiety. The next day, on the way to my group therepy session, it became too much and I had a severe anxiety attack that caused me to burst into tears so bad that I had to pull over on the highway.

    As I collected myself, I happened to look up. There tacked on to a street sighn was a little piece of paper that simply said, “You Matter.” Those two words, seemingly placed at random, were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I was able to push aside the anxiety and the negative self talk that had been echoing in my head for the past 24 hours and I made it to group where I tearfully shared the story.

    My New Place…
    I’m happy to report that I’m doing far better than I was. With the help of my Group Therepy, the knowledge of my Psychiatrist and the compassion of the counselors, I am well on the way down the path of recovery. As I progressed in my treatment, I not only learned that I am not alone, but also coping, mindfulness and interpersonal skills that will (and have) help me manage my condition and grow.

    Today I “graduated” from Group Therepy at which point I learned from others in our group that I have not only helped others in the group by sharing my experiences and insights as I walked down the path of insights- a fact that I was completely unaware of. It showed me truly that I can help others without sacrificing my own well being and that I truly did matter.

    However, I’m not sure if I would be in this place if not for that seemingly randomly placed sighn with those simple words, “You Matter” printed on it as I was beginning the path of processing and recovery. I have and will continue to spread that message to many people regardless of age or situation as I have learned first hand that it can change a life.

    To the You Matter Movement, thank you!

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