A Year Ago Today

You often hear people saying “I just wish I would have known” when speaking of a tragic loss to suicide. That is because depression and suicidal thoughts/actions hide. It’s not just the emo kid at school or the person on the outside of a group like many would expect, it is hiding in plain sight. In the valedictorian – drowning in unrealistic expectations and pressure to perform. The popular, athlete. The pretty, sorority girl keeping up the life of the party image. The roommate who is so “lazy” and always sleeping through class. It runs ramped in high schools, on college campuses, in the work place, often right under our noses.

With the 180 my life has made in this area the past year, specifically in the past few months, I want to open up my story to bring light to this topic and hopefully let anyone reading know they are not alone. If this resonates with you or you are dealing with a similar situation, feelings of depression, etc. I would love to talk with you as I know it can be a difficult thing to voice to people who may not understand and point you to some good people/resources I have found to help further. I also want to thank my wonderful family for the never ending love and support they give me & my friends for standing by me through thick & thin. I love you all!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

A year ago today I lay in a hospital bed in Oxford, Mississippi. I was surrounded by friends and family in my life so why did I feel so alone? I had lost my direction and wasn’t sure what I was living for anymore. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be living anymore. I had been brought there on suicide watch the previous night and although everything inside of me fought against being there something deep within me felt in a messed up way noticed and safe. I so clearly remember as people came in to ask me questions and talk to me I felt sad because I wished someone in my own life would care to ask me these questions. But it’s a funny thing because at the same time I was wishing this to myself, I revolved my whole life around trying to keep that part of me a secret. Not wanting anyone to know enough to even ask. I can remember feeling like these doctors and people being paid to stay with me and question me may be the only people who actually knew the real me right then.

By the next morning all I could think about was wanting to leave the hospital and absolutely wanting nobody to know I had been there. I didn’t care that there were obviously huge things that needed to be done to avoid this happening again, I was just embarrassed of my reality and wanted to get back to the parties & the social life ASAP to a) try to forget and b) not look suspicious or questionable. “Fake it till ya make it” that was the motto – and I faked it well. I was embarrassed I had carried this with me to college when I promised myself I wouldn’t and that I had everything under control. This was my fresh start! Why was I going down this unhealthy path again?  This embarrassment or shame and need to hide is what kept me in this cycle so much longer than I needed to be, why this happened on a loop. I couldn’t get out until I completely realized my need for help, loss of control and decided to let others in.

I wish that trip had been the end to my self hate and self hurt story but my unhealthy patterns of dealing with outside stress and anxiety just continued as the months went on and as I said in my Facebook post a few months back about the real reason I came on Kivu Gap Year – ultimately lead to me leaving Ole Miss a bit early in the Spring.

Once home I finally found the courage to open up and get the outside help I needed. I didn’t want depression to hold me back and have control over my internal joy anymore. It was time I took my life back for good. I really found my faith again and the full joy and life that gives me. The removal of guilt and shame was real. This was the biggest turning point in all of this. Without my faith I would still be so lost. And with my faith came purpose, forgiveness and healing far beyond what I could have ever imagined.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I had heard often in my life that “God can take our mess and turn it into a ministry” and I saw that happen in me for the first time in May of this past year. I was on a 3 week beach trip with CRU called Greek Summit where college kids in fraternities and sororities throughout the South come together to learn how to minister in their houses back at school. (*highly recommend going on this @college students) It was here I had the opportunity to go and evangelize to people on college campuses around Florida. I had never done anything like this before and had just in the last week or two gotten back in deep with my own faith so I was extremely nervous going into it and wasn’t sure how it would go. I went with my Greek Summit roommate Rachel and one other girl and we started out just walking around the campus looking for someone to strike up a conversation with.

We came across a girl about my age maybe a year older and proceeded to talk to her about the gospel for around an hour. She was surprisingly very open and responsive to questions and the conversation but I found because I was so nervous I was kind of sitting back a little trying to think of what to say. It was then that she said something that struck a chord with me. She opened up about having attempted suicide and struggling with depression and feeling shameful for that and like God could not forgive her for it. I felt an instant rush through me like I had to say something and had been put here with her for this moment. I honestly believe the Holy Spirit was speaking through me at that time as my eyes welled up with tears and I was able to share with her the beautiful forgiveness and redemption we are offered through Jesus and the freedom I had found in him and she could also. I can’t even remember everything I said I just knew once we were finished talking that God had put me in her life for a reason. And vis versa.

We were able to have this life changing connection through something I had spent years of my life being so so ashamed of. And as much as God had helped her through me that day in realizing his grace and unconditional love, I also found personal healing in seeing my past for the first time as something being made beautiful.

God has a plan. He has a purpose and he is using all of us in different ways to bring glory to his name and spread his light. This was a lovely way for me to really see this in action and finally stop seeing my past as shameful and rather see it as my ministry. Instead of being embarrassed of my story I am now excited to share with others and encourage them in their own life struggles.

This trip was the first step that gave me the motivation to completely get healthy and back to the real me. I found the courage to be vulnerable and honest with people. I have always been a bubbly and happy person growing up as long as I can remember. Even whenever I went out or was around people the last couple of years, I still exuded that. And at times I really felt happy but it just was so fleeting and inconsistent. I had lost a bit of my fire along the way and I am so happy to have it back. And really have it back. Not dependent on circumstance or people. Not digging into helping and “saving” everyone’s life around me as a way to just avoid my own brokenness. As a secret call for someone to maybe notice and do the same back for me. I can honestly say I am now so content and deeply grateful for the life I have and constantly in awe of the beauty around me. I never want to go back to living any way other than this and my prayer is for everyone around me to experience full joy in life the way I am now.

Psalm 40: 1-3
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him. 

Looking back on where I was a year ago compared to where I am today I am so proud of how far I have come. This is a process for me and I am still in the middle of it. I am daily learning and growing, constantly filling my mind with positivity. And yes, every day is not sunshine and rainbows. I promise you I have low, bad days still sometimes. I had one just this past week where I just wanted to go home and lay in my bed and be sad. And that’s ok. Every week is different, especially in the crazy gap year I am on right now. But it is how you overcome those bad days and cope with them that is important. It is where you turn to for hope and motivation. And for me that is my faith. & to anyone reading this that may feel alone or depressed, I want you to know you are not alone. And things will get better, don’t lose hope! You have a Father in heaven that LOVES you and he can’t wait to turn your mess into a ministry too.

XO,

Eleanor

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