Danielle: I became more involved back in 2011 when I began a relationship with someone diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder. I sat by his side as he shifted from depressed to deeper depression and mild manic episodes. I talked him down as he attempted suicide and visited him daily when he needed hospitalization…roughly 8 times in our 2 1/2 years together. During our relationship, he fell in to a heavy heroin addiction which led to the demise of our relationship but we remain, to this day, the best of friends. He is also now 6 months clean. A few months after our breakup I began working on a project interviewing those that suffered with mental health issues as well as those in recovery.
One person that reached out to a post I made on social media was my first love, my first boyfriend. He shared his story with me about having to live in a mental health facility and talked about his diagnosis. In what I thought was jest, he brought up a suicide plan twice during the early phases of our communication, and we grew very close from these conversations. We began seeing one another and over the course of the following five and a half months, I never heard another comment about suicide. However, in early April, just as I was preparing to tell him I was in love with him (we decided to officially be boyfriend and girlfriend a few weeks earlier,) he took his life. Everyone was blindsided. There were things in his final days and in our last conversation just the day before he died that I now see were warning signs. In all of my conversations, reading, experiences, I thought I was able to see things more clearly but found I was not.
Because of this tragic and horrible loss I have decided to take my own mental health more seriously and am trying little by little to share with people the things I have been struggling with on and off for the majority of the past fifteen or so years. My first diagnosis came when I was fourteen…the wrong diagnosis…and it kept going from there. It wasn’t until his suicide that I realized I was putting a stigma on myself by denying I had mental health issues. Just because I never used medication, didn’t mean I didn’t have a problem. I always minimized my problems, still do, but my life, I finally realized, is just as important as those that I care for. Since this beautiful man that I deeply loved died, I am trying harder to take care of myself and not be ashamed.
I have major depression, I have PTSD, I have mild OCD, I have generalized anxiety. I think about suicide all the time, but haven’t attempted to take my life since I was fifteen years old…almost sixteen years…because I learned that I need to take life one day at a time. I may not know what my purpose is but I know that by sharing my story I can possibly help others understand themselves better, perhaps show new insight to their loved ones…so I continue to work on my project which I have named “Shattering the Silence,” in memory of my lost love to hopefully shed insight in to the minds of those who don’t understand or those that feel alone in their struggle to show that there is help, there is hope, and we are never alone no matter how it feels.
I battle it every day. I started a fan page on Facebook where I share articles, stories and photos related to mental health, addiction/recovery, grief, and suicide. I extend helpful information and provide an ear. I welcome conversation and interviews for the book I’m writing. The only way we can overcome the stigmas that surround us it to educate and give ourselves a voice. We can do this.