Kayleigh's Story - Survivor

"I’m so grateful I survived."

Image with illustration of pink leaves

Trigger warning: This story mentions drug use, self-harm, suicide attempt, abuse, and depression. Please proceed with caution.

I have been through a lot. My childhood, from an outsider’s perspective, seemed pretty normal. I didn’t realize how hard it would all hit me in my teen years.

When I was little, I was surrounded by adult figures who indulged in drugs. Pills, pills, and more pills. My mother, my step-father, ex-step-fathers, my bio-dad, and their friends used them frequently. In the same house as me and my little siblings, my mom was always “falling asleep”—standing up, making food, and rummaging through the cupboards. I always thought she was just tired. I only recently learned that she was messed up on pills and couldn't keep her eyes open or her head up.

My mother has been with multiple different men during my siblings' and my lifetimes. The last one she was with was abusive. I always heard them arguing and hitting. When they broke up, I was sent off to live with my biological father and his girlfriend at the time. During my time there, I experienced verbal abuse. It wasn’t all the time, but it happened here and there. Moving there caused me to develop an eating disorder at only 11 years old. I was so stressed from having to leave my mother.

I reunited with my mother and siblings about a year later. Since then, I’ve always had a problem with food. I complained a few times when I was 12 about not being able to eat properly. By 13, I was living with my mom, my siblings, and my current step-father. This is when the mental issues began to show themselves.

I became very insecure, always hiding my face at school. I became extremely shy, and kids at school resented me for it. I guess I gave off the wrong impression by being so quiet. Maybe they thought I believed I was better than everyone else by not talking to anyone.

I never experienced hardcore bullying; it was always very subtle, at least to my knowledge.

I self-harmed for the first time at 13, in my bathroom. I didn't know what depression was, I didn't know what anxiety was, I didn't know what OCD was, but I had them all terribly.

Around 14, we moved. That’s when it all went downhill. Looking back at videos between 13-14, I was very bubbly, at least with people I knew. I had a lot of friends; I loved dancing and music.

It was worse at school. I was always late, always being rushed. I took so long to get ready because I hated what I saw, no matter what I did to try and fix it. My mother, at the time, didn’t understand what was going on with me. I didn't know how to express it or tell anybody. I kept it to myself for a very long time. I was so desperate for anybody to talk to me that I would frequently post my troubles on my Snapchat story.

I always hid in the school bathrooms, especially if I was late or didn't have time to get ready. I was so overwhelmingly anxious that I couldn’t stand to walk into class. I hated the attention, but I also somehow craved it.

When I would be in class, I kept to myself. I couldn’t raise my hand, I couldn’t read aloud with the rest of the class. I couldn’t even open my binder, sharpen my pencil, or reach into my backpack. I was too embarrassed and anxious to even move. I always sat in the back, which made it a little easier to do what I needed to do.

Now this brings us to lunch. I always ate in the bathroom or in the girl’s locker room. Eating in front of people was one of the many large things I simply couldn’t do. Sometimes I didn’t eat at all, continuing my ongoing issue with eating. Some people would ask my best friend at the time if I was okay, if I was anorexic. People always talked behind my back and thought I was weird. People even thought I did all of that, like hiding in the bathroom, for attention. I hid to be away from people.

Around 14, I began self-harming more, a few times a week or more sometimes. I hurt myself after every inconvenience, big or small, because I was just so tired and broken and I didn’t know why. My mom found out about my cutting and forced me to show her my legs. This destroyed her. It hurt me too, to see what this did to her.

She started to see how much I was struggling and got me a counselor at the school. I went there every day. I honestly don’t remember if it helped or not. I think this was also around the time I began to take medication for my depression and anxiety. I don't remember the name, but I’ve tried Prozac and Zoloft.

At 15, I got into a relationship with a junior in high school. It was very unhealthy, and I wasn't stable enough for something like that, but I didn’t know it at the time. I just craved the affection. We dated for a few weeks, but I was already so attached. He broke up with me on March 4th, saying he needed a break because I was preventing him from focusing on school. My mother let me stay home from school the next day because I was heartbroken. The next day, March 5th, was the day I decided I wanted to leave this world.

Everything I had been dealing with, on top of him not wanting me anymore, completely sent me over the edge. I took a bottle of *******, or at least what was left in the bottle. I remember watching myself in the mirror. I took handful after handful after handful. I watched the tears stream down my face as I felt each cluster of pills pile down my throat. I laid on the bathroom floor for a few minutes until I started to feel a little off.

I tried calling my cousin, who was at school and didn’t answer. I tried calling my best friend, who was also at school and told me she couldn't answer. So I called my brother. He answered. I told him I was dying. He was confused and crying. He told me he was going to call Mom, so he hung up.

I heard my mom rush up the stairs into my room with 9-1-1 on call. We both waited downstairs, both crying, holding each other, rocking back and forth on the living room floor. Paramedics finally came and I was escorted to the hospital.

I remember having to drink charcoal. I remember vomiting up something red. I was in the hospital for about a week, and I had many professionals come in to speak with me.

After my time there, I was taken to a mental hospital. I hated it there. I wanted to go home. I begged the nurses and counselors to take me home because that place only made it worse.

After a week, I was taken to a home—a farm home for children like me. I was scared at first, but I grew to find it like a home. I loved it there. Being there, around all those people, the kind staff, and the friends I made helped me realize that everything is going to be okay. It’s going to take time, hard work, and dedication, but happiness is coming my way.

I took up reading while I was there. I read pretty much the entire Harry Potter book series. I began to pay attention to little things: the warm sun beaming in through the windows as I sat and read, the warm food that filled my belly, the warm bed I got to sleep in, the people I got to be around, the endless amount of books to read, the journal I got to write my thoughts in, the poems I got to write, the doodles I got to draw, the clothes I got to wear, and most importantly, the people that I had all around me, helping me improve, helping me move forward. I began to feel grateful for all that I had while working hard for what I wanted.

I came home. I was happy. I took up spirituality, which became a big reason for me to practice gratitude. I looked around me every day, thankful for the trees, the grass, the bugs, the sky. Thankful for the people I had and still have around me: my family, my friends, my cat. I would have moments where I could only focus on the negative, but I always found gratitude again.

I began to see more of the light, even in negative situations, even if I had a bad day. I would remind myself to look around at everything, big or small, especially small: the candles I get to burn and the wonderful scents that come with them, the blanket that keeps me warm at night, the breeze on my face, the smell of my favorite season, fall, outside, the TV for my favorite shows and movies, the moon, the sun, the beautiful stars. I am so lucky to see such beauty every single day, knowing I’ll always have Mother Nature with me.

Today, I sit here, writing this while the love of my life sits next to me. I feel so free; I feel so positive.

I found the Gratitude app one day while scrolling on the app store, looking for some positivity because I felt negative again. I use it almost every single day. It has been so inspiring for me. It only amplifies my feelings of gratitude and helps me find it again when my head feels clouded.

It has been five years since I decided to try and end my life. I’m so grateful I survived. I wouldn’t be here, where I am today, at a healthy weight and in a healthy mindset, if it hadn’t been for the people I met along my journey and the gratitude mindset I’ve developed.

Team Gratitude

Team Gratitude

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