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February 6, 2018
by Anna Veltri , Emmetsburg News

One year ago I attempted suicide.

I am diagnosed with major depressive disorder, severe generalize anxiety disorder, as well as anorexia/bulimia. This time last year, I reached a point where I just couldn't handle my own existence anymore, and I made the decision to try to take my own life.

I bring this up for several reasons. There is so much stigma around mental illness, and many individuals within our community are silently suffering everyday. Those that knew me before my attempt would never have guessed that everyday was a struggle for me to get through. Because the topic makes everyone uncomfortable, I felt the need to put up a faade of happiness. This faade only made everything worse.

I've heard people say that suicide is one of the most selfish things that anyone can do. I feel the need to explain how this is absolutely incorrect to anyone considering ending his/her life. I spent months contemplating whether or not it was worth it to keep living. Yes, my pain felt visceral; it kept me awake at night and kept me from getting out of bed in the morning. But I also evaluated how my mental illness impacted my husband and my friends. I was a burden to them. Everyday my husband came home to a wife that he had to spend his evenings putting back together. Everyone's lives would be better if I didn't exist. By killing myself I was in fact being self-less because I was ridding them of the pain I caused them. While this may not sound rational to anyone that has not been in my position; when you're contemplating suicide you're not necessarily in the most rational state of mind.

As I've been recovering, I made the decision to share my story. I started small with family members and friends, but I have begun presenting my story to classes at the college. Every time I have told my story, I have been approached by multiple individuals with the same issues that feel alone and that they are unable to access resources or a support system. These people are suffering silently until they find someone that they can identify with. So why can't we normalize mental illness?

What is the difference between mental illness and diabetes? Absolutely nothing. A diabetic's body does not properly produce the hormone insulin; the body of a person that suffers from depression does not produce the hormone serotonin. Both individuals utilize medications to stabilize these hormones. So why is one more difficult to talk about than the other?

As the political season begins, many candidates are running on mental health platforms. Iowa has a distinct lack of beds in mental health facilities. Individuals that need treatment are instead spending nights in jail or in the emergency room as opposed to receiving the medications and treatment that they need. This is something that I hope everyone will consider and research as they make a decision about which candidate to support.

While change happens slowly, I hope that my story starts to shift current ways of thinking. I'd like to normalize mental health so no individual has to feel as alone as I did one year ago. I would love to see more support systems develop in Emmetsburg for those that can't afford counseling, for students at the college who are at an incredibly volatile time in their lives, or anyone that needs a little extra support.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with three thoughts: 1. I have a tattoo of a semicolon on my left ankle. The semicolon is used when an author could have ended a sentence but decided to continue it. This is a common tattoo on individuals that have at some point attempted suicide. 2. I am the exact same person I was before you knew about my illness. 3. If you are struggling and feel like there is no place you can turn, I'll be your support. Feel free to contact me; it's okay to not be okay.



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