“I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. My father is from Paris, so I spent the first several years of my life moving back and forth between Georgia and France.
This continued every couple of months until I was 10 years old and finally settled down for 3 years. The constant moves were hard on me. I kept making friends and having to leave them. Finally, at age 10, I made a stable group of friends. But I knew the time would come to move back to the states. I knew history was going to repeat itself. At age 13, I said goodbye, once again, to the new friends I made there.
I wasn’t anticipating the move back to Georgia to be so rough on me, but it was. The stress took a toll on me. I remember one day at my new school, the counselor called me into her office. She hadn’t even said anything yet, but I just broke down crying. She then asked me, ‘Does this happen often?’ That was the beginning of my journey. Soon after, I was diagnosed with depression, Tourette’s Syndrome, and OCD. All at age 13.
I had trouble fitting in at my new school. This time around, I couldn’t make friends, even if they were just going to be temporary. I felt so alone. That’s when I resorted to self-harm as my coping mechanism. I had never heard the term before. I just remember feeling so alone one day that I decided to cut myself. This was the beginning of a very dangerous addiction.
When I was still having trouble fitting in at school, my mother decided to move my sister and I to a different school. I finally felt like I had found a place to be myself. So, at 15 years old, I came out as gay for the first time.
Everyone around me was extremely supportive and I am so grateful for that. Soon after I came out, I began dating a girl. We became really close and things were great for a while. But all of a sudden everything turned extremely toxic and I didn’t even notice it.
Looking back on everything now, she was extremely manipulative and I so badly wish I had seen the warning signs. But I didn’t. Homecoming night that year was the worst night of my life. She raped me at gun point. My whole life after that was a blur.
I was in a constant dissociative state from the trauma and I didn’t tell anyone. She told me, ‘If you ever speak out, I know where the bullets are. I’ll kill you.’ After that, I started to self-harm again, but this time it became extremely severe. I was cutting myself every chance I could: at home, at school, in my car. I resorted to self-harming in many other ways as well but cutting was my main addiction.
I was in and out of inpatient psychiatric hospitals so often the year after my assault that my parents made the difficult decision to send me to residential treatment facility in Utah where I would spend the next 8 months. That program instilled a lot of fear in me. The fear that I had to be ‘cured’ when I got out. That I couldn’t ever struggle again. As I finished the program and transitioned home, I relapsed pretty soon after, but somehow managed.
Finally home, I decided to do something spontaneous. So, I auditioned for a pre-professional musical theater company and was accepted into the program. I trained with national tours that came through my city and I put all of my energy into bettering myself as a performer. When I graduated high school in 2014, I decided to pursue my passion for musical theater in college.
I ended up attending a wonderful school up North, but my mental health declined rapidly. I had my first manic episode in 2016. I dissociated so badly that I apparently walked in short sleeves in the snow for miles, all the way through to the dangerous parts of town. The only thought I remember having was, ‘I hope someone will kill me.’ I’m still not sure how I ended up back at my house afterwards, but I did. The crash after that manic episode was horrendous. I didn’t leave my bed for 5 days. Even getting up to use the restroom took enormous effort.
I was so depressed and suicidal that I ended up taking an overdose of my prescription medication and ended up in the hospital. My blood was poisoned by the amount of lithium I had consumed. After being medically cleared and having a stay in the psychiatric hospital, I was sent to my second residential treatment center. It was this program that really jumpstarted my recovery.
The most important piece of information I learned was that it’s not about being ‘cured’ like my 16-year-old self once thought. It’s about learning to successfully manage the symptoms. As much as I didn’t want to admit it at the time, I knew mental illness was going to be a part of the rest of my life and it’s up to me whether I want to live in misery or learn to live in recovery.
While in this program, I met the most compassionate, understanding therapist. After working with her for a few months, I broke. Everything that happened to me in high school, the abuse, the assault, all came spilling out of me and she just sat there with me as I sobbed. She held a space where I felt safe enough to finally open up about what was keeping me so sick. And for that, I am beyond grateful. I cannot express how thankful I am for this therapist. She saved my life on many occasions. However, now that the trauma was out in the open, I began having severe flashbacks and dissociative episodes where I would bang my head so hard I would give myself black eyes.
I couldn’t manage my symptoms, and my self-harm was gradually becoming more and more severe. My suicidal thoughts were out of control and I ended up in the psychiatric hospital again, this time receiving ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, thought it’s really not as scary as it’s sounds. It was honestly really effective at first. But when the suicidal thoughts came back, I was convinced the only way to end the pain was to end my life.
So, on January 18, 2018, I decided to end my life. I took over 200 prescription pills. The ambulance made it to my house and my heart stopped on the frantic ride to the hospital. They performed CPR on me. When I woke up in the ICU, I was so angry I had survived that I started pulling out all of the hospital tubes. They ended up strapping me down to the hospital bed. When my mind was a little more clear, I looked up from my bed and saw my mother and sister at the door. The look in their eyes is something I never want to see again.
After this overdose, I was sent, yet again, to another residential program. This time specializing in trauma. The work was excruciatingly painful. But it was there, on April 15, 2018, that I made the commitment to stop self-harming. I have been clean for a whole year. It’s honestly a miracle.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy saved my life. My old therapist saved my life. My family continues to save my life. My sister is my best friend. My service dog, Bennett, gives me purpose. And the God I believe in… well, I let him guide me every day. When things get rough, and boy do they still, I pray for guidance. I am so thankful my life was saved. I am thankful for my church and for the friends that recovery has brought me. I’m thankful for my current therapist. I’m thankful for being able to write poetry.
Lately, recovery has been really hard. I’ve felt like giving in to urges so many times recently. But I like to think that God is giving me the opportunity to prove to myself. That this is REAL recovery. And for once, I really think it is.
If you all are struggling with something similar, please know you are not alone. Please know you matter. You have the right to take up space in this world. You are so worthy of love. Try to find a purpose for what you are going through. For me, my purpose is being able to tell my story to help another person through theirs. Reach out, my friends. Help is never too far away. You are so, so worthy of recovery. And remember, ‘Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.’ – Jean Paul Sartre.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alex Berthelot. You can follow their journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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