My name is Terrah, I’m currently a volunteer Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line, and I have struggled with mental health issues throughout my life. I believe that we can reduce the stigma around mental health by openly talking about it and educating ourselves. I’d like to inspire those struggling with any mental health issues to be brave and seek out help if they need it. I believe that hope exists and that healing is possible.
When Living Seems Harder Than the Alternative.
I have lost two uncles to suicide. I have multiple friends and acquaintances who have considered or actually attempted suicide. I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts before. I am not a stranger to these things, or the pain and destruction that untreated mental illness can have on families and communities. I want you to know that I understand what it means when living seems harder than the alternative. But I also want you to know that I understand what it looks like to live with hope through the pain. Maybe you or someone you know is facing a mental health challenge. If that’s the case, I hope my story can be one of hope to you. I hope it helps you feel a little less alone in your struggle.
Attending university can be challenging to some people for many reasons. I found that the combination of social and academic stressors, a new environment, and mental health struggles made it very difficult for me, particularly during the first couple of years. It was the first time I’d been so far away from my loved ones. I was attending a college where I knew virtually no one. I thought that I had finally left my youth’s depression behind me, when it came back unexpectedly. At first, I assumed I was just going through a mild low because I was so far away from everyone I loved. But when I realized that I only left my dorm to go to classes and briefly eat alone, I thought it might be more serious than mere homesickness.
As the days went on, the darkness lingered. It worsened and my mental state became unstable. I pushed away thoughts of suicide that invaded my mind. I never wanted to act on them, but it was an alarming reality check for me. I felt like I was rotting from the inside out, quietly wasting away without anyone noticing. I knew I had to do something to get out of the hole I had fallen into, but I wasn’t sure where to turn. I didn’t have anyone I could trust near me. I felt desperate and alone.
After doing some research, I eventually sought counseling with the nearly free mental health services on my campus. This wasn’t easy for me. I didn’t have a great experience with counseling in the past and I was skeptical if it would even help this time. But my counselor asked the right questions, the hard ones. She listened to me and my struggles. She gave me homework and asked me to take the brave steps of reaching out to others on campus. Years after exiting counseling she still checks up on me occasionally, and I’m incredibly thankful and impressed at that level of commitment to my recovery.
'I had expected that I would be able to pull myself out of my depression fairly quickly, simply because I didn’t want it; I had been there before, and I didn’t feel like letting it get in my way again'
In the lowest moments of my struggle, I couldn’t see anything but my pain. As I slowly made my way up the wall of my dark hole, I began to see others around me and the pain they were facing too. I realized that maybe I had something to give them; hope. I felt compelled to share my story with others because I believed that when we can relate to others’ stories we can feel less alone. And the less we feel alone, the more hope we can have to choose to keep living every day. Through my suffering, I found a sense of purpose.
My newfound purpose brought meaning to every ounce of suffering and pain I had experienced. It validated that while I may have felt weak, I had found something to lean on in that weakness. I didn’t have to feel strong, I only had to be honest and vulnerable and willing to choose life every day, even when it seemed impossible.
'I kept living because I still had stories to tell'
In retrospect, I had expected that I would be able to pull myself out of my depression fairly quickly, simply because I didn’t want it; I had been there before, and I didn’t feel like letting it get in my way again. But in reality, my healing took a lot of time and work, and that was okay. Counseling was what helped put my self-worth and mental state back into place, and for that reason I can encourage everyone and anyone struggling with mental health issues to be brave and ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you are strong enough to take the first steps towards recovery.
In the end, I kept living because I got the help I needed. I kept living because I believed that hope meant something, and that my suffering could be used for something good. I kept living because I still had stories to tell, because I thought that maybe my story was somehow important. I kept living because I thought maybe someone might need to read a story about pain and hope and healing someday.
Terrah Holly lives in Florida, USA with her husband and her two loving cats. She graduated from Southeastern University in 2015 with a B.S. in Organizational Leadership and a minor in Human Services.
Terrah is passionate about mental health advocacy. She currently volunteers as a Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line, and believes that we can reduce the stigma around mental health by openly talking about it and educating ourselves.
You can follow Terrah’s mental health via her Twitter feed