Worth Living Ambassador Ashley Colucci
Hi there everyone, my name is Ashley and I am 30 years old.
Caution: This post mentions thoughts of suicide and self harm.
My journey with mental illness has been quite a long and extensive one. I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was a young girl. The racing thoughts, the suicidal feelings- it all began when I turned 11. I remember having these feelings of wanting to die, and having no idea why I was feeling like that. It terrified me.
My family didn’t talk about mental health. It was very much a “if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist” mentality. So I suffered alone and silently for most of my life. There were so many sleepless nights, tossing and turning with my stomach in knots, thinking about the field trip the next day or the huge project I had to finish or even the presentation I’d have to make in front of all my peers. Many, many mornings when I’d wake up and feel physically ill, I wouldn’t be able to eat for hours.
I just thought it was all normal. I’d ask my mother about it and she’d tell me it happens to her too sometimes. So I just assumed that that’s just how life was.
I literally knew nothing about mental health.
I remember being 13 years old and everything in my life was about to change. It was the summer before high school and all of my friends were moving away and going to different high schools than me.
I was so depressed that summer about the changes that were taking place. I didn’t move off the couch for two whole weeks. And I didn’t understand why I was feeling that way. All I knew was that I didn’t want to face life anymore but I couldn’t put it into words. I couldn’t explain it to anyone.
When I was a teenager, the self-harming started. I honestly don’t think this was because I wanted to die, it was a cry for help. I’d have these thoughts about how much I hated myself, that I wanted to be more like the popular girls, about how no one would love me ever. I so desperately wanted to fit in but I was convinced that I was some sort of freak because of the thoughts I’d have and because of the over-thinking. I was so paranoid that no one liked me. I was incredibly insecure.
I can’t say that those feelings ever really went away, the feelings of feeling inadequacy. I have struggled with relationships, gone back and forth between them. I hurt a lot of people during those times. I was extremely selfish. I went through a failed marriage as well and I beat myself up over it. I blamed myself for the entire thing falling apart, even though the rational side of my mind was telling me that it wasn’t all my fault. I still blamed myself because I didn’t try hard enough.
The guilt and regret of never completing my education has also eaten me up. I still struggle with the idea that my life could be so much different right now if I had just stayed in school and completed my last year.
I am still learning so much about myself, even now, and so much about mental illness. I look back on all the foolish things I did in my teens and even in my early twenties and I feel so embarrassed that I carried on the way that I did.
I am learning to love myself. I practice self-care all the time now because I have a bigger reason to be the best version of myself. I have my two young daughters.
I was told by my doctor that I suffer from severe depression and severe anxiety but I have yet to receive a full diagnosis from a psychiatrist. I am currently waiting for my appointment.
But I know things now that I never knew before and knowledge, for me, is power. I now have the upper hand on my mental illness because I understand it. I was always so lost and confused as a teenager, always wondering what the heck was wrong with me!
Now I have my children, and I have to be strong for them. They motivate me to keep going, to be the best version of myself that I can be, for them. Because not only will it benefit me… it will benefit them in the end too.
When they can see their momma being a strong, independent woman who loves herself and who doesn’t need reassurance from anyone else that she is worth it… I’ve done my job.
Recovery is not linear. It doesn’t follow a straight and narrow path, and it doesn’t come in the form of a yellow brick road that leads to a giant castle. It’s twisted and narrow and sometimes we lose our direction for a minute. But there are always people there to help you find that path again.
I have been taking therapy sessions and they have been helping tremendously. I also take my medications prescribed and practice mindfulness as much as possible. I use essential oils and salt lamps, all natural remedies.
Yoga and physical exercise have helped me a lot too.
But I find what helps me the most, out of everything else, is spreading awareness and speaking to other people about their struggles and their battles. Because it feels SO NICE to know that I am NOT alone in this recovery. There are many other people fighting the same battle every single day.
I am so honored to be a part of this Worth Living community!
NOTE: If you , a family member, friend, or colleague is experiencing thoughts of suicide or distress, call 911 now.
Other resources :
Canada- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention http://Suicide Prevention Website
USA – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom http://NHS