My Story: I Never Thought I’d Make It to 21

*Please note that this article talks about depression and suicide. Please refer to on-campus resources and hotlines at the bottom of this article if you or a friend are in distress.*

This past Christmas, I turned 21. Four days before, I attended my friend’s memorial and learned that he died by suicide.

For many years, I have struggled with depression and anxiety, and sometimes that also comes with suicidal thoughts and ideations. It hit the point where every day I would go to sleep imagining what it would be like to commit suicide and how the world would function without me in it. In hindsight, what I thought was best for me at the time was not actually best for me.

This continued for years, and I would wallow in my depression, not willing to get out. I always thought I would commit suicide in the next couple of years and not live a full life. It especially got scary when I was Baker Acted for the first time in June 2016, because I was about to try committing suicide but I checked myself in on time. Then it got scary again when I actually tried in the September later that year. I go into full detail in this article here (as a warning, this is a very detailed article about my experiences).

When I was 16, I didn’t think I would survive five years later and make it to 21, but here I am now, 21 years old, legally able to drink alcohol and actually make it to a point that I never thought I would. Every time someone told me to make a wish for my birthday, when the clock turned 11:11 or just any time I was told to make a wish for anything, I would always wish for the same thing — to make it to the next big thing in my life. This could’ve been anything from getting into medical school (I used to be pre-med), graduating high school, even making it to the next birthday. It all just depended on my mental state at the time.

It’s weird. I know that I’ve wanted to go to college, go to graduate school eventually, have a career in some sort of science, marry, have kids and just have a fulfilling life. But there’s a difference between wanting something and actually obtaining that something. Having a fulfilling life was a desire that I thought would never come to be because I was so deep-seated in my depression.

I couldn’t get out of this rut because I didn’t want to. I wasn’t willing to be my biggest advocate, which I write more about here. Depression was my home, and it was hard to get out. I was in so deep, my real main goals in life were just things that were so far away like getting into medical school, graduate high school and college, even make it to my 21stbirthday, and I was thinking of all of this when I was 16. It’s so astounding to me now that five years ago, I thought I wouldn’t be here to turn 21.

To tell the truth, I didn’t really have this revelation until I attended my friend’s memorial. He was in the improv group that I’m in, and I just thought of him as one of the happiest people around. He loved doing charity work and making other people smile. People in my improv group were wondering how he died because nothing was told to us. Was it of natural causes? Drugs? Accident? Nothing. It was a shock to us at the memorial when we heard that he died by suicide. It really struck a chord with me and threw me into an existential spiral. How did I get so lucky to make it this far?

Unknowingly, I have been treading on uncharted waters for a while now because I never thought I would make it this far. 

If I think about it hard enough, I can probably identify how I got here and why it shouldn’t be a surprise. I have actively sought out treatment for my depression and anxiety. I began to want to get better. A lot of this I can attribute to me having a new intention in life by getting a dog and wanting to give her the best life possible. This pushes me to completing my engineering degree, going to work and making money. 

Making it to 21 years old is a big accomplishment to me that pushes me forward to actually continue on. If I can make it to today, I can do it again tomorrow. It’s like the tip people give to those considering suicide—just wait a while and reevaluate to see if you actually want to go through with it after a period of time.

During this period of time, I can do stuff that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were dead—like cuddling my dog Banshee, watch Netflix, cook Indian food, play video games, heck, even do some engineering nerd stuff. I’m basically starting my life now at 21 because I am almost self-sustaining and not having to depend on others as much, and I have so much to do in my life. Waiting and evaluating things really does change your outlook.

I’m beginning to value what I have around me and the time that has been given to me. I want to experience what the world has to offer to me, and I’m glad I made it this far. I just wish my friend was here to experience it too.

My late friend’s family asked for donations to his Dance Marathon page instead of flowers since DM and dancing were important parts of his life. The link to his memorial page is here

Please refer to these mental health resources if you or a friend are ever in distress:

Suicide Hotline

1-800-273-8255 or if you want to chat instead

Crisis Text Line

747-747 (Great resource if you're afraid to call and talk over the phone.)

U Matter, We Care 

If you are struggling with mental health problems, just remember you’re not alone. There are others, including myself, who do not want you to suffer.