Maggie's Story *TRIGGER WARNING* “Victimhood is not your destiny, suicide is not your destiny.” Last month while in the hospital these were the words my psychiatrist kept repeating to me. There has never been a point in my life where I thought it would end any other way than suicide. Even the times where I felt better I knew in the back of my head that I was just holding on for now but I would end my life one day. Hearing that my destiny is not to die by suicide, I felt like finally someone had told me it was okay to not listen to my racing suicidal thoughts, it was okay to change how my life was going to end and just because I attempted suicide did not mean this was how I was supposed to die. My destiny not being victimhood is the sole reason I am able to share my story with you today. In the past, I never shared my story as I did not want to be a victim. The last thing I wanted was people calling me a victim or looking at me as if I am a tragic case. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. The one thing I am confident about is that I lived to share my story and I survived. “Why would someone like you be depressed?” This is a question that has brought on many feelings of shame, guilt, and self-criticism throughout my life. I graduated college with a 3.9 GPA in the honors program and National Honors Society, played Division I tennis and now I am in occupational therapy graduate school with a 3.8 GPA. I am skinny, pretty (according to other people), and always have the biggest smile on my face, almost as if it is glued on there. I grew up in a small town, my parents are wealthy and I was given many opportunities throughout my childhood. From the outside perspective, it looks as though I have no reason to be suicidal. I have carried an incredible amount of guilt about how I could be depressed when I was given every opportunity in the world. I frequently questioned myself; was I ungrateful? How could I be depressed when there are other people who have it so much worse? Was I just weak? The more I told myself I did not have a reason to be depressed the worse I felt. I stopped sharing with people that I ever had depression and was suicidal, I started to “bury” everything as deep as I could, and I began forcing a smile that is now permanently on my face. My smile is a protective mechanism and nothing more, it is a way for me to hide my true feelings and make everyone around me feel happy that I am doing well instead of worrying about me. I do not open up to people and am not comfortable sharing my feelings with others but I have decided to share my story as I hope it will make you feel as though you are not alone and that you do not need to justify why you are depressed. When I was 17 years old I tried to kill myself, again when I was 21 and this most recent time at 25 years old. While I was in the hospital last month I came to realize how much I truly hated myself and my life. I also realized it was finally time for me to ask for help, to share with my family what happened and to share with a counselor. For 18 years I held onto my “secret” that I had been raped repeatedly from first to fifth grade. I carried around this incredible guilt for never saying anything, never telling anyone, never saying no, never screaming, never running away, and never doing anything about it. For 18 years I questioned if it was really rape if I did not fight back. I have learned that although it is easy for me to look back as an adult and criticize myself, I cannot look at it form an adult perspective as I was only 6 years old at the time. I need to look at everything that happened from the perspective of my child self. At 6 years old, what would I have told my parents? I always beat myself up over why I would continuously go to his office but I now understand that all I was doing is listening to the adults in my life. I was taught to respect, listen and trust the adults at the school so anytime I was called out of class to go to the guidance counselor’s office I went. Although this has helped me come very far and start to forgive myself, I still struggle with why I would never say something as the years went on. When I was in middle school, I learned that what happened was called rape, so at this point I knew how to verbalize what happened and yet I did not say anything. In 7th grade why did I not say anything? Why did not I say anything for 18 years after? I do not know these answers but what I do know is that I need to forgive myself and stop blaming myself for how I reacted. I have come to learn that there is no “right” and “wrong” way to deal with this type of trauma. I cannot emphasize enough to anyone who has been raped that it was not your fault. I fully accept and am empowered by my understanding that I am not at fault. The only person at fault is my guidance counselor. I am not at fault, was never at fault and will never be at fault. I do not place any blame on my parents, teachers or any adults in the school building. There is only one person to blame. For anyone that has experienced sexual abuse it is so important for you to accept and truly believe that you are not fault. I know what it is like to tell yourself repeatedly you are not at fault but to not truly believe it. There is nothing you could have done differently or that you should have done to prevent it. No matter how you reacted, it is okay. There is no right way to react and I hope you are able to stop criticizing yourself for however you may have reacted. You cannot take responsibility for such a criminal and inhumane act. You are not at fault. I want you to know that I do not blame you, I know you did not ask for this, I believe you and I support you. I have been reading a book about crisis mode and how all you have to do is survive. This has been getting me through every single day. When I look at how far I still have to go in order to heal, I get scared, I become hopeless and start to think about suicide. When I approach the day by telling myself that all I have to do is survive, this seems much more manageable. If you are in crisis mode right now, all you need to do is survive. Everything else in your life will come with time but for now just focus on surviving. Focus on not listening to your suicidal thoughts. I know it may seem impossible right now, but all we have to do survive. Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.