Hi, my name is Nicole and I’ve struggled with mental illness for a long time. My story may bring to light a lot of things that even those closest to me might not be aware of. I’ve always been really good at pretending that everything is ok, even when it most certainly was not.

These days my life is better than ok. I want anyone who is still struggling to know that things can and will get better if you speak up about what you’re going through.

If you can relate to anything in this story, please don’t hesitate to message me or the Finding a Lost Voice Foundation. We are here for you <3

“I remember the first time I ever thought about killing myself. I was 12 or 13, sitting in our room at The Ronald McDonald House in NYC. My Mom was at the hospital with my oldest brother, who was going through another round of chemotherapy. There was a cluster of different medication bottles on the counter, and I thought to myself, “surely if I took enough of these I would die”.

I had seen a therapist before, but I didn’t want to see another one. I had asked to see one when I was younger because I had been molested by a family friend when I was 3 or 4. He “grabbed me by the pussy”, as our president would say. I couldn’t trust men. I was overwhelmingly anxious around the men I knew would never hurt me. I knew I didn’t want to live that way, and hoped a professional would be able to help. She told me that the abuse wasn’t bad enough to cause what I was feeling, so I never went back.

I started journaling instead. I remember writing in my journal that I had a “disease of wanting more”. I didn’t know why I couldn’t stop eating certain foods until I felt sick. I would pray to God that if he would make me feel better I would stop eating whatever food had made me sick. As soon as I felt better, though, I went back for more.

I don’t remember being an unhappy kid. I think it was more of a “the world would be better without me” feeling. There was so much going on around me, and I didn’t want to be a burden. I was another kid to worry about, another mouth to feed. My parents had so much on their plate.

My oldest brother, battling an extremely rare cancer at the time, had struggled with drugs before he was diagnosed. Around that same time, my other brother was on his own journey with drug addiction. For the next ten years, I watched him go in and out of rehab, in and out of prison, in and out of insanity. He was hardly recognizable when he was high. My brothers were my heroes growing up, and I watched one wither away as the other turned into someone I couldn’t trust or stand to be around.

I saw the havoc that drugs wreaked on my family and I swore to myself I would NEVER try drugs. I would never even smoke pot. I even made all my friends promise not to try it either.

My oldest brother passed away on November 2nd, 2003. I watched as my world fell apart. I decided that God couldn’t possibly exist, and stopped going to church. The suicidal thoughts had been following me since they first appeared, but at this point they became louder and more frequent. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to be alive, either. Nothing seemed to matter, and I decided that if nothing matters, I might as well see what all the hype was about. I told myself I just wanted to understand WHY people did drugs.

At 15 I got drunk for the first time and started smoking pot occasionally. It was fun, a lot of fun. I would continue doing it, but swore I would never allow myself to get addicted. By 17, I had tried everything I could get my hands on. By 18, I was high every single day. Whatever substance lasted the longest was my favorite. If mixing drugs made it last longer, that was cool too.

I went from having a 4.2 GPA to never going to school. Still, I somehow managed to graduate high school with a 100% scholarship to any Florida school of my choice. My parents knew I had an attendance problem, but I don’t think they suspected more than the usual teenage rebellion because I kept my grades up.

One day I decided to buy a bottle of prescription meds from my friend. Adderall made me the person I wanted to be. I had energy! I WANTED to clean my room, do my homework, go running, or read a book. Best of all, I didn’t need to eat.

To be honest, most of my preferred drugs eliminated my desire to eat, and I loved it. I was finally in control of something in my seemingly out of control life. I went to UCF for one semester and moved back home. I had a boyfriend who loved drugs as much as I did. My grandparents were dying, my brother was in prison, my parents were getting divorced.

My depression had taken a turn for the worst at this point. I withdrew from college. I was still abusing drugs as much as I could in addition to a full-blown eating disorder. I didn’t KNOW I had an eating disorder, though. I knew that I couldn’t stop thinking about food, that I was afraid to leave the house, that I wouldn’t consume anything that had more than 200 calories. I knew I still wanted to die. I decided to see a psychologist again.

She diagnosed me with an eating disorder and told me I should see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist put me on antidepressants. I went to an IOP program for my eating disorder, and they told me I was an addict. I was there for an eating disorder, though, not a drug problem! They didn’t know what they were talking about. I managed to stay sober for nine months and then went back to my old ways.

To be honest my life became a blur after high school. I’m doing my best to recall the details, but it’s hard. Things weren’t all bad, but I know I was always hiding the fact that I was miserable. I can continue the story of my addiction in detail, or I can just say that I continued to over consume alcohol and drugs for years. I took whatever I could get my hands on, but I never tried heroin, crack or meth so I obviously didn’t have a problem, right?

The suicidal thoughts had reached an all-time high. It was like a broken record in my head. All day every day, over and over, my thoughts were about killing myself. Normal, everyday activities were unachievable. Getting out of bed was daunting, let alone taking a shower. Nothing was fun anymore except drinking and getting high.
I met a guy who didn’t really like to drink. He convinced me to get back on antidepressants. I tried to stop drinking, or even just cut back but I couldn’t. I reached out to a close friend and she helped. I could stop drinking!… until I decided that pot wasn’t my problem, and continued getting high. I was drinking again in no time.

I continued with the antidepressants, and started feeling better. The broken record finally stopped. I could live a seemingly normal life. I went back to school and held multiple jobs. I continued drinking and smoking pot for about 2 years until I had had enough. I was making stupid decisions and lying to people I loved. Again, I wanted to stop, but couldn’t. I was sick of who I became when I drank. I was sick of the feeling of regret and embarrassment upon waking. I decided I never wanted to feel that way again.

That would be my 3rd attempt of getting sober. By then I had a handful of people I could reach out to. People that had helped me before, that I had pushed away when I inevitably went back to old habits. Without hesitation, without question, they were eager to help in any way they could.

I haven’t had a drink or a drug since July 4th, 2015. My life is incredible today, and I know without a doubt that it’s because I got sober. I am so grateful for the support I have. My brother has been sober for years now, too!

I’m not telling this story for you to feel bad for me. There’s nothing to feel bad about. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve been through or the things I’ve done. My past is what’s made me who I am today and I could not be more proud of the person I have become.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I have everything I could ever want or need, and then some. In my darkest moments, I could have never imagined how full of light my life would become. I know what it’s like to feel truly hopeless. There are people that care, and there are resources that can help. I am so grateful that I never gave up. I am so grateful that I hung on. I am so grateful that I found my voice.

There’s a lot of stigma about medications, but I can assure you that no number of walks in the park, “cheering up”, or “mind over matter” would have fixed my depression. The difference in my brain was like night and day. If your mind is telling you to hurt yourself, it’s not because you’re weak. Brains are organs just like lungs or hearts, and sometimes your organs get sick and need medicine. Your brain is no different. Please don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed of this.

If you can relate to anything I’ve been through, I promise that it gets better. It’s ok not to be ok. There is help available. Feel free to reach out to me, and please don’t give up.”

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