I am only 23. I am already tired of being alive. 
        I don’t know when it happened, or how, but only that it’s never taken a moment to rest, to let me rest. I watch those I love go through phases, bouts of mental illness. Something triggers it. Something changes. Shortly after they seek treatment, their symptoms lift, the fog lifts, they feel as if their baseline is not so far from present. 
         I watch others enter and leave the room I’m in. I, however, feel shackled to the walls, only able to peer past the glass boundaries to the world I could be living in. 
         I want to think that the cause is the impossible standards I place on myself, the rape, the pain, the unmanaged symptoms, the academic rigor, the burden of a mind with dual interests, a seemingly split existence. I want to think it’s because I can’t form stable relationships. Because I isolate myself. Because I shut people out. Because I covet solitude until it’s taken from me. I would love to imagine that the blame is solely on that which is out of my control. And partly, I’m sure it is. 
         I once was in an IOP program where I learned some very valuable coping skills. I learned to predict when and how it would happen. I learned to stop trying to kill myself in ways that ultimately were never going to work. I learned to acknowledge and embrace my need to kill myself. To think through it logically. To understand when i meant it in my core. 
         I learned to separate the person I am, the person I think I am, and the person others think I am. I know that when I must speak about myself publicly, applications, etc, I must tap into the person others think I am. I must pretend to be an attractive, interesting, talented, intelligent woman. I have to be sarcastic, but only because that’s my sense of humor. Not because it’s the only way I can cope. 
         I must wait until I am alone, to scream, to cry, to wait until the urge to hurt myself passes. I must wait for my mindful, logical brain to tell the pathetic parts of me to stop. Pull yourself together. 
         I’ve learned to do a lot of things to keep myself alive. To be resilient. To work through moments of difficulty, and mostly to do it alone. 
         I am trying to enter into a field and career where the goal is to make sure everyone has the ability to reach a baseline. Where they can find health in order to pursue that which makes life valuable. I am trying to be a person whose sole purpose is to keep people alive because they find life valuable. 
         But I don’t even value my own life. How can that be. 
         I want to explore the notion that everything will not be okay, depression, bipolar, anxiety, borderline, schizophrenic, whatever ails you, it may not be okay. I think you just have to find a point where the things are manageable. Where you can be purposeful despite your circumstances. If that never happens, it’s also okay to be selfish about it. No one should experience this much pain. Especially when it originates from inside. 
         I’m struggling with that last part. 
         S., age 23
        I’ve always felt I had to be better, stronger, and smarter than everyone else. I thought that everything had to be a struggle and I had to “win” the struggle.  I’m still learning how to let things to and to know that I am enough and I don’t have to be a “better” person in order to be a complete human being.
        I thought this would be easier than it is. I’ve always tried to hide it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Whenever I slipped and mentioned my pills, I’d say it was for anemia or a cold, if I mentioned going to the doctor it was a “check-up”. Truthfully I’ve suffered from manic-deppressive disorder (bipolar) since I was 13.
        Now 18, I’ve had 3 suicide attempts, 2 facilities, and 9 hospitalizations. All in 5 years. My last attempt was an overdose, and I just barely survived. I remember hearing one of the EMT workers saying “She’s so stupid. She’s got such a good life.” As much as I understand his words, having a “good life” doesn’t mean a thing when you’re always hating yourself.
        My uncle once told me I was lucky I was bipolar, because it means I’m more “creative”, but honestly, all I’ve ever wanted was to be normal. To be able to go through an entire day without once thinking I’m worthless. To not have to skip entire days because I LITERALLY CANNOT get out of bed. I just… want to be like everyone else.
         Most days I don’t really know what’s going on around me or what I’m doing. I feel lost and confused.
         I hear noises and see things I know can’t really be there. I become angry at the drop of a hat. Or my mood will change to this weird neutral state. I feel empty and numb. I can’t smile or laugh or even get mad. I feel like I’m stuck in limbo inside my own mind.
         When I have an anxiety attack it feels like a heart attack. But I get them so often that I don’t even… I just wait for it to stop. I don’t tell anyone. I pretend.
        Random people tell me I’m pretty almost everyday. But I cannot stand looking at myself 90% of the time.
         I spend every waking moment of my life trying to find something about myself that I can change. I change my hair colour almost every two weeks, I do my makeup in such a way that I look like someone else entirely all the time, I thrift shit tons of clothes, I look up the prices of nose fillers and jaw reconstruction, and the like. All to try to take people’s attention away from my shitty face and my unexceptional body.
         I get completely obsessed over one girl for no reason and 50% of my thoughts all the time are “I don’t look like her, I’m absolutely fucking ugly, why the hell does anyone think this is attractive at all.” It drives the boy I’m dating to anger. I don’t like to talk about it with him anymore because no matter how well he initially takes it, in the end, he just gets upset because I end up just fighting him trying to prove how unattractive I am compared to her. He says things like “do you want me to see you the way you see yourself? Because that’s what you’re trying to do right now.” And I don’t of course, but he’s right.
         I have a literal list of things that are wrong with me typed down on a blog entry and how much it would cost to change it. The remains of the birthmark on my face, the length of my hair, the bump on my nose, the unevenness of my lips and my eyes, the fatness of my cheeks, the squareness of my jaw. my lack of chest, my self harm scars, my stretch marks, my disproportional thighs, pretty much everything.
         I’m trying to lose 10 pounds even if I am underweight with a body mass index of 16.3 because I figure since I will never be curvy the way I want to be, I might as well just be skinny all around. I always gain weight in the “wrong places” and I’ve even taken pills that make me want to vomit all the time because they were said to increase breast size (which they did, slightly, until I stopped taking them). I’m so obsessed with my weight that I weigh myself 5 times a day even if I know it makes no sense. I’m at a point where I can’t stand for long periods of time because I get dizzy because of my lack of nutrients. But I can’t bring myself to eat properly because no one tells me I look underweight. I don’t even know why I want someone to tell me that.
         I am obsessed with symmetricality and since I am nowhere near that, it kills me. I have days where I can’t leave the house because I don’t want anyone to see me, where I just want to attempt to kill myself again, where I am literally locked on looking at pictures of the girl I am unreasonably obsessed with and just crying about how I’ll never look like her.
         I’m just so disappointed in myself because I consider myself a feminist, and I think all bodies are absolutely perfect and am attracted to all sorts of bodies. But for some reason, when it’s me, I have to fit into a mold and be patriarchy Barbie. And it just sucks to have practically no control over it because it’s ingrained into me and mostly caused by my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, depression and bipolar II.
         It’s hard to fight something intangible so I just fight myself and people I love.
        I never really thought about it as a child. I came from a family were you didn’t speak up about your problems or issues. You kept to yourself and tried to work it out on your own, and what you couldn’t fix… well, it just stayed with you and built up. I don’t remember much of my childhood, and for a while I thought that was completely normal. One thing I remember was this man. He was there for me for awhile. As I grew I learned not to bring him up, that he wasn’t “real”. But he was real to me. He was there, but it wasn’t by my choice. He never really did much, but he was like a friend. It was a weird relationship, kind of hard to put into words. I can’t even remember when he first came to me.
         Well, anyways around 7th grade I started to think about death. Not in a ”end my life kind-of way”. I just thought about it. I was curious. Over time I thought about it more and more, until it was the only thing I thought about. It would keep me up all night. By the time I hit high school, I barely got an hour or two of sleep. But I didn’t say anything. I had grown to use to keeping everything in, making sure everyone thought I was okay. The problem was there was too much build up, and I had to fine a way out. I told my dad that I needed help sleeping. I saw a doctor and got some sleeping drug. But it didn’t fix anything. My dad took me to a therapist. It was no use, for the first couple of weeks I just sat there and stared at her. Slowly I started sharing with her. I told her about my lack of sleep and of the man. She sent me to get a blood test and MRI and some test to see if I was having seizures in my sleep. The last test I took was to see the possibility of any mental health issues. But the test results wouldn’t come back for weeks, and honestly I couldn’t do it anymore.
         I remember the day. I went to therapy, and finally told her about my constant thoughts of death, about my death, about all the possibility that I could end it. To my surprise, not everyone thought about death 24/7. I was sent to a hospital, twice. The first time I didn’t want help. I just wanted to leave. No one tells you what its like to be in a mental help ward. Its like being an in-mate. The days are long, the nights are longer. You have no privileges, you do as you are told or you are punished, whether you can’t go outside or you are put in a isolation room. I lied my way out of there. The second time, was after I tried killing myself. This time I worked with the doctors and other girls. I took my medication. I didn’t fight it. The medication not only took away the man, but it took away bits and pieces of me. I still have days when I miss him, I wonder how they made him just disappear. I left a different person, but a “healthier” person. I was diagnosed with PTSD and Depression. I still keep to myself, but now I’m working through it with my doctor. Slowly trying to figure out what caused my PTSD. It gets hard some days, but I think of all the things I would be leaving behind. I think of the people and the places, and I think of how I would just be left behind. I’m working through this. I won’t be 100% everyday, but i’m getting there. I just want others to know it does get better, but it doesn’t just happen. You have to work for it, but it’s worth it. I’m learn to live with my mental disorder, but I won’t let it define me.  
        I had my first major depressive episode when I was 9. I stopped sleeping almost altogether and my exhaustion got so bad I started seeing double and hallucinating. I would stay up late into the night sobbing hysterically and not even knowing why I was so sad. At the start of seventh grade I went on new antidepressants for my Dysthymia that made me gain a bunch of weight - only no one told me that the meds were why I got fat so I developed incredibly poor body image in eighth grade and developed EDNOS. When I started high school I started cutting myself. I was deeply depressed through my sophomore and junior years.
         A friend of mine then killed himself and it really woke me up. I asked for help and got hospitalized for suicidality and self-harm. Now I go to individual and group DBT every week to help me cope with my depression, anxiety, and OCD. I run an organization called You Never Know Who for victims of bullying, abuse, trauma and those struggling with mental health.
         Alexa, 17
         I have no idea about what I have or what I am. I’ve been on a therapist for half an year because my best friend said to my parents that I needed professional help. It made me mad. I lied from the beginning to the end with my therapist and when I tried to talk about what I though she ignored it or she was like “You need to solve it alone.
         I feel like a dark, gray and heavy as a rainy cloud that is about to break. About to break and to fall apart, making everyone next to me running away so they won’t get wet.
         I believe all of my self-hate started when I was about 5/6 years old. After my 1st day of school I was thrilled with all those beautiful girls, so I ran to the mirror when I got home and when I realized that I looked like that I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe that I was that ugly.
         Some years later when I was 13 I started to have what my therapist called ‘bad thoughts. I call them suicidal thoughts and depression. I couldn’t support the thoughts of life. Why I, who had all the good things that someone could have, a happy family, a nice house, a good education, friends and everything else couldn’t be happy with it? Why I couldn’t love my body and my life?
         Those thoughts only got worse with time and I couldn’t see another alternative but to hurt myself. I hurt myself in every way that I could. Cutting, burning, starving for days. And I couldn’t be happy. That was the thing that made me think for days and days. I had and still have everything that I could ask for, but I can’t like myself. I just can’t. And I ask; how can someone love me, if I can’t? How can someone love me with all these scars and cuts? How can someone love me knowing that one day I might kill myself? They can’t. They can’t bear the fact that one day they might lose me so easily.
         I can’t talk to people about how I feel, so I write it down. It makes things clearer for a moment, but I’m getting used to it and I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t go back to cut myself because I don’t want new scars to remind me of my failure and I can’t kill myself because I don’t want those who love me to be hurt. Specially my sister. We are really close and I cant bear the possibility of her thinking: “why couldn’t I help her? I should have seen her pain. ” If I won’t hurt myself and if I don’t allow myself to commit suicide, it only means one thing: I’m trapped.
         This trapped feeling is consuming me. There is no day where I feel completely fine. There’s always something, there’s always some part of the day that I contemplate suicide or contemplate hurting myself.
         Last week I was doing completely fine when a guy came on my school to talk about Neuro-linguistic programming and started to talk about suicide awareness. My eyes immediately had to be close or else I’d cry. I can’t feel safe. I feel fear even though I know there’s nothing to fear.
         I hate myself for not loving myself. I hate myself for not being able to love things I have and should love. I can’t help myself with them and I’m trapped. I can’t do nothing. I’m scared all above. I don’t see a future and it’s consuming me.
        Ana, 15