Ian is my husband’s cousin. He is the nicest guy and has made me feel like part of the family since day one. He asked me if he could share his story about his attempted suicide and I am glad he is brave enough to share that experience. Mental illness definitely has a stigma, that I think is slowly diminishing (which I love!), but suicide is a whole different can of worms. It needs to not only be talked about, but discussed. Read on to learn about Ian’s attempt and what he’s learned since.
Ian Airmet is single, studying Outdoor and Community Recreation Education at Weber State. He served a mission in the New York Utica Mission and deals with depression and anxiety.
“I don’t belong here. Nobody loves me, nobody wants me around.” These were the thoughts floating through my head. I was 14 and dealing with these thoughts 24/7. I was told I was useless, worthless and wasn’t going to accomplish anything. I was the invisible kid who fell through the grid unless someone needed a punching bag. I didn’t have friends and was bullied at home and school. I wondered why the kids I saw at church were nice on Sundays but then the rest of the week just awful towards me. I had two best friends, one who after 5th grade went to live with his dad in Mexico and by the time he got back to town he had made other friends and got involved with drugs. To this day I don’t know if he is alive or dead. In 6th grade I made another best friend, however, as the years went on we just went down different paths. At home, I come from divorced parents and lived in a neighborhood were divorcees were not so common, at least in my eyes they weren’t. There were a lot of things out of my control that somehow felt like they were my fault. Many years went by of pent up feelings of being a social outcast added to the fuel my depression and anxiety. Finally as I was entering high school I received the same advice as when I entered jr high, “You want to do this and do that to fit in with this group. That is the group that will make you cool.” Essentially change who you are to fit in with another group of people. Tired of all of it I decided it was time to end it all. Life wasn’t worth living.
So one Sunday afternoon while everyone was off at church I stayed home and drank some antifreeze with the intention of killing myself. After a few minutes I changed my mind and did what I needed to get the antifreeze out of me. When my mom came home I told her what had happened and we rushed to the E.R. After being cleared I was checked into a mental hospital where I first learned about depression and anxiety. However, when I first got there one of the counselors asked me if I ever killed someone or watched one of my friends die. When I answered I didn’t he asked, “Then why did you try to kill yourself?” It was a question that I didn’t have the answer to yet but I was on the journey to answer it.
I want to say after that experience I went to work to figure out what I was dealing with and how I could manage it. Truth be told is I didn’t. I looked for love and acceptance in all of the wrong places. Friends that I had to change and be someone I wasn’t to be accepted, porn, blaming God for everything wrong, and the list could go on. The way I describe it is I was soulless and allowed my depression and anxiety to destroy and control my life.
There came a point where I got tired of the life I was living. I already had my suicide attempt and that was no fun and I certainly didn’t want to go through another hospital visit again. It was during this time where I had my coming to Jesus moment. I had looked for something to believe in before – things like pagan worship and other ways before settling to be an atheist. This time was different and despite my rule to never become a Mormon I started reading the Book of Mormon and saying my first prayers. In that moment I knew I had a testimony, but I had run away from it instead of embracing it and it was time to change that. It was also time to prepare for a mission again which was another rule I had, don’t go on a mission. Elder Ballard just issued the challenge to raise the bar for all missionaries going out so instead of going out into the field, I had to work hard to prove myself that I was ready and it was something that I wanted to do. That involved learning about depression and anxiety and figuring out how to deal with them, especially if I was to be in a different state or country. It took me two years to do it but I learned tools along the way that I did not have before and they were useful during the mission as well.
I am taking a pause from the story to say this: during this time I started over and got rid of all my previous friends or people I was hanging around. A girl that I had gone to elementary school with and was in my home stake reached out to me one night at a youth activity. When I got active again I called her and attempted to make friends with her. She has been an angel to me. During those years where I was learning to deal with my depression and anxiety and had to talk about a lot of this stuff for the first time, it was with her. It was scary for me and I am sure not the easiest thing for her but she as I stated earlier she was an angel to me and without her I wouldn’t be here today.
I served a faithful mission and I guess that means I defeated depression and anxiety and am living free of it ever since? NOT. The mission and getting active in the church have all helped but the reality is that I have to fight every day. A few years ago I asked a friend out, now in my head I have to focus on just the day in front of me. I don’t go jumping to conclusions or thinking that something bigger is going to happen. I do this because of my depression and anxiety, meaning if I ask someone out and start to think she is going to become my girlfriend or I’m going to marry her then when it doesn’t pan out the depression is there holding me down with thoughts of “you’re useless, you won’t accomplish anything in your life, nobody is going to love you.” So I focus on the here and now. This friend thought I was asking for more and started avoiding me. When I was able to talk to her I would get yes/no answers. My depression took this reaction as “nobody will love you” and thoughts of suicide popped back into my head and I almost sent a heartbreaking goodbye text. Here is the thing about depression and anxiety, they will make mountains out of mole hills. I have been rejected by plenty of times by girls and, heck, they tend to do that sort of thing but for some reason this one stung a bit more than I thought it would. I have talked about tools and here is where I want to share the tools that I have learned.
Recognize the difference between depressive thoughts and actual thoughts. Just as members are encouraged to recognize the spirit, for someone with depression often times the depression influences our thoughts to believe things that aren’t true. When I was rejected by my friend the first reaction wasn’t my thoughts. I love life and enjoy it so why would I want to end it. Recognizing it as a depressive thought helped me to readjust my thinking and do something different.
2 Nephi 2:25 – men are, that they may have joy. As someone who has depression there have been times where I felt like I should be happy, life is good and I have a lot going on but I’m not happy. It is ok to be depressed and sad and angry and all sorts of emotions. Nobody is happy 24/7. Learning this and taking things one day at a time I have learned there are some days where it is better to be just depressed than trying to fight it and try to overcome it. I realize that day was a waste and there are things I want to accomplish so I get back to work and I’m able to get back on feet faster than if I tried to fight it. Also I learned to laugh. My dad taught me to not take myself so seriously and I will look for things that I do that get a laugh. Even the most serious of events can be easier to deal with if you learn to laugh at them.
When I first got active I had this picture of what a perfect Mormon would be. As a guy he was clean shaven, part in the hair, only listened to MoTab, dressed with the sweater over a button up shirt, and only said nice positive things. I felt bad because those were not me. I felt bad because I did not grow up with family home evenings, watching Disney movies, or family scripture time. However, in response to a prayer I had said, an answer I got was why try to be something you are not? You have been through a lot of different things that allow you to get to people who others cannot get to. Lesson learned, don’t try to be someone you are not. The experiences you have make you you. Use them, learn from them, and don’t try to fit some mold that doesn’t exist. I felt bad as a child being a social outcast, and today I might still be a social outcast in someway but I don’t care because I learned to love myself – the good and the bad. I have a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for me and doesn’t want me to change who I am for some latest trend or a person who doesn’t have my best interest at heart.
Last one, forgive. I didn’t mention names or go too in depth of how others have hurt me. I did this because I have forgiven everyone and there is no place in my heart for hatred, no place in my heart for grudges, or to talk bad about others from years ago. I tried to kill someone (me), and someone has tried to kill me (again me). I had to forgive myself for one of the top sins, and yes, it was hard as all hell. But in the end it is an experience that has taught me about living and given me a perspective that others don’t have. 20 years ago my life almost came to an end. The flip side is it started me on a path that led me to finding my life.