In our guest blog series, we invite folks with lived experiences of suicidality to share the story of their pain and their healing. In this month’s post, Ivy Watts, founder of Beautifully Simply You, shares how her feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness contributed to suicidal thoughts, and the steps of self love she took to regain her life.
I was the girl who had it all together, who looked like she had everything going for her. I was that stellar student and athlete that everyone applauded for. I graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors from University of New Haven. I was named Woman of the Year for my conference and was even a Top 30 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. But even though it looked like I had it all together, beneath the perfect outer mask that I had created for myself, I was filled with pain and self-hate because, despite my accomplishments, I felt that I was always falling short of what my true idea of perfection was. I did not know who I was because my entire identity centered around being a track athlete. I was filled with confusion.
For most of my life, I struggled with anxiety, depression, and disordered eating that went untreated. I thought that struggling in silence was my only option and I thought that using my voice to talk about what I was going through was a sign of weakness. I remember spending hours in the doctor’s office when I was a young girl with consistent and painful stomachaches and headaches, and unrelenting trembling. I didn’t realize that the physical symptoms that I was feeling were a direct result of the overwhelming anxiety I felt. As a college track athlete, there was constant pressure to meet a certain standard, whether that be a time on a scoreboard, a place in a meet, or a number on a scale. The one goal that I had for myself that defined my idea of perfection became clouded by my anxiety that told me that I wasn’t good enough. I left college feeling like a failure, hating who I was and what I looked like. Because I had no sense of self-worth, I allowed myself to stay in an emotionally abusive and toxic relationship that I thought I deserved. My anxiety and depression only worsened with time, and I began to struggle with suicidal thoughts, again in silence.
I was the girl who thought my situation wouldn’t get any better, that I would live my life hating myself, that I would live my life unhappy, and continue to feel alone. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted more for my life, that I was ready to get help and start my recovery journey. I had to start my recovery journey by walking away from my toxic relationship, which finally allowed me to begin to heal and to learn who Ivy was and what Ivy wanted. A friend who was also struggling told me about her experience in therapy and that was the push I needed to really get the help that I deserved. Therapy saved my life because it finally showed me that I had a voice and that I could use my voice to work through my pain. It allowed me to see that I didn’t need to struggle in silence, that my support system was strong all along, and that I could open up to my family about my life-long struggle and they would still love me.
Recovery for me looked like practicing positive affirmations and telling myself I was beautiful, even when I didn’t believe it. It was messy and confusing and beautiful all at the same time. It didn’t happen overnight, but after getting help through therapy and re-wiring my brain to see that I actually was worthy and capable, I felt beautiful for the first time in my life. I learned I could nurture my mental health and I learned to love myself, exactly as I am, with all of my flaws.
I learned that my voice had power and now I have made it my life’s work to share my story with students, parents, and administrators across the world to break the stigma around mental health problems, empowering people to get help through public speaking and my weekly blog posts on my mental health blog, Beautifully Simply You. I share my story because I do not want others to feel alone like I felt. I share my story because I want others to know that recovery is possible, even when it feels impossible. I share my story because I want people to know that there are so many resources and people who want to help them through this struggle. I share my story because I want others to know that they are worthy of the fight for themselves, no matter how messy the journey looks. And, I share my story because I want people to experience the beauty and the gift that self-love brings.
I am thankful for everything that has happened in my life, because it shaped me into who I am and provided me with a story to share to help others on their journeys. My story has allowed me to connect with other like-minded people and organizations, like Samaritans. It has allowed me to recognize that I could accomplish my wildest dreams like putting on a first-of-its -kind city wide Mental Health Awareness Event in Waltham last year (where Samaritans was involved!) that made an impact on so many and has been one of my biggest accomplishments to date.
Remember that your story has power, and that using your voice to get help is not a sign of weakness at all. Recognizing that you need help is one of the biggest signs of strength because you recognized that you deserve more and that you can’t do it alone. This journey is incredibly messy but it is incredibly beautiful when you recognize what you deserve, and you recognize that you are never alone. I am right there with you, fighting for me, and fighting for you.
Be Beautifully Simply You
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