Hannah s Story
“I've never understood the ‘5 stages of grief’. The denial, then anger, and so on. How do people cope in ‘stages’? Why do we all cope the same?
When I was a senior in high school, I was an honor student, a part of student government association, and in a steady relationship. I seemed to have it all together. I was going to college to be a forensic anthropologist and start the road to my future. When I moved to Charleston, SC, I had high hopes for myself. I was becoming who I was meant to be. I was on top of the world.
Just two weeks into my first year in college I went to a party with some friends. I'd be lying if I said I had drank too much, because to be honest, I didn't drink enough to make even a baby tipsy. But, for some reason, I become unconscious and the next morning, I woke up with short visions of the night before.
First comes denial.
No, he didn't drug me. No, he didn't rape me. No, it did not happen. For the next few months, I tried to shut out the few memories I had of the night, but my mind wouldn't let me. I began having violent panic attacks about the event, I'd kick, scream and cry, ‘I didn't want it’. Even after that, I refused to let myself believe what had happened. I began missing school and isolating myself from people.
I couldn't bare telling my boyfriend what had happened. Who would want to be with someone so tainted, so broken? I shut myself off from him too. The rest of the semester went by and I didn't go to class. In result, I was put on academic probation. When I went home for Christmas break, I told my mom I wasn't feeling like myself so she sent me to our family doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The doctor started me on an antidepressant and sent me on my way. Even at that time, I wouldn't dare think of what happened, I hadn't told anyone. I made myself think it didn't happen.
As the second semester started, my mind was set on fixing my grades and getting back on my path. But things don't always go as planned, do they? I had shut everyone out from my life: my friends, my family. The medicine I had been prescribed made me sick, and even though I tried to tough it out to see results, January went by and I hadn't been to class. My professors recommended that I withdraw. The one thing that was giving me hope and happiness was being taken away from me and I had no one to blame but myself.
I was in what seemed to be the darkest moment of my life- I tried to end my own life. A friend found me unresponsive and rushed me to the hospital. I can't recount much, but I vividly remember going in and getting ask millions of questions by the ER staff. What's your name? Mary Elizabeth Hannah Pruitt. What has happened? I took some pills. We're you trying to cause harm to yourself? Yes. How many did you take: Many, many pills.
I swear in that moment I could freeze time. They all just stared at me like I had a pumpkin for a head. The woman writing down my information was no longer writing, just staring. It seemed like a whole minute before anyone moved or did anything. I was rushed to the ER and hooked up to what seemed like everything possible. I would spend the next week in the ICU and another week in the kidney and liver unit to monitor my liver that I had almost destroyed.
If I had just got help sooner. If I had just talked to someone. If I had just gone to class. I questioned myself. I thought, ‘That’s not something I would do. Did I do that for attention? Was it a cry for help?’ The only answer I found was how I felt in that moment. I remember telling myself, ‘more pills, more pills, more pills, and it’ll all be over,’ as if as soon as I took the last pill, it would all turn off like a light switch and the war inside my head would suddenly cease-fire. I wasn’t thinking about anyone but myself and I will live with that for the rest of my life.
I hated myself. I hated myself for what I had done and what he had done and everything that had happened. But that wasn't the only depression; I had to carry the weight of everyone I had hurt. That's the thing about suicide- If you live, you are scarred with regret and chained to an even greater burden. If you die, it’s an incredible amount of pain for everyone else.
I remember my mom holding my hand as I laid in the hospital bed, tubes and wires coming from all directions. She was crying and she said ‘Hannah, I didn’t know. I was out buying you Valentines candy, and I didn’t know my baby was in so much pain.’ In that moment, I realized what I had done. These people that loved me so much, and that I loved, riddled with so much grief. It strikes you with guilt.
Since I was released from the hospital, I've been in continuous therapy. And in that time, I've learned a few things: 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted while in college, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness, and every year over 864,000 people attempt suicide in America.
I was not alone.
Since then, I have made a complete 180 from the life I lived. I am in school and off academic probation. Some people have told me how strong I am to have come so far in just a few months, and I will say to anyone that I had to be extremely weak, to get so strong. I have had to experience the lowest of my lows to learn how to climb to the highest of my highs, and I have had to see myself in the worst of light to know that I did not want to be that girl anymore.
Mental illness knows no race, class, or gender. It can happen to anyone at any time. With that being said, you are no less of a person because of a mental illness. It doesn’t make you weak or fragile; on the contrary, you are incredibly strong to live life day-to-day with that brick in your stomach or the elephant on your shoulders and still remain steadfast. Never feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness or that taking a pill every day to get by is taking the easy way out. None of that defines who you are because you are so much more than your mental illness."