Sarah "A Brighter Path"

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Randy Bacon with 7 Billion Ones in partnership with National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Missouri (NAMI) are proud to announce a major, multifaceted portrait art exhibition, story and short film series:

It Knows No Face

Portraits of Suicide Survivors.

Learn more HERE

Sarah’s Story:

Photography by    Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

The first time I remember realizing that I truly needed help, was when I was about 18 years old. I was having a panic attack and didn’t want anyone to see me, so I locked myself in the bathroom, and cried into the sink. I looked up at the mirror and into my own eyes. At that moment, picturing myself dead was the only thing that brought me relief. I genuinely couldn’t see any other way out of all my emotional turmoil. So I laughed. I laughed at how pathetic I was, at how much pain I was in, and most of all, at the thought of killing myself. I still don’t really know why that was my first reaction to such a thing. It felt like there was someone else controlling me and they were taking pleasure in my pain, but the truth was; it was me. I had reached a breaking point, and I needed help.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been “different”. My mother told me that I fought sleep even when I was a baby, and I can remember getting upset so much easier than the other kids around me when I was growing up. I was often called “dramatic” or “sensitive” because everything seemed to bother me. I always felt like something was wrong with me, and I was just wrong for existing. It didn’t help that I grew up in a very strict religious environment. I was constantly surrounded by people, books, sounds and other things that told me I was guilty; a horrible sinner who was lucky to be loved by God. I didn’t realize it then, but all of that had a major impact on my mental health. For a while, I even convinced myself that I was possessed, because why else would I feel like I was crazy? No one else had a breakdown when they were scolded. No one else got angry or panicked for no reason. There was just something wrong with me, and I truly believed I was to blame. There was about two or three years in a row where I was just feeling guilty over every single thing I did and said, and I just wanted to be gone, to not have to deal with life anymore because life isn't worth living. When I was at my lowest of lows, it looked like defeat, like hopelessness.

Over time, my family left the church we had been going to for years, and though I was happy to be rid of the place, I felt conflicted. Suddenly, I was allowed to watch things that before, were “evil”. I could read things that I was taught were of the Devil. My life changed entirely, and though it was certainly for the better, at times it was more than I could understand. It took me a long time to shake that guilt. When I did finally tell my family that I felt like I needed to seek help, they were very supportive. I consider myself very lucky for that, because I’ve known others whose families did not react well.

I researched counselors in my area, and found someone who fit me perfectly. Even though I was nervous, my first visit helped tremendously, and set me on a long course to a brighter path. Mostly, what made me reach out for help was that I didn’t want to leave people behind and have them deal with the aftermath. I felt that even if me being gone would release me, it would be putting the people I love in a far worse place and I just refused to do that. I’ve hurt myself before but I never actually acted further than making a plan to end my life. If I hadn't had the help that I did, I think it probably would have happened, but thankfully I did manage to get help, and that’s what made all the difference.

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m doing much better, and though my mental illness is still there, I now have so many better coping habits and tools to help me through it. It’s been a long journey, and I still have so much more to do, but for the first time in years, my future feels in my control. I want people to know that you're not alone, and that there's always something to get you through it, regardless of how terrible it feels. There's always somebody who cares, whether you see them or not, and you don't need to feel guilty over wanting to kill yourself because even though other people are going to tell you you’re the worst and you're leaving behind, I know better; you want to do the right thing but killing yourself isn't the right thing. Life is so worth living and you'll find your reason, you just haven’t found it yet.

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Brought to you in partnership with:

7Billion Ones, Annie Busch, NAMI Southwest Missouri, and Touchstone Counseling