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Hope Xchange extends its heartfelt gratitude to Rebecca Lombardo, a volunteer mentor in our Hope for Bipolar's program, for sharing her story on how she found her life purpose after her suicide attempt in 2013. Rebecca is also a published author, Huffington Post blogger, contributor for The Mighty, and Voices for Change 2.0 podcast host. You can learn more about Rebecca and her mental health advocacy work on her website at rebeccalombardo.com.
My Suicide Attempt Radically Changes My Perspective
I’ve often struggled with finding my true purpose. It wasn’t until I truly hit rock bottom that I started to become more self aware. In June of 2013, I succumbed to the symptoms of my illness, a bipolar diagnosis I've been battling since 19.
I firmly believed that I was not capable of doing anything worthwhile in this lifetime. I decided that my family and friends would be better off without me around and I attempted suicide.
I will never forget the look on my husband’s face while they worked on me in the ER. Even thinking about it now gets me extremely emotional. I’m incredibly lucky that I wasn’t successful that day as it has allowed me to put my life into the proper perspective.
With a great deal of time to reflect, I came to the realization that I had a voice. With that voice, I would try to change the way people perceive mental illness. I would begin my journey of trying to end the stigma.
My Journey to End Mental Health Stigma Begins
It started with my blog. Once I made it public, it became an important platform. I had no idea that I could reach so many with my words. I was thrilled to learn that there were people out there who felt I was helping them!
I taught myself some of the ins and outs of social media. The mental health community on Twitter has been extremely supportive. Every day, more people would come forward to tell me that my words resonated with them.
I was starting to see the future. I was put here on this Earth to be an advocate for the mentally ill.
Nothing Worth Doing Is Easy. I Stayed the Course.
"I Am Enough" Becomes My Mantra
I’ve always been extremely hard on myself and I always probably will be. Those of us who struggle with depression frequently are. I also think low self-esteem is problematic with bipolar disorder. It’s something that I deal with every time I look in the mirror and each time I write. Is it good enough? Am I good enough?
I also know that I have a tendency to compare myself to others who don’t have a mental illness. Are they more successful than I am? Do they have a better house? A great job?
I’m realistic enough to know that everyone has burdens to carry. Yet, it’s hard for me to be optimistic about my life when I can barely get out of bed and my friends are leading fabulous lives.
I’ve worked very hard over the last few years to come to the realization that I am not a failure. The thought creeps into my brain often, but I’m constantly battling it. Suffering through more than 20 years of bipolar disorder and a suicide attempt do not improve my feelings about myself. It’s extremely difficult to turn those thoughts around and tell yourself other people wouldn’t have survived what you’ve been through.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is about being enough. I am enough has become my mantra.
If I Help Handful of People, It Will Have Been Worth It
Finding my purpose in life took a lot longer than I would have expected, but I try not to live in the past.
It is comforting for me to know that most of my critics have more than likely never had to fight a battle inside their own head every single day. I’m exhausted from that fight, but I’m still moving forward.
I’m thankful to have finally found my voice and I’m using it to effect change. We have a lot of work to do, but I firmly believe we can accomplish our goals of putting an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I will keep talking. I will keep telling my story. If I help even a handful of people, it will have been worth it.