“My arm is a spider web, my brain is a raging fire and anyone who wants to tell me I’m fine doesn’t know what’s going on in my mind.”

That is what I wrote on November 13th, not knowing that just 4 days later my friends and colleagues would be taking me to the ER and I would be getting admitted into the Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) at the hospital for suicidal thoughts.

As I sat in the waiting room all I wanted to do was run but it was like I was paralyzed by what I had become even though my mind was racing and I was visibly shaking. I kept getting taken back to answer the same questions over and over again all while denying what I knew what was about to happen, denying that I had allowed myself to fall this far. What I didn’t know at the time though was that taking that step, going to the hospital was going to be the best thing I had ever done for myself.

Those 4 nights and 3 days were some of the toughest I had ever had, the small room with no windows made me feel like I was trapped in my own mind; stuck with my thoughts with no way of getting them out. The isolation haunted me like a cold chill that you just can’t shake and each night trying to fall asleep with the light buzzing overhead, the loud noises in the hallway, made it impossible for my anxiety to shut off.

As I spent those days drowning in my thoughts, drowning in the realization of what was actually happening those who were supporting me in this situation kept me afloat. It was a time that showed who would always be there no matter if I were sinking or swimming and without them the waves of my emotions may have taken over. My emotions were mixed as it came time to leave as I didn’t know just what my life what going to be like on the outside and to be honest, I was scared to finally face my struggles in the open space of my everyday life.

Things were not easy and I tried to jump into things headfirst; ignoring the thoughts that were still running through my mind and pushing myself into pretending everything was fine. I thought I was fine, I thought I was ready but the longer I tried telling myself this the worse I actually got. Until I broke. The details are fuzzy and I’m not sure if the details actually are not there or if I am subconsciously choosing not the remember them, but it was at that point that I learned what rock bottom really was.

Hitting this point and the events of that day are things that I am choosing not to dwell on; they are ghosts that I am not allowing to trap me in a negative mindset. The road moving back up has not been easy, but one thing I have learned is that life is not always going to give you that straight path. The things I have learned about myself from these experiences are invaluable and I can say that I have grown a new set of wings that are only going to help me to keep soaring upwards.

Justine McNeil is a 24 year old child and youth worker honours graduate from Ontario, Canada. She is a passionate motivational speaker, sharing her personal stories to advocate for mental health as well as creating awareness on social and global causes by using what she has learned through travelling with Me to We to Ecuador, Kenya, India and Arizona for their Advanced Facilitation Training. Her speaking engagements have included speaking at WE Day, events for Me to We, Jack.org, Niagara Public Health and various schools and organizations with Ontario. In 2015 she raised and donated $10,000 to Free the Children to build a school in Kenya and her work and stories have been published by Stigma Fighters, The Mighty, in various newspapers and for Me to We marketing.
When she’s not speaking, planning her next volunteer trip or working at a local school, Justine enjoys photography, listening to country music and spending time with her family.

Justine can be found on her website and Twitter.