| This is the 456th story of Our Life Logs |
They say that an angel’s wings are made up of the troubles of the souls they protect. And if that’s true, then my angel has a flush of feathers. I don’t mind it so much, for maybe my angel needed strong wings to pick me up from my lowest.
I was born on April 14th, 1999 in Lincoln, Maine. While I was an only child, my extended family inhabited the majority of northern Maine. Yes, the Lakeman clan was large and wild. Maybe too wild. All my life I have watched the people I love spiral and struggle alongside me.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering, what was going on with your family? Besides the early childhood memories filled with trick birthday candles and The Little Mermaid on repeat in the basement of my grandparents’ house, it was pretty…complicated.
Growing up, my mother and stepfather fought constantly, which meant that I didn’t quite fit into their schedules. I didn’t have time to work through all the frustration I felt because I was too busy maintaining the house or trying to break up fights. I helped them when I was the one in desperate need of help.
At some point, I noticed the decline of “me.” I drew away from others. I was less happy, less motivated, less everything. When my body and mind felt heavy for weeks on end, I should have known it was depression, but no one did. In fact, my mom took it upon herself to rid me of this behavior. She thought that anger and discipline would fix it. I can’t fault her because she didn’t know anything about what I was dealing with, but still, her “fixing things” just made it worse.
Weighted by my parents’ sharp tongues, depression took a toll on me. The complicated thoughts and voices and feelings led the way to suicide attempts as a young teen, and with them my first two feathers.
The first time I attempted, I was just in middle school. I tried to take a bottle of pills that I found lying around, nothing in particular—just a handful of all different sizes and shapes of little matte gems. I watched my parents from the next room over, hoping they’d catch me before I swallowed.
When I woke up, I was afraid. I didn’t understand enough about the finality of death to understand what I was truly trying to accomplish, but I was well old enough to understand the fear. And so, I felt that fear and I kept it with me.
I started seeing a therapist who helped me work through the sadness that was consuming me. Therapy helped me see how much a person can struggle and what a single positive influence can do to pull them out of that mindset.
I sat on this information while trying once again to get a handle on my own life. In time, I began seeing my therapist fewer and fewer times. I began the inward draw once more as my family went back to bickering. And, in time, I let go of the pieces of me that I had recovered.
When I was 13 years old, I saw suffering happen outside my own. Ashton, my cousin and the youngest of the Lakeman clan, witnessed his father accidentally back over his step-mother after they had a massive fight. Months after the incident, his father couldn’t handle the guilt and committed suicide in January 2013.
After the tragedy with Ashton, his biological mother put him right into therapy, but he turned to me for guidance. I knew how to help him through what he was feeling. You can call this empathy or a sad case of bought-that-tee-shirt, but I knew my cousin wouldn’t be able to stay the course if he didn’t have someone to lean on. He’d just had his entire life turned upside down for Christ’s sake. I felt the need to step in and take him under my wing.
It was in helping Ashton that I discovered just how good it felt to help another person. It felt good to divulge thoughts and emotions.
This is not the end of the story. Unfortunately for me, depression can’t just go away because you will it to. It doesn’t even go away because you know it’s not healthy. Mental health is like that. It stays until it’s good and ready. And mostly, it’s never ready.
A few years later, just as I was entering high school, I attempted suicide again. This time, the picture of ceasing-to-exist was clearer. I was exhausted by the constant routine of holding the family together while being scolded for my exhaustion. And each time I cried out for help, I was just met with animosity from my family. Again, no one knew how to help me.
I can’t tell you a lot about the second time I attempted. I blacked out for most of it. All I know is that the sinking feeling I had the day after made me feel so, so low. I stuffed that feeling inside, hoping it would sort itself out. It didn’t.
About a year later, I came to the end of myself again. Bad things happen in threes, right? For my third suicide attempt, I stood in the middle of the kitchen with a bottle full of random pills in my hand, sobbing as my parents fought behind me. Their world was so full of chaos that they were blissfully unaware of mine. So, there I stood, limbs shaking as I prepared myself to end it all. I know, it’s kind of fucked up.
But for some reason, I had a quiet moment of silence in my brain. The type of moment that lets you separate yourself from the unholy mess of the world. After that moment, I talked myself down. I stepped away and went to my room. Sitting on my bed, surrounded by the memorabilia of my life, I became overwhelmed.
Each toy and trinket was a snippet of my life that I would leave behind if I died. If I did decide to end it all, anyone else would haul all these memories away like garbage. But to me, they were the pieces that built me. It wasn’t some magical moment that turned my life around but that moment in my room.
For the first time in a while, I went to bed thinking about all the things I would miss if I was dead rather than all the reasons I wanted to die. I finally understood what my angel was trying to get me to see. These feathers made of sorrows that I collected weren’t meant to weigh me down; they were meant to make me stronger. To fly higher. They made me who I am. I saw them in a different light for the first time. If I put them together, I could build wings, my chance to heal.
And in it, I also saw my purpose. All that I had been through could be useful to help others. I could use my experiences to build people up instead of tearing myself down. I could help others fly. I knew what it was like to feel hopeless, and I didn’t want others to feel like that.
I graduated from high school without attempting to take my own life again. I searched for careers that would let me help others in the way I had helped my cousin, Ashton. After high school, I became a student at the University of Maine, Orono, and began pursuing my degree in psychology. In this chapter of my life, I feel purposeful. I don’t party or drink away my time here at school because I need to know all I can before I enter into someone else’s healing process.
I won’t lie to you. I have moments where I feel inferior to my fellow psychology students, where doubt creeps in my mind and clouds my vision of the future. I have moments when I remember myself as a preteen, thinking that I’d never make it to 20 years old. But, here I am. And when I do what makes me happy, my life is as light as a feather. For with the wings I’ve earned, I feel strong and capable to hold the weight of my life, and those of others. I’m so glad I chose to live.
This is the story of Saige Lakeman
Saige currently resides in Orono, Maine, where she is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Because Saige was born to a big family who has experienced many crazy things, she found herself helping others over helping herself. This led her to realize her passion in psychology, though she didn’t discover this path until her third suicide attempt where she realized just how precious life truly is. Saige plans to attend graduate school at the University of Maine to lead her into a career as a therapist where she can fulfill her life-long passion for helping others. A woman whose strength and kindness are unparalleled, Saige currently works at Hannaford, a supermarket near the University. She spends time with friends, family, and her fur-babies, and now enjoys living life.
This story first touched our hearts on September 25, 2019.
| Writer: Samantha Paige Grimwood | Editor: Colleen Walker |