I never thought I would see my 18th birthday. If you had asked me on my 15th birthday if I saw myself living to be an adult, I would have said no. I am writing this a week after my 18th birthday. I am happy, healthy, and strong. Here is the story of how I went from not seeing myself living until the time I was 18 to being a thriving young adult.

It was not easy and it took a lot of work. On my 15th birthday, I was halfway through my freshman year in high school. I had just gotten out of a very toxic relationship with an ex-boyfriend who was still in my life, my parents were having trouble in their marriage, and I lost one of my closest friends to suicide less than a year prior. Everything just kept piling on my shoulders. I was so stubborn that I just kept saying “I can deal with this head-on with no help.” Every roadblock that was put in front of me, I muscled through. I hit a breaking point where I could not go through all these challenges of life anymore and didn’t feel I deserved to go through them. I wanted to be gone. I threatened to kill myself and the next day I was in the ER in a children’s hospital. I was there for hours and they kept asking me if I had physical signs of harm or notes with detailed plans in them. I did have notes but they did not have plans. After hours of questions, I was told that I would not be admitted to the inpatient facility. I was sent home with some paperwork and phone numbers. The next day, I went to school and was called into the office. I spent the rest of the day meeting with school officials, mental health experts and my mom. I was overwhelmed. After that day, I was asked not return to school until I was “better.” I spent the next two weeks of getting “better” with no phone, family friends, working out, my mom and my dog.

Those two weeks allowed me to reset. This was the beginning of a four-year journey of becoming a stronger, more open me. I learned the importance of self-care and how important it is to keep up self-care. I began working out consistently. I realized when I work out the stress of whatever is happening at that point in time goes away and I can really think about the real problems. I realized that some days are going to suck and it is okay to have those days. They will not be every day and they will not last forever. On those days, it is a good time to say “I need a break” and go do something different. On those days I have learned to put my phone down and go enjoy time with loved ones. I have also learned that I can be my own best friend and cheerleader. I don’t need to rely on others for that. I can think I am awesome and really cool and beautiful. I have learned this through mindfulness. A great definition of mindfulness is from Sylvia Boorstein, which is the aware balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it. I began practicing mindfulness at the beginning of my journey. The practices I find to be most useful are meditation and mindful breathing. When I am in a stressful situation, I step back from the situation and begin to breathe. I try to become aware of my surroundings and focus on my breath. This allows me to calm down and think logically about the situation. I use meditation as a way to wake up or fall asleep. It allows me to start or end my day being present and aware of my life.

All of these practices  — working out, knowing when I need a break, and mindfulness — have gotten me to where I am now. Today, I am a senior in high school, graduating in the spring with my Associates of Arts from the local community college as well as my high school diploma. I am excited to attend college next year. I have amazing friends who put up with my craziness and love me for it. I do high school sports, am team captain on my mock trial team, and do many other activities. I couldn’t be happier. Yes, I do have those days where I am not okay but I have learned how to be okay with not being okay and know that it is not going to last forever. I will get through the hard times and love the good times.