Sometimes if I close my eyes, take a deep breath and really focus, I can find it. That very vivid mental image of myself staring in the mirror back in the spring of 2017. If I concentrate hard enough, I can almost place myself right back in that spot. The rush of a thousand different feelings, most of them dark, flood over me. I am a 21-year-old college student, and I’m supposed to be “living my best life,” as we said back then.
For me, pretending to have the greatest, happiest life had been easy, but it was becoming increasingly harder. The longer I keep my mind in this place, the more real it begins to feel. Now, the person I am seeing in the mirror is unrecognizable. However, because I lived it, I know it is me. I look worse than sad, I look broken. I have very dark circles under my eyes. It’s evident I’ve not been sleeping much. I am laser focused on myself as I begin to pray that the mirror, or myself, or maybe God… someone, anyone, will answer the questions I so desperately need. This is how most of 2017 felt for me. I felt like I was trapped in a glass box. The box got smaller and smaller each day, as I watched my life fly by outside. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew it was not good.
Coincidently, in March of 2017, the first of many Netflix Originals hit the streaming service in the form of what soon became the worldwide phenomenon, 13 Reasons Why. Being obsessed with TV and pop culture, of course I watched. I recently revisited the beginning of this show and remembered how so much of what I first learned about my mental health was thanks to this series. One of the most haunting moments of my life came shortly after watching this series back in 2017. I worked up the courage to physically write out and release the thoughts in my head to someone I trusted with my whole heart. I hoped this person would help me figure out what to do, who to talk to, or where to go. I just wanted to be told that everything was going to be okay. In an even darker turn of events, I received no reply. Twisted, huh? I remember the following days, reading the message over and over, and thinking I had done something wrong. I believed I was to blame for how I felt. My spiral ensued over the following months. It’s no one person’s fault. However, if someone reaches out in a moment of crisis, please remember this and do not ignore their plea for help.
If someone reaches out in a moment of crisis, please do not ignore their plea for help.
April 26, 2017, was the worst day of my life. Now I draw inspiration from it. On that day, in that moment, looking in the mirror, I said to myself, “If I can get through this, if I can find the strength, if I can pull myself up, if I can rise above… I am going to make sure I do everything I can so that no one ever feels the way I feel right now. I am not going to stop until everyone knows that what they are feeling is normal and it’s okay. I don’t want anyone to ever feel this much loneliness.” I will forever hold on to these painful mental moments, only visiting them when necessary, to remind myself where I came from and where I never want to go again. I will hold on to these moments to remind myself that mental health should be a priority.
Fast forward to present day with eyes wide open. It’s September 2020. I painted this mural in Downtown Little Rock during National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a quote from 13 Reasons Why that is very personal and important to my mental health journey: “Because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier.” If you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a counselor, a school counselor or an adult you trust. By the grace of God, I got the right help and realized it takes a lot of hard work to get a whole lot stronger. I didn’t know anyone else felt the way I did. In case you are just learning this yourself, or maybe you forgot along your way… let this piece of art remind you: you are never alone.
This painting is a symbol of strength the 21-year-old me had no idea I possessed. This mural is inspired by 13 Reasons Why and the story that continues to save people’s lives every day. This art is dedicated to those who are struggling and whose stories are not yet over. I hope you know #ItGetsEasier. Finally, this space is in honor of those who have lost a loved one to suicide, those who lost the fight themselves to suicide, and those touched by the ripple effect that is suicide. This is now the space where darkness turned to light will long live. Dig a little bit deeper, be a whole lot kinder and a lot less guarded, because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier!
You can see the mural in person in Downtown Little Rock on the side of the Little Rock Technology Park at 417 Main Street Little Rock, AR 72201. If you visit, please hashtag #ItGetsEasier with your pics online and tag me (@wcadebethea) as we hope this message reaches those who need it most!
Disclaimer: 13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics, they hope the show can help viewers start a conversation. If you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult. I highly recommend NOT watching alone.
TikTok about the mural: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMJUrGnMr/