"I want people to know that they are not alone; that there is nothing wrong with them and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
During a dark time in her life, Lauren Clements chose to find the light by helping others. And in the meantime, she helped herself. Her mental health movement, The Light Holder, aims to educate the public on mental illness and change the way it's viewed in the world. She also created an organization to help children with cancer and is pursuing a career in photography.
Lauren, YOU are such a bright light. Keep shining, babe!
Every Ella: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lauren Clements: I’m 21 years old, 22 in June! :) I live in a small town outside of Nashville, TN. I moved here when I was 15 from the Florida panhandle. I started home schooling in 8th grade and continued through 12th. I’m now pursuing photography.
How did your childhood affect the person you are today?
I feel like I’ve blocked out so much of my childhood that it’s difficult to answer this question. I am such a different person now than I even was five years ago. I look back at myself as a child and as a teenager and feel like I am looking at a completely different person. However; I do believe that what I went through as a child has had an affect on my life today. Good in some ways; bad in others. I was exposed to the cruelty of this world at an early age and I grew up way too fast. If I could write a letter to my 12-year-old self, I would tell her to please stop being so hard on herself and enjoy being a kid. I would tell her to stop worrying about everyone and everything and focus on herself. I would tell her not to listen to the mean kids that made fun of her and to be proud of herself for her huge, huge heart. Lastly, I would tell her that life isn’t easy and she will face many hardships; but to never, ever ever lose sight of what matter most…. love and kindness.
You were diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Can you tell us about BPD?
BPD is a relatively common form of mental illness, but it is rarely spoken of. In fact, before I was diagnosed with it last year, I had never even heard of it. BPD is one of the most debilitating forms of mental illness and has alarmingly high suicide rates. To be more specific, 70% of BPD sufferers will attempt suicide in their lifetime. Of those, 10% will die. BPD sufferers struggle greatly with relationships (fears of abandonment are very prominent). They also have very unstable emotions (frequent ups and downs; high emotional sensitivity), impulsive and self-damaging behaviors (self-injury and suicidal behavior).
How does BPD affect your everyday life?
This is a hard question to answer because it affects my everyday life in such extraordinary ways. Most of the time, I wake up afraid to face the day. The sadness and self-hatred is so incredibly overwhelming. I often feel as though I am drowning amongst my own emotions. Due to my extremely high emotional sensitivity, it does not take much for me to spiral out of control. Everyday tasks are very difficult for me. Family and friends get frustrated with me a lot because there are certain things I have to refrain from doing because I know I will get upset. For example, my mom and I were out shopping recently for our upcoming trip to Hawaii. After trying on clothes for what seemed like hours, I was emotionally drained and had to go sit in the car. I was overwhelmed with negative emotions about myself. This is something that generally happens a few times a week. I am very, very insecure.
What was your lowest low?
In less than a year’s time, I have survived five suicide attempts and been hospitalized seven times. It’s hard to look back and choose which might’ve been my lowest point as they were all so very dark. I think maybe it was my third attempt back in September. I was so tired of fighting; so tired of feeling the way I did all the time. My friends and family were tired of dealing with it, tired of constantly worrying about what I might do to myself. I truly believed that I was doing everyone a favor by ending my life. My spirit was broken and my soul was crushed. The light in my eyes was long gone and I had absolutely no desire to live. It’s heartbreaking to watch as you truly lose yourself to an illness. So, for what felt like the hundredth time, I wrote a suicide note and published it to my Facebook account after I had already overdosed. I just wanted to feel at peace. I wanted to stop hating myself, to stop feeling guilty for existing, to stop hurting so bad. I wanted my story to end.
Through the darkness, you decided to live your life helping others. You started a mental health movement called “The Light Holder." What has that meant to you?
Everything. Absolutely everything. Throughout my journey, there have only been a few things that have truly kept me going. One of which is helping people; especially to those who have been through similar circumstances. I hate that mental illness is still so stigmatized. So many people who suffer with mental illness are afraid to come forward and afraid to seek the help that they need and deserve. No one should have to suffer in silence due to the fear of being judged. I want people to know that they are not alone; that there is nothing wrong with them and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just want to help them feel less sad.
What do you hope to accomplish with this movement?
This is something that is constantly on my mind. The mission of TLH movement is honestly pretty simple; to help people and to love people. I want to educate the public on mental illness. I want to offer help to those who need it. I want to show love to those who feel unloveable. I want to change the way the world looks at mental illness.
You also created an organization for children with cancer. Can you tell us about a particular child that has touched your heart?
I have met so so many incredible children throughout the last six years of being a childhood cancer advocate. I don’t know how to choose just one; but Kylie is especially important to me. I only met Kylie once, shortly after Christmas in 2014. I brought her a care basket that I had made for her. The basket was filled with soft blankets and socks, Bath and Body works and everything else that Kylie loved. I spent an hour with Kylie and her parents; just talking. Kylie was only twelve, but she was wise beyond her years. I fell in love with her incredible spirit and beautiful heart. Unfortunately, Kylie passed away just a few months later after a courageous fight with Ewings Sarcoma; an aggressive form of bone cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Kylie.
What advice can you give others struggling with BPD and depression?
To please be gentle with themselves. There will be many days when the world feels too heavy to bare. That’s okay; spend the day in the comfort of your bed. Watch Netflix and eat your favorite food. Treat yourself because you deserve it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it; which you will. Pay attention to how you are feeling and speak up when you are feeling the urge to hurt yourself. Accept all of the love and kindness people give to you; it will help you more than you realize. I know you feel like you don’t deserve anything good; but you do. You deserve all of the love in the world. You are not awful. You are not broken beyond repair. You are not hopeless.
What are your goals for your future?
The future is something I honestly don’t think of much. I focus so much on just trying to get through the day. However; I hope that I can one day get to a place where I love myself again. I hope that I am living where my heart feels most at home (Hawaii, of course), I hope that I am doing what I love (helping people and photography) and most importantly, I hope that I am happy.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love photography, it’s how I express myself. I also love to read (I can go through multiple books a day). I love to be in nature; swimming and hiking. I love sending mail and writing letters. I love love love to binge watch Law and Order: SVU (not kidding… I watch multiple episodes a day, everyday.)
Name one woman who inspires you.
Mariska Hargitay. Mariska plays Olivia Benson on SVU. If you’ve ever watched SVU, then you know the amazing advocate Olivia is. She is a voice for the people who need it. In real life, Mariska is a lot of the same. She is a very powerful woman and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Mariska is the founder of The Joyful Heart Foundation; a foundation with the mission to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. Honestly, Mariska’s passion and compassion are what inspires me to keep going on my darkest of days. I hope to one day have the opportunity to meet her and tell her what an important role she has played in my life.