Twice in one week we see the headlines filled with the news of suicide. Twice in one week my heart fills with grief, deep understanding, and feelings of powerlessness for these souls who thought that leaving was their only solution to the pain.
Kate Spade was one of my favorite designers. My family has a tradition where every year they give me a little gift from her for my birthday. A scarf, a handbag, or a planner. My birthday is in 16 days. Kate Spade was also a sister- a fellow Kappa. My sorority sisters and I texted each other earlier this week regarding the jarring news. We expressed our sadness over this loss. Even these sisters, who have known me since our early college days, don’t know how close to home that this hits. My family doesn’t know how close this hits. Most people in my life don’t know exactly how bad it got for me because I didn’t share about it. I have only told certain people about how bad it truly was.
I was scared. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my feelings. I was so incredibly ashamed of my truth.
Why do some of us survive and find healing while others of us feel there is no choice?
It’s tragic. It’s horrific. And there is still hope.
Nearly five years ago I was at the peak of a ten year battle with my alcoholism. I was addicted to numbing. I ran from everything and everyone. Every single day I wanted to die. Every single day I wanted a way out. I would pray that I would find myself in a terrible car crash. I didn’t want to survive. I didn’t want to fight. I didn’t want to live.
On June 15th, 2013 I found myself in the situation in which I believed that, if it ever came to pass, I would have my excuse. I would have my reason to commit suicide. The situation came. I had my answer. I had my plan of how I would do it. I had a backup plan to the plan in case the first plan failed. I thought it was the end. I knew I couldn’t keep on going. To be honest, I had been thinking of suicide for years. I can’t remember when the suicidal thoughts started, probably a couple of years into my drinking, and I can’t remember when they became ever present. All I know is that they did. The thoughts were always there, a constant companion. I considered it my last option. My final “get out of jail free” card. I wanted everything to stop. I wanted the chaos to end. I was bitter. I was hopeless. I was addicted. I didn’t know where to turn.
I was at the end of my rope.
On June 16th, 2013 I sought help for my alcoholism. I didn’t commit suicide that day for one simple reason- I knew my mother wouldn’t be able to survive the loss. I was incredibly selfish, but not selfish enough to make that final move just yet. I couldn’t devastate her like that. My family had been through enough. I was done devastating everyone around me. I was done burning my life to the ground.
I somehow found the strength within me to try something else. I turned to a twelve step program and to therapy. I began individual counseling on a weekly basis.
The suicidal thoughts were constant. For years the idea whispered itself in my ears. I stayed sober, and the obsession to drink was removed, but the obsession to check out of my own life wasn’t. In December of 2015, I hit another low. My therapist grew concerned. We weren’t making progress. I was unreachable in my sessions. I was listless and hopeless. She suggested I try antidepressants since nothing else seemed to be helping. I had shared with her how deep and dark the pit was that I was in. I shared with her but I still withheld just how bad it was because I didn’t want her calling the authorities and locking me up in the loony bin because of how I was feeling- thinking I was actually going to try it.
I didn’t want to use pills, but I also didn’t want to die. I chose the pills. The pills helped. The pills brought me back from the edge. The pills were a relief, a comfort, a pause in the misery. They bumped me up the couple of necessary points to feel like I could live. It’s very possible they saved my life and allowed me to continue seeking help.
As things got marginally better, but only marginally, I started dating someone new and also sponsoring someone new. In a twelve step program you have a sponsor who takes you through the steps and you also sponsor other people in return, taking them through the steps. My new sponsee struggled with depression and we bonded over our shared experiences with it. I didn’t know how badly she struggled, thinking we were both on the road to recovery, and I did everything in my power to be there for her and to help her as best as I could. In February of 2016, she took her own life. I was devastated. Why did I feel good enough to hang on and she didn’t? Why did she feel this was the only way out? My heart broke.
This new relationship progressed and it was revealed that this boyfriend believed that antidepressants were a crutch. A “fundamental disconnect from God”, he would call it. I felt weak for needing them, for relying on them. He would tell me that God was the answer, and that the antidepressants were not. It was manipulative and abusive, but I was too sick at the time to see that. I got off the antidepressants, believing I needed to work more on me and to “be stronger”.
I hope you never feel the way that I did. If you need pills, take them. If pills keep you on this glorious Earth and wanting to live this glorious life, please please take them. They aren’t a crutch. They can help. Work with your doctor to make a plan, and if you feel better, keep doing whatever you are doing. Your life is precious and it is your right to find healing in whatever way works best for you.
When the relationship with this man began to tank, and the emotional and verbal abuse got to be unbearable, I secretly went on my antidepressants again. I hid this from him because I knew he wouldn’t approve. I knew he would think I was weak for using them. I knew he would use it against me.
Within a month of getting back on my antidepressants, I had left him. I’m sure those pills helped to save my life a second time.
The thoughts of suicide would wax and wane. Sometimes it was worse than others. Sometimes I would go months without obsessing about it. Other times it felt like my only viable option. I kept going, no matter what. I kept leaning on my twelve step program. I kept going to therapy. I started EMDR(Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), a therapy modality known to be effective in dealing with past traumas. I stayed honest. I don’t know how I kept on going, but I did.
It’s hard to explain when or how, but one day I started to turn the corner. One day I was unwilling to allow myself to consider suicide any longer. I had seen the repercussions from when my sponsee had made the choice, and I knew I had to keep going. I had to keep seeking healing. I had to help others and to keep fighting for this life which I knew I loved so deeply.
I sought healing and I sought a God of my understanding and I tried my very best to love myself, even if at times I felt impossibly broken.
About a year ago, I started to feel better. A shadow had lifted. The therapy I was doing was working. The people I surrounded myself with were supportive and healthy. I was in the middle of the herd in my career and in my twelve step program, and I felt better than I had in my entire life. I felt ready to try to taper off of my antidepressants, and with the help from my doctor, I did it. I have stayed off of them since then, but I know I will never hesitate to return to them if things get bad again. About a year ago, the sun started to shine for me again. The suicidal thoughts abated. Things have continued to improve and my life has continued to skyrocket into a new dimension of wonderful.
Not every day is perfect, but every day is better than I could have ever imagined for myself in my wildest dreams. Every day keeps on getting better. Every day I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my past experiences and for everything I went through. Most of all, I am grateful that I didn’t give up.
I hope that if you are struggling that you reach out to me or to someone you love. I have been in the pit with you, and it’s okay that it feels impossibly hard. I want you to know that you are so loved and you are so cherished and that your life is so worthwhile. I want you to know that if you think suicide is your only option, there is another way. I want you to know that you aren’t alone. I want you to know that I have been there and that I honor your pain and your suffering. I want you to know that you don’t have to live like this. I share my story with you in the hopes that you can keep on going so that we don’t have to lose you. I hope that you reach out and you share and that we can hold your hand through your darkest days.
You can reach me on this blog via email on the Get In Touch tab on any day at any hour. I would love to hear your story. I would love the opportunity to know you better, to know your heart and your struggle. You aren’t alone and I would love to survive with you.
I promise it’s all going to be okay.
Here are a few helpful resources: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and the Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.