It was four years ago today…

On the evening of February 16, 2012, I kissed each of my dogs on the top of the head, grabbed a flashlight, walked out the door and started running down the street. In my mind, it was going to be the last time I ever saw them.

Minutes before, my husband and I had one of the worst fights of our lives. We both said we no longer loved each other. Afterwards, I felt the room of our apartment closing in around me. The tension was palpable and there wasn’t enough space to get away from it.

I had just left my career, done a short sale on our “forever” home because the economic downturn in Florida had made it impossible to sell it, ruined my credit because of the short sale, gone from a comfortable salary to zero money, sold almost all of our possessions and flown across the ocean to a tiny island to try to repair the last thing I felt I had on this earth – my marriage.

And I had failed.

After months of work, we were still in the same place. He didn’t love me. I didn’t love him. The year of separation where I held down a job in Florida and he pursued his education abroad, combined with the years of not placing each other first, had finally taken their toll.

After battling a deep depression for years, I was tired. I never talked about it. I pretended I was happy. After all, I was in sales. You can’t be sad in front of the customers and earn a living. It was an exhausting mask that got heavier each year.

That emptiness was just under the surface. It was the concrete pouring into my heart, slowly hardening every day.

Life had become pointless, passionless and painful. It hurt too much to keep breathing. I no longer felt love or happiness. Most of the time I felt nothing. When I did feel anything it was anger, fear and crushing sadness. And it wasn’t getting better.

Depression is hard enough as it is, but when you throw volatile circumstances, intense loss of all the things that define you, and painful revelations on the fire, the explosion comes quickly.

As I ran out the door into the inky blackness, the tears blinded me. Since I was in a foreign country, I didn’t have access to the traditional means to end the pain. There were no pills in the cabinet or guns in the drawer. The only way I could kill myself quickly was using gravity. There was a high cliff about a mile from our apartment that looked out over the ocean… I knew it would do the job.

Suddenly, I saw headlights behind me.

I never told my husband I was leaving that night. I didn’t want an audience or attention. I just left quietly out the door after kissing the dogs goodbye.

He noticed I was gone. And every day I thank God he went after me that night.

“Get in the car!” he yelled at me.

I kept running. I hoped he would stop following me and just go home.

“Go away!” I yelled back.

He didn’t. He kept yelling at me to get into the car as he drove along beside me. This area wasn’t safe at night, and he didn’t want me to be the next target. I didn’t care about that anymore.

Yet, I also knew I couldn’t do what I was planning to do with him following me. I finally resigned myself to the fact that tonight wasn’t going to be the night my suffering would end.

I didn’t tell him what I was planning to do until later. He just thought I was going out for a run to cool down. He came after me because he didn’t want me to be in a dangerous area at night. He had no idea what I really was planning.

Just One of Many Sad Stories

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I’m no stranger to suicide, although this was the first time I had attempted it. It has impacted me deeply several times in my life. I have lost close friends to this dreaded illness.

And yes, I said illness. Depression is an illness. Anxiety is an illness. Suicide is the result of an illness. It’s just not the kind people talk about. You don’t get casseroles and meal trains like the more PC maladies.

I remember when my friend and coworker killed herself over the Thanksgiving holiday. We shared the same cubical at work. She had just lost her dog and was understandably upset. However, she never told anyone she wanted to take her life. She just took a bunch of pills unexpectedly Sunday night and never woke up.

One morning, her chair sat empty with her sweater still hanging from it. One morning, my manager called me into his office and, with tears in his eyes, told me my friend that I had joked with every day was dead. One morning, I went back to my desk with salty rivers streaming down my cheeks recounting our every interaction and asking myself if I should have known something was wrong.

One of my college classmates did the same thing while we were on a mission trip in Northern Ireland. We were all shocked. No one knew her inner torture. She was found dead by our campus soccer field.

Even one of my personal mentors in business, a close friend and someone I greatly admired, killed himself with a pistol leaving behind his precious wife and young daughter.

I’ve also lost two high school classmates to mental health as life worn them down. I never knew they were suffering.

I never told anyone I was suicidal. However, according to statistics this isn’t the norm. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention states that 50% to 75% of people talk about suicide before they attempt it. So, if you’ve ever heard someone say it, pay attention.

However, I gave no warning. I rationalized that if I talked about it, someone would try to stop me. I felt like I had lost control in every other area of my life, so this was my final hold on power. With every other part of my life reeling into chaos, at least I could choose when I’d had enough and how I left this world.

Later, I would find out that I had metabolic illness, hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies of some key vitamins tied to brain health. Depression and anxiety were the side effects of a deeper problem. It turns out that my years of silent suffering, while certainly compounded by some terrible life events, were more of a physiological problem that needed a doctor’s intervention to stabilize my levels.

My mind was actually sick.

Once I received the correct nutrient supplements and hormones, it was like a wet blanket was lifted off of my brain. I could think clearly again. I could handle life’s difficulties again.

While I’m not saying everyone with depression has an underlying health issue causing those symptoms, I’m also saying it’s probably a lot more prominent than most health professionals think.

Why I Wanted to Die

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I do not live in a vacuum. When I tell my story, I try very hard to protect other stories that intertwine with mine, but aren’t mine to tell.

Yet, I still feel it’s important that people understand what went through my head, as it’s probably similar to many other cases and stories. I can say that a lot of very difficult circumstances came together, on top of the other challenges that I mentioned previously, to create the perfect storm of isolation and gut wrenching emotional agony.

People commit suicide for many reasons. The final trigger can be something very simple, something most people could just “get over.”

However, a person with depression and anxiety no longer has normal coping mechanisms. They don’t just get over it.

The hardest thing for me was that my emotional tolerance thermostat got reset. I am no stranger to stress or conflict. I spent many years in territory sales management and handled daily presentations and tough conversation with ease. However, I started finding myself shaking after phone calls with upper management and my temperature spiked into a low-grade fever. My anxiety would sky rocket when I talked to customers. I couldn’t think clearly.

This wasn’t me!

I was strong. I was performance driven. I was the queen of  “suck it up and keep going!” I raced in triathlons and marathons. I sang a solo at my mom’s funeral at 15 years old without shedding a tear – which I later realized was not healthy.

I always saw myself as strong. I was the one that, no matter how horrible things got, would keep it together. This was one of my deepest identifying mantras.

And then suddenly I was weaker than water.

The anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t even ride my bike anymore, and I used to race on it! My brain was spinning out of control, and I was no longer “me.”

When you add into the equation that I had not only lost everything that defined me, I also felt I had lost my husband and everyone else who loved me, and the odds of things getting better were slim to none, the only rational conclusion was to end the mental torture.

The Reminder

Today, four years later, I was sitting with a lovely lady in a networking event. She had just lost a close friend to suicide. She couldn’t believe her friend could do this and was confused as to how it could possibly ever be that bad.

I found myself talking about my own journey for the first time publicly. I told her that her friend’s mind was sick. In the alternate reality, he had convinced himself that the world would be better off without him.

That’s often how the mind of a suicidal person works. Most people really don’t think about the fact that their death will cause pain. They actually rationalize that everyone will be better if they do it.

In my head, it made perfect sense at the time. All of my friends were fine. They all had loving families who supported them. My mom was dead and I wasn’t close with my father. I didn’t have any children. The only person that I felt needed me had conveyed to my warped understanding that he no longer loved me. To spare him the pain of a divorce, I decided I would just kill myself so he wouldn’t have to go through that stigma. It would be my final gift to him…

I realize that this logic sounds faulty. It absolutely is! That’s my point.

A suicidal person isn’t thinking clearly. They rationalize the world will be a brighter place if their flame is snuffed out. They really don’t think about the heartbreak others will feel at their passing, because their self worth has become so low they can’t imagine why anyone would care if they died. They actually aren’t selfish in their mind. They feel like they are doing everyone a favor!

The other reason people commit suicide is that the pain becomes too great and they lose hope it will ever end. I do understand pain and trauma. However, the pain of losing my mom to breast cancer as a child was still tinged with the hope that I would be able to one day overcome it and find happiness. I wasn’t sick yet. Hope could still create a foothold in my heart.

Those who end up killing themselves can no longer find hope. They feel that their painful existence won’t change and this emotional anguish will last forever. I had felt horribly depressed for years before I finally got to the point where I gave up.

Why I Have Waited To Talk About This

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It’s taken me four years to tell this story. Honestly, it’s not a part of my life that I enjoy talking about. It also scares me to be this open with my audience. Every year when this anniversary comes up, I put off writing my story.

People have a sigma about mental health. Even though I am completely fine now that I’ve received nutritional and hormonal treatment for my deficiencies and imbalances, it’s hard to shake labels.

And I don’t want to be labeled as someone who is crazy, someone who has a mental health problem, someone who needs pity.

It’s the hushed whispers as you walk by from people who have never walked this road that I wanted to avoid. I also don’t want people to steer clear of doing business with me because I once had depression and anxiety and they are worried I will relapse and suddenly drop everything.

That’s not going to happen. If it was, I would still be too scared to talk about it. It’s only from the platform of health and hope that I can share my story now.

Depression and anxiety are the redheaded stepchildren of illnesses. If you have a broken leg or cancer people come out to support you in droves. Yet, if you admit depression people don’t know what to do with you. There is that awkward silence, so you learn to just say you’re “fine” when someone asks how things are going.

These illnesses also trigger isolation in people. They don’t want to leave the house. They don’t want to talk to anyone. They withdraw so tightly within themselves that they become invisible. In a “look at me” society where everyone is screaming for the spotlight, and attention spans are shorter than a knat from the constant bombardment of social media and smart phones, depressed people can easily slink into the shadows unnoticed.

Why I’m Talking About It Now

Upon further introspection, I’ve found that my reasons for not sharing my story are selfish. I’m worried about what people will think about me. I’m scared that I will be labeled.

Yet, no matter how terrified I feel, I shouldn’t let this fear keep me from helping someone else.

My image is NOT worth anyone else taking their life because I chose my reputation over educating others about this disease. My story, even if it helps just one person, is worth all of the ridicule and finger pointing in the world if there is one less choice to reach for the relief of death over the daily fight for life.

I truly wish I could share an inspirational story about my fight and victory over a more socially acceptable disease. You know, the kind that makes people send you flowers and stuffed teddy bears.

It’s not.

My story is a story that kills more people every year than car crashes, murders or any other cause of injury.

My story is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24, and the second leading cause of death for people 24 to 35. I was in this second age bracket on my attempt.

My story is an epidemic that results in the death of someone every 16.2 minutes.

Suicide is a huge problem in our society that no one wants to talk about. Depression is an issue that is swept under the rug. However, 2/3 of the people who commit suicide were depressed at the time of their death.

If you know someone who is suffering from depression, and is either being inadequately treated or not receiving treatment at all, please do everything you can to get them the help they need.

To Those Who Are Suffering…

In conclusion, I want to speak directly to those suffering silently from depression. I know you’re scared to talk about this. You don’t want to be labeled with a mental health stigma. You don’t want to be pitied. You may feel enormous guilt that you feel this way. You work very hard at putting up the facade that all is well.

Yet when that wall cracks, you’ve heard people tell you that you should just…

“Snap out of it!”

“Get over it!”

“Stop choosing sadness!”

Let me be the first to tell you that depression is not a choice. No one would choose this personal black hole to live in. If people around you don’t understand, keep fighting until you find someone who can help you find treatment.

I realize depression gnaws away at your resolve and the last thing you want to do is fight, but it’s the only way to come back from the darkness. You have to believe you are worth fighting for!

Let me tell you something else you may not believe right now…

It does get better! You can’t believe the lies that come from a sick brain! Your reality is skewed because of your disease. You can’t listen to that inner voice whispering hopelessness right now, because it’s wrong!

For me, getting the physiological fixed was key. When that puzzle was solved, everything else fell into place.

Oh, and my marriage didn’t end. That scenario was a lie too. My husband and I have come through this and are now stronger than ever!

The sadness, that seems so embedded in your very soul, actually does release it’s icy gripe on your heart. You will find joy again. You will laugh. You will find yourself.

You just have to seek help and hold on until that day comes. When it comes, you will be glad you didn’t listen to the demons whispering their lies. It will be worth all of those painful, dark days when you finally see the sun again. When it comes, you will realize how precious life is, that people do love you and that you are worthy of joy.

If you are considering suicide, or know someone who is, please reach out for help.

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

  • at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

It’s free and confidential.

You must realize that despite uneducated stigma, this isn’t a weakness, it’s an illness. Don’t ever be ashamed to seek treatment so you can get your life back again!

Coming from the other side as a survivor of depression, I can tell you it’s worth every battle to win the war and find yourself again!

Life is too precious!!! Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!!!

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