Monday, May 28, 2012
On November 6, 2004, I realistically contemplated suicide via prescription medication, which I figured would invoke a heart attack or my heart would so rapidly beat to the point of giving out. I was 22 years old and studying to one day become a counselor. What set off my desire to end my life?
I have always been incredibly insecure. I never trusted that anyone actually wanted to be my friend, but rather they were nice to me because of who my family was. I was clearly the black sheep of the family, which is still an ongoing joke between us. Over the years, there was something within that I had been attempting to stifle; I felt I could starve it if I covered it in enough prayer, meditation, and frankly, avoidance of its reality.
At the age of 21, it would no longer be ignored. I began exploring my sexuality to try to come to terms with who I was…and also reconcile that to my spirituality. This was difficult for me. I started drinking more heavily. In turn, I increased my medication, which lead to more drinking, then more pills and thus the vicious cycle of self-medicating to survive. I was drowning in secrets…this manifested itself with alcoholic behavior, promiscuity, amphetamine abuse, and a return to the self-mutilation of my teenage years. I was choking on shame. I was reading and praying during the day, trying to find my identity again…at night, it was as if I were completely out of control. After months of living off pills, vodka, and espresso, and behaving in ways that I’ve only completely shared with my sponsor… I found myself walking back to my apartment on a sunny Saturday morning. It was the morning of November 6. I was sober. I closed the blinds, entered my bedroom and was overcome by an internal ache. I shut the door in attempt to seal off my brokenness over all that had taken place in that room over the past few months. I retrieved my pill bottles from the bathroom cabinet and my bag. I laid on the living room floor for hours, sobbing, cutting, praying, begging God to not take his spirit from me. I felt like I was suffocating. I didn’t feel like I could live. I felt as though my every action was exposed and my mask had been destroyed. I could not live anymore. How was I ever going to be able to help someone if I couldn’t survive myself? The things I swore I’d never do, I’d done. I was shit. I felt empty. I felt bare. My time in college had been a waste, since I can’t be used to help anyone. I told the God of my understanding that I didn’t care if he ever used me again to help people. But that if he took his spirit from me I couldn’t live. I was okay living a quiet life with just his spirit within. I didn’t have to be of any use, since clearly, I was an utter failure and disgusting example of love. I had used people, hurt people, and lied to so many. I had taken things from people that could never be replaced. I never had truly known brokenness until this day. The mantra of an old recovering alcoholic friend began to cross my lips, “I belong to You.” My friend had said, “Abba, I belong to You.” But I couldn’t say Abba…it was too intimate and I felt too far gone. But I was desperate. If I didn’t belong to him, I couldn’t live. I stared at the pill bottles and pleaded “I belong to You,” over and over…trying to convince Him, trying to convince myself. I remember saying, “I do! I do belong to You! I know I do!” But my hopelessness continued. I was torn. I envisioned dying, standing before my Maker and him embracing me while saying, “I had so much more for you, it wasn’t over.” (Even in death I felt I’d be a disappointment.)
But I didn’t “feel” Him. It was after midnight when I was falling asleep but still crying out to the God of my understanding…as I exhaled the name “Abba” crossed my lips. Purposely I had not said it before and I made no efforts to say it then. Something within me breathed that name. I wept as a feeling of complete acceptance and love wrapped me. I spoke a simple “thank You” and immediately fell asleep. The next morning I woke up with peace and an inner knowledge of being loved in a way I’d never known. I was certain that I was entirely loved. That morning became the beginning of a process of restoration for which I am most grateful. It was bittersweet.
For each human being, spirituality is personal. I believe that now more than ever. Each process of becoming who you are meant to be is different and each one at a unique place presently. But if we find the will to keep going, to not be overtaken by our hopelessness, there is absolute beauty in the restoration of our lives. I think if we would be willing to listen to the spirit within us, that soft voice of calm wisdom, that we would gain much strength for the present moment as well as the days ahead. For me, it is important that I shared about discovering my sexuality because it is the source of much heartache, confusion and pain for so many. The important thing is not what you discover yourself to be, but that you know you are always loved, and in my personal belief, loved completely by your Maker. Our sexuality is not something that keeps us from being loved--period. Letting ourselves be loved, being loved by God, is the greatest adventure. For me, it saved my life. As long as there’s breath in your lungs, it’s not over. Breathing is your sign there’s still something for you here. Go find out what it is.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
“It felt like all too much at once.” At only 18, Karalyn had already been through a world of hurt. She lost her mother to cancer a month after her high-school graduation from breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. Feeling like she was falling apart and unable to really deal with her grief, Kara moved to Chicago for college.
For a while, things were okay. She was able to come to terms with her sexuality and explore more artistic outlets. But underlying issues like chemical and hormonal imbalances plagued her. Panic and anxiety attacks were a part of her life.
It was during this time that Kara began her first real adult relationship. Her girlfriend Sky is 28 years her senior and a source of the all-encompassing love that Kara sorely lacked in her life at the time. Inseparable and madly in love, it was a relationship that few believed in. But they believed in each other. However, a few months into their relationship, a misunderstanding led to their first big fight.
“We had a fight,” Sky tells me, the quiet tone of her voice belying her disbelief at the events that transpired after. It never occurred to her that Kara would consider taking her life as a result. “I lost it,” Kara says. “I couldn’t make things right.” Running away had been Kara’s constant companion in dealing with conflict and this time was no different.
She sat in her bathroom, a belly full of Xanax and a blunt kitchen knife. As we talk, my eyes are drawn to the two delicate scars on her left wrist. She explains that the kitchen knife wasn’t sharp enough, so she used her dressmaking shears. A talented fashion designer and costumer, Kara resorted to using an instrument of her art to end her life. Her right wrist is devoid of such scars, “I just wanted to talk to someone.” Kara explains that she had called her brother, who managed to talk her down. Her family quickly whisked her away to their home back in Michigan for a few weeks.
Sky received a phone call the next day that destroyed her. “There was this silence and I knew that the next words were going to be that she tried to hurt herself.” The love of her life had tried to kill herself and she couldn’t be with her. Nightmares of Kara committing suicide plagued Sky for weeks and even now, she still worries. “There is NOTHING that two people who love each other can’t talk about or work through.” She emphasizes this a few times during our conversation, occasionally looking over to see if Kara is in agreement. She is.
Kara suffered for a long time undiagnosed with chemical and hormonal imbalances. “Medication can be scary,” she admits, but goes on to say that sometimes, it’s just necessary. Her body was out of whack, sending surges of adrenaline and frying her nerves. After some therapy and medication, Kara finally feels peace. She was given a clean slate. This time, she’s making the best of the life she was given.
Two years after her attempt, Kara is a college graduate and is celebrating her two years of bliss with Sky. They have recently officially moved in together, with their cats and a garden. Sky actually takes a break from our interview to ask Kara to move the strawberries into the sunlight. Their bond is palatable. Their love undeniable. “It made us stronger,” Kara tells me as she kisses the top of Sky’s head. She understands now that all her emotions are valid and should be expressed. She is worthy of living.
The grief of losing her mom is still evident in Kara’s eyes, and in the way she softly recalls her mom. Together, Sky and Kara have given her a place of honor in their relationship. They celebrate her memory with their happiness and joy.
“It hurts all the people that love you,” Kara explains as the reason that she would never attempt suicide again. She advises that one should always surround themselves with people who love them absolutely. To remember that they are people in the world that love you and will help you. Sky agrees with this sentiment, she is quick to advocate for Kara and asks for others to do the same for their loved ones. “If you are close enough to notice someone needs help, help them,” she states. Be brave enough to say something is wrong and you need more help than I can give and I will do whatever I can to get you that help. Don’t ignore it, don’t think it will just go away.
As I end our interview, Sky smiles at me and says “You never know when you are going to be the bitch that makes the difference in someone’s life.” Kara smiles big at that comment and I know that for her, love has made all the difference.
Beautifully written & photographed by Kriss Abigail, who can be contacted for photoshoots at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, May 11, 2012
It'd be great to have some more involvement from you lovely people.
1.) It'd be great to compile a list of those of you who would like to send emails/letters to those who've shared their stories, giving your hope and love.
2.) We need ambassadors! If you would like to be a contact person in your area, arrange meetings/interviews, etc. that would be amazing!
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
As we sat on the benches outside of the restaurant, Virginia fiddled with her purse. Her bright eyes masking the pain she experienced only a few months ago.
She remembers being severely depressed from the age of five, wondering even then how she could end her life. Throughout elementary school and high school, she cut herself on her hips so no one could see. She saw many doctors and after each medication change, she kept the nearly-full pill bottles in what she called her "teen angst drawer."
This past Christmas was especially difficult for her, as unexpected family turmoil reached a peak, leaving her feeling helpless and overwhelmed. On New Years Eve, she attempted suicide by taking all of her prescribed medication that was in her bag. As she lay down alone, tears silently rolling down her cheeks, she realized that she didn't want to die lying on someone else's bed, feeling like a coward. She reached out and called one of her closest friends, telling him that she "did something really bad" and asked him to come to her. At the hospital, she was immediately Baker Acted. Blood work and EKGs were performed to ensure her physical stability as she contemplated her psychological state.
"I had a lot of time to think while I was hospitalized," she says thoughtfully. "I always felt like the worst person ever, but as more people found out about what happened, it was amazing how many people cared."
"The more I talk about it, the more I realize that I'm not the only one. And if they can make it through, so can I," she states, determined and smiling. "Sure, it's always in the back of my mind, but it's just a matter of thinking about something else. Realizing that it's not worth it. I just have to take life one step at a time."
The Metra whizzes past, its high whistle jarring on an otherwise quiet afternoon. “You see how fast it comes by?!”, Amanda exclaims, “it comes and goes”. We sit in her car on the side of the tracks, the same place where almost 11 years ago, she contemplated taking her life. She describes the way the lights work on the front of the train, she would have to time it perfectly she explains, hopefully they wouldn’t even notice.
Even while having suicidal thoughts, Amanda considers other people. She would never take her life during the day, she tells me. People have to get to work. There is a quiet matter-of-fact tone to her voice as she talks about sitting in her car for hours, thinking about killing herself. Appointments missed, classes ditched, a life left. Who would miss her? A sentiment, I think that we can all relate to. We all want to feel special, like we matter, like we are connected.
It can be such a quick decision, that one moment where killing yourself is the better than any other solution. Leaving those that would miss you, wondering how did you not know that they were there, what happened to push you over that edge. Amanda never reached that point, she says, she is lucky. Reason won out. But not everyone is so lucky, it only takes a moment for reason to be overwhelmed.
Amanda recounts her family's battle with mental illness, her father having the distinction of being the only one that has not been hospitalized. She credits him with saying that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. She would think about that as she sat in her car, how jumping in front of the Metra train was a really permanent solution to a problem she couldn’t even define.
“It feels so far away” she says in response to being back at this location. Maybe it’s the years of life experience since then or maybe it’s the fact that Amanda has decided to live life moment by moment. The thoughts don’t always go away, like an alcoholic doesn’t just stop wanting to drink. It’s a conscious decision to find something to live for.
These days, Amanda works a career that fulfills her, she volunteers often, is a certified scuba diver, and just recently joined a punk rock glee club. She donates blood every couple of months and she credits it with giving her a reason to stay alive another day. Her blood could save a life, people need her.
“It can never be as bad as you think it is”, she tells me, “as long as you continue to think about not doing it, the idea of killing yourself will become more and more distant”. “There is someone hoping that you are okay right now, there is someone that is hoping you find some reason to get to the next minute and then the minute after that.”
There is always something worth sticking around for.
Beautifully written & photographed by Kriss Abigail, who can be contacted for photoshoots at: email@example.com
Depression is no stranger of mine. It's been around for majority of my life, despite amazing friends, family and medication. The frustration that comes from not being able to "just snap out of it" is ever-present.
As I left a friend's birthday dinner early, feeling awkward and alone, I drove down a street I've been down hundreds of times. However, every single time, I feel uneasy, not being able to remember exactly where it connects to another main road. Each time, I feel lost and confused. As I drove beneath the overhanging trees, the silent streets lent no comfort.
My mind wandered to the thoughts I'd been having about how difficult it is to live, how much of a chore it has become, for someone so young. I thought about the amount I contribute to society, my friends, the world. As the street got darker, so did my thoughts. I realized no one was around. If I swerved my car off the road into the trees, no one else would be hurt, no one would even see.
I recognized the potential risk of these thoughts as I neared the above-pictured intersection. I reached out, I called my best friend. It was late and I got her voicemail, but just hearing another voice washed away the isolation enough to reconsider. I sent a text to a close friend who talked with me for the next hour.
I had never wanted to cease existing like that since I was angsty teenager, mad at the world and livid with my parents for moving our family two hundred miles away from where we had been living, uprooting me during 9th grade. As I grew to love the place, those feelings subsided.
In all this, I realized that while I am just a small facet of the world, by making a permanent choice to a temporary issue, I'm removing all possibilities for the future--anything I could do, any love I could show, any growth I could encounter...gone.
I'm still here. I have bad days, just like anyone else, but I'm still here. I'm glad.
Monday, May 7, 2012
My name is Jeff Gibbs.
I am twenty one, I have parents who love me, and friends who I love dearly, and I contemplated suicide.
Everyone feels overloaded sometimes, and some, more than others.
Stress is just a by-product of life that we all learn to deal with.
Some of us, however, deal with it in unhealthy ways.
Some drink. Some injure themselves. Some contemplate ending their lives.
I sat for a week, and stared at this bullet. Bullets are honest. They have a way of making you face the truth. And it was truth I wanted.
Truth is, I was afraid to die. Truth is, I would miss two of my friends, both whom I love very, very much, far too much and would injure them far too deeply with my actions.
Whatever the future may bring, whether good or evil, I'm glad I didn't take my own life. I'm glad to be alive, to own my pain and my problems and my joy and my happiness.
I'm not going to say all wounds are healed, both on my account and on yours, reader. I'm not going to promise rainbows and sunshine, because, at times, life is dark and rainy. But for those who choose to believe in a better tomorrow, you have a second chance.
A second chance in an empty chamber.