Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of suicide attempts that may be triggering for some.
“I’m rewinding time to tell you about a very depressed teen. She was fifteen years old and extremely lost. She stayed lost into her thirties, but this was the night she realized depression was part of her life. This girl always felt lost. This girl always felt like something was a little ‘off.’ This girl was me.
The Night I Died and Lived
February 14, 1997: the night I died and lived. As I drove around in my mother’s minivan (illegally) aimlessly and completely lost in my soul, there were only two thoughts that crossed my mind, dying and feeling better. There was only one way to end this feeling, and it was to NOT keep living. I didn’t know why I was sad and lost. I wasn’t actually sad, but I was so tired of feeling what I was feeling. Tired of feeling lost in a world that kept going on around me that I didn’t feel part of.
I was popular-ish. I grew up in a small town, so everyone had their ‘place’. My place was a great place. I just never felt complete or on a path with a happy ending. I was very smart. I had a ton of friends. I just never felt like I belonged where I was. Honestly, I would have felt this way anywhere in the world, but I didn’t know why.
As I drove around pointlessly, I decided to go to the store and buy painkillers and go to sleep and never walk this earth again. I purchased two bottles of 500 over-the-counter drugs each, then proceeded to drive to a fast-food establishment and purchase two large raspberry teas. I took 1000 pills, drank all the tea, and felt nauseous, but I was determined this was the end of my journey through life. Fifteen years old, and it was ending right before my eyes.
I went home, literally crawled to my bed and dreamed of heaven. Dreamed of a place where I felt peace in my soul. I was super nauseous and beyond sick but forced myself to sleep so I wouldn’t throw up. I was lethargic and completely out of it.
It was Valentine’s Day, so my high school boyfriend came over after his football game and going out with teammates. I had an exterior door inside my room. Thankfully he walked in after knocking and found me in bad shape. That night, he was my angel.
To The Emergency Room
He walked in, tried to wake me, and found vomit all over me. He ran straight to wake my mother. They quickly learned that I couldn’t wake or open my eyes. They carried me to the car and drove me straight to the emergency room. The hospital was close, or they would have called 911.
The strangest thing was that I was able to hear all the voices around me even though my body was paralyzed. I knew my small-town doctor was there. I knew there were nurses and technicians flooding my room. They administered medicines, pumped my stomach, and ordered a helicopter to take me to the nearest trauma center. I knew it was the end and they all knew, too.
I heard the doctor tell my mother, ‘You need to go say goodbye to her. She probably won’t make it to the next hospital.’ I knew it was bad and my emotions were split straight down the middle. Did I want them to save me or was I really ready? My deep depression said ‘Just go, you will be better off. No one wants you here anyway.’ My brain and normal logic said, ‘Fight as hard as you can, you have a bright future.’ I was so confused and sad.
Tubes and wires surrounded my body as they wheeled me out to the helicopter. I looked over into the yard of the hospital and saw so many people standing there watching and praying. I literally thought to myself, ‘Lord TAKE ME, I’ll never be able to go back to school after this.’
Lean On Me
I obviously lived through that traumatic experience because I’m writing this for you today. It was a hard recovery. I spent many weeks in the intensive care unit, was transferred to acute care, and then transferred to a mental health facility. I missed a lot of school and was so terrified of what people would think of me. Honestly, I didn’t talk much during my hospital stay and was really angry that God left me on this earth to keep feeling this way.
My closest friends in high school came to the mental health facility when I was transferred. I can honestly say, that was the first time I felt true unconditional love. I’ll never forget that day or that feeling. I knew I was sick, but boy-oh-boy was I loved. They sang ‘Lean on Me’ when I was being taken into the facility. I was so scared but at that moment, I knew I had a reason to fight like I’d never fought before, and I did.
After that, I slowly started allowing visitors. My grandpa came to see me and left me with a note, not knowing about my friends who sang to me, and it simply stated, ‘Jennifer, Lean on Me, Love GP.’
It was the clearest message I could have received. Everyone was there and was saying lean on me, but I continued to internalize that pain and anguish deep into my thirties until I started accepting my depression and speaking loudly about it.
You Can Live
Let’s fast-forward to today. I will be FORTY in one month. I’m living and breathing proof that depression exists, and you CAN live and be happy with it. I fight, I struggle, I fall…BUT I get back up and still move forward.
I look back over the past 25 years of struggles that have led me to today. Through that looking glass, I know that the struggle has been painful, hard and OH SO VERY WORTH IT. Through every hurdle, stumble and complete fall-on-my-face moment, I have picked myself up and gotten stronger and stronger. I have learned that grace is my best friend.
Sometimes it takes days and even weeks to allow myself the grace to get back up, dust myself off, and try again. I completely overanalyze, every one of my actions and through each of those moments, I have learned that I must be open about my thoughts and fears. I have learned that my insecurities and fears are liars. I can’t say they go away, but you can live, adjust and keep on being happy.
As I approach 40, I look back on that day and all the other low moments and can’t help but be thankful God chose to keep me on this earth. Today, I have two beautiful daughters, an amazing husband, a safe home, a successful career and a life that I am completely proud of.
I wouldn’t take any of my stumbles away because they have made my journey lead to pure happiness. My depression still rears its ugly head from time to time, but I now know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I speak openly about it to my family and friends. I have told them my triggers, my signs, and what I need to get through the episode, and they all pitch in to help me until it travels on by. My openness has proven to be successful by fewer, shorter episodes.
If you are reading this today, please lean on the people around you. My friends and family told me this and I never believed it could work, but it truly does. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Would you hide cancer from your friends? Absolutely not! So don’t hide your disease. There are so many people who care and who want to see you succeed.
Don’t let your disease lie to you and tell you otherwise. My life goal is to let YOU know that you can live a happy and successful life with depression. I am living proof. I was saved for a purpose, and you are here for a purpose.
If you or someone close to you is suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255. If you are in immediate danger, go to the emergency room or call 911. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, please seek help from a professional. There are so many avenues for help to feel better.”
If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Irwin. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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