Suicide Survivor, Double Amputee Shares Powerful Message Of Hope And Determination

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of suicide attempts that may be triggering for some.

Bullying & Mental Illness

“My name is Lauren McDonough and I am a suicide survivor, mental health advocate, and bilateral below-the-knee amputee

I have lived with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for around 10 years now, being first diagnosed when I was 14. Before being diagnosed with these illnesses, I experienced symptoms for a couple of years. Previously, it wasn’t as noticeable as it was when I was diagnosed, but I experienced symptoms such as feeling flat, losing hope, having no motivation, displaying self harming behaviors, and starting to experience suicidal thoughts. I had a privileged and great upbringing with amazing parents, a beautiful younger sister I adore more than anything in the world, and I have always had support from family and friends. Despite this, during my schooling years I was bullied. This occurred both in elementary and high school. 

girl puts hand on face and cries, makeup on her face
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

In elementary school, I was constantly excluded, laughed at, and picked on. No one wanted to speak to me because, at the time, I had no control of my bladder and experienced a lot of urinary incontinence because of it. While I did have a few good friends in elementary school, I felt so alone because of what other kids would say. I had no control over it. While eventually this did stop, it had a lasting effect on me.

High school started and things were amazing. I had a new group of friends (who I am still friends with to this day), home life was fantastic at the time, and generally, life was going well. But 9th grade was when things started to get pretty dark. I still had amazing friends around me and life still was not too bad at home. But I started getting bullied again at school. Initially, just a few remarks about me were being made. Then it escalated. It was happening not only at school now, but online too. I felt like I couldn’t escape it. At the start it was just a few remarks, but it ended in people constantly telling me to die. I had hit rock bottom. 

girl cries, makeup running down her face with head against dog
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

I became extremely depressed and suicidal and was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for around two months. At the time, I had an eating disorder and I was treated for it during that admission too.

Two months later I felt amazing (compared to how I was feeling when I was admitted) and was able to go home. I still regularly received treatment as an outpatient once I was home and things were reasonably stable. For the next few years, I went from home to hospital quite a lot. This was for the same illnesses, same symptoms, but also attempts on my life or being very at risk to myself. 

young woman takes a selfie in a hospital bed
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

Suicide Attempt & Rehabilitation

My teenage years passed and for a long while my depression was manageable, but I continued needing treatment for it. Then came the start of 2017, and I had really hit rock bottom. I had never had a severe depressive episode like this before. At the time, the psychiatrist who was treating me believed I had a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Due to this, the depression became a lot worse, because I wasn’t receiving adequate help during the time.

I became extremely suicidal, and on the 9th of May in 2017, I truly believed nobody wanted me around anymore, and the only way my pain would end was if I died. I saw absolutely no other way out. I went to an appointment with the psychiatrist treating me at this time on the morning of the incident, which now, retrospectively, I look back on and realize the appointment may have been my last little bit of hope. When you are denied help after expressing how you feel, it is shattering. I felt even more alone and hopeless after this encounter. That night, I jumped in front of a train. I lost my left leg at the scene, fractured every bone in my right foot, and fractured my lower spine too. 

suicide survivor and amputee lays in hospital bed after amputation
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough
double leg amputee sits in wheelchair and hugs her dog
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

I ended up in an induced coma for about a week and spent the next 4 months in the hospital. I had a lot of operations. Around a month later, my body gained a staph infection and I ended up losing my right leg too. Due to the complications and the amount of damage I had done to my left stump, I was told I wouldn’t walk again. 

double leg amputee and suicide survivor sits in wheelchair at therapy
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough
suicide survivor balances on her amputated legs
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

It took everything within me not to give up. The trauma of what had happened, the pre-existing depression, the PTSD, and grieving the loss of my legs was an extremely difficult thing to deal with. I persisted through and did all the rehabilitation. It was physically demanding, emotionally exhausting, and extremely annoying at times. It was painful. I got so tired of people telling me what I couldn’t do. I wanted to prove them wrong. When people doubted me, it was harder to believe in myself. But I had a dream to walk again and nothing was going to stop me.

amputee does physical therapy learning to walk
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

I remember the time I got my first proper pair of prosthetics. I stood on the prosthetics, there between two steel bars to balance/lean on. It was such a weird, surreal feeling. I couldn’t feel anything, but I could feel my whole body in these plastic sockets too. My physiotherapist was there and said, ‘Hang on one second, I just have to double-check something. Don’t move.’ Of course, being as stubborn as I am, she turned her back and I started walking up and down these bars with two prosthetic legs on. I shocked myself, and well, I shocked everyone around me too, especially my physiotherapist. It was a moment where I did something because I decided I could, and I would. To this day, it was one of the most incredibly liberating moments of my life. Since this, I have had periods where I have walked, or haven’t been able to walk due to prosthetic issues. Regardless, the feeling of walking again after being told I wouldn’t was euphoric. 

double amputee suicide survivor stands using new prosthetics
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough
double amputee stands in her prosthetics
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

Life Now

While I have learned to walk again, I still have depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I live with it every single day. I’ve had hospital admissions for my illnesses after this incident occurred, however, over time I have learned to manage my mental health a lot better. I now live a life where I am somewhat free of my illnesses – not completely, but I live a life where I laugh so hard my stomach hurts. I can genuinely smile. I see beauty in everything. I am so grateful for the times I have now.

suicide survivor holds her dog while smiling
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough
suicide survivor stands with hands near pockets and smiles
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

For so many years, the life I live now wasn’t even something I dreamed of – it wasn’t because I didn’t want it, I truly believed it would never become a reality. I have learned a lot during this journey, I am learning still, and I am never going to stop learning. I am evolving. I am constantly growing. I have learned a lot about myself and who I am. I have also learned a lot from others in so many ways. 

One of the most touching encounters I have ever had in my life was after losing my legs. A couple of years ago, I was at a shopping center with my dad and we were entering a lift. A girl with a clear intellectual disability came up to me and said, ‘Are you ok? Did you hurt yourself?’ I responded, ‘I’m okay. But yes, I did.’ She looked at me and my prosthetics and she said, ‘I’m so sorry. Take better care of yourself next time.’

woman with bilateral amputation sits in wheelchair
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

My dad and I got teary. To this day, for so many reasons, it just makes us both so emotional. I think that encounter meant a lot to me because it was so special, but it also really reiterated to me that it costs nothing to be a kind person to others and we should always be kind. It made my day on a day where I was struggling, so now it’s made me follow the philosophy/saying, ‘Be kind always,’ because you never know how much somebody might need it. 

suicide survivor sits with her dad and smiles
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

Since losing my legs, it has been a mission of mine to share my story through social media and many different platforms. I don’t want pity or sympathy from it, I just hope my story can encourage other people to speak up about their struggles and reinforce the fact that it is okay to. My advocacy work can make others understand mental illnesses more, reassure them they’re not alone, or even save other people’s lives. That is my aim. 

suicide survivor stands with her family members
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

What I find most rewarding about my journey is the fact it might be able to help somebody else. It means everything to me. I want others to know my story isn’t one full of tragedy and darkness. I want others to know my story is one of hope, strength, and determination. I hope my story can give others a reason to fight, to hold on, and that it can help them realize things can get better for them. I also hope my story encourages conversations around mental health and helps people understand it better from a different perspective. But mostly, from the bottom of my heart, I hope it makes people who are feeling suicidal know there is hope for them and their story too. 

double amputee stands using walkers
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

I wish I could give everyone out there who is struggling a huge hug, but unfortunately, I can’t. So the things I would tell people who are struggling with their mental health, or generally speaking, are that while it might not feel like it, they are so loved, worthy, strong, and needed. I would also tell them, while I truly and fully understand how hard it is to believe this when you’re struggling, things can get better for them and eventually they do. It’s the most beautiful feeling when things get better. I hope this provides hope, love, understanding, and a reason for others to stay alive if they need this today. To anyone who needs to hear this today, I’m so proud of you. I believe in you. You’ve got this.”

double leg amputee sits on chair with hands on knees
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough
amputee and suicide survivor sits on the floor and smiles big
Courtesy of Lauren McDonough

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren McDonough of Melbourne, Australia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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