There’s a stigma with mental illness, but I’m definitely not ashamed of my past. If had never dealt with this stuff, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have figured out who I am or the person I want to be. I wouldn’t be able to help people the way I do in my life coaching sessions.
Everybody says there’s help, get help. What does that mean? The hardest times were always when I was alone. When someone else was in the house, the pain was still there but I didn’t feel completely alone. I received no information when I was discharged from the hospital after attempting suicide the first time when I was 19. I remember the Doctor telling me how lucky I was that my grandparents came home when they did. I remember thinking at that moment, “how is that lucky?” They didn’t even hold me over in the psych ward [for attempting suicide] they just said “don’t do it again, find help next time.” That’s a joke. I walked into my house and found two of my family members standing in front of me with a suitcase packed telling me to leave the house. What help?!
That was over 30 years ago. Today there have been strides made in suicide prevention, in talking about it, hotlines have been set up to call. Though it still has a stigma attached to it, it is getting better. The only way it will continue to get better is through us. Use your voice, find services, know that you are not alone.
I cycled in and out of deep depressions over the next 25 years. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to plan another suicide attempt. The only thing that stopped me was my 4 beautiful children and the small feeling I had that THEY, at least needed me. That’s until my youngest was a junior in high school and my life fell apart. I had what I refer to as my year from hell. Six major surgeries in eight months that left me immobile and in more pain than I had ever experienced in my entire life. Physical, mental, and on a profound soul level. I couldn’t work, I saw absolutely no way out from under the rock that was holding me down, and I could only see myself becoming an immense burden on my children, whom I was supposed to care for.
For almost two years my life was trying to manage pain and figure a way out of the darkness. I was on so many pain killers I couldn’t think straight. I just went deeper and deeper into the dark abyss.
At times, I struggled with suicidal thoughts on a weekly basis. Sometimes I was able to ignore them. I might be driving to meet a friend or run an errand and briefly think about driving my car off the road. The thought would catch me off-guard, but it would quickly pass through my mind and I would go about my day.
But other times, these thoughts would stick around. It’s like a huge weight was dropped onto me, and I was struggling to get out from underneath it. I would suddenly get an intense urge and desire to end it all, and the thoughts would start to overwhelm me.
In those moments, I was convinced I would do anything to get out from under that weight, even if it meant ending my life. It’s like there was a glitch in my brain that was triggered and my mind would go completely haywire. Even if that glitch were temporary, it felt like it would last forever.
Then one day, for the first time in my life, I spoke the words out loud to a friend. I want to die... I sat and waited, holding my breath, wishing I could take the words back. I didn’t want her to think I was crazy or look down on me. She didn’t, she just hugged me and said, “life is hard right now huh”.
I just started balling and began telling her all the things that were going through my head and all the different ways I had tried to plan it. For the next couple of weeks, she checked in on me and came to visit me. Sometimes we would just sit in silence for hours, but I wasn’t alone. Then one day she showed up and said, “you need to get out of here, I have a friend in San Diego and he’s looking for a personal chef and I’ve eaten many of your home-cooked meals, it’s perfect!” I fought her tooth and nail, I couldn’t just leave my kids. To which she responded, “you’re spending your days making a plan to leave them permanently. Think of this as a vacation. Stay a week, a month however long you need to feel better and not leave them.” I was on a plane in 3 days.
The next year was by no means a vacation. The feelings didn’t go away, but now I had this disabled man relying on me so I pushed through. That was one smart friend I had and I am forever grateful to her.
It wasn’t until I attempted sobriety that I first learned the idea of having a toolbox of coping mechanisms and then started to shift my thinking. I didn’t know there were other ways to cope with these feelings that I had. I had spent since the age of 9 burying all of my feelings and discomfort under a smorgasbord of alcohol and drugs. Yes, you read that right, age 9 I started my alcohol abuse. When you bury them under that, you never give yourself the opportunity to truly feel and work thru them.
With time and a clear head though, I became more aware of these thoughts and found ways to manage them when things got tough. It’s taken a lot of hard work and practice, but simply being aware of the lies my brain would tell me when I was suicidal helped to combat them.
Having an alternative to feeling suicidal was a whole new world, it was a game-changer. Even if I was too depressed to get off the floor, I had a mental health toolbox and a language to talk to myself that I’d never had before.
I had to learn that too, that I had become one of my own abusers. That was a revelation. I was just following in the footsteps of everyone else… Yet I wanted to escape from the cycle. Making those connections made me feel like my body was a worthy vessel and that I was worthy to live in it and stay on this planet. That I was enough.
I’ve done the work and each and every day, I promise you, I try to do something to better myself. Not because there is anything wrong with me, I am perfect as I am, but because I deserve to make myself the best possible version of myself.
I know life can be really hard sometimes. I know it can feel like the walls are closing in on you or you are stuck under a boulder. There is a mental toolbox that you can learn to use. I know it can feel like a real lonely place and that NO ONE could possibly understand. But there are people, I promise! I know it’s scary to say the words of how you are feeling but do it anyway. Not for me, not for your family, but for you, because you deserve to experience joy and to live!
Sept 6th through the 12th is National Suicide Prevention Week, For those experiencing suicidality, you’re not alone, and there is always hope, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.
If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or call me day or night. I will hear the words that are so tough for many to hear. I don’t care if your thousands of miles away, I will sit on the phone with you for as long as it takes for you to feel better. I love you! You are enough!
- Celeste (@motheringhealing 🙏🏻💕🙏🏻)