World Suicide Prevention Day


 800,000 deaths:

Total number of Rwandans killed by genocide in 1994.

Total number of Chinese killed by intentionally flooding the Yellow River in 1938.

Total number of deaths by inaccurately prescribed medications.

Number of suicides worldwide every year.

Part of suicide prevention is awareness.  Part of awareness is telling our stories.  This is my story.

Threatened SuicideIt’s hard for me to remember what led to my suicide attempt.  I’d stopped journaling about a year previous to that, which in itself was an indicator of how much distress I must have felt, but leaves me with a big, white hole instead of the words that I substitute as memory.  I found one entry in a stray notebook from a workshop/retreat I attended out of state that summer.  It was vague, unemotional.  I fussed a bit about being overweight and uncomfortable, but the entry feels smooth to me—slick, with no affect.  That, too, might have been an indication of trouble ahead.

I had been living with my friends, Tom and Cheryl, for a year.  They were kind, generous, supportive, but I never felt at ease in their home.  I felt like a burden, an intrusion, always worried about breaking a rule or making them mad.  I worried constantly about them kicking me out and having to live in my car, even though that’s the last thing they would have ever done.

I’d tried a dozen different medications by then, as well as electroshock treatment.  Whenever the psychiatrist changed my meds, I threw the old ones in a bag.  I had quite a stash by Halloween of 2008.

I do remember feeling hopeless.  My old life was gone, and there was no indication of a new life on the horizon.  I couldn’t work.  I could barely think between the after-effects of ECT and the constant brain-fog of changing medications every month. Social Security approved my disability claim after eighteen months of denials, and I realized I’d be desperately poor the rest of my life.

What I remember of that day was wanting the pain to stop and seeing no other way to make that happen.  And I remember being exhausted.

I knew my friends planned on coming home late that day—I thought that would give my bag of pills enough time to end my life.  But, my friends’ plans changed, and they came home early.

A day or two later in intensive care, a different psychiatrist said to me sharply, “You must decide.  Do you want to live?”  I didn’t know what he’d do if I said no, so I lied.  I said, “Yes, I want another chance.”

My answer turned out to be true, but it took a long time for that transformation.

This is my story.

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robert Dick
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 01:09:59

    Hi Sandy,
    Thank you for sharing your story and may it bring awareness to the world in general and hope for all those who deal with depression and suicide. Depression is an issue that few people want to talk about and suicide, one that no one wants to talk about. Suicide is probably harder to deal with than death, because of the lingering, unanswered question of “why”?
    I am a friend and co-worker of Ryan and although she and I dispense prescriptions of antidepressants to patients and therefore see them regularly at the pharmacy,it’s still hard for us, just like the general public, to understand how depression really affects people. So your sharing certainly brings some light into that darkness.
    As I read your story, it brought to mind many similar details of what my wife Merilee went through for the first 7 years of our married life – the antidepressant merry go round, the hospitalizations, the roller coaster of improvement/worsening, the ECT, and finally the suicide attempt.
    Merilee was not as fortunate as you and by the time I found her and got her to the hospital,she had stopped breathing and suffered anoxia and the resulting brain damage. After 10 days of intensive care, 6 more weeks at Universty Hospitals in Iowa City, and 4 more months in a rehab center, Merilee had survived the traumatic event but now was a changed person. Her deficits in cognitive skills, speech, short term memory and balance/motor skills meant that our life together was now drastically different.
    Now, caregivers, disability, therapy, medical equipment all suddenly became part of our family vocabulary. Merilee, our 4 year old son and I all had our lives turned upside down, but we continued our family life together, although it was now much different than “normal” families. With the help of many good people, family and friends, and the grace of God, we have made it thru these past 34 years.
    Merilee is a different person although her good qualities of goodheartedness, strong faith, love of children and friendliness are still there. She has gained the respect of friends and family for her persistence in continuing her life the best she can. And also for her “newfound” vocation of volunteering/ interacting with the local Catholic school kindergarten class for 2 hours each Wednesday morning during the school year. Although she is now in her 21st year, each year the result is the same with a new class- she grows to love them and they love her and before the school year is out, she becomes so popular with them that they start chanting her name when she enters the room.
    About 6 months before her attempt, I had gone through a born-again religious experience and I think that the Lord was preparing me for what was to come. I know that I could never have made it these 34 years without his grace and strength. It’s been very difficult at times to deal with how Merilee’s deficits have affected our lives and that we cannot do the same things that other couples do. I often struggle with how Merilee’s deficits have changed her. It’s an ongoing thing that I never quite get over- it’s like I have been grieving for the last 34 years- the woman that I married and lived with for the first seven years is now a different person.
    But we continue on, relying on God’s goodness and grace to get us thru. As that old song says” we just take things one day at a time.” We have been blessed with good caregivers to help with Merilee. And that 4- year old little boy is now a successful father, husband and a writer for a major PR company in Des Moines. He and his wife Jayme have given us 4 wonderful grandchildren.
    July 24, 1981, a day that totally changed our lives and one that I will never forget, because of depression and attempted suicide. I’m glad that you came thru your episode unharmed, but with a new perspective and I’m thankful for your sharing your story. We can hope that it brings hope and inspiration to those who are struggling with depression. Medical treatment can be very helpful and God’s grace very inspirational and strengthening for those who need help. I hope and pray that those battling depression will turn to those choices and not suicide. Thank you again.


  2. Leslie
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 02:53:04

    Thank you for sharing Sandy. I believe that by sharing our personal stories we may be able to reach someone feeling that desperate need for any hope and show them that it CAN work out ok


  3. Karen Roessler
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 06:55:19

    Personally grateful you lied to the doctor. The fact that the lie bloomed into reality is a blessing in my life. I love you.


  4. Anita S
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 07:45:42

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s not easy, but it means so much to others. Your willingness to talk about this painful part of your life will help your readers know that they are not alone.
    Parts of your life sound just like mine. In particular, I have felt the frustration of trying drug after drug and being so desperate that sending bolts of electricity through my head actually seemed like a good idea. 🙂


  5. seriousmoves
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 10:11:08

    Thank you.


  6. LindaNoel
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 10:57:32

    Thank you so much for Your Story. Thinking, do I have one, too? No I have a few acute states …. hmmmmm I do Understand a human being having this as a seriously possible Answer for one’s stuck life. So glad I’ve bumped into You on your journey,… trite, but true, SandySue. Hug.


  7. pegoleg
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 12:34:03

    Thank you for sharing this. I know that others’ feelings don’t count for much when you’re tallying up the pros and cons of life, but I’m glad you didn’t succeed.


    • Sandy Sue
      Sep 10, 2015 @ 21:46:36

      That’s really very insightful, Peg. I don’t think anyone contemplating suicide wants to hurt anyone else, they just want their own pain to stop.


  8. Littlesundog
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 15:55:32

    Sometimes the lie we speak in fear, is the very thing that catapults us to where we need to be. Your metamorphosis is inspirational and your story makes you even more dear to me.


  9. Penny
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 20:04:54

    I’m glad you’re still here. You are a blessing in my life, and I love you dearly, even though I haven’t been around so much lately!


  10. Alice
    Sep 11, 2015 @ 16:27:12

    It is a long, slow, often painful transformation for many of us. I’m glad you made it.


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