Trigger warning: This post includes detailed descriptions of a suicide attempt, severe mental illness, and hospitalization.
If you or a loved is in crisis, please reach out to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 in the United States.
The following is the story of my darkest day and its aftermath. It is an updated version of a blog post I made for the 6th year anniversary of this same day.
Everything was going well at the beginning of 2012 – a year before the day that would forever mark me. When I was a senior in high school, my social life was thriving. I went from a severely bullied kid to someone who had become popular and a leader among my peers. I had the world on a string, but my brain was beginning to fail me. I started having massive panic attacks, usually three a day. This would go on for a year. It seemed to be a year from hell itself. As I started college that fall, my mental health continued to spiral. I started having uncharacteristic anger issues as my depression, anxiety, and panic attacks kept getting progressively worse. After an incident where I broke down in public, my parents and I set out to find a new doctor. We found one who quickly got my medicine under control and all seemed to be going well.
Or so we thought.
A few weeks before my Dark Day, something began to break in me. I was becoming increasingly erratic with my mood swings and my depression and anxiety were at an all-time high. My mind was beginning to fail me. I was dying and no one knew it. One morning, a week or so before “it” happened, I started looking for ways to end it all. At one point, I came across a bunch of people on message boards trying to offer others help, “Don’t do it. There’s hope.”
The morning of January 24th, 2013, I decided to put my plan into action. I waited until both my parents left to take my younger brother to school so no one could foil what I felt had become my only option. After they left, I wrote out a note on my iPhone, removed the passcode so everything could be explained and through a ton of tears I finally did it: I tried to end it all. What happened next continues to, at the same time, elude and haunt me: I sent off one last text to my best friend “Help.”
That could’ve been the end. I had every intention for it to be the end, but that afternoon, I woke up. I woke up in the lowest place I believe a human can find oneself. The one thing I thought I had control over, I couldn’t even succeed at. It’s a kind of twisted logic only those of us who have been in this place can truly understand. The chain of events that transpired over the rest of that day were mostly a blur, the emotions I was feeling, however, are still etched in my mind.
After I woke up, I feebly walked downstairs where my parents were sitting. “I just tried to kill myself,” I said as I collapsed to a ball on the floor, sobbing. My dad leaped up and went straight to my room where he discovered the empty pill bottle under my bed. I managed to make it over to the couch, where I promptly fell back asleep.
Later on, my best friend I’d texted got ahold of me after he got out of class and I managed to tell him what had just happened. He would later tell me that call was one of the worst calls of his life and he often will describe to me how grim and lifeless my voice sounded. He said he had never heard anyone sound as low as I did in that moment. I spent the rest of the day sleeping until that evening, when my parents told me to get up to go to a doctor’s appointment.
I don’t remember much of the appointment, aside from a few details. When we got to the doctor’s office, I walked in and saw my counselor’s therapy dog, who immediately recognized I was in distress. She came up to me and licked my face, which I remember made me feel a bit more at ease. The doctor came out to call us back. He told me to sit in a chair near the door, away from my parents who went to sit next to him. I knew it then: This was an intervention.
All I remember about what happened next was my dad pulling the pill bottle out to show the doctor, which he replied something to the effect of “Well, I guess Tim can’t be trusted.” He added that if something like this happened again, my parents should immediately call 911. I got very angry and tried to storm out the door. The doctor picked up the phone as my dad tackled me. For the longest time, I didn’t know exactly what I was thinking when I tried to storm out, where I planned to go or what I planned to do, but one eerie memory has always haunted me when I think back to my thought process at that moment. I believe now that in that moment, my life was in imminent danger. If I had managed to get out that door and outside, I truly think I wouldn’t be here writing this right now. My dad and my doctor most likely saved my life that night.
While my dad had me on the floor, I was screaming and trying to get away. Within minutes, the ambulance came along with the police. I was mortified and in tears. I remember the EMT’s asking me about school and where I graduated from, but nothing else. We got to the emergency room, where my belongings and clothes were taken. I felt exposed, in more ways than one. This was going to prove to be the longest night of my life.
I was cleared to begin receiving medication, so the nurse was able to give me something to ease my mind, seeing as I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even while writing this, I feel extreme sadness but at the same time, love for my former self, and it’s almost as if I’m looking over his frail, limp body wearing a hospital gown, almost as if the exposing nature of it were a metaphor for this whole ordeal. With this imagery in mind, I have the desire to reach down and give myself a long hug and tell him everything will turn out okay. At the time, I needed hope like that. I needed a friend.
The night wore on, and there turned out to be no beds available in the mental health unit at my local hospital in north-central Illinois, so the nurses began looking into the Chicago suburbs. They found a hospital about two hours away that was willing to take me. So, the hospital staff began preparing me for transfer.
Another ambulance arrived after two in the morning on that Friday. I remember it being bitterly cold outside with a snowstorm on the way. The EMT’s wrapped me in a ton of blankets and loaded me into the back of yet another ambulance and off we went. Because of the snowstorm, it took over three hours to get to the new hospital. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I wanted the ambulance ride to last forever. “Maybe they’ll get lost and we’ll be stuck driving around Chicago for days on end,” I thought. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be. Like a sixth sense, I knew we were getting close as we exited the interstate and got onto the main roads of Glendale Heights, a Western suburb of Chicago.
During the extended trip, I had actually managed to calm myself down quite a bit but as we approached what would become my new reality, my heart began to race yet again. As they loaded me out of the ambulance and down the long stretches of the hospital’s hallways, I remember looking at the ceiling, the glow of the florescent lights stinging my eyes. I had barely gotten any sleep, or at the very least, any quality sleep. We finally came to a locked door with the sign “Behavioral Health – AAU” above it. I wondered what AAU meant, but even then, took exception to the term behavioral health (I still do take exception to it, by the way).
I remember the EMT’s loading me off the stretcher and a male nurse took me into a room to evaluate me, which was absolutely humiliating. I immediately broke down into tears. The hospital staff thought it would be a good idea for me to be alone for a while so I could get my bearings and maybe feel a bit more at ease with my new circumstances.
They showed me to my room where I collapsed on the bed, pulled the covers over my head and just sobbed for hours. I had never cried so much or so hard in my life and haven’t cried like that since. I was absolutely broken. I thought to myself “How could this be my fate? A year ago, I was at the pinnacle of my life, on a missions trip in a foreign country, no less, on top of the world. Now, I’m here. How could it all fall apart so quickly?” And then, I cried some more.
There’s a song that goes “I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” The lines of that song echoed in my mind as I laid there and cried. I was at the pinnacle of my life a year earlier, and now, here I was: In a dark hospital room with bars on the windows, the lowest I had ever been. It was just me, a pillow, a too thin blanket, and my fervent prayers to God to come quickly and rescue me because I needed Him now more than ever. I didn’t even have the clothes on my back to keep me warm. I had never felt so alone. I had never felt so forgotten. I had never felt so hopeless. But I was alive. Maybe I didn’t want to be yet, but in time, I would.
Oh, and I was not alone, I was not forgotten, and I was not without hope. Not by a long shot.
Sometimes, what we see as “The End” is only the beginning.
The hospital can be a lonely place where time seemingly doesn’t progress. I was there for four days, each day getting a little bit better than the one before it. The doctor ended up transferring me out of the ward I was in to a more calming area with higher-functioning patients, many of whom were going through similar struggles to my own. After they transferred me, things began to get better quickly. I was able to, for the first time, voice what I had been feeling and just how broken I thought I was. I found camaraderie with those around me and felt hope for the first time.
My parents came to visit me every night from back home, two hours away. They started to notice a difference in me within a couple days of me being there. My medication had been stabilized and I was now turning around quickly. My parents and I put a game plan together one night about what to do when I returned home. Because of the trauma of the events I had experienced in the last year, we mutually decided I should take a semester off from school. College had not helped the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from the last year and I needed time to heal. It gave me yet more hope and relief that my parents understood this. After that conversation, it was all uphill from there.
I was discharged from the hospital that Monday evening and went home feeling better, but incredibly winded and frazzled. It would be a long road to recovery, but my life had been saved and I was at least stable.
Hospital stays are never fun, especially under these circumstances. It was downright awful there for a while, but I know now that I needed to go through that, I needed to be there. They saved my life. I was here, I was still breathing.
I was alive and this time, I wanted to be.
I remember that first week being home. My friends said how happy they were to have their friend back, a friend that had been MIA for over a year. A year that seemingly came from the depths of hell itself. But there I was, on the other side and on the mend.
I was going to be okay.
I tell this story not to bring you down or to seek attention for myself. One thing that’s aided in my recovery in the years since my suicide attempt has been my growing passion for mental health and suicide prevention awareness. By telling my story, I’m shining a light on a very difficult topic people generally don’t feel comfortable talking about. But I believe the only way to erase the stigma of mental illnesses and suicide is to talk about it. Shattering the stigma and the silence of suicide and depression can only save lives.
I also tell this story specifically for those of you reading this who may feel like you’re at your end. You may believe all hope has been exhausted for you, that ending it all is your only recourse left. Maybe, like me, you feel like you’re a burden to your friends and a liability to your family. Can I tell you something, as someone who has been there? It may sound trite, but it’s very true: You are not alone and there is so much hope for you. You are loved and treasured and beautiful and your life is just getting started. Don’t let your story end. You’re going to make it. Take things one minute at a time. Sometimes, that’s all you muster and that’s okay.
It’s now been exactly 10 years since Thursday, January 24th, 2013. But today is a new day in my life. 10 years later, I’m still alive, and although I still have my days, weeks, and even months, I’m doing better than I ever have and have a renewed passion for life. This truly is my Second Wind. I sometimes wake up and just marvel at my current life and the voice I have for these issues that almost took me out 10 years ago.
I have a good job, amazing friends, and I am fiercely independent and opinionated. I have passion. I see beauty in everything. I am a truth teller who finally embraces and protects my softness. I am a better, more healed version of myself.
Life has brought me so far in 10 years.
It continually leaves me both shocked and amazed.
I still struggle with anxiety and depression and it will most likely be something I deal with until my toes do point up someday distant, but I’m learning to manage. I’ve since been diagnosed with PTSD, stemming from these events 10 years ago, that night at the doctor’s office where my life was in imminent danger, and other traumas that were left unresolved for far too long. I don’t see that diagnoses as a failure on my part though. In fact, it’s actually illuminated so much for me. I am very much trauma-informed nowadays and know my limits and triggers.
This is my healing era.
During the summer, I went back to that hospital where my entire life changed. As I sat in the parking lot and wept, I also sat there and pondered my life the last 10 years and started dreaming about the next 10. While I was there, I was able to let go of a weight I didn’t even know I was carrying. One that has sat on my chest for nearly ten years and one that was very heavy. Sometimes, we learn how to carry things a bit too well, don’t we?
While sitting in my car on that bright and warm July morning, the weather, much like my life, a far cry from the frigid night that brought me there 10 years earlier, this verse from scripture came to me:
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” -Acts 7:33
It was true: That hospital is my holy ground.
Something died there 10 years ago, but something was birthed there, too. A mission that has consumed my life like a raging fire in these last 10 years. That was where my healing began. My best days were still to come.
This week, I’m in the Chicagoland area once again, but this time, to make new memories to fill this storybook that is my life. I’m determined to flip the scrip on this day and turn it into a celebration instead of a funeral. New life instead of a death. Semicolon Day instead of Tim’s Dark Day.
I’m lightyears away from where I was in my darkest hour 10 years ago.
It’s been a journey. If I could tell that scared kid sitting in that hospital room one thing it this:
Your life isn’t over.
Your best days are still to come.
Hope is rising.
Hope is rising like the sun.
You’re going to make it, after all.
If you or a loved is in crisis, please reach out to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 in the United States.