I attempted suicide eighteen years ago. I failed.
Anthony Bourdain is dead. Kate Spade is dead. They didn’t fail at their attempts. I am saddened, truly devastated by these losses to the world.
I failed, and I am glad that I was such a failure. The gifts of failure are plenty.
This is the blog post where I tell this story I have never shared with more than a handful of people in my entire life. This is the post that made my heart race… right before I hit “publish.” I will also include a warning that it might be hard to read, or cause issues to read this for some of you. Please take care to read with caution.
This… this story I have never told, despite telling so many other stories over millions of words. I have kept this one quiet, buried. Because of shame. Because I didn’t want to embarrass anyone.
I have waited to tell this story—and for that—I am now ashamed.
I am not embarrassed about what happened. I am at the place where I can tell. But now, I am embarrassed that I haven’t spoken up sooner.
The truth behind my incident is that I was twenty-years old, and I was blitzed out of my mind. I was prescribed Zoloft “for my depression” and I was ballooning up in weight. One of my best binge meals that I can remember was two Whoppers, two large fries, cheese sticks and jalapeno poppers. Then I had ice cream. I used to always eat a lot—but during that period, I was binging beyond all space and time and reason. I drank often and a lot. I was pushing people away, and I cared only about drinking and eating and watching a weird soap opera. I wouldn’t go out of the house. I stayed hidden, embarrassed by my body, my habits.
At twenty years old, I had given up hope for a good life.
Worst of all, I didn’t know why.
One night, I mixed my regularly scheduled Zoloft with a whole lot of vodka and cigarettes. I called my boyfriend and told him I was going to kill myself. I sat on the front porch and sawed superficial cuts into my arm, waiting on him to arrive. When he showed up, he took the dull knife from me. I told him I was going to slice my wrists and he said, “No, you won’t.”
(Nobody puts Baby in a corner.)
We were standing in the kitchen. In one movement, I opened a drawer, grabbed another knife, raised my arm and sliced downward, hard on the left wrist.
I showed him.
He immediately grabbed a dish towel, and held my wrist so tight that he hurt me. My roommate called 911. I was carted off to the hospital, where I had a blood alcohol content of 0.36—which is the amount of alcohol for most people to be in a coma, if not dead.
And I don’t remember any of this.
Well, that’s not true. I remember a few things: laying on the floor and praying that I wouldn’t die. And hoping the cops didn’t find my fake ID. I remember calling my mom and her screaming. I remember the three days that I had to go to a treatment center—where they placed me with the psychiatric patients instead of the substance abuse folks. I remember that I smelled like booze for two days. I remember when my parents showed up that I was like a caged animal. I was ashamed. And trapped.
I remember that the center let me go with no follow-up. Because I was good at playing the game.
I don’t remember what happened on that night, because I—the real me—was not present that night. I was numbed by anti-depressants and I was high on vodka. I was a mess from all the sugar and chemical foods I was eating, the lack of exercise and sunlight. I stayed inside and wrote and went to school, and I shut myself away from the world. This was not a long process—but rather a quick turn that took about three months.
I went from mildly sad. And I spiraled fast. Three months. That was all it took from me telling a doctor that I was “depressed” to almost losing my life by my own hand. If my boyfriend hadn’t been there, I might have died. If my roommate hadn’t been there, who knows.
It’s easier to say that I didn’t want to die and I wasn’t there that night. It makes it somehow more forgivable.
When I have told this story a few times, I always say that it wasn’t “me” that day—it was Zoloft and vodka, sugar and sadness, hopeless and shame.
But the truth of the matter… is that sometimes, all of those things are me. Sugar and sadness, hopelessness and shame.
And I, to this day, have never told this story publicly because I had been ashamed of it. I was embarrassed for my family that endured it. But mostly, I continued to think that “it wasn’t me” – that was a drugged-up, drunk version of me. That wasn’t me.
But it was me. I was there. I remember parts of it. I remember the feelings.
Writing this post started as a trickle when I learned of Kate Spade’s death. This morning, on the way to CrossFit when I saw Anthony Bourdain’s suicide—the trickle opened into a deluge and I wept. I had to speak up and tell my story, just in case. Just in case it mattered.
Who am I to hide from something like this? I had to tell what happened to me. I had to express my joy for continuing to live. For my family and my children who wouldn’t be here. For this blog. For colorful triathlon clothing. For so many joys that would not have happened.
Had I been a “success.”
Like Brene Brown says, “I think shame is lethal. I think shame is deadly. And I think we are swimming in it deep. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.”
Here’s the bottom line:
“Shame cannot survive being spoken,” Brown says. “It cannot survive empathy.”
Before I quit drinking two and a half years ago, I would think about driving myself into a tree. This giant tree at the bottom of a hill on a road I drive often. I was no longer on medication, but I still managed a pretty serious drinking problem. I was sick. I was depressed. I was working out all the time, but miserable and unhealthy. I had fixed some things, but deep in my core—I thought that I might could just drive into a tree and be done with all the feelings.
I drank so I didn’t need to feel. Feelings are the things that hurt the most.
Getting sober was about feeling the feelings of my life. Feeling is the hardest thing that I have ever had to do.
Miraculously, though—in the last two and a half years, I have not once thought about ending my life, or driving into that tree. I have been healed by stopping drinking and focusing on new things.
I know that not everyone can have that great or easy of a recovery from addiction or mental illness. I know that. But the reason I am telling this part of my untold story is for one reason—the power of not giving up. The power of walking away from substances that harm us.
If you don’t feel right, then something isn’t right. If you are depressed, I understand. Take a look at your habits, your life. Take a look at your medication and your past—did your life get worse or better with that particular med? Are you mixing it with a cocktail? Find a doctor that really listens and treats you—and sees you and is willing to work with you.
Before you lose hope, remove any potential barriers from your life that are impeding the ability for the light to shine in. Whether it’s booze or food or the wrong prescription, the wrong people or job, or family… take a moment to figure out what might be driving the pain, the sadness and the suffering.
What is dulling the light?
Then reach out, don’t give up.
I was not mentally ill—back then and not now. I have had to go through many years to realize that I suffer from swings and depression, but they are made highly worse by certain drugs and booze. I liked to drink because it stopped the swings. I suffer sometimes in ways that are painful. And I don’t want to feel those feelings.
With booze and drugs, I was simply not trying not to feel pain and sadness. I just wanted to feel nothing. Our culture’s aversion to feeling the pain and sadness is real. Feeling sadness is the worst part—but feeling hopeless is the thing that drives us beyond repair, beyond reason and thinking life is over.
If you feel this way or if you suspect mental illness, please seek help, please reach out, please look for the light. To the hotline (below), to a friend, to our Grateful Sobriety group, to your pastor, your doctor, to me. You are not alone. There is light, there is hope.
I am proof of that.
Sometimes my light is bright, sometimes it is dim. But even when I thought all was lost, I found it again. You can too. I promise. Just keep moving forward. We need you.
Thank you for reading, for allowing me to share.
Love to you all,
Please also know that I wrote this from a place of sharing a story, not legal or medical advice, or to change someone’s course of action or medical treatment. It’s merely anecdotal and made in an attempt to bring more light to this darkness.