I Wrote This In The Psych Ward

Saint Lukes

Today is my birthday and I was just released from the hospital. It was my first time to check into an adult mental health facility.

On my first day, the nurse yelled at the entire unit over cigarettes. She yelled about cigarettes while I looked at the ground, two floors down, wondering if the drop would kill me… I’m going to share more of my story in the days to come. But for now, I just want to say:

You can do this. You can make it through whatever you are going through! Stay one more day. I can’t promise it won’t be hell. I can’t promise you tomorrow will bring magical answers. But stay. New strength comes every morning.

If you are struggling, reach out. If your family and friends are not listening, reach out until they do! Pick up the phone and call the National Lifeline, drive to an emergency room, call 911, talk to your mom or dad, talk to your husband or wife, reach out to a teacher or a friend—anyone! Do whatever you have to do!

Because even if you don’t believe it, your life is worth the fight.

You deserve to get to the good part.

If you need support now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you or someone you know needs help, check out The Mighty‘s list of suicide prevention resources!


I turned thirty-five today.

Just to paint a clear picture of the excitement: A random show is playing on Hulu, I don’t even know the title. My 4-year-old daughter is fully dressed in a bright red jogging suit and bright pink light-up shoes, trying to work the TV remote while dripping pickle juice all over the carpet. It’s a quarter ‘til midnight

Maybe I should be putting my restless Energizer bunny to bed for the thirty-ninth time, out getting drinks with friends, or pretending to hate a casual family dinner, but I’m not. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even get out of my pajamas. My birthday is the one day a year, no matter what, I feel suicidal.

I watch my friends with envy as they celebrate their birthdays and moan and groan about getting older. That part has never bothered me. I get tripped up by abandonment, insecure attachments, broken homes, missing family, and mental health. I get distracted by watching the hours fade away on the one day I should hear from my family. I get choked up by checking my phone and the mail, by checking painful doors and expecting lost love to be there.

I might be middle-aged, but I am still a little girl waiting to be surprised, waiting for her wish to come true when she blows out the candles, and crying herself to sleep at night. But I’m not writing this for me. I’m writing to those who know what worthlessness feels like. To the person who can’t stand being told they are never alone because every time they hear it, they’re surrounded by empty rooms and silence.

I’m writing to you. Maybe it’s not your birthday. Maybe there is another day of the year you always struggle to get through. Maybe you’re happy one minute and the next minute, you’re hopeless. Maybe you struggle with thoughts of suicide every day, you feel like your life doesn’t matter and nobody cares every day! Maybe suicide haunts you. Me too.

When you can’t celebrate your life because you are distracted by thoughts of your death, it matters. Because even if you get a million Facebook comments or tweets from random strangers, when you’re disconnected from friends and family, when the love you want to be there is missing, the only person really left to celebrate your existence is you. And if you haven’t found a reason, if darkness is screaming like a monster after five shots of vodka at a nightmare Sweet Sixteen party, no matter how many candles are lit, you fly blind.

Hopelessness and worthlessness become all you can taste. All you can hear. You play Russian Roulette year after year as they duel with your will to survive. Here is my biggest piece of advice: Prepare. Buy a new outfit. Find a reason to leave the house. Alone or with someone else, it doesn’t matter.

If you don’t make it, if you can’t open the door, dress up anyway. Get out of bed anyway. Text a friend. Answer all the Facebook posts on your timeline. Don’t have any? Announce it! That’s right. Seek love out! Celebrate yourself! Even if you’re struggling to understand why you’re alive. Fight. Have your favorite meal. Have a drink of your favorite wine. (Mine’s whiskey.)  Do something you’ve been meaning to do.

Protect your heart. I’ve spent a lot of birthdays wanting to die. Enough to know a lot of other people out there have, too. And I want you to know, as my birthday ends, I am celebrating each of you!

Love doesn’t always come knocking the way that it should. And sometimes, when it does, things like depression, PTSD, and social anxiety, get in the way of us answering the door. That is exactly what lifelines are for! Build them. If you do not have them, seek them out. Build them.

Love will come. In the meantime, my wish for you is to taste the frosting. Have a cake made just for you. And keep choosing life.

If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or text ‘HOME’ to the Crisis Text Line, 741-741. 

A Lesson In Hope

When I was fifteen, I tried to kill myself.

Both my sisters had left home. One left a note behind and didn’t look back. The other moved in with a different family just a few houses away. I stayed. I had a medical condition I couldn’t get my family to face and I hid from the rest of the world. I had just been diagnosed that September. Shortly after my diagnosis, a boy who went to my school and lived up the street died by suicide the same day we received our report cards. Peers recalled him being scared to tell his father he had received a B. Two other students attempted suicide after him. Then, I became attempt number three.

The day after Thanksgiving, my parents went to my grandma’s house for leftovers. I asked to stay home that night. Looking back, maybe that was a sign I knew what I was doing and I planned it. Honestly, I don’t remember. The truth is, I was so ambivalent in my attempt and so pressured by everyone’s reaction, I lied. I claimed my overdose was caused by distraction and a horrible migraine.

Years later, a college essay forced me to reflect on that day. I stayed in denial about a lot of things. I stood by that migraine, which I did have, and shifted my focus to the abuse I endured at home. At the end of the essay, I was required to declare whether I did or did not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. I couldn’t figure out where I stood on the matter, so I took a break from college to decide.

(That’s another lie.)

When suicide isn’t talked about in the community or the home, it’s easy to feel like we have to hide those thoughts. So, at age thirty-one, I repeated the past and my self-destructive uncertainty with a suicide prevention campaign on Facebook to mask mine. Just over a month into my campaign, my dear friend and affectionately-adopted sister took her own life.

During our last conversation, she mentioned feeling “broken but not suicidal.” She even asked me to check on her. I wish I had understood that she was opening a door, crying for help, even if she didn’t know it. I wish I had told her, “It’s okay if you are feeling suicidal! We can talk about that!” I wish I had gone to her house. I wish I would’ve remembered to reach back out. But I didn’t know the risks; I didn’t know the signs. I couldn’t save her.

With denial and grief in one hand and suicidal thoughts in the other, I began educating myself. The more I learned, the more I realized chronic suicidality has always been a part of my life, and my inability to heal from the loss of my sister, my hesitation to finish that college essay, those were a reflection of my own unresolved suicidal thoughts. The more I learned about suicide… the more I learned about my self.

Eighteen years and one tragic loss later, I finally understood why I tried to take my own life as a teen. And it wasn’t because my sisters were gone or because I lived in an abusive home. (Although, those were certainly stressors!) It wasn’t major depressive disorder like the doctors at the inpatient youth facility tried to throw at me. It was because I was trapped by my illness. It was because I was being rejected for medical treatment. It was because I couldn’t fight for myself, and no one was fighting for me. It was because the biggest stressor in my life was was looking in the mirror, seeing the diagnosis I was facing, and knowing there was a solution, there was a way to address it—for the rest of the world, for those who could afford it. But not for me. Insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment. Hope had a price.

I kept myself hidden and protected for as long as I could. I ran from the reason for my suicide attempt as long as I could, until I had my daughter. Then, I rose from the ashes to confront the demons still burning inside, and when I found my options for medical care hadn’t changed, I learned the hardest lesson of my life: Hope is temporary if solutions are out of reach.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt sick and alone. I don’t know if you know how it feels to look at the future with fear in your eyes while family and doctors fail you, but I can tell you how to survive: Fight. Even when things seem hopeless.

It’s okay to fight dirty when you’re fighting for life.

If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1.800.273.8255 or text HOME to 741.741 to chat with the Crisis Text Line.