Shelly had struggled with anxiety and depression much of her life. She’d tried therapy, medicine and just managing her life but nothing ever went as she thought it was supposed to. Then one night the darkness became too much; she swallowed dozens of pills and thought that everything would be over soon and better for those around her.
But Shelly’s story didn’t end there. She tells us about her journey from dark to light and how she finally learned to accept herself.
That bright cheery attitude I showed everyone was an act; I never felt good enough, skinny enough, smart enough. I never knew what it would take to make me truly happy.
I struggled every morning to get out of bed. The days were always the same. Sure I had good days, but I never felt like I deserved them. While others seemed to be skipping and jumping through life, I felt like there was a 100 lb. ball and chain around my leg, and it took everything inside me to just walk through life.
I concentrated on the material things. If I had better clothes, shoes or jewelry then I would get my prince charming who would buy me the perfect house with the white picket fence and the perfect children that would make my life whole. It never occurred to me that I had to find happiness inside of myself.
Depression is draining and exhausting. I would lay in bed under the covers for days; that’s all I wanted to do. I was consumed by the anxiety attacks, always being tired, crying, mood swings, loneliness, fear and eating issues. The thought of dying was constantly on my mind. They weren’t serial killer thoughts but more like if I got run over by a bus or just didn’t wake up I would be OK with that.
I lived in a constant state of fear, anxiety, extreme discomfort and excessive concern. I always wanted what someone else had. “If only I had her parents or her hair or her clothes or her body.” Jealousy and envy were a part of my life on a daily basis. I was truly living in the dark most of my life and was always trying to figure out what it was that someone else could do for me so I could be happy.
I had to find someone to take care of me. All I had ever wanted was to get married, have children and get a nanny. How could I possibly take care of myself? I wasn’t smart enough. I did not have any special skills. I barely passed high school. My motto had always been, “If I don’t try then I have an excuse to fail.” I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, but a Disney fairy tale ending would be fabulous.
Ups and downs were very common, but I lived more in the dark side. Soon after having children and getting divorced, I just couldn’t figure out how to take care of my babies. How was I supposed to raise them and give them what they needed? My thinking process was so screwed up; I just needed to care for them and love them, but I wanted to give them Disneyland and the moon. When I couldn’t,I felt like I was a failure at parenthood also.
I’ve heard people say, “Suicide is the coward’s way out.” “If only they would have asked for help.” For me it was such a long process. I talked to my doctor, went to therapy and was on anti-depressants. Those things gave me some relief but they were always short lived. I felt so numb on the inside; there was such a void, a black hole feeling.
I would leave my therapist with a plan, and before I could get into my car I was overwhelmed. I have so much to do…dishes, laundry, cleaning, school activities, athletic activities, exercise, dinner, homework, baths, etc. Instead of all that, all I wanted to do was climb under the covers and sleep. I could just try it again the next day. I always had a plan; some days I accomplished the plan; some days I didn’t. No matter if I did or not, it was never good enough in my mind
Anxiety was a constant for me; sometimes it was paralyzing and came out of nowhere. This unknown made the anxiety even worse because I could never figure out why I was anxious in the first place.
The night was April 23, 2007.
I came home after a night out drinking with my friends; alcohol always heightened my depression. I looked in the mirror, and all I saw was a shadow. I couldn’t make out my facial features at all; I was completely numb, almost emotionless. It was like I was watching a movie.
In a matter of seconds I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore. I swallowed several handfuls – about 150 — of my prescription pain pills; I almost immediately felt relief. Soon it would be over.
One moment I felt complete despair, but after taking the pills I had this huge sense of relief. I knew soon I wouldn’t have to deal with life on life’s terms anymore; I could be at peace. I was tired of living in paralyzing fear; soon I wouldn’t have to anymore.
Today, seven years later, I can still feel those two immense feelings – despair and relief – like this happened yesterday.
After I swallowed the pills, I went and sat down on the couch and decided I needed to write my family and children a letter explaining why I’d done it. I felt like they were definitely better off without me. I was always causing problems, asking for something or wasn’t able to give them what they needed. I felt like I had caused my family and friends so much pain.
While I was sitting there I started going into convulsions and had to crawl to the bathroom to throw up. I could barely move. I had to concentrate to get my arm to move forward and then my leg and then my other arm.
How in the world did this happen? What had I done? I knew I had taken too many pills, and it was so painful. My body started shaking, my vision was blurred, my stomach was cramping, my head felt like it was going to pop off my shoulders and go clear over the moon. It was like an out of body experience This wasn’t how it was supposed to be; I was supposed to fall into a deep sleep like Snow White. I was supposed to slip off into heaven in a very peaceful way.
I was terrified. I barely had control of my extremities, and I needed to call someone, anyone. I had always had issues getting a cell phone signal in my house, but this call went straight to 911. As silly as it sounds, that was my sign that it wasn’t my time to go. God had a bigger plan for me even if I didn’t understand it right away. I spent several days in the intensive care unit and several more in a treatment facility for depression.
I had a lot to learn, the most important was that I was OK.
I had always thought I needed to be better than I was. I’d lived in a constant state of ups and downs never feeling like I was in the middle of the boat. Instead, I spent my life on the boat rocking back and forth in the storm. But that was going to change.
I was beginning to see some light; that hole in my soul was beginning to fill up. It was a slow process, but I knew my life was getting better day by day. And still today, I wake up every morning and have a conversation with my higher power asking for guidance.I’m not cured. This is something I will continue to work on every single day. I have to hit my knees every morning and ask God to relieve me of my will. I obviously do not know how to run my life on my own. I ask to be a better person than I was yesterday. I ask for patience and peace within. I ask to keep my mouth shut.
I need to concentrate on peace and serenity in myself. It is easy to get caught up in drama and let others live in my head. I now know it is a waste of time, precious time I would rather spend on the positives in my life. I’ve learned to be grateful for the little things; I am grateful for this life I am living. No, it is not always perfect, and it is definitely not a Disney movie, but it is mine. No matter how alone you feel and how much pain you are in, there is a better way.
If I can help one person come out of the dark this experience will have been worth it. No matter how alone you feel and how much pain you are in, there is a better way.
Photos by: Stacey Godbold
Story edited by: Abbey Doyle
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline