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Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Ray of Hope: Surviving Suicide and Living with Depression (VIDEO ADDED)

Thank you for visiting this blog. I share stories of love, overcoming depression, and surviving suicide. Living recovery is not easy but telling story helps me release so much pain. I hope in reading my blog you find joy, laughter, insight, and inspiration that your LIFE MATTERS and it is worth fighting for. Below is a speech I gave at a Suicide Prevention Conference in Portsmouth. As a mental health advocate and motivational speaker I share my story of depression to show people there is hope at the end of the darkness, and I hope to be a ray of light for those seeking a way out.

A Ray of Hope: Surviving Suicide, Living with Depression

Good morning! I want to thank you all for giving me this opportunity. Sharing is a big part of my healing and I hope part of breaking the stigma associated with talking about mental health.

Ok - CONFESSION TIME! I’ve been super terrified of speaking in front of you all. I was told a big part of the audience would be mental health professionals. AND I’m like geez what the heck do I have to tell licensed, schooled people on suicide prevention that they haven’t already heard.Typical anxious kicked in and on my fifth rewrite I decided to speak to you from the heart on what it feels being a survivor of suicide, how depression nearly destroyed my life--- and lead me to a year of homelessness and abandonment.

My first suicide attempt was 3 years ago. It was on a May day in 2014 just a few days shy of Memorial Day weekend. Anxiety was reeking havoc on my brain. I was constantly tired, I lost my appetite, I felt I could do nothing right, and I was constantly researching ways to perform a painless suicide where I could fall asleep and escape the feelings of loneliness, despair, failure, and self doubt.

On the outside -- no one would have known I was depressed or suicidal. I was an upcoming reporter at WAVY News 10, 130 pounds, a runner, a girlfriend, a beloved first child and a homeowner. By most people’s standards I had nothing to be depressed about. Well many of you know that sometimes depression doesn’t always make sense -- especially when you have a clinical depression such as mine.

So -- I swallowed 29 pills, laid on my carpet and waited to fade to black-----drift from this world--- and feel no more pain.

As I laid there on my bedroom floor, I thought of my funeral, and all the people that would be there….I wondered if the news would cover my story with the headline WAVY reporter dies in apparent suicide or would they even care…. I imagined a beautiful pink dress I’d want to be wearing in my casket…. And I imagined all the people who would wonder if there more they could have to save me if they only noticed.  THEN I thought of my Down Syndrome sister Sara…. A twenty something woman who would never understand why her sister was cold and lifeless lying in a casket… The thought of the confusion and pain it would cause her prompted me to reach for the phone and call for help.

After that I went to the hospital where I was deemed severely depressed and suicidal. I spent five days at the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center. I took every medication, went to every group meeting, and said the right things patients told me would get me released. Truth was I didn’t feel any better in the Psych Ward-- I lost 10 pounds, found some comfort in group sessions--- but the emptiness, the anxiety I felt did not go away.  A month later -- still wrestling with the same suicidal and depressed feelings I resigned from WAVY News 10.

Then like Alice in Wonderland I fell into a deep dark pit---- but when I landed it was not Wonderland it was mental hell, a battlefield in my mind.

My licensed practitioner put me on so many meds to balance my mood: Prozac, Ambien, Brintellex, Reluxit, Zoloft - then Viibyrd.

I worked a retail job where television viewers shook their heads at my demise. Some weekends I locked my myself in my room with no food or water...just hoping to sleep into oblivion… I hated who I had become so I tried to destroy what was left of me--- I ate and filled out my small runner frame by 100 pounds. I pulled my hair out. Peeled scabs on my face til they were bloody and raw. And I stopped talking to every friend, coworker, or family member. I wanted no one to see my perceived downfall.

The turning point in my depression came me night in December 2015, I was up binge eating and watching television--- the only thing that brought me joy those days. I was living at my parent’s house at the time because I could no longer pay my mortgage. AND --- I was watching an episode of A&E’s Biography ---- and the subject was Patrick Dempsey AKA Doctor McDreamy. Then that same still voice that saved me a year ago said, “Turn off the television.”

I sat up and looked around checking to see if one of my family members came into the living room. Then I heard it again - “Turn off the television” Goodness I thought these meds are making me hear things now. I was on my new anti-depressant for 2 months so I thought I was in the clear for side effects. But as a woman of faith I recalled people who experienced God speaking to them…. So I responded in prayer.

“Lord, I am so tired. I have ruined so much in my life. Take me tonight, please just let me die in my sleep,” I replied.

The voice replied, “ It’s is time for you to get up. For more than a year I have carried you, protected you and shielded you. Now it is time for you to get up.”

“But God I can’t. I am a failure. I left my job, my boyfriend broke up with me, I am now financially at poverty level, I am fat. No one loves me. I have no friends. I hate going out of the house now. I’d rather die than live this life.”

“Lauren, I love you far more than any man ever will. I never promised you life would be easy or without strife, but I did promise you I’d help you endure it,” He replied.
"I need you to get up and tell your story so the world may know God can love this children back to life."

That night I cried for every loss I endured during my depression, ever man that ever loved and left. With my renewed faith and therapy -- the fog known as depression slowly began to lift… but recovery was not be easy.

I struggled to reconnect with friends who I had not spoken to for over a year. I found roadblocks applying for jobs when I told employers I left the television business because of my depression. People were afraid to hire someone with a history of mental illness after the deadly shooting at WDBJ7, where a former employee shot and killed 2 of his coworkers on live television. He had documented mental health issues prior to his hiring. I feel my honesty about my depression on my blog has cost me a number of t.v. jobs.

My parents kicked me out of their home where I was staying 5 months into my recovery. They were exhausted and tired of caring for me. I left with no money, no place to go --- and no one to rely on. For nearly a year I slept in my car, under a desk at an office I was renting, then hotels, I took offers from strangers to stay with them-- and lastly I stayed in a shelter. It is by the Grace of God I was not raped, hurt, or worse.

Even through all of that I stand before you a SURVIVOR. A survivor of suicide, homelessness, brokenness, depression, abandonment, and heartache.

I attribute my SURVIVAL to God, friends who reached out to help. People have donated over 4,000 dollars to my GoFundme Page in the past year. Their generosity fed me on lonely nights, clothed me, and sustained me. My anti-depressants and therapy helped but the turning point didn’t come until I felt I had something to live for. And it’s God’s love and grace that showed me my life has value.

Now God has turned my pain into purpose. I am on a mission to educate people about mental illness, encourage them to seek help, show them there is no shame, and inspire them that they can not only live but thrive with mental illness.

My experience with depression and suicide has opened my eyes however to how much work we still have to in the world of mental health. As a homeless woman I met many people wandering the street, sleeping under bridges, and worse because families didn’t want to deal with their mental illness and kicked them out. I know how long the waiting list is to see a therapist at the CSB, and the paperwork and red tape that often prevents a lot of people from getting help.

I’ve seen overworked staff in Psych wards more concerned with paperwork and not losing their jobs than actually helping patients, over medicating and not counseling.

So I encourage you to look within yourself as a mental health professional, family member, friend, counselor and to be fighters against the stigma of mental illness, champions of hope in recovery, and interveners when people are suicidal .

Even if you are not liscensed or have a doctorate there is so much you can do to prevent suicide and encourage good mental health. When you see something, say something. If a loved one or friend is showing signs of withdrawal, suicidal ideation or depression----step in.

The more we listen, the more we speak, the more we learn---- the greater we are in preventing suicide -- and promoting healthy mental health.

Let’s make it so there are no more DEJAH JONES--- a 14 year old Newport News teen who took her life last year --- after intensely bullied. You may have seen her story on the news. I was almost a Dejah Jones—that is why I want you to know my story of surviving suicide, but also to the story of people who don’t……..And all I ask of you is to be BRAVE enough to speak up about your pain, your depression, your mental illness, your darkness-----  and for those who don’t know this struggle BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO HELP ---- because that is how we save lives.

I am Lauren Hope of Good Girl Chronicles
I Love You, Love God More
Thank you for your time.

Below is a video clip that captures the mission statement of my business Good Girl Chronicles LLC - to help people tell their own stories--- and set themselves free.