Izzy bares a striking resemblance to me. Her eyes, her nose, even her heart. She is half me and that means her story is half mine. When I look at her life and all that has come from it I cannot help but remember that she almost never was. Izzy almost didn’t exist because nineteen years ago today I attempted suicide. Each year on this day I celebrate that even though I chose death, life wasn’t ready to let me go. I chose to share it with you this year because I know there are so many who struggle with depression, fighting to keep their head above the water. To those fighting I say: you are not alone.
19 years old, I sat alone in my room and chased a bottle of Ambien with a cocktail of NyQuil, Benadryl and Dramamine. I emptied bottle after bottle telling myself I had to be sure to take enough because the only thing more pathetic than my suicide would be failing at it. Pill after pill slid down my throat until carefully I covered my tracks before climbing into bed. That covering – placing the empty bottle of Ambien back in the cabinet where it belonged – saved my life. A few minutes later my mother would go to get that bottle, offering me my nightly pill that was helping me sleep through depression. Had I left that bottle in my room everything would have played out differently. She would have gone to look for it in the cabinet and not finding it would have opened my door to see me sleeping in bed, the bottle on my dresser. She would have told me goodnight, would have closed the door and not knowing, would have left me to die. The next half of my life would have never been, my children included.
Fortunately, my methodical placing of the bottle back where it belonged saved my life. When my mom saw the bottle in the cabinet she reached for it. With that reach she felt its emptiness and with that emptiness she knew.
An ambulance would arrive at our home before I was unconscious. They would find me running in my front yard until I collapsed. In that moment, as they put me on a stretcher in the middle of my front yard, my failure at death outweighed my failure at life. My world and every car that drove by watched it all.
For years after that night I walked with great shame. My entire world had seen that I was a failure. There are glimpses of that night that are etched in the stone of my memory but the shame I walked with for so long has dissipated. The events that took place leading up to that night – the damage of a toxic, abusive relationship – have not left permanent marks on my soul. Mercy has washed away the memories. Forgiveness has washed away the shame. Most importantly I have learned to walk forward with hope.
Hope is a crucial piece of living fully. It’s what keeps us going. The first 19 years of my life I couldn’t fully grasp that. I thought hope was believing in the best possible outcome. But that is only half of it. Over the next 19 years of my life I would learn the power in choosing to let go, in completely surrendering that which is in my control and that which is not. I would learn that true hope is believing in the best possible outcome while equally walking in surrender. THAT is the second half of hope. That is part of what I’ve learned in this second half of my life and I’ve learned it through my Izzy.
Every night I pray the exact same words over her. I have done this for a while, believing she would memorize them and join me in praying over herself. She has not. Yes he has memorized the words but she prays them over me, not herself. Each night I climb in bed with her, placing my hand on the site of her original tumor – the left side of her tummy. She puts a hand up near my face then repeats each sentence after me:
Jesus, thank you for Izzy (Mommy)
who is perfectly and wonderfully made.
Watch over her while she is sleeping
and help her to not be afraid.
Lord I ask you to cover her with peace,
to fill her hope and strength and love and compassion.
I ask that you continue to bring healing to her body
and fill her with LIFE.
As Izzy says the last line she pulls her hand back from me and extends it out in the air with all five fingers spread a part. It’s a little like she’s making a powerful declaration and at the same time releasing everything she just declared to the One above.
Hope is Izzy’s hands at the end of our nightly prayer: the first half a powerful declaration and the second half a release.
Today is important to me because it puts my 38 years in perspective. The years before my suicide attempt (1-19) and the years after (19-38). The second half of my life has not been the fairy tale I wanted. Clearly I have walked with both unimaginable pain and fear. Sometimes I have walked with grace and honor and sometimes I have not. But I am still walking and I encourage you, no matter what you’re fighting, to do the same.
Keep walking – hold your head high and don’t ever apologize for who you are. Don’t fall captive to shame or fear.
Keep hoping – believe that the best outcome is still possible. But surrender it all anyway.
Blessings on you today and LIFE for Izzy!