There, But by the Grace of God

Grace ~ For quite some time I have been wanting to write a book. I’ve struggled with the concept of what it should be. They say to write what you know, and there is nothing I know better than my own life as I have examined it. I have been toying with the idea of writing about grace. I wrote this to a dear friend a few months ago and she asked me to share it with others. When I did I got a very positive response from people who said it was something they needed to hear, so I wanted to share it again here:

We all make mistakes, we all hurt others at some point in our lives. But there is grace and forgiveness and I wish nothing more than to have you feel showered with grace. You are a beautiful person, with a beautiful soul. That is the eternal part of you. The errors in judgment, the mistakes you’ve made, the people you hurt; those are merely moments of your life, You mustn’t let them define you. For every “bad” thing you do and beat yourself up for, there are a billion wonderful things you do, that you never give yourself credit for. When you think you are unforgivable, think of those who love you and see your self through their eyes.

Last week a childhood friend took his own life. He was a great hero to a great many people. He accomplished a great many things in his life and oh, how he was adored. Hundreds of people have been sharing stories and telling of the blessings he gave them during his life. Although his life was cut short, it was nonetheless, miraculous and full of grace.

Although he was not the first friend I lost to suicide, I think his death has been harder for me to take. I was not more close to him I was than my other friend, but I think somehow, the “hero” factor has measured in somehow. I’ve been trying to examine why his death has been so profound to me. This morning I woke up to the realization, that it is because there but by the grace of God, I would have been too.

I believe that when a person suffers from mental (I prefer emotional) illness and they survive it, they have a certain obligation to help others heal from their own, and we do it by sharing our stories. So here is my story:

When I was 28 years old, a young mother and wife, I had a very severe emotional breakdown. I had always prided myself on being strong and smart and able to handle anything, and this completely blindsided me. After all, I had survived the illness and death of my mother, a love-less and rejection-filled emotionally abusive first marriage, and I was actually (I thought) in a happy place in my life. I was happily married, had a beautiful child, a life I had dreamed of, and all I wanted to do was die. Intellectually, I knew it made no sense, but emotionally, it was very real and very immediate.

My husband came home from work one evening and found me sitting on the floor, beating my head against the wall and screaming uncontrollably, in what probably sounded like a foreign language. It sure sounded like that in my head. Thankfully, he had his head about him and he picked me up put me in our car and drove me to our family doctor. Back then, you could still make calls in your car, so he made arrangements to sneak me in the back door. Our doctor had by this time become a great friend and knew me well enough to know how to speak to me and calm my heart and spirit. I was blessed with him and he, of course, showed me grace. When he told me I was suffering from clinical depression, my first thought was, that it wasn’t possible, because I was so happy! I didn’t yet understand that depression is not a state of mind, brought on by circumstance, but a real medical condition which has NOTHING to do with the immediate circumstances of your life. A person can live in the worst of conditions and have true joy and a person can have a life filled with abundance and still suffer from depression.

I spent six years of my life in treatment, I was treated with a number of anti-depressants and therapy and group therapy and ultimately, it was an incredible acting class with an incredible teacher (and healer) that taught me how to integrate my emotions and my intellect in a way that truly healed me. The years in-between though were tough. I had to face some tough truths about myself. I had to learn to look at things as they really were, not the way I wanted to justify them to make them okay.

During the course of my treatment, there was a lot of experimenting with new drug therapies, at one point my libido was near non-existence (which made my husband unhappy) so we changed meds. The result was nearly fatal. During the course of treatment a slowly and steadily became more and more depressed. Getting out of bed every morning became so difficult that finally, I just didn’t do it. For 3 days, I made my husband take the kids to school in the morning. On the third day, I had decided to end my life. I was convinced that the whole world would be better without me. That all my promise had been relinquished and that I had nothing left to give the world. I can say without any doubt, that coming to that conclusion that I needed to leave this life, was at the time the most peaceful and calming thought I ever had. My sense of peace when I made that decision was greater than I had ever felt. I made several really lame attempts that day, all were circumvented by my husband, bless his heart. Eventually, he got fed up and called our doctor and after a little research he determined that the meds themselves were causing the severity of the depression and told me to stop immediately. Well, I wasn’t having any of that, so as soon as he left the room, I took all the meds I could swallow. I figured I would just fall asleep and never wake up. The world would be a shiny happy place again.

Well, the next morning, I woke up and let me tell you, I was one pissed-off little unit. The real kicker was that my brain seemed to be working just fine, but I couldn’t speak and I had very limited motor function. My husband came into the room, mad at me because, once again, he had to take the kids to school. I somehow was able to communicate to him that I had swallowed a bunch of pills, and so just like a scene out of a drug movie, he had me in a cold shower trying to get me moving.

Once again, he carried me to a car and this time drove me to an emergency room. Unlike most emergency room visits, they rushed me right to a room and began the process of pumping my stomach. I must say, if that can’t get you over suicidal thoughts, nothing can. I was put on a 51/50 and had to see a therapist before I could be released. I had started the morning unable to communicate, which for me, was excruciatingly painful, I LOVE to talk! I had spent the morning listening to hospital staff saying stupid and ignorant things like “but you’re so pretty, why would you want to kill yourself?” I wanted to scream at them and tell them that how a person looks is MEANINGLESS if their soul is ugly. Good thing for them, I couldn’t speak. After the meds were out of my system, again, by the grace of God, I was able to speak and thankfully suffered no lasting physical or mental damage.

The therapist came into my room and at first, I felt too ashamed to talk to him, but he was kind and compassionate and he said some things to me that struck to the core of me and I carry them around with me every day and try to share them whenever necessary to the care of another person.

  • Today, this decision you made to take your life, was just one moment of bad judgment. One moment. Think of all the other millions of moments in your life when you made the right decisions; when you gave birth to your beautiful children when you made someone else’s life a little better. Remember and celebrate those moments and forgive yourself this one.
  • Tell me who is the only person Guaranteed to be with you on the day you were born and the only person GUARANTEED to be with you on the day you die. You need to make sure that person is happy.
  • You are the highest functioning, intelligent people I have ever seen in this situation. You need to go out and claim your life and live it. You have so much to give.

That doctor showed me grace; the kind of grace that truly changed my life and my perspective. A Course in Miracles teaches that a miracle is merely a change in perspective. If you can change your perspective you can create a miracle.

During the course of my treatment, I learned to be more honest with myself and with people in my life. Ultimately, I believe my depression drove my husband away but made me a better mother. I experienced both respect and disrespect from people who I spoke freely to about my experiences. Even today, as I write this, I expect some, who actually make it through reading it, will feel helped in some way and others will think I am a kook. All I can say for certain is that it was grace that saved my life and my heart and that now I am truly happy with the person I have become and the life I have fought for and created. For those in my life who have stuck with me through all of this and those who accept me now as I am.

We are here to love and care for one another. To pass the grace we have received to others who are in need. There is no higher calling!

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