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Celebrating Survivors

Close to one million people attempt to end their life each year, but—thankfully—not all succeed. We don’t always have the opportunity to hear from survivors as it can be difficult to relive the memories and, for some, embarrassing to discuss. 

We’re sharing this story of survival because we believe stories like Elaina’s can open the door to discussions on mental health and suicide prevention.

Elaina’s story

Elaina soaked in the bathtub, eyeing the mirrored medicine cabinet across the room. It was filled with legal prescriptions. One for blood pressure. Another for joint pain. Several for crippling migraines. Muscle relaxers. A new one for anxiety. And then there was the powerhouse of pills. The bottles that made her pain disappear when nothing else touched her discomfort. Separately, each medicine did its job, allowing Elaina to care for her boys, somewhat pain-free, while her body continued shutting down for no medically-known reason.

Elaina stepped out of the tub, slipped into a robe, and wrapped a towel around her wet hair. She opened the cabinet where rows of amber-colored bottles stared back at her. Rather than count out the usual afternoon dose of meds, she meticulously took four pills from fifteen bottles—60 capsules in all. Effortlessly, she chased the pills down with a room-temperature glass of apple juice her kindergartener had left on the bathroom counter. Her plan was simple: end the years of torturous pain and medical enigmas that left her bedridden. She felt as though she could no longer care for her children, she felt like a burden to her husband, and endless parades through doctors’ offices had grown old and fruitless.

As minutes ticked by and she felt her breathing slow, she took a seat in her grandmother’s rocking chair. The black walnut finish and ruby red corduroy upholstery provided comfort and safety as they did when she was little. Here she would sit until it all stopped. The medical treatments. The heartache of misdiagnosis. Her inability to care for her sons or be the wife her husband deserved. Living in a perpetual state of pain and disability had to end. As her eyes closed, a voice bounced from her memories into the present. Her sister, Nancy, was singing an 80s pop song Elaina hated. Nancy’s voice grew fainter, and Elaina hung onto every lyric before it all faded to black.

But the sound of her sister’s voice that fateful day was not from a long-ago memory. Nancy was walking into Elaina’s home that afternoon because she just had a feeling her sister wasn’t okay—and she was right. Elaina was moments from death by overdose. 

“It wasn’t until I woke up in the hospital with tubes in my nose, a pounding headache, and my husband sobbing at the foot of my bed that I realized the gravity of what almost happened. I thought I was making our lives easier by slipping away.” After working with a counselor and seeking new avenues to treat her underlying medical issues, Elaina now knows how lucky she is to have a second chance at life. “I realize now that my choice to end everything wouldn’t have made life easier for anyone I left behind. Not my boys, not my husband—not anyone. Once I worked through my guilt, I realized I am worthy of remaining here not only for my family but for me.”

Mental health and wellness are within reach for those who feel hope is too far out of reach. Valley Oaks knows that providing alternatives to suicidal thoughts and tendencies can be a game-changer for patients. Let us help you embrace one more day so you may share your story of survival so someone else might live.

The names in this story have been changed to protect privacy and anonymity.

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