On December 9, 2010, I was admitted into Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario, Canada. Given my medical history, when the news got out about my admission, people made assumptions that I had had another stroke. I’ve since learned that some of my friends were under the understanding I had been a car accident; others that I had a heart attack. How these rumors started I don’t care. Any assumptions people made further separated those in my life from the truth, and people not knowing the truth made life easier for both me and my family while in hospital, and since.
Everything shared about me and my medical condition while in hospital was true. I was in a coma; I was on heart and lung bypass; I also had multiple blood transfusions and four cardiac arrests. What people don’t know is that hours prior to my entry to Victoria Hospital, I had taken an intentional overdose of prescription medications in an attempt to end my life. I tried to kill myself. When I described the suicide attempt – and the events leading up to it – to the psychiatrist in the hospital, I didn’t have a good reason. By that I don’t mean to say that there is ever a good reason for suicide, but my understanding is that there is generally an element of logic to it, at least to the victim. In my case, that wasn’t so.
In the weeks and months leading up to the day that would forever change – and almost take away – my life, I wasn’t depressed, stressed, or even sad for that matter. I had, in a very short period of time, endured what one medical professional creatively referred to as “acute hopelessness” through the breakdown of several things I cared about in my life. When these things collapsed, I literally felt that I had nothing in my life to live for. My accomplishments were irrelevant; my family and friends weren’t a factor; I had simply felt nothing. The ensuing emotion wasn’t depression, but rather the feeling that my life had completely lost all direction.
The decision to commit suicide had been made about a week prior to the actual suicide attempt. It wasn’t rational, but it was calculated. I tied up some loose ends and prepared for it internally. But beyond that, I kept up appearances, showing no signs of weakness to friends and family. I kept writing and doing television and radio appearances as usual. I made no attempts to seek help. I knew help was available; I just had no intention of seeking it. Contrary to many others in this situation, this was not a desperate cry for help or a misguided plea for attention. I wanted to die.
On a cold, Canadian winter’s day, I went to a public washroom and consumed a number of pills that I’m still unaware of in a vacant stall and sat there, washing them down with a bottle of Dasani, smiling. I then crossed the street to a Starbucks to spend what I felt would be my remaining hours. Unaware of how long it took for an overdose to actually kick in, I planned to sit down at the café for an hour or so and collapse there, away from the people it would hurt to find me – my family.
At this point, the stories of what happened diverge based on my family’s understanding, and my limited memory. In my memory, I collapsed at the Starbucks, while not actually passing out, leading a friend I had run into to call an ambulance given her knowledge of my medical history. My family’s interpretation was that I fell, unrelated to the overdose. Either way, an ambulance was called, and I was brought to the hospital – although, I have no memory of the ride there, or my apparent three-hour wait in the hallway of the emergency room – where my father had arrived to meet me.
At this point, whether it be from a moment of fear or a sudden wave of regret, I blurted out “I took an overdose” to my father and a nurse in the ER, followed by almost instant tears from both Dad and myself. Just how long I was waiting in the emergency room, conscious, I’m not sure of. Soon after, though, that my health would take a turn for the worst.
The exact goings-on of my body medically have been talked about in a previous piece of mine. To summarize, I was on a breathing tube, which, when removed, caused my lungs to fill with fluid and collapse. Following that, my heart stopped four times within a 90-minute period, with doctors fortunately not wanting to give up on me. Later, I was put in an induced coma for three weeks, my only recollection of that time being the bizarre – although realistic – dreams I had, many incorporating people and conversations taking place around me.
During this time, only the grace and will of God was keeping me alive, and that same force was keeping my family as strong as they were. Living at the hospital, my parents left my side only to eat and to shower, and even reluctantly at those points. My brother and his wife spent as much time as they could at the hospital, also managing what jokingly became known as my family’s PR department. My parents were passing along the “talking points” of my condition to my brother, who passed it along to a colleague of mine, who posted it to Twitter and Facebook, leading to the overwhelming support from friends, acquaintances, and blessed strangers around the world. There was even a support group set up on Facebook where hundreds of people joined, leaving messages that still warm and comfort me to this day.
I don’t expect everyone to share my religious beliefs, but after what my family and I endured, I can think of no other entity to thank but God, working through the wonderful doctors and nurses caring for me. It was the relentless prayer I was receiving the carried me. I was lucky enough to get a second chance.
The physical healing was gradual, and is still going on today. The emotional healing is inevitably a long road, but I can happily say that healing was very much kick started by the love I witnessed upon awakening. To the hundreds of people who wrote cards, called, sent emails, and prayed, I’m deeply sorry. I didn’t deserve the love and compassion you showed, because I was quite literally the author of my own misfortune. To those close to me to whom I never revealed the truth, I’m also sorry.
I may not have deserved your prayers, but rest assured I needed them, and they worked. I may not have deserved your sympathy, but it resonated, and changed me. I may not have deserved the ongoing displays of support that you all showed me (and continue to show me,) but they gave me hope, and they reminded me of how valuable my life is, and gave me strength for making the most of it in my many years to come
With my sharing this, the inevitable question arises of “Why?” I recognize that while going through the emotions leading up to my suicide attempt, had I known or been aware of someone similar to me who had been through a similar event, I want to believe that I would have been motivated to reach out. If my story can touch even one person somehow, I consider any negative fallback from sharing this to be well worth it. By deciding to reveal this in the way that I have, I encourage anyone and everyone who has a question or statement to leave it either in the comments below, or to email me. I want people to learn from my experience.
Life can be a struggle, but it’s a battle that I fight knowing that I have God carrying me through, and you guys cheering me on from the sidelines. Thank you everyone for all that you’ve done; it has, truly, made a difference.
Thank you. All of you.