By Jennifer Tracy
As I sit at my computer, my heart races and I am overcome with gratitude…
thankful to be alive and share my story about life on the other side of suicide.
Suicide is a difficult subject to discuss. Yet through talking about it,
my hope is that with each passing day, together, we can bring light
to such a complex issue.
It still affects me deeply when I think about all I could have missed if I had lost the fight and taken my life. It’s hard to believe my two-year battle with suicide was 18 years ago. It’s even harder to believe that since then I buried my husband and daughter in August 2004, buried my mother in 2007 and survived traumatic brain surgery in 2012. Yet I know darkness can’t exist without the light. Some of the beautiful moments I have been alive to experience have been watching my oldest daughter graduate college and my youngest daughter graduate high school.
Despite the pain, I have forged on, shared the stage, speaking with others. Hoping that our story would continue to bring light where darkness tends to prevail. We have laughed, cried and traveled the states together. We talk openly about suicide, depression, anxiety and those we miss.
My battle with suicide started five years before the death of my husband and daughter. Most people assume when I say I fought through suicide that it was after their deaths. I can understand how people justify in their minds that I could have lost my mind after their deaths. Yet, my struggles with suicide were minor in comparison to that dark two-year time where I almost took my life. I had no way of knowing then, that everything that happened to me during my battle with suicide prepared me for surviving the most horrific day of my life, the day where not only my husband and one of my twin daughters died, but my other two daughters who were in the car as well, would survive. It can be hard to find joy and gratitude during our own personal struggles.
This was true for me then and has been many other times, but I am thankful now that those times challenged my core beliefs and ultimately led me to great self-discovery. So how in the world did a two-year battle with suicide prepare and equip me to fight through grief, social stigma, pain, regret and muster the courage to not only save myself, but also to do my best to save my two surviving daughters? I found the courage to admit that I was no longer able to fight this battle alone. It took all the strength I had to fight or me in a way I had never done before and surrender.
The choice to admit myself into the psychiatric unit shattered my walls, kept me alive and I believe, prepared me to know how to save myself after my husband and daughter were killed. Rebuilding my life happened by finding the courage to do whatever it took to see this happen. Through prayer, meditation, the help of my therapist, primary care physician, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing,) building a support system of friends and family and changing the way I ate, I have seen what was a shattered life be rebuilt. Nothing though has changed me or been as powerful. as learning the true understanding of forgiveness and applying its power to myself.
Those questions and subsequent answers became the foundation for every speech and program I would develop and run. How can we expect others to know how to love or help us, when we don’t know how to? When it comes to solving issues with mental health, suicide, addiction, grief and crime, we must evaluate the role of these four things. We must ask ourselves, what role does science and our DNA play in the equation? Second, we must look back and be open about how each of our unique upbringings plays a part in who we are today. Third, we must evaluate the current environment that we are in and determine if it is healthy. Last, we must battle within ourselves the mystery that spirituality plays. Personally, I felt abandoned by a God I once felt close to. Knowing the answers to these questions, saved my life. Helping others find their answers is what fuels my mission to save lives with my story.