As its suicide prevention week I want to share a little story I don’t tell very often (though I’ve spoken about it on this blog before).
A decade ago I was working multiple jobs, going to school fulltime for journalism, which was a heavy course load. I was working in retail, and staying up late at night to write as a freelance journalist for a magazine in the states, a blog that barely paid and a few magazines in Canada. I was miserable. Deeply miserable.
I was flunking through economics thanks to a teacher who lacked English skills and despite fights with the department the college wouldn’t help so I was also paying out of pocket for a tutor. Everything began falling apart under the pressure, my relationships, and every aspect of me. I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating shitty foods, and having health problems. I stopped brushing my hair, getting out of bed was hard.
I had a deep yearning for something more, something different, but I had just invested so much money in tuition, and I felt trapped.
I didn’t have many friends/supports at this point, I was very lonely.
I was dealing with a violent sexual assault I hadn’t yet spoken out about, and it has haunted me into a weak, and desperate woman.
I wanted to be an artist, a writer. I wanted to tell stories but i felt hopeless, I didn’t know how to do that and afford to eat. I felt like a weak and helpless woman who might always have to depend on a man, that thought killed me. I hated it more than anything. I wanted to follow my own dreams, I wanted to be self sufficient. It seemed like a dream behind reach.
One day I just snapped.
I walked out of economics class straight to VGH and told the staff I’m going to kill myself today. After sitting in the ER, without help for 4+ hours I got up, and walked to the Granville Street Bridge, to jump.
I climbed up on the bridge in hysterics, and a stranger walked by asking if I was okay. I didn’t respond, and I guess he called the police, in what seemed like a matter of minutes traffic was stopped. Suddenly Brad came rollerblading over the bridge (which I will still never understand to this day how he knew I was there because I never told him
And he was at work and I don’t even know why he had rollerblades on) and he talked me down off the ledge and the police arrived and took me back to the hospital where I was hospitalized for months for severe depression.
It was hard. I felt like everyone knew. When the hospital noticed I was gone they called the police too, who called not only my family, but brads family too. Within a day or two my friends, my family, my employer, my school, seemly everyone, knew I had lost it. I was ashamed and embarrassed, I thought about hanging myself with bedsheets. I fought a psychiatric nurse to get out of there and got a needle in the ass and a week in solitary confinement. It was the darkest period of my life.
But the thing about the dark is that it is always darkest right before dawn.
In the hospital I met an art therapist who encouraged me to persue a dream of art. She would force me to play piano, to read, to bead necklaces and to paint pottery, to just wake up and create every day. I hated her at first. I’d imagine her going home to her perfect life with her perfect husband not giving an actual shit about anyone. Day in and day out that woman dragged me out of bed to create, and I came to trust and like her. I began to look forward to beading crappy necklaces and painting terrible pictures. And combined with a doctor who made sure I ate, didn’t sleep too much, got exercise every day, and a dose of anti depressants, over time, I got better.
Looking back I know in that moment of desperation on the railing of the bridge I uttered a prayer into the universe. I remember saying if there is a god listening, any God, help me, please. In my heart what I was asking for was peace, a clear path, love, radical self acceptance – to see my own value and worth, to feel I had a purpose and a place.
I was brushing my hair a few months ago, right before I went to the ashram in Indonesia, and looking at myself in the mirror when I burst into tears, realizing that every prayer I had uttered on that bridge had been answered.
Not just on the bridge, but every prayer I’ve ever uttered, in my whole life.
I never considered myself a woman of faith, even in my moments of desperation I was a devout atheist who rolled my eyes at religious fanatics, and yet some unknown, unseen force in the universe had conspired to answer every prayer.
I’m not saying I went to jump off the bridge and God dropped a camera in my hand and said try telling stories through this. I’m saying I identified a truth in my soul (which was to create) and I begged the universe in a moment of desperation to help me, and an answer came to me in a most unexpected way. (And in ways I could never dream up) I never knew I was going to be a photographer, a series of events lead up to it, starting with being hospitalized long term in a hospital with an occupational art therapist. Any other hospital and I wouldn’t be where I am.
When prayers are answered it’s rarely the way we expect, sometimes it’s so far from what we expect we miss it entirely. Or we forget we even asked.
It started with a dslr gift from brad. It started with the newspaper asking me to shoot my own assignments and having to learn to use it. It started with a good Photojournalism teacher, and one couple who thought my work was good enough to shoot their wedding. None of these were things I asked for in that moment of desperation.
These days, i have less financial strain, more friends than I can count, I get to document beautiful stories about the human capacity for love, and make my own art on the side. I have a beautiful family, a loving husband who gives me the freedom to explore and express myself, a little girl who brings me deep joy. I have been able to travel the world, and I have come to know this mysterious force in the universe that came to rescue me from myself on the Granville street bridge, over 9 years ago. All glittering pebbles in the path I have come to walk.
That mysterious force brought all the right people into my life at all the right times. Each of them nudging me along my path, and keep me on course. Synchronicity? Maybe. But to me it’s far too coincidental and mysterious. The universe heard my prayers and the moment I decided to move it curved and bent and manifested a reality all around me, guiding me on the path I had set in front of myself.
So I just want to say, if you’re out there, if you’re struggling, know this: the universe IS listening. I don’t know how but it is. Maybe it’s the potential in every atom. Maybe in each breath, we exhale our prayers out into the universe and begin to move to wheels of change. Maybe the potentials in atoms begin to take direction and manifest as realities around us. I’m not sure I’ll ever know how it all works, but I do know without a doubt that hanging in there was worth it.
The moment I decided to step off the ledge back towards help, I set in motion a series of events that has lead to deeper peace and happiness than I could have ever imagined.
So hold on. Even if you can only hold on for a few more seconds. You never know where those few seconds will lead.