For more than a third of her life, Laura Wilson has tried to end it.
Her story starts when she was 6 years old, when the sexual abuse started.
When her family found out, but no one wanted to believe it was true. No one swooped in to rescue her.
“It trickled down and everything blew up and that’s when I felt like I had ruined everyone’s life and everyone would be better off without me,” Laura remembered. “I feel like I was a forgotten child, not really important to many people.”
With both parents dealing with their own issues, Laura started running away.
When that didn’t solve her problems, at the age of 10, she found a piece of electrical wire.
“I was desperate. I wanted to be dead. I wanted to not exist anymore,” she said. “I remember wrapping it around…feeling my pulse…my face getting hot…and that was it and I thought ‘Yay! I did it!’”
She passed out from loss of oxygen and woke up hours later. Instead of relief, she felt the heavy weight of her hopelessness.
She was still alive.
“I think over the years I just really conditioned my brain to really want to be dead,” Laura said. “That I would think of all the different ways to do it and sometimes you made do with whatever was in front of you.”
Laura spent many of her waking hours looking for ways to get out of her body. She considered how successful a jump in front of an 18-wheeler would be. She tried overdoses, cutting her wrists and different ways to choke herself to death.
Sometimes they were passing thoughts and sometimes they involved a bit of planning. She knew she could hang herself but what kind of rope would she need? Then she’d look for a tree, deliberating whether or not that set-up would work.
Yet all of her attempts seemed to stop just short of what would be a 0 percent chance of survival.
Which begged the question: Did Laura really want to die? Or was it all to get attention?
“Maybe a little part of you does, whether it be negative or positive, attention is something kids need,” she explained with tears in her eyes. “A lot of times the attempts are a cry for help. They don’t know how to let anyone know how bad they are feeling.”
As a teenager, Laura felt like a failure at life and now, unable to kill herself, even a failure at ending it.
At 14, she ate hundreds of Tylenol pills.
Each attempt was emotionally draining and physically painful, but Laura says there’s no amount of physical pain that compares to the mental pain of extreme depression. She points out that “cutting” is often seen as suicidal, but for her, it was a distraction from the anguish going on in her head.
One day, she decided to stare down a train on the tracks. As she waited for its arrival, she was spotted by police.
She’s lost count of the number of times she’s gone to the hospital when medication to address her mental health issues is either increased, decreased or changed. Her doctors searched for the magic pill that would make Laura want to live.
Laura says the magic pill for her suicidal thoughts never existed in a prescription bottle. It was something she had to find herself.
“Finally, I decided I was going to do something for me,” she said. “That’s when I picked up and left my area where my demons had been and I decided I could be selfish and focus on me. I wasted a lot of time trying to die as opposed to living life.”
She was able to access behavioral therapy as an alternative to the constant yo-yo of medication adjustments. When asked about the availability of mental health care in our area, Laura provides an answer that is almost universal among those looking for help.
“The South is definitely lacking…forget about finding anyone to help you, especially monetarily if you need that kind of help," she said. "It's not going to happen."
She points out that people who have mental health issues typically don’t have their financial matters in order, let alone current insurance.
“Demand it,” she advises to anyone looking for care. “You gotta demand help. Kids, they gotta have somebody they can say anything to and not be judged.”
Laura has now found balance and it’s been years since her last suicide attempt. From this place, she’d like to dispel some of the myths surrounding suicide.
First, stigmatizing suicide as a sin doesn’t bring people back and only shames a grieving family. She hopes communities will start being vocal about suicide, not judgmental.
Second, suicide isn’t solved in a blame game. It’s no one’s fault, she says. Rather those who take their lives have truly lost all hope and genuinely believe that those around them will be better off if they are not around to be a burden.
Third, whether someone completes an attempt or not, they are sorry. They are sorry for any pain their loved ones feel and sorry they were not able to live the life they wanted to.
“One of the reasons I didn’t get help for so long is because I didn’t want to be classified as selfish," she said. “Taking care of yourself ain’t selfish. It’s not. It’s necessary.”
She agrees that taking your life is a self-centered act, but it’s also the result of having not been "selfish” enough to take care of yourself leading up to that moment.
“If there is an unsuccessful suicide attempt it is a call for help,” Laura said. “The ultimate cry for help.”
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