Break the silence: A life saving prayer

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - You've seen Jacqueline McWhirt on WECT before for prescription pill fraud, but her mugshot told but a tiny fraction of the back story or why the crime was committed in the first place.

Jacqueline's parents were separated. Since her father was in the Navy, she spent a lot of time bouncing from one front door to another.

Her earliest memories are classified by numerous incidents of both physical and sexual abuse.

While living on base, she and her brother enrolled in an after school care program and that's where she met "Mr. Baby" – a nickname he had endeared to himself and in retrospect, an obvious red flag.

"Something I fight with my entire life is just that craving of feeling loved and cared about," Jacqueline confessed. "I must have stood out in the crowd because this man that worked there would always give me attention."

What started as preferential treatment quickly became outright molestation and it went on throughout the time she was there. Yet after having experienced sexual abuse before, this was not new for Jacqueline.

"I was so afraid to say anything and by that point in my life I just remember thinking, like this is just what happens, this is just the way things are," she explained. "I didn't understand why God hated me so much."

She prayed for God to kill her and when that didn't work she took matters into her own hands.

At 15 years old she tried to commit suicide by consuming a bottle of Motrin. It left her with an awful headache, stomachache and still alive.

"I got the bright idea that what I needed was a baby," she said. "Because a baby could show me love and I could love a baby. That would fill this hole that I so desperately wanted filled. So I got pregnant."

Without a stable home of her own she became dependent on the child's father who started becoming physically abusive. Things didn't improve after her child was born.

Still a teenager she was now trying to hold down a job while raising her tiny child. The perfect storm arrived when, after taking time off for a surgery, she got into a car accident and the additional missed days cost her employment.

"Having no way to financially support my children is one of the biggest triggers for me," she said. "All I can worry about is they are not going to be able to eat. So I made the decision, I became resolved that I was going to end my life."

Jacqueline sat on her bed along with all the photo albums documenting her child's first two years of life. She felt she had tried so hard but had failed even harder. She reasoned that her son would have a better life with her father and that taking herself out of the equation was the best thing for him.

With a glass of milk she starting taking a collection of pills and started to fall asleep.

That's when the phone started to ring.

The sound was amplified in her daze. Out of frustration she picked up the phone and her friend quickly realized something was terribly wrong.

She was taken to the hospital and did not attempt suicide again until 2016.

Financial stress hit again but this time there was more than one child and a career she had invested herself in. She felt the walls were closing in as money problems mounted and feared she would again have no way to feed her family.

As an ER nurse, she had now spent years seeing attempted suicides come into her care.

"I remember thinking, it would be my luck if I tried to crash my car or hang myself or shoot myself that I would not die and God would get the last laugh and I would be a vegetable or a triple amputee," Jacqueline worried.

She went so far as combing YouTube for carbon monoxide poisoning how-to videos.

At the time she was living with a close friend whose career gave him access to a prescription pad. Since Jacqueline was responsible for keeping the place clean and organized, she knew exactly where to find it.

She spent days Googling prescriptions and how they were written. Since she was a nurse, she knew the pharmacy would be suspicious if she came in to collect several but she had never written one before.

The first trip netted her a stash of medication. She took 40 pills, mostly narcotics, but made one miscalculation.

Nausea.

The overdose side effect caused her to vomit the pills back up.

"I talk to people now about things and they're like 'Oh it wasn't your time! That was your sign you were meant to live!' and I'm like no it was my (expletive), you're not the boss, you haven't been there my whole life you can't just decide I'm going to life," she said, referring to God. "Challenge accepted, this is going to happen."

This time she planned things in a way that there was no coming back from. She intended to drive to the pier in the middle of the night and take even more pills including Ambien (for sleep) and anti-nausea medications. When she could feel things kicking in she would jump off the pier and inevitably drown.

"I remember asking God, 'What are you going to do? Levitate me up? Float me to the sand?" she asked sarcastically.

Jacqueline wrote all of her good bye letters and left them up on her computer screen.

"I wanted them to know that it wasn't about them," she said. "When you are in this darkness it is the most isolating feeling and you feel so alone. So many people think it's an act of cowardice. If they only knew. In your mind, in your logic, you're not being selfish you are being self-less because you feel that your death will benefit everybody else."

She drove again to the pharmacy but had made a mistake in her writing that alerted the pharmacist. When they called to verify, the game was up and she ended up in handcuffs.

Her mug shot aired on several news outlets around the state.

Upon her release, she was out of ideas to end her life and out of ideas to continue it.

A therapist suggested church, and she went just so she could say she tried.

"When I was sitting there something just hit me and tears came flowing down my eyes," she recalled. "That night I prayed, I yelled. I had a conversation with God and I just laid it out and asked 'What do you want from me? I have lived this traumatic life and this darkness and I don't want to live and you won't let me die! What do you want from me?!'"

She offered a negotiation. She would be willing to trust in God and in living if God would step in and offer some clue that there could be light in her life. If not, after a few weeks, she asked God not intervene in her next attempt to die.

"It's going to sound crazy but I woke up the next day and my life has never been the same," she said. "I just felt at peace and I felt calm. I wasn't anxious. There was no darkness. There was just light and I felt in my core that everything was going to be ok."

To be sure, in the time since it hasn't been all roses and rainbows. Stressful events have popped up but instead of turning to despair she leans on her new relationship with her church and with God to get through.

"Our mental healthcare is so beyond ridiculous," she scolded. 'We put people in the ER for days and days and that's not where they need to be."

Today she is trying to reclaim her nursing certificate and work off the damage that was done. Her advice to those who can't get medical care (or don't want it) is to try the route that saved her life. After all, praying, is free.

"In that moment, right before you make that step I would implore you to talk to God," she recommends. " I know a lot of people are not believers but you have nothing to lose. You've already made up your mind that you are going to die. So you have nothing to lose.  You have everything to gain."

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