by Heather Osbourne
In our adolescent years, many are told their futures will be full of adventure and promise, every twist and turn offering new opportunities for greatness. As numbers start adding to our years and bad experiences come our way, we quickly learn life isn’t some utopian experience, but instead it includes days filled with pain, loss and loneliness. When the dark days of life come, it often leaves people feeling alone, helpless and questioning life itself — some even taking desperate strides to end their painful reality through suicide. However, there are some who survive. Some who become advocates for life itself. Some who fight. Some who live. Here are their stories.
A Deadly Attempt
“I went to the kitchen and looked through our medicine cabinet. My mother’s family has a history of addiction, so we didn’t keep pills in the house. There was a bottle of 200 mg Advil, though. I opened the bottle and started taking them. I remember just lining them up and swallowing them. I know now that you can’t really overdose on Advil. You can mess up your liver. I can laugh about it now. It’s strange how eventually you can look at these memories in a different perspective. I think part of me understood that I wasn’t going to be able to kill myself with Advil, so I grabbed a knife out of the counter and pushed into my wrist hoping to break the skin. That kind of pain — it hurts. I sat there in this manic state, etching away at my wrist and watching as the blood would attempt to clot. I knew that if I wanted to make serious damage, I would have to push further, and I tried convincing myself to do that. Over and over again, I told myself to stop being a baby and push down harder. And then, I don’t know what happened. I had a moment of watching myself in the kitchen trying to convince myself to end my own life and realized that I needed help. Just like my skin that was trying to clot, just like that part of me that couldn’t actually do it, there was something inside of me that really wanted to live.”
A Call to Live
Six years later, 25-year-old Devin Ladner’s life looks much differently than it did the day of her first suicide attempt. Back then she was a rape victim. Today she is the author of “ANAYA,” a book telling the story of her survival. Then she was a drug addict and an alcoholic. Today she is an artist and filmmaker. Then she was a suicide attempt statistic. Today she is a loving partner and mama to her two kittens. Today, she is not only alive. She is not only existing. She is not only surviving. Today, Ladner is living.
“I used to be a person who would wake up in the morning wanting to die,” Ladner said. “That’s not my story today. Where there was once too much time in the world, now there is not enough. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it isn’t about me anymore. We get better so that other people can get better.
“The only way to help someone else is to show them how you found the way out,” she continued. “I have an opportunity to help someone else that might be going through the same thing. I don’t want anyone else in the world to feel as lonely as I do, so I have to heal my own loneliness to show them how. I work through dark times now in hopes that I make a path for those that will come after me.”
For Ladner, she said there was no one incident that led to her first suicide attempt. However, a harsh breakup, getting involved with the wrong crowd, being raped in college and her growing substance abuse problems were all factors.
“I was completely consumed with sadness,” Ladner confided. “I started hanging out with troubled people. People that stole from me. People that lied to me. People that didn’t care about anyone other than themselves. Hurt people seek other hurt people. It was a dark time in my life. During that time, I was raped. That incident made my drug use reach an all time high and it became difficult for me to leave the house.”
After calling a suicide hotline and being referred to a mental health specialist, Ladner began receiving treatment for her suicidal thoughts. However, Ladner said by not discussing her substance abuse problems with the specialist, the suicidal thoughts returned and, three years later, she found herself walking off of a raised car lot trying to end her life once more.
“The next day when I sobered up, I sought serious help,” Ladner said. “I checked myself into a psychiatric unit and from there went through detox. Those people taught me about substance abuse. I thought I was insane. I thought that I would be an anxious and depressed person for my entire life. Their understanding and guidance about substance abuse literally changed my life. I’ve been sober for almost three years now and suicidal thoughts are not present.
“Some days I still get overwhelmingly sad and sometimes my social anxiety can be there,” she continued. “But, I have been taught ways to handle it. I finally saw a professional about the rape and now publicly discuss it with other women who have gone through the same as I have. Together, we help each other. I’ve learned an abundance of things about acceptance and strength. I’ve learned to seek the beauty in things especially when it doesn’t seem to be there.”
For Ladner, all she wants people to know is that it gets better. During her three years of recovery, in addition to writing “ANAYA,” she has made a science fiction short film centering around sexual abuse. She also uses her story to encourage those also struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“On my wrist, I have ‘Bring Light’ tattooed,” Ladner said. “It’s what I breathe in each day. It’s my reminder that I have to bring the light. The light is within me, and it has always been there. The light is within you. You are the flame. Take it a day at a time. Seek help. Love yourself. Those with the darkest past have the brightest futures. Never forget that.”
Brennan League, 23.
“No one had any idea what I had taken, or what had happened. I had severe compartment syndrome in my left arm. Severe to the point they could not find a pulse in that arm at all. They went in to release the pressure, and found necrotic tissue, which they then had to remove. There was such a large chunk of tissue in my forearm that they had to take skin grafts off of my thigh. After a couple months in the hospital, I came to know Christ. I went through months of rigorous rehabilitation before I was finally able to go home. I could hardly use my left hand, and had to walk with an assistive brace on my leg and a walker. Today, (almost 9 months later) my left hand is still in need of work, but I can use it well enough to type on my computer, and I can walk with just the brace and a cane. Nothing anyone can say can change someone who is as determined to die, as I was from stopping. But, I will say to please consider the outcome that you may survive your attempt. The consequences can be worse than you might imagine.”
Carlos Martinez, 18.
“Throughout high school, I always had a mask on. I was never truly myself. When I began getting involved in my church, I did the same thing and I tried to be that perfect Christian. Five years of having a mask on and hiding so much builds up over the years. March of this year, I found myself wanting to commit suicide by taking some pills. If it wasn’t for the grace of God that sent friends of mine to my house and told my parents that came to help me, I wouldn’t be here now. If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, seek help and don’t be afraid to open up because you will only put yourself in a deeper hole.”
An anonymous Sailor, 31.
“Under the skin, I had large open wounds, wounds that had happened throughout my life stemming all the way back to my early childhood. I didn’t know how to love myself. I knew only how to survive. I can vividly remember the numerous attempts I made to cut deep enough into my wrists to cause the bleed out. I woke up to my friend and my uncle standing over me desperately trying to help me regain consciousness. I was lying in my bed covered in blood. I had made over 15 lacerations to my stomach and nine lacerations between my two wrists, but not a single one had made it down to an artery. I had wanted to end my life. I felt alone. I didn’t feel like I had anyone I could place trust and faith in. I wanted more than anything to have and be a part of a close and loving family, something that seemed would never happen. Now, I hold a collateral duty as a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Survivor Advocate. We are trained in both sexual assault response and suicide awareness and response to be advocates for survivors of sexual assault.”