This year has been the worst year of my life, hands down. A year ago, I was engaged to the man of my dreams, great paramedic job I had been at for over ten years, beautiful house, car, nice things, two great kids. I was over the moon happy for once but still had the elephant in the room of PTSD.
B had become very in tune with my sleeping patterns and could tell when the dreams were starting to get real. He would brush my hair, kiss my cheek, and hold me tight until the dreams would go away. Dead babies, cardiac arrests, people asking me why I couldn’t save them, on top of my childhood that started my long battle with PTSD and depression.
I’ve been a huge advocate for mental health awareness for First responders. I was the go to person when bad things happened. I was the strong one with all the advice and answers, because I had a reputation for being the Angel of Death and getting the worst of the worst calls. Finally the fiance and I make the decision to cash out my retirement and move to Florida, where I was recently licensed and they have medic jobs everywhere.
With my experience, I had a job the day I got off the plane. Got offered an ER job before I even left the parking lot. Moving to paradise seemed to be coming together. I had an awesome tan, my son loved boogie boarding and we had wicked tans.
Life was good….until it all fell apart. The fiance’s mom had enough of us being there and it was wearing on B and Is relationship. I took the job in the ER in South Florida just to get started sooner, even though we knew we couldn’t afford housing there. Cheap was 1200 and officers told me that there was no way my son could walk safely down the road. No way. So we lived in hotels.
B had a promising job in Pompano and the poor sweet man would walk home from the train two miles in 100 degree heat, just to make extra money to hopefully move our family somewhere safe. Then the depression started moving in. Worse and worse every day. Feeling like a failure because I was keeping us from getting a nice place because of an eviction over five years ago, that really wasn’t an eviction.
I had to have that to get help when I needed help with rent as I finished medic school as a single mom. I’m a failure, we moved all the way here and used my life savings and it’s my fault this won’t work. The nightmares got worse. The helplessness was setting in but I still had my kids and my man who loved me. Suicidal thoughts popping in my head daily and I fought to get them out. But the depression got worse and B’s frustration with my lack of enthusiasm and the energy the girl he fell for had, was taking a toll on a once beautiful relationship. “He would be better off without me, he can have my life insurance”. The thoughts still hung in the back and it was a battle.
I was taking my meds but they didn’t seem to be working and in Florida, you couldn’t get anti depressants unless you saw a shrink and it took three months to get an appointment with one. So I stayed on my meds, and stayed suicidal, and stayed depressed. Living in the south was no longer feasible. We were drowning and working our butts off to get nowhere. B calls his mom and asks if we can come back, where it’s more affordable. She said yes, but the Sunday after we got there, an argument between B and his mom that brought out 37 years of anger he has had, ended up making us homeless.
We packed what we could and had no choice but to head back home, leaving all our belongings behind. We get back to IN on the 30th, on the 4th, my beautiful love story was over. Alcohol became more important and a very hurtful tongue of B’s said things that no man, or human being should ever say to another person. I felt like a fat, worthless, dirty, can’t keep a house clean, lazy, no job, POS. His words scarred me to the core and began a downward spiral that I wouldn’t recover from until September 29th.
I packed up and moved to my parents with my kids because I had nowhere else to go. My PTSD in high gear from living with my dad. I began running again and lost 35 lbs. But even running began to haunt me with flashbacks of dead patients of the past. I would run faster but it’s like they were chasing me , telling me I was not to forget them. I ran home and sat and tried and tried to clear my head. After two hours, it was finally clear enough to sleep.
I sucked up my pride and went to the job I worked at for over ten years and begged for my job back. This place had been my home for many years, and many of them like family, but I was told it was too soon after I quit and go start fresh somewhere else. I was crushed to the core. I was desperately trying to go back to the person I was. I needed the comfort of the chaos. Ambulance service after ambulance service weren’t hiring, dealing blow after to blow, making me sink farther and farther into the pit of depression.
B had started seeing other girls, and I was left heartbroken and without an identity anymore. I started drinking. A little bit more each day. I would go visit B and we would have a great time, but the alcohol kept getting more and more until one night at B’s, I blacked out and had what I can only call a psychotic episode.
I remember nothing of it. Not one single thing but I woke up the next morning with B in jail and me with two black eyes and a concussion. The person that B described to me was not a person I knew. I was horrified and scared to read the police report which made me look worse than B. My guilt was eating me alive, and the love he once still had in his eyes, now turned to hate.
Deeper and deeper I went into the darkness and louder and louder the thoughts of everyone being better off without me got. He was angry and he should have been. I was showed pictures of my behavior and it was not me. I hated myself. I ruined the man I loved life. He went to jail because I went crazy. I hurt everyone around me. I don’t deserve to be here. More and more I drank. Went to the doctor and she upped my xanax to 2 mg three times a day. I never used that much before but I was a mess. I was getting more and more out of control every day.
This wasn’t me, where was me, I needed that girl I used to be but she was gone. I went to B’s the next week to take him to the doctor and he continued to tell me he would never get back together with me ever. I loved this man down to my bitter soul and it hurt. No one can love me. I had PTSD from physical and sexual abuse as a child so of course, picking being a Paramedic made perfect sense for the person that only know a trauma.
I went to a therapist once before the darkness took me. She said I sounded very much affected by trauma and that I needed to see a trauma counselor and go to groups. I saw her once and was scheduled to see her again the next Friday, but instead I was fighting for my life and on a ventilator for 9 hours, unable to breathe on my own and lungs full of fluid.
The next week I went to visit B with a purpose. I had been upset because my last hope for an ambulance job told me they had no one to train me. That was it, that was the last straw. I couldn’t take anymore failure. I couldn’t take B and his hate towards me. He was being nice and trying to love me again but he was being cruel again that night when I was already in a very very volatile and delicate line between life and death. The screams in my head only made sense when I drank.
I was in IN so none of my friends in MI would pick me up. I had a bottle of xanax, and not many ambulances carry ramazicon, and if they do, they don’t like to use it. Narcan won’t fix me either. B passed out for the night and I stayed up and wrote the note on three paper plates.
I had lost everything I own, I couldn’t find a job, the love of my life hated me, I couldn’t take care of my kids, I lost everything I own….I was helpless, worthless and hopeless more than I ever had been before and no one saw it but me. I grabbed that last beer, opened it along with the half full bottle of xanax and down the hatch. I’ll go get in my car and drive down a road so B won’t be the one to find me. I fell asleep in my car before that happened. Last contact I had with anyone was at 2236 that night.
B woke up looking for me because I was supposed to be next to him. He found the front door wide open and me in my car with the door open. He was pissed off but then he saw foam coming out of my mouth and realized I was barely breathing. He put a blanket on me to keep me warm and tried to move me but I was dead weight.He went inside and found the note and the bottles of xanax and half a bottle of another med gone.
He was so nervous he called New York police on accident and told them his girlfriend was unconscious and unresponsive in her car. They told him to hang up and call 911. So that he did .The medics arrived and according to B who rode in, they didn’t quite realize the severity of my attempt. He knew that I knew exactly what I was doing. He said they were taking their time and treating me like a druggie, until he told them, look, you need to stop asking me twenty questions and get moving, she’s a paramedic, she knew what to do. He said their eyes got big and he told them to pull up my sleeve and look at my star of life tattoo. They did and it was promptly followed by an “oh shit” and they finally rolled out.
I remained barely conscious, I remember nothing. B said he went into the room and was talking to the nurse when she looked at me and said, she doesn’t look so good. He said next thing he knew, there was foam coming out of my mouth and I was gurgling aka the death rattle, and he was promptly taken out of the room. My core temp upon arrival was 94 and dropping. My only memory of the ER is a nurse asking me, “if your heart stops, do you want us to start it again?” A question I only asked people when shit just got real. I was placed on a ventilator for nine hours. I lost an entire day.
B came back in the room and saw me on the vent. He started to cry. He stayed with me as long as he could. This man that hated me, realized that I was trying very hard to leave him and my children. The most important people in my life. He realized he loved me but at the same time he was very angry at me for doing this. A very valid thing to feel. I woke up the next day, thinking it was Friday, but I had lost that day. I was still very drowsy, and slept alot.
B called frequently to check on me. He checked on me more than my family. Maybe he does still love me. The doctor told me very sternly that my heart came very close to stopping two times and I was very lucky to be alive. I was on a 72 hour hold and was asked if I would be willing to go to a psych hospital for help. I said yes, please. The severity of what I did hit me. I almost left my children motherless. How could I do that?? I traumatized B with this whole thing. How did I get so far gone? How did I get in such a bad place?
I was still groggy for a couple days. They just let the drugs run their course as long as I was stable. I was transferred to a psych hospital closer to home in MI. It was actually a very good experience. I saw a psychiatrist who put me on new meds, including meds for nightmares. She said the high dose of effexor I was on had my brain on norepinephrine overload and could have very well contributed to my behavior. I went to group and slowly I started to feel a light come back on in my heart. I knew I was only here because God had a purpose for me. There was another paramedic in there, too. We related to each other. It was nice to be around people that related to you.
My therapist there told me the same thing the other one had. You need trauma counseling and a lot of it. I was released a week later. Sent home to face the hurt that I caused. B was hesitant, at first, to have anything to do with me, especially our once a week sleepovers. I hurt him bad. I had left a path of destruction and hurt with this trip. I have not touched alcohol, and the meds seem to help better. B and I have been mending our friendship we will call it. He’s allowed me to have a sleepover or two and we have been having a good time. Almost feels like starting over.
My 13 year old daughter was the most affected of my two children by my attempt. When it hit her that I really almost died and left her, she was devastated. Her and I are in therapy, to help her understand why, even though we have had a good talk, she still has things she needs help with. I was that Paramedic who failed. “Suicide, getting it right the first time” but only because of god and good doctors (but I believe divine intervention was in on this one). They figure I was unconscious for at least six hours before they found me. I was pissed they had IVs in my thumb, but I’m sure my cold, vasoconstricted veins probably didn’t help. At least I didn’t wake up with an IO in me.
As blessed as I am, I still struggle, but I’m ok. I still feel awful for what I did, but I am so thankful that I am still here to tell me story and to tell people to ask for help. Know the signs that you aren’t ok and need to talk to someone. Have a safe friend that you can count on to talk to before you get that deep in the hole that there’s no way out. Don’t think that every suicide attempt will end like mine. I was lucky. Very lucky. I knew what I was doing. I didn’t want anyone to fix me, but God had other plans for me. Just like he has plans for all of us.
– Story written by Jen, 43 year old paramedic. 11 years in EMS.