When spring came, my deep depression lifted, and I no longer needed medication. We moved to a sunny city. I thought all was well and that I would leave my mental illness behind. But I was not completely healed. Feelings of guilt arose for my previous thoughts, feelings, and urges. I disliked that my teenagers had figured out that I had been suicidal. I felt like I had wasted more than a year of my life.
Also, I was scared—especially when the shorter days in September arrived again. I experienced intense daily flashbacks and feared I would suffer acute depression again. But I could see the Lord’s hand in my life as I was led to a wonderful doctor and started therapy. I learned that I also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With my doctor’s guidance, I dealt with PTSD.
And then I experienced a miracle. After mighty prayer and seeking to apply the Savior’s Atonement in my life, the Lord removed my feelings of guilt rapidly, distinctly, and tangibly. His voice explained that I didn’t have to carry guilt because my depression wasn’t my fault. Jesus Christ carries that burden for me through the power of His Atonement. I was filled with light and felt hopeful again.
I don’t know all the reasons why I had to face the challenges of life-threatening illness. Although I still carry all the memories, the mental and physical pains are gone. Every day I am grateful for my family, my doctor, and my time here on earth. Because of my illness, I gained empathy and love for others. I grew emotionally and spiritually and gained knowledge that I would not have learned otherwise. I experienced precious spiritual moments with my Heavenly Father and my Savior. My experiences have encouraged me to embrace life.
How to Create a Suicide-Prevention Safety Plan
You can create a safety plan so that if you have thoughts of hurting yourself, you can start at step 1 and continue through the steps until you feel safe. The best time to create your plan is before you find yourself in a crisis. Keep your plan where you can easily access it, such as in your cell phone. There are websites and apps that have helpful templates to fill out, or you can create a plan with the help of an expert (see step 6 below) or on your own using these suggestions:
1. Recognize the warning signs.
What sorts of thoughts, moods, and behaviors tell you a crisis might be developing? Write them in your own words. For example: “When I cancel all my activities and only want to sleep.” “When I keep having thoughts of being a burden.” “When I feel agitated, like I need to do something immediately to get out of pain.” Noticing these warning signs will help you know you need to activate your plan.
2. Try to calm and comfort yourself.
Create a list of soothing and relaxing activities that you can do when you have thoughts or urges to harm yourself. Examples may include going for walk, taking a warm bath, exercising, praying, or writing in a journal.
3. Think about your reasons for living.
At times, the pain may swallow up positive feelings. Create a list to remind yourself of the people you love, things you like to do, and blessings you have felt grateful for.
4. Reach out to others and ask for help.
List several people (with phone numbers) you can talk to and who would be willing and available to help you through the rest of your safety plan during a crisis. These people could include friends, ward members, and family members.
5. Make sure you are in a safe environment.
This may involve asking someone to help remove items that you are likely to use to hurt yourself, or going somewhere else until your feelings shift. Make a list of social settings—such as parks, gyms, movie theaters, and so on—that are safe and distracting.
6. If you still feel like harming yourself, contact a professional.
List names, numbers, and locations of clinicians, emergency rooms, and crisis hotlines. Suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html lists hotlines for dozens of countries. For example, the United States number is 1-800-273-TALK.
7. After doing all of this, if you still don’t feel safe, call emergency services or go to your nearest hospital and ask for help.
Editors’ note: An article in next month’s magazine will have additional helps for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. The “Suicide” entry at topics.lds.org also has helpful links, talks, and information.
He Can Heal Us
“There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. … He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power.”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Liahona, May 2014, 90.