A hug stopped me from killing myself

by Don Shetterly

I remember those days when life was more than I could bear.  I felt trapped and exhausted.  No matter what I did, life seemed hopeless.

There was no one I could talk to because I trusted no one.  I wasn’t sure what I needed to talk about because everything was swirling in my head. 

Then there was the shame

How could I even say what I didn’t want to acknowledge?  How would others take it if they knew?  Would they notice my shame and make me believe I was nothing more than the lowly piece of garbage I saw in myself?

I kept it all inside and tried to hide it as best as I could with my smile.  My smile hid what was really going on to all those I worked with each day.  If they knew of the pain deep inside, no one let on that they did. 

I wanted to bury it, hide it, and make it disappear.

Even though I spent much time recovering from conversion disorder, I had not learned my lesson.  Yet, as much as I chastised myself to seek help, I was not about to trust anyone. I was not about to open up to anybody.  It was far too painful and frightening.  My life was about making it through from one breath to the next.  Nothing more and nothing less!

Yes, I did try to seek out help from someone, but they forgot me.  They neglected me.  It triggered me so much that I wanted nothing to do with anyone ever again.  Because of that experience, in my mind, therapy was a lost cause because this one therapist forgot that he had even talked to me.  That was – until it was time for him to send me a bill.  Of course, the follow up he promised never materialized, but he sure didn’t forget the money I owed him.

Keeping the pain buried deep inside, I began to plot a course of action where I could get it all over with and be done with it once and for all. 

The person that abused me drove a truck, and the place where I worked was right next to a road where many trucks passed.  I chuckled to myself, “This was far too convenient of a way to end my life and it would show him (the abuser).”  After all, I had already been trying to do things in my car or walking across roads to see if I could get hit and killed.  I didn’t care how it happened.  I just wanted it to be all over.  No method of doing this was ruled out if I thought there was a chance of making it happen.

This wasn’t the first time, either, that I had been at this point.  The previous experiences were far too many and no one knew of my secrets buried deep inside.  I dared not tell anyone for they would think I was crazy and weak.  I was afraid they may try to stop me.

As the days went by, I kept looking and trying to find any way to kill myself.  It seemed that whenever I attempted to walk in front of the trucks at the last moment, hoping they would run me over, something would stop them.  It didn’t make sense.  I would walk out right in front of them but there was something holding them back.  Something prevented me from being run over.  I hated the trucks for that.  I hated whomever was stopping them. 

Then the holidays came and it was stressful

I almost picked a fight with two guys twice my size in the grocery store parking lot.  Anger filled my every cell.  I wanted nothing to do with anyone.  The dreaded nightmare of the color purple came to fruition after numerous nights of little sleep and constant screaming.  I write more about this in my book, Overcoming A Mysterious Condition.

After the holidays were over, it was beginning to be too much to bear.  I was struggling to function.  I would go to work, come home, go grocery shopping, and that was it.  All my other time was spent inside the four walls of my house, never answering the door and hiding from the world.

It was then that I knew I really needed help.  It wasn’t easy to make the decision to go to someone.  Of course, the question of “how could I trust anyone?” would be front and center.

Fortunately, I got the courage up to take the step of calling a counseling center.  Even more fortunate was that the person that I spoke with was a caring and compassionate lady who was an immediate connection for me. 

I remember those early days when we began the counseling sessions

I didn’t want to say much.  It was too difficult for me to find the place to begin, let alone deal with the horrible pain that I was desperately trying to hide from myself.

My therapist was patient and she slowly guided me to a point where I could begin to confront the pain.  With the help of a medical doctor, I started on antidepressants.  We spent weekly sessions working on things little by little.  I fought hard against her, not wanting to travel into the horrors and pains that were consuming my life.

The more I began to trust her and open up, the more I started to heal. 

As I healed, I got stronger

As I got stronger, I realized that killing myself was not the answer.  I was beginning to see that I had too much to live for and giving up would rob me of these experiences.

Therapy and other experiences would help me move forward and heal in ways I never thought was possible.  It meant that I needed to go into those moments that were horrifying and throw the garbage of my life out the window.

On down the road, I would encounter other times when my default escape was the desire to end my life.  I found in those moments, I had enormous support from some trusted people.  They would listen without judgment, just holding the space for me.  It wasn’t always easy for me to accept their help.

I’ll never forget the one moment when I was so tired of the fight in life and I was ready to give up.  I was on the way out the door with plans to end my life.  My friend realized something was up and asked me, “Where are you going?”  I could not answer his question.  I could not say anything.

Instead of him pressing the issue, he came to the garage door and held me tightly.  I started to cry.  He held me for what seemed like hours and allowed me to cry.  He didn’t make me explain what was going on.  He just held me in his arms with unconditional love. 

It changed everything

I have now gotten to a place in my healing that when I recognize these feelings coming on, I am able to talk to a couple of supportive people.  I know they will meet me without judgment and just hold the space.  It helps me to quickly reverse course and start seeing life for what it is, not what my mind tries to trick me into believing. 

It has been some time though since I got to that point and I think I’m pretty much beyond it.  I know I was not taught healthy ways to deal with life and stress.  Killing myself may once have seemed to be an escape out of the pain and horror, but I know that my brain was deceiving me.

Now I focus on healing bodywork with Dr. Paul Canali, and on writing. 

I work to let go of stress before it builds up and I find healthy ways to release the triggers that show up.  I use the tools that I now have to deal with life, rather than letting it deal with me.  Some days are tougher than others, but I know I’ve come this far and it took a lot of strength, courage, and determination to do it. 

There’s no way I’m giving that up for a momentary trick of deception in my brain.

Don’s blog is MindBodyThoughts.com.

Don’s book is set to release 4/3/2019.

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7 thoughts on “A hug stopped me from killing myself”

  1. Don, your story is amazing and I thank you for sharing it with us. It encourages us to really see people and to reach out, things in our society which are often discouraged (“keep in your own lane…”). There is a balance in all things and we need to be wise and discerning. Your story encourages me to really look for ways to minister to those who are struggling. Thank you!

    1. It definitely was a special hug and was the best thing my friend could have done that day. Words sometimes fail because it never seems like there are the right words. A hug without judgement and just holding the space is some of the best medicine one can offer and receive. I’m glad you liked the blog post. Together – our voices ring loud!

  2. Thank you, Don, for sharing your story with us. What a blessing that hug was. I’m glad you found the right counselor and are now spreading the word that it is possible to heal.

    1. Healing is a continual process of moving through the horrible and going further into the deeper layers. I continue to travel the journey and I’m glad my blog post connected with you. It helps when I know that my life can help touch others just as any of us can do. When others know they travel not alone, it makes their journey a little easier. I’m very appreciative that Anne posted this and for the work she does to help others.

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