by Jeff Watts
My name is Jeff Watts. I am a husband, dad, teacher, co-founder of an orphan ministry, diagnosed with a mental illness, a four-time psych hospital patient, and a suicide attempt survivor.
I’ll start the part of my story having left home with an associate of arts degree in psychology from a community college. I wanted to be a counselor. I went to an out of state university and lived in an apartment on my own away from the support of my parents for the first time.
I also left the support I had recently found in church after accepting Jesus personally. This newfound relationship with HIM had changed me in a dramatic and positive way. I felt true freedom inside for the first time. I had dealt with depression in varying degrees between the ages of 10-21 previously. This inner
peace and experience of freedom would gradually dissipate during the next three years.
I had a full class load, attended them faithfully, studied, completed homework, and got good grades. When I wasn’t focused on school, I watched movies isolated myself from others and went to dance clubs on the weekends. I didn’t dance. My motivation in going out was to overcome my introverted self. Although I was around so many people, I did not fit in and felt even more separate and alone.
My self-esteem plummeted
I struggled with who I was personally and started to feel a looming sense that I needed more discipline in my life. The thoughts pervading me were to join the army or head off to Alaska to work on a fishing boat. Reality set in that the army wasn’t for me. I read about the dangers of fishing in Alaska, let it go, and was able to transition to concentrate on my studies. I struggled with direction about my future.
Another wave of a looming sense of the need to grow up and be a responsible hit. I got a job at a sub sandwich shop. Then I got another job working as a busser at the university food court. I also helped with special events with bussing and washing dishes. With this added stress, managing it all became mentally and emotionally draining. The all too familiar depression returned.
The darkness returned
My thoughts would turn negative and my outlook on life foreboding. At my worst, I struggled spiritually questioning if I was saved and sensed the reality of hell. Though I cried out to GOD often, I was moving away from HIM and not toward HIM.
I remember the urgency to go to a special needs student who I was the day camp counselor for just to see him and be able to say goodbye. I wandered aimlessly in a nearby city and felt my faith in GOD fading away like I couldn’t hold on to HIM anymore. I was saying goodbye to JESUS.
Yet, I was determined and disciplined to keep going to my classes and go to work my last year. My goal was to get my bachelor’s degree and I couldn’t see beyond that. At this point, I should have reached out for help, but it never crossed my mind to do so. I often did not sleep in the night nor eat for long periods of time.
I stopped eating
As a busser at the university, I would stare at all the food leftovers on plates and desire to eat it, but wouldn’t. I believe now I was experiencing the onset of my mental illness that I may have been prone to with my depression, genetics, and deficient brain chemistry. I do know that not eating was compounding my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being now adding to extreme weakness physically. My mind was beginning to turn against itself affecting every part of who I was.
At this time, I was self-aware about my ragged, weary, and dreadful appearance. I felt so vulnerable and ashamed. However, I went through the motions of continuing to go to classes, study, do my homework, and work. I don’t know the time frame, but there were two people that reached out to me who seemed well aware that something wasn’t right with me. The first was another student in my health and wellness class who invited me to a church fellowship. I declined and turned away. The other was one of my favorite psychology professors who wanted me to join his consulting business. I still remember his overtly concerned yet compassionate face looking me in the eyes. I felt he wanted to help me, but for some reason, I declined and turned away again.
I had clearly fallen into the most fearful, lonely, and dark state of mind and my entire state of being was caving in within me. I did end up getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in special education. The next thing I remember is being on the phone with my mom and all I could say to her was “I’m not doing good”. She asked me questions and tried to get me to talk and I couldn’t. She told me before hanging up that dad would come to get me.
He drove over 800 miles arriving late at night and slept on my couch in the apartment. I couldn’t sleep and my thoughts turned from worse to ominous. I felt like I was losing my mind. As a few hours, minutes, seconds passed I was completely taken over by despair and suicidal thoughts. They became so intense that I succumbed to them in desperation.
My ill brain said I should end my life
I thought of doing so in the bathroom but didn’t think it would work. I walked past my dad looking over at him and quietly left the apartment with the intention of never returning. I ended up in an open field where a swarm of mosquitos began attacking me. A rational thought came to me that God did not want me to proceed further. I thought of turning back. I wrestled with it but continued to walk faster. I reached a junkyard of abandoned cars. I sat in one of them and wrestled all night about the decision of ending my life. I would attempt, giving in to the temptation, as dawn approached.
I remember being in shock when it didn’t work and I “came to reality” and started walking back to the highway. A man pulled over and told me to get in. He took me back to the apartment. My dad would drive that day over 800 miles again where I would be admitted into a psych hospital.
GOD would prove faithful to help me fight and overcome along my healing journey by HIS mercy, compassion, and grace… I returned to JESUS who would renew my mind, restore my soul, and redeem my life again…
You are not alone
I am here for you if ever need or want to reach out to me. I use my creative writing to encourage those who are suicidal and/or have a mental illness.
You may read about me further at www.suicidenotmyheart.wordpress.com.