Jan's Story

The first time I was hospitalized was after my divorce. I felt horrible about myself. I was hospitalized because I tried to commit suicide. I went to the ocean and my plan was to take a combo of drugs and alcohol that I knew should cause a heart attack and kill me. I woke up 24 hours later. I lived through it. I must have thrown-up. I was so tired and exhausted. I felt that everyone would be better off without me.
I was a serious person, and thought it was just too much.

After that, I had to travel over HWY 92, which is a very curvy mountain highway. I took out a fence along the way. The police came and asked if I had any weapons and found my razor blades. They locked me up in a county facility for a few days. When I got out of the hospital, I didn’t want to live, but, I was aware of a teeny-tiny little spark of light. I made a contract with my psychiatrist that I wouldn’t kill myself that week, and then it went week to week for awhile. The scary agreement. Then went to two weeks and so on. Then I made a contract that I would try and live for a year. At the end of the year, that little spark of light became an ember.

I managed for 30 years after that, but then I was hospitalized due to a head injury. It was really hard. Eight months on my back and then I had to re-learn how to walk and even how to turn my head. I had to give up my profession as a CPA and as an attorney. It was so hard to lose all that.

All the people in my family were mad at me – intolerant of my vulnerability. My oldest son disowned me because of my inabilities at the time, but I still had my youngest son at home. It was very difficult, but I was getting my head above water.

Then we had a home invasion. I asked the guy to not hurt my head, but he purposely dragged me up the stairs in a manner that banged my head around and broke my teeth. I thought he was going to kill me. He started to cut me. I was trying to fight back; I didn’t want them to get to my son, but one of them was already to my son.

I went to my room to get him cash, but he pushed me into the room where my son was. So now they were both in there with us and they both had knives and baseball bats. When they put us in the room together, they got the duct tape out. My son said, “They’re going to kill us, Mom, they’re going to kill us.” I said, “I love you,” and threw my body over his body. I remember thinking, “He’s not going to hit me because I am crippled.” Then I felt the baseball bat go “thud” across my back.

Something was said about a safe and they wanted to go to the safe. My son saved our lives. He got up and took them down the split level stair case. There was a portable phone on the landing and he grabbed that and dialed 911. He got to the basement, threw the phone on the floor, and pointed to the safe. The guy saw the phone, smashed it with a baseball bat, and then they both ran out. They knew he had dialed.

I hid in my house for 5 or 6 weeks. I was afraid to go out. I snuck around in the dark. I was afraid to go to the bathroom and couldn’t take a shower. I would try and figure out what closet I could hide in where they wouldn’t find me if they came back. I went to a doctor’s appointment and she asked if I was considering harming myself. I said, “Well, yeah.” I couldn’t drive anymore, I couldn’t work anymore, I couldn’t do anything. The saddest part was that I had become a trigger for my youngest son. He couldn’t be around me because every time he saw me, it brought it all back for him.

She had two security guys take me to the ER room and I spent a month at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

I got excellent care there. I wasn’t able to go anywhere by myself because I didn’t think I could trust myself. They gave me medication for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the flashbacks stopped right away.

I had always believed my thoughts, but logic doesn’t always bring you to the truth. What I didn’t understand before is that when we get depressed, we twist our thoughts around. I’ve learned that when I start to say negative things about myself, I have to catch myself. I have learned a lot of different tools. One of the greatest tools I gained is to look at things as to what I have control over and what is actually important.

If you have a mental health problem, I think one of the most important things to remember is that you’re not that different than anyone else. It’s just more extreme or more often. You are not an aberrant person. I think there are a lot of people who aren’t tolerant of people with mental health issues.

People are afraid of people with depression

As for my depression, I learned early on how to manage it and what my risks are. For instance, if I start to isolate myself, that’s a tip-off.

I am glad I’m alive. One thing I learned was not to be a slave to my feelings, and that even though those feelings are real, but I don’t have to be sucked into them. It is important to get medical care. I’m trying to do what I’m supposed to do next and just let it flow. I’m healing and getting better all the time.

My mantra is - Every day in every way, I’m getting better all the time.

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