The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. The signature event for raising funds and increasing awareness are: “Out of the Darkness Walks for Suicide Prevention.” The walks produce millions for suicide prevention programs, unite those who have been affected by suicide, and create communities smart about mental health. (From the Website)
Laura Ellis, a member of Fredericksburg UMC is Co-Chair of the Fredericksburg Walk. After meeting her and hearing her remarkable story, I asked her to speak at our church. What follows is her testimony:
My name is Laura Ellis and I want you to know about an organization, I Co-Chair: “The Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention.” This event has been held in Fredericksburg, Virginia for ten years. But more importantly, I want you to understand why I lead the walk and why it’s so important.
In 2004 I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. An anxiety disorder is like waking up and seeing a rattlesnake at the end of your bed. You have no idea how it got there, or how to get rid of it, so the only thing you can do is lay back down, throw the covers over your head and lay there in fear until the snake goes away. I continued this very difficult battle and was able to work through it with therapy, medicine and the support of my husband, Brian and my family. The medication prescribed worked.
Several years later. Brian got a new job, our health insurance changed and the medication I needed was no longer covered. Over the next few years, I tried a long list of medicines. Some helped and others had awful side effects. Meanwhile, my anxiety and depression worsened.
There was a 3-month period where I stayed in bed if Brian was home. I would get up to take the kids to preschool but went back home to bed. My depression worsened and I felt like I was going to be swallowed whole. I was seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist and desperately trying to find medication that would work. The thoughts of suicide consumed me and I started to form a plan to kill myself. I couldn’t live one more day with the anxiety. I was done!
I called my husband crying and said “I can’t do this anymore!” He drove me to my therapist’s office. That session was one of the hardest and most intense ever. Two hours with Brian waiting in the parking lot the entire time. I don’t remember much after that but the medication finally worked; I continued with therapy and got to a place of mental strength and inner peace.
The fall of 2015 turned my family upside down. My son, Tristan was eight has ADHD and anxiety. He was having behavior problems at school and they threatened to suspend him. I took a leave of absence from work and went to school with him for three weeks, every day, all day. If there were behavior problems, I wanted to deal with them, not the administration. Suspending him was not the answer.
After three weeks, I was so emotionally beat down, I couldn’t be there anymore. One day I received a call that Tristan was in the middle of another meltdown and I needed to pick him up. When I got there, they told me he tried to hurt himself. I drove him to the ER where he was evaluated and after sitting there for 11 hours, Tristan was admitted to the hospital and treated for anxiety and depression. He was there for 3 weeks and even spent his ninth birthday there.
Today, Tristen and I are much better thanks to medication and therapy. We are open and honest about our anxiety. Tristan uses his coping skills for his anger. You can find me at the gym three nights a week managing my stress. We have come back to church and regained our faith. We had so many reasons that we lost faith, but now we have even more reasons to have our faith back.
We are using the Out of the Darkness Walk as a way to fight back and let people know it’s ok to have a mental illness and there is hope. No two journeys are the same but we hope people can connect with our story and see us as survivors and fighters and know they can find their way as well. So I will walk in the Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention for myself, my son and anyone else who needs help.
Thanks Laura for having the courage to tell your story and lead: “The Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention. If you want more information, or to join our team, form your own, volunteer or donate, click here: The Fredericksburg, Out of the Darkness Walk will take place on September 25.
Send an email of encouragement to Laura at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.