My history

As a several time suicide attempt survivor with my first attempt at the age of four, along with being challenged with mental health symptoms beginning at an early age, I often lacked a desire to thrive. I want to share with anyone who may be contemplating suicide, THERE IS HOPE! Recovery is possible. One can create a life worth living. Recovery is complex, a lifelong process, a journey. It does not happen overnight. It is hard work, and it is so worth it. Recovery is investing in your greatest asset: yourself.

My beliefs about myself

I once bought into the stigmatizing societal attitudes and the messages I received from my abusers, hurtful messages that I was indoctrinated with or that they needed me to believe about myself. I could not understand what made me different. Why was I seen as inherently defective, as if this defect was a personal reflection on my character? I could not understand why I deserved to be dehumanized for something I had no choice or control over, for merely existing by way of the “ovarian lottery.” Why was I blamed for provoking the abuse? Why was the perpetrator often protected? It hurt to receive messages that I was nothing more than a disposable piece of trash that is easily replaceable. The truth is, no one deserves to be treated that way.

My experience of suicide was enduring what felt like unbearable emotional pain that I did not have the skills or internal resources to cope with. I felt overwhelmed, unable to process any more. No options for solutions seemed available; I was hopeless and helpless. Personally, I only made attempts during times I was being abused by a perpetrator or system. When you’re feeling rejected, abandoned, or seen as inherently bad, life does not seem to hold much value. When you’re overtaken by a binocular view, when you’re in that deep dark place of acute suicidality, you often feel like a burden to the world, that you do not matter, and it is difficult to recognize the pain you will cause for those left behind, or feel that you will be missed. Without hope it is difficult to continue on. There was a time the only hope I could find was the hope that someday I could have hope.

Many fear change. For me, nothing scared me more than my life remaining the same. I was tenacious with my recovery. I reached a place in my life where I had little faith in humanity from all of the cruelties I had suffered. I experienced empowerment the moment I was able to ask myself, “what are you going to do about it?” I created my life mantra, “Spread good and be ornery too.” I could take action to make this a better world to live in and remember to laugh too.

How therapy helped change these beliefs

My therapist worked with me to start challenging all of the beliefs that I became aware I had or that I had internalized as my own. In this process I happened across this quote in an article:

“The simple fact you exist has a ripple effect beyond imagine. You may never know those whose life you have touched or the repercussions, yet they are there all the same.”

This quote spoke to me and led to a dramatic shift in my thinking; I realized I did matter in this world, because I existed.

Something as simple as a smile, which we all have the capacity to do, can change a person’s day. It does not have to be a grand gesture. We may never know, but our smile could even save a person’s life. Maybe you’ve offered the words of comfort needed to ease a person’s suffering and by the ripple effect those words of wisdom are passed along to someone else who needs them. We all make a difference in this world and will never know all the lives we have touched. I came to another realization that “we are all equally human with strengths and challenges, I am no different than anyone else.” The shame disappeared. This began the process of allowing me to love myself. Many of those indoctrinated beliefs were lies, and they were no longer my truth.

The importance of kindness

Many therapists share a common story, where a client discloses contemplating suicide and then deciding to abandon their plan. This has been true for me too. A universal theme tends to emerge. It is a simple act of human kindness or compassion demonstrated by another individual that changed one’s mind. Maybe it was someone giving their time, connecting with the person in need, seeing the person first, letting them know they matter in the world, showing care and concern, offering support, giving them a voice, or any number of other small acts. It is seeing people, letting them know they have value, worth, and that they matter in this world.

Kevin Hines wrote a book to share his story about surviving his suicide attempt of jumping off of the Golden Gate bridge, which few survive. He spoke of the experience where he arrived by bus, walking along the pedestrian walkway in tears. He thought to himself, if a person were to come up to him to ask, “Are you okay? Is something wrong? Can I help you?” he could share his story, and that would keep him safe. No one did, and he jumped. Hines is now an international advocate for suicide prevention.

The recovery process

For me, therapy and medication management alone were not enough. I remained in the revolving door of the crisis cycle. Through The Center for Mental Health, I received a combination of services, in addition to therapy and medication management, and my recovery took off. I was referred to a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group, which was huge. I was able to acquire tools to be able to cope with the distress, gain life skills, and dive deeper into my therapeutic work. Group therapy is a very successful intervention, which I love. Group work is valuable. I remained in DBT for several years because I wanted to obtain mastery of the skills. The goal of DBT is to create a life worth living.

I had a history of abuse and traumatic experiences that were left unresolved and unprocessed. I was referred to a TREMs group, trauma processing, where I was able to work through much of my past trauma. I was then recommended for Peer Specialist training, where I signed on with The Center for Mental Health as a peer volunteer. I began participating in some peer led groups. Doors began to open for me, where I was invited to participate in various efforts, representing the lived experience, e.g. Zero Suicide Task Force.

A life worth living

I embrace my lived experience. I have acquired an expertise that cannot be taught through formal education. Expertise can only be acquired through the lived experience. I make meaning and purpose through my experiences by sharing my story to advocate, educate, and be a voice for the behavioral health population and cause; I am an agent of change. I get involved in our community and on a state level too. I am making this a better world to live in by “spreading good.”

I no longer require services, beyond medication management. When I am challenged, I have the tools to rely on that assist me to work through those challenging times. Now, it is quite a rare occasion for a suicidal thought to arise, and on the rare occasion one does, it no longer holds the power it once held. In a blink of an eye the thought disappears. THERE IS HOPE! There are solutions. Recovery is possible. You can create a life worth living.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call The Center for Mental Health 24/7 Crisis Line at 970.252.6220 or text TALK to 38255 to talk to someone.

Better yet, reach out to 970.252.3200 to learn how to access behavioral health therapy and other services to get on the road to recovery today.

More information on The Center for Mental Health’s Crisis Services can be found on our crisis services page.

Rana D. Shaner, B.A., A.A.S.
2019 Behavioral Health Champion for The Center for Mental Health