A Christian teenage girl from the Netherlands read one of my online articles on friendships and being shy. She reached out to me through email and we had some correspondence. She seemed nice, if unhappy, and I tried to be supportive, but I didn't think much about it after we stopped emailing. What she didn't tell me was that she was in a domestic/family violence situation and was so depressed and stressed out that she'd been trying suicide attempts for a while.
Some time later, she decided that she really did need to end her life, and for some reason she decided to write 'goodbye' letters. She wrote one to me, saying thank you for being nice to her, but that this was the end. She pressed send.
I had been a 'tad' addicted to my phone for a while, and that night, I got up to go to the loo at 4am, and took my phone with me. I was scolding myself for doing it, but I did it anyway, and I was shocked to read this letter from this girl. I immediately typed a quick reply - basically 'Don't DO it' and pressed send back. Then I went back to bed and started praying madly. I also put out a prayer request on Facebook for my friends on European time - pray for a girl right now!
Well, my young friend got my reply about 10 minutes after she sent it, due to my phone addiction, my poor bladder and God's great timing. She was amazed, and didn't go ahead. She nearly went ahead a couple of days later, but met someone on the bus who just chatted to her and walked home with her that day. She wrote to me, "It was such a coincidence" but I wrote back, "There are no coincidences."
It's now about two years later, and my friend is doing much, much better. God continues to be very good to her, and she's got hope for the future. We keep in touch and I still pray for her. She's about to start uni and hopefully in her final years she might get to do an exchange to a university in NSW.
In the summer of 2015, suicide attempts were as normal for me as breathing. Anxiety was always my company, and when I was a teenager depression joined it.
I grew up in a home with domestic violence. I know what it’s like to not feel safe in a place where you definitely should. I know what it’s like to give love but get pain back from the people who are supposed to be your caregivers. I know the feeling of not wanting to be alive, because your parents make you feel like you’re the problem. I know what it’s like.
As a child I always seemed very happy. But mostly I was anxious and felt kind of ‘trapped’ in life. I remember my first appointment with a psychologist, as a fifteen year old. I stated that I never felt happiness before. Life for me was pure misery. Sadly, then, I didn’t receive the help I needed and stayed stuck. I knew my life would end in suicide; the only question was when.
I never understood how I held on throughout the years. My current psychologist explained that when you’re living in a traumatic environment your body and mind go into survival mode, a sort of automatic pilot. That’s how I survived. But as that wonderful verse Jeremiah 29:11 says, our God not only has our back, but he also has a plan, a future and hope.
I met Cecily, an Australian writer in 2014 through a blog she wrote about friends, loneliness and relationships. I read the article around the same time that I was struggling with loneliness and very low self-esteem. Her e-mail address was in the blog post and against all my fears I decided to mail her and share how I felt. This was the first time I ever reached out to someone. Because of my unstable childhood these things were very hard for me. But just like when we reach out to our God, I was met by love. She was so sweet in her way of writing that, although our contact was short, I never forgot her.
And I didn’t forget her in the summer of 2015. In that summer, I discovered something that was ‘the last straw’ for me. I was done. It felt like everything I ever believed in just crashed down. My thoughts became louder, I couldn’t see clearly anymore and death seemed like the only option.
I remember thinking that someone should know my story and the real reasons behind my decision, and although I didn’t really know her, Cecily had always responded with kindness. It was late in the evening when I wrote her a ‘thank you and goodbye’ letter, telling her that I would soon end my life.
Because of the time difference, I didn’t thought I would get an answer anytime soon. But I did. About 15 minutes after I sent my e-mail, I had an answer from her, full of love, help and prayer. From that moment on, she got a lot of people to pray for me, and I made no attempt on my life that night. Instead, I found someone who understood me in the most unexpected corner. We talked every day in that period.
Unfortunately her kindness didn’t take away the pain and hopelessness. A few days after I wrote her that goodbye mail, I wrote goodbye letters for my siblings and was on my way to jump in front of a train. I had to take a bus to get there, but on the bus, I came across a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a long time. She didn’t know about my struggles but she did stay with me the entire time. I remember finding it so lovely how she distracted me with ‘everyday’ talk. We had to go the same way, and so you can imagine jumping in front of that train never happened.
Almost immediately I send Cecily an email about what happened and she answered: ‘no coincidences, my dear’. I didn’t think it was a coincidence either. I had seen so much that I couldn’t not believe in the power of prayer.
As the situation at home worsened, I became more numb. When you’re in a deep state of depression you become a sort of living ghost. I kept making suicide attempts, some more dangerous than others, but none of them fatal. I never understood why I didn’t succeed. I vaguely believed in a bigger plan for my life except in that moment I was in so much despair death seemed like the only option. My younger brothers and sister were the only reasons I held on. Little did I know my life was about to take an extremely different turn.
At some point, I told Cecily everything that had been happening in my family. This was the first time I had told anyone. She urged me to get some help and after a conversation with a psychologist at the end of 2015, I was referred to a Child protective services organisation. There aren’t enough words to describe how scared I was. On the other hand, I didn’t think anything would come out of it. So for the second time, on 12 January 2016, I shared my story. The officials spoke separately to all of my siblings, and as the result of a verdict from a judge, we were all placed out of home the evening of January the 19th.
The beginning of the out of the home placement was very hard, with a lot of fears, insecurity, tears, pain and judgement. My little siblings stood by me and so did Cecily. Every day or every other day I received an uplifting email from her.
I also finally got the personal help I needed. I learned that I was not only battling with depression but also with traumas. My life was chaos and it was an even bigger mess in my head. I felt like a hopeless case. The people who put me on this earth had only given me pain, I couldn’t recall the last time I wasn’t depressed or hadn’t wanted to die, my head was never quiet and the only people who had my back were younger than me or lived on the other side of the world.
But I liked my psychologist so I talked about my feelings, kept trying to die and took medication. After one attempt in May I almost had to get hospitalized. My psychologist asked me to give life a chance. I hesitated at first but answered: ‘fine’. It was not like I had anything to lose. I got more medication, kept going to my therapy sessions and graduated from high school as well. It was a glimmer of hope!
After my graduation I was ready to recover. Thanks to my medication, therapy and prayer my suicidal thoughts became less and less present. I worked on myself and slowly but surely got enough strength to fight for myself. It was a daily challenge but I slowly began to see a little light (yes, me the hopeless case). I started to do athletics and little by little let people in. In November 2016 I had one of my weekly appointments with one of my psychologists. In the past time I learned a lot about me and my parents’ past. I couldn’t recall the last time I did a suicide attempt, it was quieter in my head and I looked with joy to my future. “Well Ketsia, you’re not in depression anymore,” she said.
I looked at her, wondering if she was messing with me, but I came to the conclusion that she was right. For the first time in my life I felt free and hope was actually a word that meant something.
Today I’m still in therapy and on medication. I’m diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and recovering. I have ups, and big downs. I know I can overcome everything now through Christ who strengthens me. I never went back to live with my parents and I don’t have any contact with them. It’s the decision that gives me the most peace. I remember praying at the beginning of 2016 and getting the words: ‘be still and know that I’m good.’ I wouldn’t be here if Cecily wasn’t there for me praying 24/7. God works in miraculous ways. Never could I dream my life would be like this one day. In no way did I think I would be free one day. Together, Cecily and I are writing this for the teenager who thinks she or he is a hopeless case. Jesus sees you and he wants to set you free. There is a way out. Don’t be afraid to reach out, because your help could be in the most unexpected corner. I am, and you’ll be too rising from the ashes, we thought would be our deaths.
Lifeline 13 11 14
Cecily Paterson writes uplifting, warm hearted fiction for young teenage girls