“I Wrote Letters to Everyone” ~ Michelle’s Story

It was 20 years ago. I found myself in a space of isolation, hopelessness, and had put a plan together to take my life.

Although, today I live in a place of gratitude and have an intense desire to help others feel empowered to embrace their best self, it was not always that way.

It’s not easy to share my story. I’m a mother of 2, a wife to a doctor, a daughter, a friend to many and a business owner in the area. For all of these reasons, I considered whether I should share my truth, but ultimately it is for all these reasons that I feel it’s so important that I do share. I believe in the power of being real. I believe that speaking up and being unashamed will help others to know that the intense mental struggles that they are going through at any given time in their life can pass. That there is hope and that they are most certainly not alone.

I think that my story illustrates the all too familiar truth that sometimes those people that are not okay often look a lot like people that are. During this tumultuous time in my life I’m certain that when people looked at my life from the outside they made the assumption that everything was pretty close to perfect, but inside my head and my heart things were not that way at all. 

If I have to try and reconcile with a time where the triggers began, I would have to say that it began with infertility. It was in 1999, over 2 decades ago, during an era of time where mental illness was rarely spoken about aloud.

In hindsight I now recognize that I was living with depression; however, at the time I really didn’t realize I was there. Not only did I not realize my depression, but my husband didn’t see it, my family didn’t see it, and my friends and acquaintances saw none of it. Unfortunately, sometimes we just don’t see what is right in front of us. I was living a normal day to day life, going through all the regular motions of the picture perfect journey, yet I was planning in detail how I would end it.

While struggling through circumstances of infertility, and a life that didn’t seem quite fair at the time, my health care team advised me to take some time off of work so that I could prioritize my focus on our fertility treatments. I obeyed. Living in Manitoba at the time, Brad and I would drive back and forth to Winnipeg frequently for our fertility treatments. Eventually with so much time invested and no success, I just decided enough was enough and I gave up on the treatments. I just needed to stop.

I think I was hoping that by stopping the circus of running back and forth for the ongoing appointments that I would gain some sense of relief. I whole-heartedly hoped that making this decision to abandon the fertility treatments would help me to get through what I was feeling – a feeling of being stuck. Ultimately, it left me living through a headspace of no real purpose, and an inability to see what meaning my life really had. Like many other women, I always wanted children. I envisioned my future with my husband and my children. From the time we were married I felt this was the path we were headed down and I eagerly anticipated the day that these dreams would come to complete all the pieces.

My thoughts of suicide started creeping in here. Eventually I found myself contemplating how I would kill myself. I was fabricating a plan. Being weary at the sight of blood, the idea of impact, and overwhelmingly uncomfortable at the thought of causing myself more physical pain, eventually I was able to rest on a method. I would drive down one of my favourite, beautiful mountain roads with a bundle of balled-up socks in the car with me. I intended to plant myself in my vehicle leaving the ignition running. Once I arrived at the spot, I would then place the socks in the vehicle exhaust and let the car run until I fell into a deep sleep… forever.

There was a point during this period of time leading up to my suicide plan that I began to make a move to connect with the church. I had grown up Catholic and knew that the act of taking one’s life was unforgivable in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Something drew me there to reach out and speak to someone. I was looking for a Priest, but upon making that stride, I found myself standing within the building with no Priest to be found. I left and saw this as a sign that I should move forward with my plan. 

While in the process of shaping all of the details out as to how this would all unfold, I made the decision to write goodbye letters to everyone. So I wrote the letters and then I hid them with the intent that they would be found afterwards. Once all the preparations were in place I settled in on a date, a time-frame, and a place for the suicide to be completed. Just one more day left. 

It was on this day, the day before, that he found them. He found the letters. I don’t know how he found them. I had them hidden, but somehow he did.

If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that in that moment I was overtaken by anger. Perhaps that seems odd to outsiders, but for me, the fact that Brad had found the letters and intervened on my plan to end my life completely messed everything up for me. At least that’s how I felt about it at the time. Although this saved my life, I was so eager for the escape from my life at that time.

I felt angry because now I had to stay here and live out this life that I had almost escaped.

From that point forward, things changed quite quickly and dramatically. I was basically put under 24 hour surveillance immediately. Brad shadowed me everywhere I went and made certain that I was never left alone.

It certainly wasn’t an easy time. I refused to speak to anyone and I went days without bathing. As those close to me became more aware of everything that had happened, they would say things like, “Michelle! Just look at everything you’ve got. You’ve got such a perfect life!”

Although I understand now that they were trying to be helpful and encouraging, they didn’t understand that by pointing out everything I had at that time, it wouldn’t change my state of mind. Making these statements wouldn’t make the feelings I felt go away. My feelings were real. They were heavy, and they were overwhelming. Someone telling me to pick myself up and dust myself off wasn’t going to fix that.

I know that people often have good intentions and just want to point out all the good in your life with the hope that you will be able to see that as well, but I think what we really need is for people to listen non-judgementally and meet those living with mental illness right where they’re at.

Immediately after finding the letters, my husband made arrangements for me to start taking a medication that was meant to help relieve the symptoms of my depression. Fortunately, Brad was (and still is) well connected and educated as he’s a practicing Physician. The change didn’t happen over-night, but eventually, a few months later the curtains opened and the depression began to lift. The medication was having a profound impact on my state of mind. I was able to see more clearly, and no longer felt the desire to end my life. Instead I began to embrace it again. 

Today, I am a mother to 2 beautiful children that have become the biggest blessing of my life though adoption. I’m a wife to a wonderful husband that loves and fully appreciates all of me and my story. I own and operate a thriving, growing business, and I’m filled with a desire to help others be the best they can be.

I’ve never shared these details publicly before. Sure, I’ve spoken to some friends and family, but this is a bold and brave step I’m making here in opening up my life like this. My hope is that, although it’s not been easy, by sharing my story truthfully that I can encourage someone else to know that there is more, even when you can’t see clearly through the curtains. There is hope. There is love. And there is an opportunity for a bright and beautiful future ahead.

My message is that it’s important that YOU open up about your own story. This is what creates the opportunity for others to open themselves up and seek the support and acceptance they need so much. Even though you may feel alone or that you are the only one living under this cloud, there are other’s out there! Sometimes it’s those people you think are least likely to be struggling. Sometimes it’s those very beings that will understand an existence of hopelessness. There are people that want to support you, that want to encourage you, and that want to talk. You are not alone.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jess Bommarito

    Wow, Michelle! I already admired you and everything you exude – your tenacity, your vision, your openness. This post deepened that admiration to another level. What a warrior you are. I’m grateful to your husband for finding those letters. You and I might not know each other well, but you have had a profound impact on me since you announced your new business at one of the EmpowerUp meet ups. Your resilience was shining then and it’s shining now. Thank you for your bravery in sharing this part of your story!

  2. Sharon Jamison

    I don’t know you Michelle, however i am so proud of you for posting your story, you are a very brave women and I believe your story will help others immensely.

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