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Approximately 80 per cent of all firearm deaths are suicides. Nearly 20 per cent of all people who die by suicide use a gun.

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Story 19

My name is Jessie.  I am now 24 years old.  I grew up in a large family with five brothers, no sisters.  My parents divorced when I was three and never got along afterwards.  I grew up hiding my emotions because anytime I cried my brothers laughed and made fun of me.

When I was sixteen I was raped by a police officer.  I lost all trust in cops and became terrified every time I saw one, whether I was alone or not.  I never told anyone it happened though.  I figured they wouldn’t believe me, or that I deserved it because I was driving alone with only my beginner’s license.  I really wanted to forget it happened; it just never really left my brain no matter what I did.

I graduated high school in the spring of 2003 and started University to become a nurse.  School was hard but I did okay for the first two years.  Things started to go downhill in my third year of nursing school.  I remember the exact day that triggered the train of events that left me in emotional shambles.  It was a Tuesday.  I was at my clinical placement; we were sitting at the table for our ‘post conference’.  Nancy’s cell phone rang.  She answered it and started crying.  One of our classmates from nursing school had been killed in a car accident.  She had all the potential in the world.  I was so upset that I called my mom to pick me up from school early.  From her I learned that there had been a second car accident in town.  In that accident I lost a family friend with a 16 month old son and a 4 year old daughter.  I was a total mess.

The most devastating blow was still to come though.  My father had been really sick, and with all my newfound knowledge in nursing I began to realize it was pretty serious when he became jaundiced.  He had lost so much weight, his face was sunken, and he was in a lot of pain.  Just a week after the two fatal accidents my 48 year old father told us that he was terminally ill with hemachromatosis, a genetic disorder. He died a few months later. 

I left two weeks later for a pre-planned three-week trip to Europe.  My dad had made me promise I would go, no matter what. When I came home I felt as though everyone had grieved, dealt with things in their own way and that I was now grieving alone.  I didn’t want to bring up his death because I didn’t want to open a healed wound for them.  I hid my feelings, distracted myself.   A few months later I talked to my step-mom about hemochromatosis.  She told me, “Your father didn’t die from hemachromatosis.  He died from AIDS”.  She told me that he had been diagnosed several years earlier and that he had chosen not to tell anyone because he believed it would never become an issue.  He chose not to take any of the meds that his doctor told him were available.  He believed he could beat AIDS by changing his diet and such.  Then she made me promise to never tell anyone else because that is what his wishes were.  It was then that I started jabbing myself with pens and bruising my legs badly.

I lost my father and then found out he had lied to me.  I didn’t deal with it very well, but I didn’t tell anyone.  I kept it a secret for a very long time.  I was so depressed.  I had a difficult time controlling my emotions.  I eventually went to see a counselor who called my doctor and started me on antidepressants.

I continued with my life, went to school and put on a happy face everyday.  I wanted people to believe that I was okay, and that I was the happiest person around.  I made it through the first semester of my final year in school, struggling, but successful.  Then I had to withdraw from the second semester because of an ankle injury that made it impossible for me to complete my clinical placement. 

I was not able to start the fall semester even after I recovered from the injury because I was so depressed.  I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t work.  I was home all day, everyday.  I still lived with my mom and she was good company, but things were getting worse and worse.  The meds I was on weren’t working, and every time they were changed I got a new side effect of some sort.

The first time I was admitted to the hospital was a Tuesday in the fall. My doctor saw me at 8:30pm after I called for an urgent appointment.  I got there and the doctor asked me how I was feeling.  I told him I was really down and started to cry.  I really wanted to die.  I felt as though there was nothing left in my life worth living for, the medication wasn’t working, and that I was just getting worse anyways.  I wanted to put my family out of misery because by this time they were starting to notice how down I was.
He told me I would not be able to leave the office unless it was with someone who would take me to the hospital.  I argued with him.  I did not want to go to the hospital, I just wanted to die.  He told me I could either go with the police or I could call someone.  I had never told him that I was raped by a police officer so he didn’t understand why I totally freaked at the idea.  I got myself so worked up in the office that I started to have problems breathing.  He calmed me down and told me to call a friend.  I called my minister. 

She arrived and took me to the hospital.  My doctor had called ahead so I was taken over to the emergency psychiatric service right away.  I didn’t want to be there.  I tried leaving and they wouldn’t let me.  I was made an involuntary patient and taken up to the psychiatric floor at 3am. 

I spent two weeks in the hospital, resisting any sort of help from everyone that tried.  I just wanted to be out of there but I realized that I really did want to live.  My dad had been so happy that I was in university and was very excited for me to finish.  Even though he couldn’t be there, I wanted to graduate for him.  After I was discharged they set me up with outpatient services so that I could see a counselor and a psychiatrist.
My counselor worked with me and got me functioning again.  She had me tell my brothers about my dad so that I was not alone with the secret, and she talked to me about my rape.  She also got me registered for my final semester of school, and then helped me along the way.  My one hour sessions were spent with her proof reading my assignments and encouraging me.

When I finished university with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing I was unbelievable proud.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually done!  I had made it, had put everything aside and graduated from university. 

I took the summer off so that my meds could be altered again, and to do some travelling.  Then I got a job on a surgical floor.  I was so psyched!  For once in a really long time I was feeling good about myself.  I felt great!

My first job was awesome!  I had three months of orientation, and absolutely loved every minute of it.  I was doing what I had always wanted to do!  There were still problems with my meds though.  I am very sensitive to the side effects of medicine and I couldn’t tolerate a dose high enough to keep me stable, but we kept trying.

I felt I was ready to make the next step in my life and bought my own house.  I was really happy!  I had a place of my own, I had an awesome job, and I felt totally successful!  But then I felt things going downhill again.  I was alone all the time, my night shifts were messing around with my sleep schedule, and I was just plain going downhill again.

My counselor decided that this was because I was not working through my actual problem.  She wanted to do cognitive behavioral therapy related to my rape.  She wanted me to actually heal from that.  I agreed.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, she had told me that, but I was not prepared for how devastating it was.  I wrote out the incident in detail and read it over and over and over again.  Everyday for a half hour.  Then my counselor had an emergency family problem and left for three months.  I was reading this horrible thing over and over all alone with no one to talk to and I just cracked.  By the time my counselor came back I was in shambles. 

It was a Friday night; I had my bottle of pills open beside me and a large glass of water.  I was ready to die.  I was going so fast between my highs and lows that I couldn’t control my emotions any more.  I was talking to Deb, my best friend, on msn.  I told her that I wanted to die.  That I couldn’t go on living and hurting people any more.  She was very worried and called 911, then came to my house.  I told the ambulance drivers and cops I didn’t want to go to the hospital, but they told me I didn’t have a choice.  I was made an involuntary patient again and kept in the emergency psychiatric service for two nights, then released because they had no room for me on the ward.  I lied to them saying that I didn’t want to die any more.

One week after my discharge from the hospital I called my counselor and told her I couldn’t do this anymore.  I didn’t want to fight anymore; I just wanted to be better.  Since I felt as though nothing was working my only way out was death.  She told me “there is no study that can prove whether or not suicide solves problems’.  I couldn’t argue.  But it still didn’t make me want to die any less.  That is when I remembered the look on Deb’s face when she came to see me the week before.  How absolutely devastated she looked.  She was crying and she had so much pain on her face, pain that I had caused.  I decided then that I would voluntarily go to the hospital and get the help I needed.  I still wanted to die, but it was conflicting now with me not wanting to hurt the people I loved anymore.

In the hospital I was introduced to dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).  I saw a nurse (Sara) everyday and attended a group session twice a week, learning the techniques.  I worked with the people who wanted to work with me this time.  Deb’s face stayed with me, the devastated painful face.  Sara said the same thing my counselor did “there is no study that can prove whether or not suicide solves problems” and I felt as though I understood it then.  If I ended my life, then all the people that I kept pushing away and refusing their help would grieve my death.  Everyone was upset when my father died, and he died of natural causes.  If I killed myself with my own hand, my family would never recover from the tragedy.

DBT taught me how to ‘ride my emotional wave’.  Rather than suppress my emotions I learned to notice them and accept them.  After two weeks in hospital I attended a day program and learned more DBT skills.  I learned how to bring myself out of a distress situation without things escalating.  The instructors taught me that emotions love themselves and that I have to learn to love my emotions.  DBT has changed my life.  My life is getting back in order now, thanks to DBT, and I have lots of reasons to go on living.

My family and friends are the big ones.  My dog wouldn’t be the same without me either.  Traveling is awesome, and I have not seen anywhere near as much of the world that I want to see.  I have not ‘stopped to smell the roses’, and I haven’t gone sky diving, I have not made all my dreams come true.  My job is also a big reason to go on living.  There I can help my patients and their families through the difficult time of being in hospital with the skills I learned from DBT.

There are people who love me and want to help me.  I have learned to let them help me, they offer their help because they care, and they want to help! 

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