Have you ever had something happen to you that was so profound that you knew, just knew, it was God who was intervening? I did. And, no one will ever be able to tell me that it was anything, but God. He was there with me that night. Right there in my room. Not in the sense that He’s always with us, everywhere – the omnipresent God, but in the sense that He was physically with me. God sat at my bedside one night in the early spring of 1986.
I had been dating a married man, Bill, since early 1985. We met after Navy boot camp while attending school in Pensacola. I didn’t know he was married – not at first. We’d sit and talk during our breaks and I quickly realized while looking into his icy blue eyes that there was more than friendship on his mind and in his heart. I was so vulnerable and so naïve that I fell fast and hard, but that’s not what this story is about. This story is about what happened afterward. After the fairytale ending didn’t happen. After the heartache. After the failure that I internalized as my own shortcoming – my own perception as to why I should no longer be permitted to live on God’s earth.
I sat under a tree on the grounds of the chapel on the island of Guam as a I read his letter that apologetically broke off the engagement – he loved me, but he made a promise before God and needed to keep it. He was going to make things work with his wife. I cried like I had never cried before. I sat under that tree because my heart told me that this letter was bad news. I’d been intuitive for as long as I could remember, and that intuition didn’t fail me that day, although I had wished it had.
A DETERMINATION TO DIE
I don’t remember what I did in the next few moments. I don’t remember what I did the next few days. What I do remember is that sometime in the next few weeks, maybe months, I had walked into the marine barracks – one of the barracks that adjoined mine, with a bottle of champagne, and had already swallowed an unknown number of sleeping pills. I remember being wrestled to the couch on the quarterdeck by several marines – yes it took several. A young woman with a determination to die is strong willed, but they finally got the champagne and the pills away from me. The sergeant-of-the-guard called an ambulance and I was whisked away with my wrists and ankles bound by leather restraints.
I vaguely remember being in the emergency room. Oh, so vaguely. The next real memory I have is being in an empty room, having to sleep on the floor – suicide watch. And then, finally, in my hospital room and being told that my diagnosis was ‘exhaustion.’ It wasn’t until much later that I realized that exhaustion meant that I got to keep my security clearance whereas suicide meant I could lose it. They meant well. Friends came to visit, Navy friends and Marine friends.
George, a friend since Navy ‘A’ school in Pensacola – he was downright angry. And. he told me so. He was a dear friend, but he didn’t understand that his words didn’t make me feel better. They didn’t make my situation easier. What he said was for his own benefit, not mine. That’s what friends do when they realize they missed the signs. What I did wasn’t because I was selfish or a coward. It was because I was in pain that was so deep, that cut to the core of my very being, that the only way to get rid of that pain was to cut to that core. My pain transcended any possible future.
No one seemed to understand. My vitals were checked regularly, and it was hard that I had to eat all my meals with a plastic spoon on paper and plastic plates…it was a constant reminder that I wasn’t simply suffering from exhaustion, yet no one was willing to help me – I mean really help me. Everything that was said and done was for everyone else’s benefit not mine, less the paper and plastic. I imagine that even saving my security clearance meant less paperwork for my chain-of-command.
I was released, after what seemed like less than a week, and was sent right back to duty with a few appointments with a therapist. The irony is I don’t remember her, other than that it was indeed a woman. I remember nothing about our sessions. What I remember is that the receptionist sold handmade clowns and I bought four which equates to four sessions. I kept them all up until just last year.
The day I was released I knocked on the door of the Marine I briefly dated, but there was no answer. I went next door to Scott and his roommates to inquire about David. They were all in their room and they welcomed me – happy to see me, they asked me to come inside. We talked and talked and talked. I was still very much unaware that Scott had any kind of crush on me or was falling hopelessly in love with me. The crazy thing is that I had an incredibly sore back from being wrestled to the couch on the quarterdeck and these three men, took turns giving me back rubs over the course of HOURS. HOURS. Let me say it again. HOURS. They used their hands, their elbows….they could feel the knots in my back. We laughed. Sometimes I cried. They reassured me. People came in and out of the room – some to visit with them, some because they heard I was there and wanted to check on me. I was home. For the first time in a very long time I felt as if someone cared about me. The whole of me. There was no judgment. And, I believed they were genuine. All of them.
What I didn’t know at the time of my ambulance ride to the hospital is that Scott was already crushing on me and had been for some time. Scott was assigned to Marine Barracks Guam, meaning he and his fellow jarheads were guarding the buildings on base that people like me worked in – the secret keepers, the spooks. When I was whisked away, he was on duty and one of his buddies got in touch with him to let him know. He didn’t come to the hospital to visit because his love for me was unrequited at the time.
It was at the end of January that Scott eventually worked up the nerve to ask me out and I agreed. What I found out was that he knew all about me before we even formally met. My name. My birth date. Where I was from. Everything. He had been paying close attention to me for months on end – every time he searched my purse and looked at my ID and security badge. I knew nothing about him. Things were going well, and they picked up quickly. So quickly that he in fact asked me to marry him after only 3 months. This was April.
He showed up with champagne and flowers and got down on one knee. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “If you’re about to do what I think you’re about to do, don’t, because the answer will be, ‘no’.”
He set down the flowers and walked out the door.
I loved him. At least I thought I did. I wasn’t so certain that I was over Bill, though. I was still grieving. I made a rare phone call home to my mom and dad and told them what had happened. My mom later told me that she knew I’d marry Scott since I was willing to tell him, “no.” She said that it showed a sign of maturity.
EVERYTHING WAS DARK
Maturity wouldn’t save me from another suicide attempt. My feelings were jumbled, how could I grieve the loss of one man and be falling in love with another at the same time? I started to spiral, and I spiraled quickly. I didn’t want to see Scott. I told him we needed to take a break. A break? We were only seeing each other for 3 months! Who takes a break after only 3 months?
I didn’t want to see him and at the same time I was afraid that when I was ready again, he wouldn’t want to see me. Never mind what happens when it’s time for us to each transfer off the island. Then what? I was soooo young! Still only nineteen years old. And, I had no clue what this Navy life was really about, and no one had taken me under a wing to teach me.
I sat in my room on my bed and cried and I wrote in my journal, and I cried, and I wrote some more. Everything I wrote was dark. How to end it. Why end it. What it would be like to end it. Should I end it. Could I end it. End it. End it.
Somehow, some way, I still had a large bottle of sleeping pills that I had hidden from everyone, including my roommates. I laid on my bed with my feet at my pillow. I dumped the pills out on the comforter. I counted them. I separated them. Groups of 5 – counted them again. Groups of 10 – counted them again. Groups of 2 – counted them again. Groups of 4 – counted them again. I laid my head on my crossed arms and I sobbed. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to go to sleep. I wanted to wake up to a better world. One where I wasn’t hurting. One where I was both loved and happy.
THE DOOR OPENED
I sobbed so hard that my eyes were swollen. My nose was running, and my lower lip was fluttering as I gasped for breath. I heard the door open and gently close, but I didn’t move. I just continued to sob. I knew it had to be Scott – my roommates were both on duty. He didn’t say a word. He knew I needed to just shed the tears that I’d been holding on to. How he knew this exact moment to come to me in my time of despair could only be God’s doing. After only a moment or two he sat down on the bed beside me. I could feel the mattress move as his weight shifted upon it. I could hear the creak of the metal bunk. I could feel the warmth of his body beside mine.
Still he said nothing.
After a few more moments, I could feel his gentle touch on the nape of my neck, resting on my hair. Still he said nothing. My sobs quieted. My tears stopped falling from eyes and I wiped away those that were rolling down my cheeks.
Still he said nothing.
I lifted my head and opened my eyes.
Still he said nothing.
I turned to him.
No one was there.
I could still feel the resting hand on the nape of my neck.
I could see the indentation of where someone had been sitting on the bed.
No one was there.
God was there.
God was there!
GOD WAS THERE
I gathered up each and every pill and shoved them back into the bottle. I ran to Scott’s room. I handed him the bottle. I begged him to throw them away. I know I could have done it myself, but for some reason, I needed him to do it. Maybe I needed him to know that I came close to another suicide attempt, and that I may come close again – and I have, but that I’ll always reach out.
Because God was there, I’m still here.
We were married two months later, on June 5th 1986, by a Justice of the Peace in Agana, Guam.
And, God was there.
Take the DEPRESSION QUIZ.
What a powerful story! Kudos to you for finding the true light at the end of a very long tunnel.
A long tunnel, indeed, but this side of the tunnel has been even longer – we’ve been married for nearly 33 years. 🙂
You have gone through and survived some difficult periods. I believe that your writings are sure to help and save many others.
I pray that if someone is in crisis and he or she doesn’t know where to turn that they come across my blog. In addition to stories like this one, there are resources on the information page. My hope and desire is that I can help those in need.
What a beautiful story! I’m glad you are happy and healthy now. Never forget that God is ALWAYS by your side.
I often reflect on this time in my life when I feel that a distance between God and me. I have to give myself a gentle reminder that if I don’t hear Him it might be because I’m not listening.
Wow, What a story. Live is so crazy and God is always there!
Yes, He certainly is…even when we think He’s not listening.
What a powerful, beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you for your kindness. I’m happy you took the time to read it.
I am glad there was a happy ending to your story!
Many hugs and much light to you. I’m glad you’re living your happy ending!
Thank you! I certainly am. It’s not always easy – it takes work, but I’m willing to put in that work!
Many prayers. So glad all worked out for the best. Beautiful story of heartache and love.
Thank you! And, yes…it certainly did! I’m happy to say that my husband and I have been married for nearly 33 years.
What an absolutely powerful story. Much light and happiness to you!
Thank you so much!
This is so powerful! Thank you for sharing! I hope others are able to take power from your strength
Thank you! And, yes! That’s my hope, too.
What an awesome story. I love your attitude of owning it so it doesn’t own you.
YES! It took a very long time to reach this stage, but now that I have, I’m not going back!
This is a beautiful and powerful story and I just love your writing style. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so very much! I hope my journey can reach others who feel there’s no hope.
Wow, amazing story- praise God! You’re also a wonderful writer, and you really drew me in. Thank you for being courageous and sharing your story!
It was so amazing that I almost didn’t believe it myself! And, thank you for your kindness.
You are a very talented writer and so courageous to share your story. I’m so glad you have found ways to work through your pain and find joy. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself.
Thank you for your kind words! They mean a lot to me. I appreciate you taking the time to read and hope you’ll visit often.
God is there, He is always there. Even when we don’t see Him or feel Him but He is always there. I love the way that He showed you how much He loves you. Thanks for sharing your story.
Yes. This is a time in my life that I often remind myself of when I feel that He is not hearing me. In fact, it’s the other way around – I’m not listening.
Mercy, Moxie, & Mayhem. I love it!!! What a powerful story. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story.
Thank you for taking the time to read it. I appreciate your kindness.
This is truly an incredible story. I felt this thoroughly and I love your openness and willingness to share. I pray that you see God in the quiet moments even till this day. I pray God is with you now. I suffer from depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.. and only Jesus has kept me here this long. I also blog about it at http://www.LifewithStellaB.co. Hopefully we can walk with each other on this journey of healing!
I just subscribed! I think it’s a great idea to support each other! God bless you!
I have been there, just under different circumstances. It is a scary place to be looking back on it. Glad you had people who cared as I did.
Yes. I think often times that there are people who care, but either they don’t know how to show it or we just don’t know it.
Thank you for your honesty and strength in sharing this!
I hope that in doing so that others can find strength.
Such an amazing and touching story! God was there and he is AMAZING!
Yes, He is! And, thank you for taking the time to read!
Thanks for sharing your story and being open and honest. God will always be the light and the way!
He is indeed!
Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Others will have hope because you have shared it. Real love is such a healing thing.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. And, yes. My husband is the love of my life! We’ve now been married for nearly 33 years!
Your post made me cry. I lost my brother and cousin to suicide. God got me through the pain of the loss. God is good and it interesting to see in your story His plan for you! He is using you now to touch others in a personal way and keep listening! Peace my dear!
Oh, Theresa! I am truly sorry for your losses. I know the pain that they felt! It’s so very hard to see the light on the other side. I hope you and your family have found peace as well.
What a beautiful and powerful story! I love your writing style and it really shows your emotions through and through. It brought me to tears. You went through a hard time and fought through it with God.
God is good, all the time!
I don’t know whether to cry for that sweet 19 year old or laugh with joy.
You’re so sweet! You can definitely laugh with joy!
Wow! Thank you for sharing your story. I was pulled in from the very beginning. You have been through so much but God pulled you though. The blessing is that you realized it was God. I think many of us may not have been able to recognize that.
It’s interesting that you say that, because honestly, it never dawned on me that it was anything, but God.
What a compelling and honest story. Thank You for sharing your heart and experience. I have a loved one that has attempted suicide twice and so your story brings a lot of light to me.
Thank you, Jennifer. I hope your loved one can find the help needed and that he or she is surrounded by love and support.
Figuring out life can be a challenge. Emotions can be all over the place. I’m glad you overcame the situation and have found your forever happiness!!! God IS with us!!
It’s been a hard road at times, but I know God has been with me the entire time.
wow. what a beautiful human wonderful story
Thank you, Jen!
I believe! I’m glad that at your time of deep despair God was there. And I’m glad you accepted the love and comfort offered to you.
It’s amazing how things can affect our mental health. What an amazing journey.
What a beautiful story. You are an amazing writer and amazingly strong person. God is so good!
How wonderful of you to share your story. I’m so glad you were able to recognize God’s presence in a dark situation. What a beautiful story of love from your now husband and how God used him in your life.
I was hanging on to every word. That was quite a story. You were so young, too. Those moments when God cares enough to let us know He is there ~ those are precious and powerful.
I got chills reading the end of that story! I can only imagine how you felt in that moment. So powerful!
This is such a great post. I honestly ‘enjoyed’ (that’s not the right word but I think you get it) it. I also ABSOLUTELY believe you! Without a doubt that God was there.
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[…] September is Suicide Awareness Month, so although I've written about my personal experience in The Night God Sat At My Bedside, I wanted to discuss suicide from the perspective of what YOU can do and how to recognize the […]