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.