This is the forty-first edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Ned with The Story of A Young Man’s Need to End it All: A Tale of Survival
During the middle of senior year of college, I felt like I had reached a happiness peak ten times the size of Hindu Kush. Speaking of Kush, I was smoking all the time, as much as fifteen times a day. I would smoke before every class, workday, workout, and before most other activities. I constantly smoked my medicine, and if I didn’t have my medicine, I felt as if I wouldn't be able to maintain this heightened level of living. For about a year, there wasn't a single day that I didn't smoke, and I was happy as a clam. But as the end of senior year approached, everything changed.
Though I was completely caught off guard by the dramatic change in my mood, the deep depression that hit had its predecessors. My first depression was triggered by breaking up with my girlfriend of a year or so, my first major relationship. That time, I thought about swerving into traffic and crashing my car, but never acted on it. My second major depression came two years later. Its trigger: a reverse culture shock from coming back to school after an amazing semester abroad. I remember Googling ways I could kill myself, but again, never acted on it. I still don't know what triggered my worst depression that spring, but I can guarantee that my medicine (weed) wasn't working anymore. I even experimented with going without smoking, but it didn't work for me. I started to get weird and uncomfortable, even around my best friends.
The Day of the Jump
I went to sleep hoping not to wake up then had to deal with the fact that my wish didn't come true. I remember some of the fragmented thoughts and feelings I had after classes that day: scattered brain; nap; beached whale feeling; dead brain; dead? Wouldn’t that be nice? It had to end. And it had to end soon.
And so, that night, after five margaritas and a personally provoked epic fight with my girlfriend, I drove to the bridge notorious for the suicides it hosts. I pulled over, got out of the car and high jumped over the bridge’s highest point. I’d been thinking about this jump for a month, but the alcohol and screaming match gave me the guts to go for it.
The last thing I remember was my hat flying off as I leapt into the darkness.
My next sketchy memory is the glare of the spotlight on me all torn up. I survived. “Shit.” Apparently, I’d swum to a rock. A Herculean feat, they told me. “You must have had the will to live. You’re lucky you’re a strong athlete,” they told me. Nine out of ten people die from that jump. The survivors are usually mangled and severally disabled.
In the hospital, family and friends visited every day. They spent days and nights by my side. I was never alone. The man in the bed next to mine, who’d also tried to kill himself, had no visitors. He only had the 24/7 nurse watching him. Her job was to make sure neither of us tried to hurt ourselves while we were there.
Once I was released from the medical floor, they committed me to a psych ward for seventy-two hours—state law. It was heart wrenching being surrounded by sick mental people who lived in the mental hospital mumbling to themselves and screaming. They had nobody to love them or take care of them. I, on the other hand, had my family visiting every day, tirelessly advocating on my behalf, bringing me magazines and showering me with love.
From Surviving to Thriving
The three years since the jump have had their bumps. My body has recovered like a champ (a miracle) but healing my mind was not as easy. As the depression lifted, I had a bad reaction to medication, which precipitated a bizarre mania. I was out of control. The mania led me to another stay in a psych ward for several weeks, again with my family visiting every day. As the cloud lifted with medication adjustments and an amazing therapist, my life slowly returned to normal—a new normal.
For the last two years, I’ve cautiously worked my way off my medicines (with the guidance of my psychiatrist and psychologist) and am on a very low dose now. I received my diploma and eventually landed a great job. I moved in with my best friend from college in a city filled with a lot of family.
I do morning workouts, I go on business and pleasure trips, I spend weekends with my favorite people, I see my family often, and I try to be kind and compassionate to others. People now, like before the jump, see me as my normal charming and successful self. Little do they know that if I’d had my way three years ago, my family would still be in mourning and I would not get to enjoy each amazing day that is my life today.
I always knew I was lucky in my life before the jump but never did I know I would hit a jackpot worth 7,669 days, representing twenty-one years of my life that did not go down the ocean’s drain. For those of you reading this who want to disappear or die (or know someone who does), please take it from me: Don’t cut this life short. It will surprise you in amazing ways that you simply can’t see right now. If you hang in there, life will come around. You will not only grow from the pain, you will probably flourish. Each day will taste that much sweeter. It feels good to beat an illness.
If you are someone you know are feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. If outside the U.S., find a helpline HERE
Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?"
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better.
Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.