Why I Didn’t Kill Myself

The subject of mental illness and its terrifying consequences dominates our news cycle. I wanted to address the scourge of suicide, so I asked my friend Rebecca Carrell to share her perspective. As you’ll learn below, Rebecca’s life has mimicked the depths and heights of recently lost, beloved public figures. A successful author, speaker, and radio show host, she speaks openly and publicly about her own struggle with mental illness. Her words flow from a soft heart that grieves for those suffering, and those left behind. Don’t miss this.

We shook our heads in numb disbelief as the headline flashed across the screen.

Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain Dead at Sixty-one

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The news broke Friday morning while I was on the air at 90.9 KCBI in the DFW area. Authorities called the death a suicide, claiming the CNN personality hung himself in a Paris hotel room sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday evening. Bourdain was in France shooting an episode of his popular series, Parts Unknown. While more details will pour out over the coming days, his death shocked his coworkers.

Frank Brosnahan can relate.

He had talked to his daughter, Kate, on Monday. The two chatted, laughed, and finalized plans to see each other soon in California.

Later that evening, the fifty-five-year-old fashion icon who’d developed the Kate Spade empire with her husband went in the bathroom, closed the door, and hung herself.

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They weren’t the only ones—just the biggest names. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 123 people die by their own hands each day. Once again, mental health grabs the spotlight as we shake our heads, wring our hands, and wonder how two people who had everything the world could offer would want to die.

If you are a head-shaking, hand-wringing wonderer, maybe I could shed some light on this for you. If you are one of the 43.8 million adults or have one of the 21.4% of our youth that struggles with a form of mental illness, you already know.

Mental health does not discriminate.

My journey with severe, clinical, generalized anxiety began around twelve or thirteen years of age, but in 1986, no one talked about these things. I’d never heard of depression or anxiety, so I didn’t know to bring it up to my parents or a doctor. I discovered that alcohol provided a temporary escape, and by the time I graduated from college, had become a socially functioning alcoholic.

The cycle is brutal. Anxiety led to drinking. Drinking led to depression, which led to more anxiety, more drinking, and more depression. Nine years ago I found myself clutching a full bottle of hydrocodone thinking, “I could just go upstairs, lock the door, take the pills, and go to sleep.”

I wasn’t concerned about my two beautiful children or the husband, family, and friends I’d leave behind. I just wanted out.

Then I found my husband, gave him the bottle, and told him I needed help.

The day after the Kate Spade story broke, I broke down on air as I shared my heart. Because I often speak openly about my struggle with anxiety and the medicine I take for it, I field many emails from people regarding mental illness. I tell every person the same thing. I’ve tried everything—prayer, meditation, exercise, supplements, essential oils—the only things that help are medication and psychiatric care. All of them want advice. Ninety percent of them won’t take it.

My friend, there are many things in life we have to suffer through, wrestle over, or struggle with.

Mental illness is not one of them.

The day I almost killed myself I remembered something my mother had beat into my head like a drum:

Suicide is a very permanent solution to a very temporary problem.

Tell that to your kids, moms. Preach it all the time, dads. Your voice will always have more influence than anyone else’s. But most importantly, take mental health as seriously as you would the flu, strep throat, or a broken bone. Most common ailments will mend on their own given time. Mental health tends to get worse. Don’t call your general practitioner. Psychiatrists specialize in mental health, staying up on the latest research findings and medications. Let them tell you whether or not this is a normal bout of the blues or a serious condition. Let them determine a treatment plan, and give it at least six months.

My heart hurts for Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and the thousands of people each year who choose a permanent solution for a temporary problem. But my heart breaks for the families they leave behind to sift through the shattered pieces their suicides leave. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or any other kind of mental turmoil, please hear me say this with as much love and compassion as I can muster.

You are not the only one who suffers from your affliction.

Because my brain does not make enough serotonin or dopamine, I will likely take medication for the rest of my life. Do I love it? No. But I love my kids, I love my husband, and I love my friends, and I fully realize that they suffer when I struggle. So please, if you are hurting, get help. If you suspect your child is struggling, get help.

My friend, there are many things in life we have to suffer through, wrestle over, or struggle with.

Mental illness is not one of them.

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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  • celticcoll

    Psychiatrists are not the only solution nor is medication which only helps about 1/3 of the people with depression. Psychologists and therapists are other options. Some struggle with these issues for life, let’s not make this sound like everyone finds cures in six months or a year. People also find themselves dealing with stigma from friends, family, work, etc. — that we can all help prevent. But let’s not pretend that a psychiatrist and the right prescription helps everyone–it doesn’t as Kate Spade’s story indicates. Be supportive, help, but don’t judge– you cannot walk in another’s shoes. Very little is known about the brain, about how psychiatric meds work when they do, about the electrical component of thought etc. –realizing how little we know should lead us to more compassion and not to just get help and you can get over it.

  • Kelley Maranto Mathews

    The author continues to manage her illness and acknowledges that she will never “get over it.” Friends of those who struggle can definitely give emotional support, absolutely. And I’d agree that there are many avenues to pursue. Rebecca emphasized what worked for her because many people she talks with tend to avoid those options.