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Pamela Drake

is a suicide attempt survivor.
this is her story

Pamela Drake

is a suicide attempt survivor.

"I survived a suicide attempt."

Pamela Drake is a data scientist and statistician by trade. She was 50 years old when I interviewed her in Los Angeles, California, on April 12, 2014.

I was raised in a military family.

We moved every year to three years. I know more about living in other cultures than I do in the U.S. It was a big treat to come to California to visit the cousins that lived near Disney Land. We lived in Japan and Guam and Hawaii, and so I got to learn different cultures. I’m kind of a cultural anthropologist from a young age, but I’ve always been a little bit different. As you can tell, I’m a little bit north of normal. I call it “north of normal” because of a normal curve kind of thing. I also ride a motorcycle. I also do family history and genealogy. I had a study that I interviewed people from all over. I put up a study online when the web was brand new and asked people about why they do family history and genealogy and got 10,000 responses in 9 days and had the largest study ever published about it. So I’ve been quoted in a national magazine, and I’m an expert. Doesn’t mean I make a living at it.

My first minor attempt was probably age seven, or younger, I don’t remember, but I still have the scar.

[My] first minor attempt was probably age seven, or younger, I don’t remember, but I still have the scar. I went in the bathroom and took my dad’s straight razor and split my arm open. My mom freaked out. I don’t remember having any intention. I just remember it was a way of letting out pain. Now I hear people cut for that reason. For me, it was just a disconnect at that point.


At nine, I was raped repeatedly by a neighbor on the military base, and nobody ever knew. I finally told my mom four years ago. It was at the behest of a friend of mine who is a PTSD survivor who, and I’ll get to why I have PTSD later, but he said, “You know, Pam, you weren’t molested. You were raped, and there’s a difference in the term.”

I went, “Huh?” I realized yeah, it really is rape and, yeah, I really had closed my mind off to it. Maybe that had something to do with why I just didn’t want to be here.

When we were living on Guam, my grandmother passed away. I was not very close with any of my relatives but my dad’s mother passed away and, I don’t know if it was a dream, I don’t know if it was we had a sense, but Grandma came and said goodbye. Grandma was in Minnesota. I was on Guam. I woke up and told my mom, “Grandma came in and said goodnight and sat on my bed last night. She was really happy and she was in a good place.” I wanted to be in that good place, and I was really mad I had to stay here. I was raised kind of being part of the culture of all these different places. I wasn’t Buddhist, I wasn’t Shinto, I wasn’t Catholic like that part of my dad’s family, I wasn’t Lutheran like my mom’s part of the family. I was kind of military-generic religion, but if there’s a God and if there’s a heaven, I’d rather be there, because here is hard. I wanted to check out.

At 15, I OD’d, and I got a lot of anger from people: “How dare you? How could you do this to us?” I got a lot of, “Oh, we’re gonna make sure you go to therapy,” and a therapist who was just there to report to my parents. I kinda went, “I don’t think I want to do this.”

I also had this really strong sense that if it’s not your turn, you don’t get to die. I don’t understand that completely, but I’ve had a couple of things happen since then. When we were in Guam, we had a couple of plane crashes. We lived right on the airfield, and so we had an airplane come spinning down the runway and stop in front of our house. As a kid, I took out a clear plastic umbrella, opened it up, and walked toward the airplane! I wanted to see what was happening! I’m kinda like the person who walks into the fire and doesn’t think anything of it because if it’s not my time, it’s not my time.

So, I went on with life. We moved to Hawaii. My parents were having a rough time. Dad got out of the military. Mom couldn’t find work. I went through high school in three years because I couldn’t stand being in high school. There weren’t enough ways for bright kids to get to know other bright kids. I don’t mean to say that in an “everybody’s stupid” mode, but in a “if you don’t have anybody like you around, it’s tough.” And I was “Gigantor” or “The Jolly Green Giant” or all those wonderful things that kids tell each other. My parents were gone every weekend, and I was pretty much raising my younger brother…

I graduated high school in three years, went away to college, took 24 units my first semester outta high school in an honors program and had a really bad counselor who signed off on it ‘cause it was her first semester. I had migraine headaches that were debilitating, like it was taking a 4×4 and hitting me in the back of the head with it. I’d go blind on one side, and my dad was convinced it was a hole in my head. Military doctors didn’t figure out what was going on, and I OD’d on pain meds. The bottle said take one every three hours as long as you had a migraine. I took one every three hours for three days. They carted me out of there on a stretcher, down four flights of stairs in the dorm.

I was the crazy one who committed the unspeakable act of attempted suicide while in college, and I was like, “I didn’t attempt suicide. I just wanted the pain to go away.” And I was a failure. I finished up the semester, but only got three transferrable units out of that year.

It’s like you can’t get away from your past. You can’t get away from it.

Went back home in shame to live with mom and dad, and very soon after, met a guy in the navy and moved in with him. We moved to California. Three days after I arrived in California, he got shipped out for a 9 month cruise. When he got back, we got married. Three months later, we both ended up in a hospital treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse. I say that my starter husband saved my life because of that, and what’s funny is last year I was working an event and befriended somebody who’s now my Facebook friend. He posted something from back east and my ex-husband was the first person to reply with a comment. We both know the same guy. We live 4,000 miles away from each other or whatever it is, and I just laughed. It’s like you can’t get away from your past. You can’t get away from it. I learned that last summer, too.

Last summer, I took a 3,000 mile motorcycle trip by myself. After submitting 1,000 resumes and not getting a bite, I said, “Okay, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m doing it all right, and it’s not working.” You know that control thing? That perfectionism thing? So I said, “Okay what’s on my bucket list?” Well, as an adult, I don’t have dreams anymore. I don’t have the big deals because I did most of ‘em. I got married, I had a child. She’s now graduating high school this year and living with her dad full-time and scaring the crud out of me. [Had a] second husband.

When I went on the trip, every time I couldn’t make up my mind where I wanted to go, I flipped a coin, and I really did say, “I am not in control.” Every day, I had to wake up and say, “I’m not in control. I am just going along with life for a while. I’m gonna ride whatever happens,” and I ended up in some really cool places. Ran into some friends of my parents just as a big storm was coming through. Got to hang out with a cousin I’d only met one time before, and she’s cooler than the rest of the family, I think.

Ended up coming back across Nevada. You go 100 miles and up over a hill and you come down and there’s another 300 miles, just open road, straight ahead, going and going. I’m in the middle of this open stretch of road, and an antelope runs across the road and stops dead as I’m five feet away from it. I slide my motorcycle sideways. Not like movie stuff but just, you know, you hit the brakes real hard and the back end comes around. This antelope looked at me like “Yeah?” and then trotted off. I kinda went, “You know, I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to go into the center rail. I didn’t want it to end right then.” And that’s very different from all those years ago. And it’s very different from three years ago.

I went through [some thyroid issues that were] really bad. My daughter moved out. I’d had depression for a couple of years that was just becoming more and more intractable again and I thought, “Jesus. Here we go.” I hadn’t had any high-grade major depression in years. I’ve always had a little dysthymia whatever, but I could deal with it. Medication was working. This time, nothing worked. I tried seven different medications. [I had a] sleep disorder and it was really bad, and it was all PTSD related. When my daughter decided to move in with her dad permanently, it tore my guts out. I’d heard about empty nest syndrome. I was a psych major. I’ve read all the books, I know all this stuff, but intellectually understanding things does not change your emotional experience of it or your physical experience of it, and we couldn’t find medication that would work. Killing myself really wasn’t the option, but I knew I was at that point where every day I was having to fight the thought.

I told a friend. I’d call her every day. One day she said, “Okay, it’s time for you to do something.”

I took myself up to a hospital, and they treated me as if I was a criminal. They said I had bipolar, which I had never, never had any kind of a discussion about. Still don’t believe it. I’m unipolar all the way. Haven’t had to fight mental illness my whole life. Just periodically, when my hormones are real whacked. Well, I come to find out that my gynecologist had told the prescribing mixing pharmacist that. She said, “Oh, well, I don’t give estrogen without mixing in progesterone and testosterone,” and they didn’t tell me. I had been using this cream that triggered more depression symptoms than I’d ever had in my life. I had stopped using it, but by then—and I don’t want to blame—it’s just sometimes things can be triggered really badly.

My friend took me up to the hospital and they transferred me to a community hospital because insurance wouldn’t pay. The community hospital was in transition because it was being sold, and nobody gave a shit. They decided they wanted to keep me for a week, and I said, “Well, I’ll check myself out AMA,” so they checked me in on a mandatory hold and I said, “I’m no longer suicidal. You can’t keep me. I’m going home.” I called a friend, and they came and picked me up, and I went home. My doctor extended my leave of absence from work, and they fired me three days before I was supposed to go back to work, so then I was unemployed for three years.

…I don’t want this interview to just be about mental health, because that’s not all of who I am. I have PTSD because I was on a spring break while I was working on my master’s degree, and I decided to go on a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, to do family history research. I was a member of the local genealogy society and someone had backed out on their annual trip. I went, “I can go do research for a week, and I’ll come back and be refreshed and I can go into finals.” [While I was there, at the Family History Library], a man walked in and started shooting people. A bullet went over my shoulder and hit the woman behind me. [In school], we were studying legal psychology about gun focus and things, and a bullet hit the woman who was sitting at the greeter table. I watched her broomstick skirt go spinning down. All of, I think, six people were killed—I’m honestly not sure—and then the police came and held the kids in the museum across the way hostage for 8 hours while they searched to find another co-conspirator or whatever. I was more angry with the police about that than I was at the actual shooter, ’cause I figured something snapped for him. Come to find out, he was from Kosovo. His family had been killed by the Germans in World War II. We were bombing Kosovo. He had a break with reality. I have a lot of compassion for him. I don’t know why. They killed him.

I came home from that experience, and I couldn’t sleep for six weeks. I’ve had hippocampal shrinkage, and that’s the part of the brain that controls whether or not you sleep and what your mood’s like and all of that. I used to be meticulously clean, tidy, organized. I’ve had to relearn all of that, because my brain shifted. I don’t sleep very well. When I do dream, I don’t get through a night. I don’t remember dates and things like that very well. I can’t keep track of it anymore. It’s been quite a few years, but if there’s a mass shooting or event, it will trigger me for a few days.

I just kinda call my friends and go, “Hi, guys. Guess what? I’m not watching the news. Let’s go do something that I’m not gonna see the news.”

They’re like, “Okay…”

After the shooting, I came home and stopped riding motorcycles because I thought, “I’ve got a child now, I’ve gotta be protective of her.” Then I went, “You know what? If we stop living our lives because of fear, fear wins,” and I went out and bought a motorcycle. I gave up on the relationship that wasn’t working. I moved out on my own. I finished my degree and got my master’s. Went to work for social services for awhile, went to work for the coroner’s office for awhile, then went to work for healthcare and do stats and look at trends and read things critically.

I have a lot of friends who come to me and ask me for advice on things and I kinda go, “Why? I don’t know anything more than you do.”

They’re like, “Yeah, but when it comes down to it, in an emergency, I’d rather have you around.”

And it’s just that. I got myself trained as a emergency volunteer for earthquakes. You don’t have to deal with those in New York, but…

Des: Hey, we had one!

Pam: I know!

Des: That was wild.

Pam: It was. My relatives in Minnesota called and said they had an earthquake, and I’m like, “Okay, life is weird.”

Des: Yeah, life is weird.

Pam: But it’s just that “be prepared” kind of stuff. I carry a toolkit on my bike. I carry a first aid kit. It’s just what I do. Cause I want other people to live. I’m there for other people a lot easier than I am for myself…

You always have that [question in the] back of your mind: “What did I do to deserve this?” You know, “If I had just made this choice or that choice.”

There’s no way in the world any of it was my fault.

When I was in Utah and got shot at in a church-run library, I was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t doing anything to put myself in harm’s way. It was not my fault. There’s no way in the world any of it was my fault. And all of a sudden, it gave me freedom. It wasn’t my fault that I got raped when I was nine. It wasn’t my fault that my father was in the military and never dealt with it. It wasn’t my fault that I was born genetically taller than God. I shouldn’t say, “Taller than God,” ’cause that’s a very bad thing to say. I’m different. It’s okay now.

High school? It wasn’t okay. I was taller than everybody in the entire school, including the teachers and the faculty and the staff. I was the only white kid in my summer school in high school. It’s always been, “You’re different.” Now I embrace my different.

…There’s a part of me that still wants to be perfect ‘cause, for me, part of the reason why I wanted to take myself out a couple of times has been that perfectionist streak, [where I feel like] the world’s not the way it should be, and I don’t wanna be in it if it’s not. There’s that part of it, and then there’s the [feeling of], “Maybe the world’s just perfect and I’m the one who’s screwed up, and I can’t do anything to be different about that. I can’t be any shorter. I can change my hair color. I can change my weight. It’s not gonna do me any good. I’m still gonna be the sum of everything.” And that’s okay too. It’s a really weird okay, because I keep looking at myself going, “Wait a minute! You finished a master’s degree? But… Nah, you dropped outta college twice! Oh my God, you raised a kid? There’s a human being walking around who is thinking that you are the cause of every problem in her life right now, and she’ll get over it or she won’t?”

It’s not my parents’ fault that I was messed up in the head. It’s not the military. I don’t point a finger anywhere, and I really get frustrated with the “If you just…” school of thought. If you just exercise more, if you just take the right vitamins, if you just have a positive attitude. I’m sorry, but, quick fixes and sharp answers are not gonna help.

After the shooting, I tried to go in and find somewhere where there was a shooting survivor’s group, and there’s not. I got involved in gun control because there were all these family members of victims of crime. Like, “I’m sorry. Your family member died. I didn’t,” and I couldn’t get any help. Luckily, I found a really wonderful therapist who pointed out to me all the things I was doing right. Even if it was just a little, tiny thing. I’d been around counseling my whole life and, I mean, in a way, you could say my whole life has been following this path of trying to figure out, “Why is everybody around me so screwed up? ‘Cause I’m perfect.”

A friend [of mine is] like, “We’re perfect in every way! We’re perfectly human.”

And that means we’re perfectly fallible, and we get all these perfect flaws, so enjoy ‘em! Today I don’t know everything. It’s okay. Today I don’t act right. It’s okay. I’m a complete 6th grade dork when it comes to being around other people. It’s okay. As long as I’m still trying. When I give up, when I get complacent, that’s when it gets weird, and then the weird turns gross.

I volunteered with the American Diabetes Association for a while. It used to be, if you had diabetes, it was, “Poor thing.” Now, if you have diabetes, you’re a fat slob—but if you have diabetes from birth, you haven’t done anything to deserve it. You’re not just being fat and lazy. People feel different about it. It’s just like with the AIDS crisis. They finally figured out that it wasn’t just a gay disease when kids that were hemophiliacs got it. Kids could stand up and say, “But I’m sick.” Don’t blame, don’t marginalize that whole group for an illness that we don’t understand. I think that’s where we’re at with mental health. I think we want to compartmentalize even within the mental health community…

I don’t think people see that. If you go in and ask for help because you don’t understand why every day it’s so hard to drag your ass out of bed, people say, “Just get up earlier. If you exercise, you’ll just feel better.” I exercised. I took fish oil. I took vitamins every day. I didn’t eat processed foods. I controlled every single thing that went in and out of my body, and nothing was working.

Then I figured out there’s one little thing. If you’re very suicidal, and you stay up all night long and don’t sleep at all (and you’re not bipolar), there is a chemical released by your body that will give you a little relief for a day. I don’t know what it is, but it’s been documented (ed. note: I can’t find a citation). The one time that I was on that, I was like, “You know what? If things don’t get better, I’m jut gonna drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and take myself out.”

I went to a place where I usually have coffee and meet people and said, “If there’s nobody there I can talk to, I’m gonna do it.” Then I run into somebody who’s pissed off at me for something I did five years earlier, and wants to talk about it. We stayed up all night and talked about it. I still was like, “Ehh,” and the sun started to come up, and I was exhausted, but I had more energy than I had had in months. I talked to my counselor, I talked to instructors at school—it’s a phenomenon, I don’t know why. It was just one of those weird things.

So, if I get to that point, I’ll stay up all night just to see what happens. Watch the sun rise. Sometimes it works. And if it doesn’t, then you’re too tired to do anything and fall asleep. To me, it’s faking myself out sometimes.

I know, intellectually, that it makes absolutely no sense to say, “I can’t kill myself today because I still have M&Ms left, and I’m gonna eat two M&Ms a day until they’re all gone,” but faking myself out [works]. “I can’t do it because…” You know?

My mom and I had this nice, long conversation the last time I was really, really depressed. I mean when I went through [the horrors of not being able to find the right medication].

I called my mom and I said, “You know, if I, if this happens…”

She said, “You know what? I have to come to terms with the fact that, if you are that miserable every single day of your life, then I have to get okay with if you aren’t gonna be here.” She said, “We do it for people who are dying of cancer or, you know, some awful disease. Or they’re old, and we’ll go into the nursing home and we’ll hold their hand and we sit with them while they die, but we don’t do it for people with mental health—with massive, chronic, horrible depression.”

I’m not talking about, “Oh, I’m so depressed I didn’t get the grade I wanted in school.”

We want to be there for people, but we don’t know how. We don’t know what works. Even the people who are in the middle of it don’t know what works. I’d like it to be as simple as, “Well, it’s my biochemistry.” I’d like it to be as simple as finding the right pharmaceutical ingredient. That isn’t it. I don’t know what it is. I wish I did.

Des: Then we wouldn’t have this problem.

Pam: Yeah! And as we’ve been sitting here, I think about all the other ways of awareness that we’ve got. In my lifetime, we’ve had civil rights, we’ve had women’s rights. We still have a pay equity [issue] but, okay, we’re trying. But [there is a] shift in expectations of what people are supposed to do. And yet, we don’t have equal rights for people with mental health issues. It’s easier to say some guy came back from war and he’s got PTSD and he’s all fucked up, but there are millions of women who have PTSD from being raped and being traumatized, and we don’t deal with that one. We have millions of people who have bipolar disease, or are maybe being misdiagnosed because that’s the diagnosis of the month. Everybody had ADD about 10 years ago. Now everybody’s got bipolar. I’m not so sure. Not to discount that anybody doesn’t have it, but we try to find a box.

I don’t like people being put into bins. I’m a biker.

I don’t like people being put into bins. I’m a biker. I’m a mom. I’m a statistician. I’m a genealogist. I was a square dancer in junior high school. We put on the national square dance convention in Hawaii. I danced the Hula in Japan. I’m a recovering blonde. I had white hair as a kid, and now I cover my blonde. They’re all pieces and parts. It’s like saying everybody who drives a Prius is one way, and everyone who drives a panel van is another. We all have those images, and it helps us to communicate, but it doesn’t help us when that’s all we use to describe people. I am not depression. I am not mental health.

…I find that I end up being kind of a spokesperson for people who struggle wherever I go. I worked at a battered women’s shelter for a while. I worked with people who have mental health issues. I help a lot of young ladies who’re trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives with drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy. My mom taught in an alternative high school. Go out and volunteer somewhere with people who have a problem you never knew nothing about. Not because you’re better than them and you need to help those poor people, but maybe because you need to learn something about the human condition. What’s really been fascinating to me is how much I’ve learned from being the one helping and being the one being helped. Helping somebody when you have life experience that says, “I’m not reaching my hand out to you to pull you up because you’re broken, I’m reaching a hand out to you because somebody reached a hand out to me.” Because there’s always that place, that time, when you may not even realize you’re doing it for somebody.

I had a really cool experience recently. Thirty years ago, while I was in college, I had to sell my motorcycle. It was my only form of transportation, but I needed books. I had a few people I knew who rode, and they knew that every summer, I went on this one campout. This guy showed up at my doorstep with the keys to his Harley, handed them to me, and said, “Congratulations, I’m graduating. Have a great trip. Bring the bike back, but bring yourself back in one piece after you go on the trip.”

Now, number one, he’s handing me something of extreme value. People value their motorcycles like they value their children or their dogs. It’s not just a piece of furniture, it’s a part of them. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine had a problem with her bike. It was gonna be in the shop for God knew how long.

I was there, and I just went, “You know what? Here. Here’s the keys to my bike. Bring it back to me, but if anything happens and it’s between you and the bike, take care of yourself.”

I got to send a message back to the guy who had loaned me his bike 30 years ago. He didn’t remember doing it. For me, it was a huge pay-it-forward moment. I’d waited my whole life to do something cool like that. Now, two days after I loaned it to her, I went, “What the hell did I do?! I gave up my baby!” You know? She gave it back to me in one piece in three days. Her bike got taken care of faster [than expected].

I had people go, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you did that!” For me, it was just my turn.

I help out on events. Because of my size, I found out that, if I stand in front of a doorway, people think I’m security, whether I am or not. So I go to concerts or fundraiser things, and they ask me to basically be the door guard, kind of. I’m not the hardcore security, but I check your badge and whether you’re supposed to go in the VIP area or you’re not.

What I discovered was that some of the nicest people who are supposedly celebrities, they know that they’re human beings, and they’ll go, “Oh, I left my badge in there. Would you ask so-and-so to bring me my badge?”

I’m like, “I know who you are. You can go through.”

“No, no, no, I’m gonna follow the rules.”

I had one young lady who was like, “I’ve got nine people here and none of ‘em have badges.”

I’m like, “I’m sorry, I can’t let anybody back here. You can go ahead and go back,” and later on that night, she was one of the headliners. I didn’t even know it. Oops! ‘Cause I don’t pay attention. See? Dork. Totally admit it.

She came up to me afterwards and she says, “You know, it was very nice of you to treat me just like anybody else.”

I went, “Well, honestly, I didn’t know. I’m not into the genre of music you’re doing. I don’t pay real close attention to who faces are.”

She’s like, “I get it! But today I got to be just another person again, and you treated me like a person.“

And I went, “I get it.”

The people who did the most good for me when I’ve been really down have been the ones who treat me like a person. Not like a disease. Not like an issue. The people who say, “You know what? You have capacities.”

That really good counselor? She got to retire. Butthead. She’s my counselor. She’s supposed to be around forever! And we laughed about it, but even when I was all, “whine, whine, whine”—I can’t stand myself when I get there—she had a capacity to go, “And? Did you finish the paper you were working on?”

“Well, yeah. It was only 2 pages. I was really worried about it, but it was just dumb to worry about it. I got it written that night.”

She’s like, “So, you did it. Give yourself a break. Feel like you’ve accomplished something. Look at what you’re doing!”

I mean, good grief, man! You hear about stuff that people do and go, “I’m amazed somebody followed up.”

Somebody thinks about it, and then somebody does something about it. Maybe if enough people—it’s like two drops in a bucket, and if you keep putting two drops in and two drops in, maybe it changes.

My friend who went through the Vietnam War and has really bad PTSD… was there for me when I got shot at. He told me about the nightmares and what I could do. He told me how to react to the people around me who were all going, “Oh my god, you survived a shooting?”

They all freaked out, and it’s like, “I’m not gonna take care of you because I can’t take care of me right now.” It felt like I had to take care of them.

It’s the same thing with my depression. When I get really badly into it, I’m sorry, I can’t take care of your concern for me. But having somebody who’s been through it go, “Yeah, it does get different. I won’t promise it’s better. It’s different,” [is helpful].

It gets different while you’re recovering. It gets better when you get to say, “I’m recovered today.” It’s very different. I don’t know what shifted. I wish I knew what shifted. I want to bottle that shit.

‘Cause I can tell you today, “Buy everybody who has depression a motorcycle and send them out on the road for three months to ride by themselves and do something totally awesome,” but, see, that’s what worked for me. Why did it work for me? Well, part of it, I got to drive on the Bonneville Salt Flats on my Great White Harley. I know that my dad was a racecar driver in the ‘50s and he got to do really cool shit. I got to do really cool shit. I got a story I can tell great-grandchildren. I may never have grandchildren or great-grandchildren, but I’ve go things in my life that I can look at and go, “I made one more drop in that bucket.”

Somebody, reach your hand out. I’ll keep reaching my hand out. Usually. Piss me off bad enough and I’ll get somebody else to reach their hand out for you. Try really hard and fail a whole bunch of times, and it gets harder for people to reach out. Try a little bit and fake it and pretend and then screw it up on purpose? I’m gonna turn around and walk away, and so is everybody else. Those are the folks that I think we really need to stick a hand out to.

…The best thing you can do sometimes when somebody’s drowning—they taught me this in lifesaving class ‘cause of swimming lessons—if somebody’s drowning, the tendency is to grab on and pull somebody else under, so, sometimes, what you have to do is back off and let ‘em go under, because then they’ll relax and you can pull them in to safety. I hate the idea that people have to hit a bottom or have to screw up really bad, but I think there’s this mentality [about it], and maybe that’s part of this putting people in bins that I don’t like.

[Years ago], I walked into the hospital and they saw me as just one more person who was trying to kill themselves for attention, or wrote me off as just one more of those people, instead of going, “How can we help you?” If it came down to it and I ever got really badly depressed again, I would never go to a hospital. I will never put myself through that again.


I have certain friends of mine who know. Three of them are on my call list. In case of emergency, call these three people and they’re gonna take me away and put me in a cabin in the woods and say, “Okay, now, you’re gonna feel better, or we’re gonna hurt you,” but they won’t let me go through that again. Will they be able to put up with me until then? I don’t know. I hope so. And on the days when they’re really acting out, I throw candy at them and run away.

 I still have to change things, I still have to speak up, I still have to, but it’s okay if I speak up and it doesn’t change immediately.

…There are times in my life when I’ve been so depressed I don’t give a shit. I’m angry and kind of pushing things away. That’s not where it’s at right now. Right now, it just is. The world just is. I still have to change things, I still have to speak up, I still have to, but it’s okay if I speak up and it doesn’t change immediately. It’s okay if I do my adequate and not my best. I’m still a straight A student with a straight C attitude.

Thanks to Jillian Watral, who volunteers at the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, a Live Through This partner organization, for providing the transcription for Pamela’s interview.

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About Live Through This
Live Through This is a series of portraits and true stories of suicide attempt survivors. Its mission is to change public attitudes about suicide for the better; to reduce prejudice and discrimination against attempt survivors; to provide comfort to those experiencing suicidality by letting them know that they’re not alone and tomorrow is possible; to give insight to those who have trouble understanding suicidality, and catharsis to those who have lost a loved one; and to be used as a teaching tool for clinicians in training, or anyone else who might benefit from a deeper understanding of first-person experiences with suicide.
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Tax-deductible donations are made possible by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization, which sponsors Live Through This. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Live Through This must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Please Stay
If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out to one of the resources below. Someone will reach back. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life.
Find Help

You can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. Trans Lifeline is at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada). The Trevor Project is at 866-488-7386. If you’d like to talk to a peer, contains links to warmlines in every state. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world. If you don’t like talking on the phone, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

NOTE: Many of these resources utilize restrictive interventions, like active rescues (wellness or welfare checks) involving law enforcement or emergency services. If this is a concern for you, you can ask if this is a possibility at any point in your conversation. Trans Lifeline does not implement restrictive interventions for suicidal people without express consent. A warmline is also less likely to do this, but you may want to double-check their policies.

Live Through This is dedicated to the lives of so many friends and family members lost to suicide over the years. If you would like to add the name of a loved one to this list, please email me.
Live Through This is dedicated to the lives of so many friends and family members lost to suicide over the years. If you would like to add the name of a loved one to this list, please email me.