The Day I Almost Died

When I was fourteen, I sat in the back of a school bus frantically trying to hide the fact that I was wearing the same cotton pantsuit for the third time that week. I felt as though everyone on that bus was laughing at me. I know now that they weren’t but my perspective was a hot mess. I felt like an outsider, a failure, a giant loser. I was not pretty or funny. I was not talented in any way. I was “just” smart.

I didn’t want to be smart. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be funny. I wanted to play varsity anything. I wanted to have a different outfit for every day of the week. That day on the bus, I had a realization that made my heart nearly stop.

FOUR YEARS.

I had four seemingly endless years of this rigamarole. Four years of torture. I almost couldn’t bare it. Some days my depression was so heavy, it physically caused my body to hurt–from head to toe. But in those days we didn’t talk about depression. Then something terrible happened to my family.

We were robbed.

In hindsight, I am grateful for that robbery every day. Not only did the burglars invade our home while we were out, they chose to break a window to get in.

That broken window nearly killed me and saved me at the same time.

My dad had taped a piece of cardboard inside the door to keep the wind out. There were still a few pieced of broken glasses attached to the jam.

A few weeks after the robbery, we got home from church. I jumped out ahead of the family. I wanted to get into the house and didn’t have my key so I reached my hand over a small shard of glass to push the cardboard through in order to ultimately get to the knob. My parents were just feet behind me. I should have waited.

I felt the warm blood before I felt the pain.

I just slit my wrist…by accident…maybe. I knew better than to do something so stupid. I never would have had the courage to actually slit my wrists but why?? What in the world possessed me to….?

It was bad. My father carried me to the car while my mother ran for a towel. With every beat of my heart a forceful gush of blood saturated the massive towel. I heard my mother scream. I felt my father shake as he floored the gas pedal.

With every beat of my heart and fresh blood spatter in the back of my father’s car, I felt my life leaving me.

I felt life leaving me.

Then I knew. My “accident” was caused by an impulse. One I regretted the instant it happened. I suddenly saw it. My life…in the future..in 10 and 20 and 30 years.

I saw glimpses of it. The life that passed before me was my future life. I saw graduation and college and medical school. I saw love and travels and laughter. I smelled my dad’s cologne and felt my mom’s hands smoothing my hair. I saw my sister’s massive grin and my aunt’s bright blue eyes. I tasted my Tayta’s fried fish.

And I wanted it. I wanted my life and it was slipping away from me. I cried but not from pain. I cried from sadness and the realization that I almost wanted this to happen. I had been so tired of living lately…

I don’t remember much more of the trip to the ER but I remember the hand surgeon that appeared at my side as I slipped in and out of consciousness. He was an angel. He unwrapped the bloody towel and a gush of blood spattered his glasses. He didn’t flinch. He smiled down at me.

“You are going to be ok.” He said.

Someone was pushing medicine into my other arm. Someone else put a really heavy warm blanket over me…it felt so good. I was so tired. I was tired of the night, and the day, and the months of pain. I closed my eyes. I trusted my surgeon. He had told me I would be ok.

It turns out he was not just talking about the surgery. He was talking about my life. Looking into his eyes, past the smear of my blood on his glasses, I knew that I belonged on this earth.

Thirty years have gone by. Life is still sometimes hectic and tiresome and overwhelming but it has been a beautiful gift. I have a huge scar over my right radial artery. Very few people in my life know about it. But I am telling YOU all now because that scar saves me every day. I see it. I touch it. I caress it. And I remember what I almost lost. I cherish that scar because it reminds me to cherish the husband, son, two daughters and this blessed life I almost didn’t have–the blessed life I almost lost.

To the teen out there reading this, I understand your pain. I understand how hard and overwhelming life seems but please don’t let a single moment of pain or impulse tell your life story. It is a story yet to be written. And, it will be better than you ever imagined. I promise you.

Comments

  1. That was beautiful. I hope this reaches a young soul that needs it.

  2. Debbie Skrajewski says:

    Well timed for where our world is right now and especially this time of year. We never knew…thanks for sharing!

  3. Kristen Taylor says:

    This brought tears to my eyes and I think sharing this with anyone dealing with depression would be a gift. I will remember this story for a long time. Beautifully written.

  4. Sheila says:

    Well written Christine. Thank you for sharing such a personal time in your life, hopefully it will help others.

  5. Connie says:

    Always love what you have to say..the world would be a different place without you and people like you. Thank God someone or something told you that that frightful day. Your words help so many I am sure. Thank you for sharing….

  6. Kathy DeMario says:

    Wow. You so times don’t realize how precious life is. But this experience makes you think.

  7. Lesley Roy says:

    I am trying to remember if I knew about that scar. If I asked you about it. If I ever saw it or ever asked then whatever sadness or depression it could have been connected to was incongruent with the Christine that I knew and therefore to me it would have been nothing more than a childhood accident born out of an undeveloped brain that could not quickly process consequences. Much like the little piece of my thumb that has long since been absorbed into the earth of South Jersey (another story for another time). I don’t think I Knew you when you were so low, I wish I had. When I knew you, the impact of the day was evident in your infectious smile, bright eyes, and yes, your sense of humor. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I am a therapist at a university and I see many many “kids”, who are still stumbling through the depths of depression. Most of the students that I see are coming to real confidential counseling for the first time. I thank each one of them for taking the difficult step to get help.

    I often share anonymous stories of past clients or “clients” or people I know. Sometimes it is a past client, sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s my own story. I share to offer something they can relate to or to help them to see possibilities. I may share this story from “someone I know”.

    On a final note, I think are scars are there for us to learn from. I have my own stories that can be told through scars. What is important is how we choose to tell the story and what we choose to learn. Your story is an example of a life saving lesson learned and a story of survival rather than tragedy.

    Peace.

  8. byebyebeer says:

    Beautiful and very moving. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. A says:

    I really needed to read this. I will read it again and again until I believe it. Thank you.

  10. A says:

    I’ll hold onto that promise Dr.Meyer.
    A

  11. Joanne Ryder says:

    Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. Depression is a lousy illness. There are times when one doesn’t want to push on to the next moment. For a teenager, who is still learning his/her way through the world, it can be daunting. I’m so very, very thankful you are who you are. You make such a difference in the world!

  12. Karen Moffitt says:

    Every day when I open my eyes, I say ‘Thank you for the gift of another day.” Your words are the reminder that sometimes another day is overwhelming. And you never know if the person you interact with when you’re getting coffee, sitting on that school bus, at Wegman’s…wherever, could use a friendly smile or a little extra kindness. Thank you for reminding me to use the gift of another day to help make someone else’s brighter. Love and hugs to you for baring such a personal story.

  13. Casey says:

    When I was 11, my mother attempted suicide. When I was 15, my cousin committed suicide. For years I had thoughts of suicide, but didn’t think I was strong enough to go through with it. So I did a lot of drugs and reckless, dangerous activities that I thought had a good shot at killing me “by accident”.

    And then I found out I was pregnant. And I thought about how I needed to get myself together for this kid. I figured I would get married and we would muscle through. And I pulled myself together for a few years. But every argument, or time I lost my temper would drag me back down because I thought I’d ruin another generation of my family. That I would crush the spirit of my beautiful family and they were better off with out me.

    And then my brother attempted suicide. I truly wanted to tell him it got better, but I couldn’t.

    At that point I have been married for 4 years and, while my husband knew I had a hard time feeling out of control and losing my temper, he had no idea how bad I was. Until he asked. Straightforward. Point blank. “Do you ever think about killing your self?” So I told him the truth. He made me see therapists, even calling and making the appointments for me.

    5 years later, I am better. We are better. It does get better. But the only difference between my mom, my cousin, my brother and me was that someone asked and I broke my silence. Even after so much heartache in my family, no one ever reached beyond the stunned awkward silence. Until my husband.

    I read your blog post when you first posted it Dr. Meyer, and I hadn’t left my mind. Thank you for posting, no only a hopeful word, but a very personal experience. Because it is terrifying to put our fears and sufferings out there. And it’s awkward to ask others if they need help. But incredibly valuable when we do.

    • What a beautiful heartbreaking inspiring story Casey. Despite being in the depths of those dark dark places at least in two periods of my life (high school and 2012,) I often feel like a failure when it comes to managing my patients with depression. You said it perfectly. I shouldn’t be “managing” I should be “asking.” Thank you so much.

  14. Cathi Thompson says:

    Wow…just when I think I know you..you seem to always surprise me.. You are such a incredible being with so much to share…truly love you with all my heart ❤️

  15. Tracy says:

    I am so glad you shared your story. It is a difficult one to share, and one that so many people are afraid to hear. I know this. Most peope only want to hear the good, and quickly pan over the bad – it’s too hard, it’s very hard, for so many people. I recently “dealt” with a teammate who was going through a similar situation. It’s difficult to know how to help, what to say, how to be there. It hurts to be beside that person. It’s the most helpless feeling on the earth – almost as helpless as when you experience it yourself. I plan to share your story with my friend, and also with my 11 yo daughter, who thinks life is too difficult, and wonders, way too much, how she will get through each day. Thank you.

  16. Cathy says:

    Wow, this is a beautiful story that you have shared that all of us women can relate to. Raising three daughters really makes me realize what a struggle it is to be a teenage girl.

  17. Cynthia Carr Kelly says:

    Now I know why I felt such a connection with you when we moved here over six years ago and I was looking for a PCP. I more or less threw a dart at a dartboard and came up with your name, only to find out that we had the Lenape Regional High School District in common. I was a counselor at a sister school to yours, working with kids who had many of the same issues you talk about here. I’ve always loved the spiritual things you post and the signs on the wall of your office, but reading this has brought it all together for me. We had similar high school stories, but the details were different. We’re going through a battle with depression now with our grown daughter, and I needed to read this today. Thank you for the reminder that it’s always worth it.

  18. Yes, you really were smart to put that together at just 14. The daily struggles of young people are so enormous in their world. It IS hard for them to see the years ahead into their 20s and 30s. It’s so important to get this message out. You are so good to share your story.

  19. lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I have a beautiful fifteen year old daughter who is always complaining about her body and clothes. I am going to restate your post.

  20. Deb says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this private story in order to help many others suffering form depression. You never cease to amaze me, Doc. You have touched and helped so many people with your compassion, “smarts” and sense of humor. I don’t think you will ever know how many people you have helped by sharing your experiences. Thanks for being YOU! I feel so blessed to be on your CMMD team and also have you as my doctor. God Bless!

  21. Anonymous says:

    thank you for this, it was very much needed right now.

  22. Lisa says:

    Very few doctors can express their feelings and share with everyone! You are amazing and I admire you!! I have seen your posts and comments and I am impressed. I loved the story and I am sure that thought crosses many people’s mind but never do it.

  23. Leigh Davis says:

    Christine, From the day I met you, I adored you and the message you portray to the world. When in your office, I love how upbeat everyone is. The artwork is so positive, that I always leave there feeling better than when I walked in no matter how sick I may be. Thank You for Honoring our little Hailey Parker. Our hearts are breaking within our family!
    Somehow, again, you gave some light to life. Thank you and your team!
    Leigh Davis

  24. winnie says:

    Dr. Meyer,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am currently in my third year of medical school and I had a pretty significant history of depression for what seemed like my entire life. I also had a history of self-injury and recently relapsed after a tough break up. As rewarding as med school has been for me, it has also been a very isolating experience, especially the third year. No one really understands the pain that depression can bring, and as a student, we are often too scared to look weak in the eye of our peers. It’s been hard for me to go a week without thinking about ending it all. Your post just gave me some hope and thank you for that.

    -W

    • Lesley Roy says:

      Winnie,

      I am one of Dr. Meyer’s friends from high school, oh so many years ago. I too have struggled with periods of depression at times when life has seemed to ceaselessly through challenges at me or forced me to go left when I had been planning to go right.

      Today I am a clinical counselor at a university and I see students every day spanning from undergraduate to graduate. I am sure that your school has free confidential counseling. Please check out your options. I am so grateful and I feel so honored when I meet a student who has made the courageous leap of faith and hope that is required just to make the appointment.

      It takes strength to acknowledge that you need support and even more strength and courage to follow through. There is no weakness in that equation.

      Please seek the support that will help you to feel better, perform better, and be a better doctor to your patients that will be waiting for you when you have your degree in hand.

      I wish you peace and wellness.

      Lesley

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