“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings….” -Lao Tzu
“The Past Will Be Your Teacher If You Learn From It; Your Master If You Live In It.” -Dr.Steve Maraboli
When I was 16 years old, I was sent to live in Mexico. And we aren’t talking about Cancun or Cabo or some fancy all-inclusive resort. We are talking just past Tijuana in a little town called Ensenada, Mexico. I lived there for 10 months in a sort of center for troubled teens, I guess you could say. It was actually a bunch of portable trailers lined with bunk beds in more of a compound setting than a “center”, but you get the idea.
By the ripe old age of 16, I had two very serious suicide attempts under my belt. The first time was at age 15 when I decided after coming home from school one day that I would have my sister drive me to the gas station, so I could buy aspirin. That’s how I would do it. Don’t ask me how that came into my mind, it just did. I don’t remember much from my past, but I can clearly remember sitting there in my bedroom with the bottle of aspirin, wanting desperately to end all the pain. I swallowed 6 at first. I let them settle and thought to myself, I’m ok here. I can stop it now and be ok with 6 in my system. But I couldn’t stop. I took 4 more so I was at 10. That was really the tipping point. I could really stop now and most likely be just fine. It was the proverbial, red pill or blue pill kind of thing. Take the rest or stop now. Die and see what waits for me on that side or stay alive and suffer through the pain.
The next memory I have is me pouring them down my throat as fast as I could. As many as I could swallow at once, over and over, until there were only a few left in the brand new bottle. I remember hearing my sister banging on the door then my next memory is being wheeled out of the house on a gurney into an ambulance. There are blips that I can recall in the ambulance, but then something that will forever live in the grey matter in my head is having a tube shoved down my throat while getting the contents of my stomach pumped out.
My sister had given the paramedics the aspirin bottle and since she had driven me to the store to buy the bottle because I had told her I had a headache, she knew it was brand new. There were only 10 left out of 100. I swallowed 90 aspirin. When I made my decision, there was no turning back…at least I thought so.
I went directly to the psych ward of the hospital after getting my stomach pumped and stayed there for a week before they slapped a She’s-Just-Fine sticker on me with a handful of pills to make it all better and back home I went.
The next attempt came almost a year later. I was hanging out at a friend’s house and once again, the pain was too much to bear. The house was on a big property with trees and I decided to take a walk that night. I have always been resourceful, so using the only tools I had, I took my sweatshirt off from around my waist, found a tree with a limb short enough to swing the sweatshirt around and hung it around my neck. I’m not sure how long I hung there before my friends found me as I blacked out pretty quickly. While I didn’t have to get my stomach pumped this time, I had quite the bruise around my neck…and reminder.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t the final straw that finally broke my mom’s back. A few months later, after a trip down to Las Vegas and some very sleepless nights for my mom, she finally decided she couldn’t take the pain anymore. I was put in a behavioral health center in Idaho for 6 weeks then taken directly down to Mexico from there.
There were these “centers” scattered across the U.S. with one in Jamaica and one in Mexico. Because my mom had to afford it on her income alone, the states were out of the question. So Mexico it was and would stay for the next 10 months.
I spent one of every holiday down there. I didn’t get to talk to my family or anyone I knew the first 3 months. I sent letters as that was my only life line. In looking back now, I see exactly what they were trying to do. It was based on a level system and the only way to go home was to “graduate” from the program after reaching the highest level. You went to a workshop once a month and you had to make it through the workshops to get to the next level. To say they were intense is an understatement. Many kids had to go through the same one repeatedly, month after month, as they couldn’t make it through.
The game changer for me was I was lucky enough to be one of the few that worked with an American counselor. She specialized in depression and once a week me and a couple other “inmates” would get a teaching on depression. I learned everything she could possibly teach us. I could clearly see why I did what I did and that I just needed to make a decision not to go down that path again.
Once I moved up to a “comfortable level” and had some inkling that I was going home soon, I was pretty open in sharing my belief that you didn’t have to graduate the program to be successful when you got home. My mom had spent every last dime she could squeeze out keeping me down there as long as she did, but it wasn’t going to be long enough to finish it. I knew I wasn’t going to graduate from the program, but yet I also knew, deep inside, I would be ok. Even then, at age 17, I knew it was just about listening to yourself and making a choice. It didn’t have to be this way or that. You just had to make the choice.
$40,000 and 10 months later I made it home. I could probably write a whole book of my experience down in Mexico in and of itself. But that is not why I decided to write this post. See, even at age 15 and 16 I was a searcher. I had done the whole drug, drinking, party thing and that would numb the feelings for a while, only to come back with a vengeance once the substances were out of my system. I was trying to find a way out of this world cause for some reason it felt so painful. I was searching for something I just didn’t know what. The doctors, of course, tried putting all sorts of labels on me and writing endless prescriptions to make me better. But that would never work, because the answer was always inside of me. While I was constantly reaching for something outside of me to numb me or to fix me, I couldn’t see that it would never come from there….it could only ever come from within. And that I didn’t really need fixing. I was whole already, I had just forgotten.
Being sent to Mexico most likely saved my life. It was one of those things in life where something else steps in. That something else that feels like it’s tearing your world apart in the moments but is actually tearing it down to try and build a new one. In those first couple months of living in Mexico, I believed wholeheartedly that I would never go home, and this was now my life. Just as I did in those first few hours of withdrawal. The ego or subconscious mind or whatever name you want to give it, is tricky. If you aren’t careful and aware of it, it’s very easy to get lost in the depths of despair and never come back. But what if those “terrible moments” or tragedies are only there to teach us. To tear us apart so we finally have the chance to build something new. The thing is, most go through life repeating these same tragic events in one form or another because they never really actually learn what they are supposed to from it. They can’t ever subconsciously get past it so because of that, they continue to believe that they are a victim of life. Living in Mexico for 10 months was extremely hard. But it saved my life. Leaving my husband after 10 years was EXTREMELY hard. But it saved my life. It’s near impossible to know when you are going through that kind of pain, but what if it’s just our bigger self trying to give us a wakeup call? But if we don’t actually listen to it and wake up, we are just destined to continue to recreate these same situations in our lives instead of taking destiny into our own hands and creating what we want.
That’s where most people stop in this work. They want to believe they create their lives but don’t want to take responsibility for every part of it. But look at the power in realizing you get to create it all! And wow, if I’m powerful enough to create 10 months in Mexico, being unconscious, think about the GREAT things I can create now that I am conscious.
I tell these stories, not as a victim. Not at all. I tell them to empower people. To show that even in our worst hours, it is possible to turn into our greatest. The love of my life, boyfriend, soul mate, partner, whatever 3D name to give him, walked out of a bed after a year of being paralyzed and not knowing if he would ever walk again. He watched his best friend drown right in front of him only 8 years after that. Two “tragedies” a lot of people could never move on from. Let alone thank them for happening. The difference between him and a lot of other people is he sees that he had to go through those things. That they were his wake-up calls. And that they brought him to the moments he gets to experience now. A life most think is out of reach for them. But I am here to tell you, everything I went through, everything he went through, everything we have gone through together, any and everything you want, and more is possible for you. All you have to do is be willing to open the door…