Stories of resilience

There is healing, hope and power in sharing your story. You are welcome to share as much or as little of your story of resilience as you feel comfortable.

Don't give up the fight. Someone, somewhere, needs you here. This world needs you.

Emma, 25, Durango

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I have struggled with depression and borderline personality disorder tendencies for most of my life. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I turned to self-harm, sexual addiction, pills, manipulation and unstable relationships for solace. I was ostracized from my peers and went through many friends due to my instability. Additionally, I was expelled from my high school because of self-harm and suicidal idealization.

After receiving my GED, I enrolled in Fort Lewis College with hopes of improving my future and leaving my past in the past. However, my struggles got worse. My 4.0 GPA plummeted to a 1.54 and I was academically dismissed from college. I was severely depressed, couldn't keep a job, and was highly unstable. Soon after, I thought I might be pregnant. I told my boyfriend at the time and he was not happy. He accused me of purposely getting pregnant to ruin his life and cut the relationship off. I was devastated and told him I would do anything to prove I would never do that to him. I told him I was going to commit suicide to fix the situation. He didn't believe me and we both drove our separate ways.

My world was crashing around me. I was a failure in so many ways, it seemed. I started driving north toward Silverton that evening and impulsively decided it was time for me to leave this earth behind. I had no plan but to drive and somehow kill myself in the process. I texted my best friend and told her I was sorry and that I loved her. I texted another friend and told him I was going to kill myself and that I was done living this life and told him I was driving. Then I went radio silent. It was a complete whiteout and I drove up to Coal Bank Pass. I searched my car for everything and anything to take to kill myself. I swallowed a bottle of ibuprofen, and some Tylenol and Nyquil. I sliced my arm up with a broken CD. I was desperate and just wanted to die. I ended up passing out in my car as the snow fell down around me.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the ER with people shoving tubes down my nose and pushing IVs into my arm. My mom and my friend that I had texted had found me on top of Coal Bank Pass and drove me to the ER apparently. I was so pissed that I was alive still but also knew that I must be alive for some reason. I screamed to God in my head to do something, anything to change my life in a dramatic way. I couldn't keep living this way. I was exhausted, done, tired, and so damn alone, it felt. I begged God that if He was real, that He would change my life so I would never be in this place again.

A week later, on Valentine's Day, I got a positive pregnancy test. I was shocked. When I was in the ER, the nurses had told me that even if I had been pregnant at the time, that the pregnancy would no longer be viable due to the trauma that had been incurred on my body. So when I saw that plus sign on the test, I knew it was a miracle. It was my answer from God. This was how He was going to change my life.

It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies though. I went through major therapy and self-change during those 9 months in preparation for my baby boy. I knew I had to work on myself in huge ways or I wouldn't be stable enough to raise him by myself. With the help of my friends and family and, of course, my faith, I was able to successfully prepare for my son. It’s four years later, and I'm still here fighting the fight. My depression and bipolar disorder will always be there. It will always be a struggle and a battle. There is not a day that goes by that it is not lingering in the background. There are days that I still deal with suicidal thoughts. But this time, I know how to fight it with the help of my friends and family surrounding me. I know even when I don't want to, that I need to reach out. I know that connection is key. I know that I need people to love me back to life when I lose sight of how beautiful this life is. To anyone who is struggling out there, please know you are not alone. One in four people suffer from mental illness. That's a hell of lot of people.

Don't give up the fight. Someone, somewhere, needs you here. This world needs you. That sounds cliche but I promise you that it is truer than you realize. Your life impacts so many people around you. So on your bad days, and your lonely nights, keep going. Keep walking. Keep fighting the fight. It's more than worth it and suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It can be tempting to want the pain and hurts to stop, but keep working through the pain. You are never alone. Do not be ashamed of your struggles. And please know you can always find a friend in me. You are loved. You matter. I mean it.

A letter from Tony and Michelle Gelles about their daughter Savannah, who died by suicide at 22 in 2017.

Savannah was a bright shining light, filling our life with her enthusiastic energy, witty humor, silly shenanigans and compassionate love. She was the rock in our little family of three, always wanting to keep us all positive throughout the life changing events we all endured. Even when the chips were down, she would still want to go out and do something fun, to take our minds off whatever it was. She was just that way - always wanting to help, and always wanting to make things better.

Her dad called her “Sunshine” ever since she was a little girl, and it couldn't have been a more fitting name, her bubbly and happy personality was just that: Pure sunshine!

Savannah grew up on the lake in Arizona. She loved boating, camping, fishing, loved her horses and her many friends, hiking, pool parties and everything adventurous. She had a lot of fun and was always bouncing from activity to activity.

We moved to Colorado eventually and she soon discovered her musical talents, playing in the Bayfield High School Marching Band. She was also a cheerleader, and surprised her dad one night by bringing the cheer team into his hospital room, everyone in full uniform, to perform special cheers made just for him, because he was fighting cancer. There was not a dry eye in the house, it was so very special.

It was during her high school years when she began to struggle with depression and anxiety. We immediately sought treatment, and we as a family began the journey of learning as much as we possibly could about mental illness. She always kept her head up and always had a smile on her beautiful face, even though her mental health struggles became more debilitating as the years went by.

Savannah’s magnetic personality and contagious laughter drew everyone in, and she filled every room with light where ever she went. She is our angel now, continuing to bring her magical light into our lives.

We love you so much sweet girl,
Love,
Mom and Dad

Savannah, 22, Bayfield

Do you or someone you know need help?