When I was eight years old, I wrote a suicide letter to my grandma and mailed it. Naturally, very concerned, she turned it over to my parents, who in turn had me meet with a Christian counselor. Little did I know then that that would mark the beginning of a lifelong journey with a battle in my mind. Along the way I would fight these battles in my mind, not knowing how, but knowing that for survival I needed to fight my mind. During my adolescent and young adult years, I ended up fighting these battles with alcohol. And on a couple occasions, when I just didn’t want to fight any more, I tried taking my life.
An unattainable schedule
Fast forward to the summer of 2000 when I was twenty-three years old, a newlywed to a godly bi-vocational guy, who was a businessman and a singles’ pastor at a church in Cooper City. On this particular day, I woke up with an overwhelming and unattainable schedule. I was hosting a houseguest, working a shift at my job, volunteering as an administrator for a pastor’s conference, co-leading the singles group with my husband, administrating for a women’s ministry and training for a marathon. Basically, this time, I was battling my mind by running away from it, saying, “yes” to everything and “no” to nothing.
As I tried to carry myself through this day, I snapped. I didn’t want to battle my mind, I didn’t want to fulfill all my commitments and I didn’t want to live. I decided I was going to take my life. In a contradicting calculated-but-crazy moment, I drove to a Walgreens in Davie, called my husband to say good-bye, purchased and drank an entire bottle of booze and went to my car to execute my plan.
Being numb allowed me to bash my head repeatedly into my car dashboard. Like a rabid animal, I bashed my head as I clawed skin off my legs – over and over and over, bashing my head as it started to bleed. When I told my husband good-bye on the phone, he had managed to keep me on long enough to learn of my location. That was huge. By the time Raul arrived, I had evolved into an uncontrollable, inconsolable monster. The best Raul could do was put his hand in between my head and the steering wheel and with his other, call 911. It took six EMT’s to wrestle me out of the car. They strapped me down at my head, shoulders, wrists, waist and ankles and injected me with tranquilizers.
The ambulance ride was a blur because I was so sedated. However, in the emergency room at Westside Regional Medical Center, I remember seeing a security guard assigned to my room as they treated my injuries. Six hours later a social worker arrived to announce that I was being transferred to a psychiatric ward in Hollywood. She explained, “Ms. Palacios, on the paramedic’s report it shows that you stated you wanted to kill yourself. In the state of Florida, it is the law that if a victim poses a threat to herself or the community, she must be Baker-Acted, requiring a seventy-two hour stay in a psychiatric ward.” As she walked out, she turned and said, “A van will be here shortly to transfer you there.”
With vomit and blood on me, a shoe missing, my hair disheveled, and a concussion, I was transported in the back of a van by two men. The men deposited me at the ward where I was left in a hallway in a wheelchair. Eventually, a nurse escorted me to a room, but it was more like a cell: four plain walls and a bed.
Everything you need
That night in the psych ward, I didn’t sleep. I spent the night wide awake with God. It was that night that I would realize that when God is all you have left, you have everything you need. I resolved that if God would put me back together, I would spend the rest of my life living for Him and fighting for this cause. I knew that because I was still breathing, God wanted me to keep going. Don’t get me wrong; the comeback was harder than the setback. I had to go through fifty-two weeks of intense Christian therapy, undergo prescription treatment, accept the side effects of that treatment and surrender my responsibilities at church. This daunting comeback also meant Raul walked through it too. He had to live with me; even more, he had to love me. And he did.
It’s been fourteen years since I went crazy that hot summer day in July. I am still getting Christian counseling and will continue to submit to their recommended care. But I’ve kept my promise to God that I made that night in the psych ward: every day I live for Him and can’t wait to fight for this cause. One thing I have learned is that many of us will fight battles in our minds, but it does not mean we have to lose the battle. God is sovereign; I believe that He created my mind when he created my life. He didn’t make a mistake in either. But with Him, I can (and will!) do ALL things because through him nothing is impossible. Not even coming back from crazy.
Heather is married to Raul Palacios and together they serve at Church by the Glades. Heather is also founder of “WondHerful” an online venue dedicated to encouraging people with mental affliction through daily, one-minute blog posts (http://WondHerful.com) and through social media (@WondHerful). Heather is a diagnosed manic-depressive who believes that if you wake up breathing, that’s your proof to keep going, and that it is always too soon to give up.