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General Conference

A New Chance to Live

From depression to attempted suicide, I found in my family and God the strength I needed to win.

Brazil | Eliane Barros

In one of the worst bouts of depression, I was discharged from forensics and had to return to work, although the signs of illness were still with me. Taking too many medications, I tried to live normally, but it was impossible. The lack of concentration, energy, and sleep, as well as changes in appetite, made me lose weight a lot. The days were gray. Nothing motivated me. Pain, anguish, and loneliness were my companions, and with them a feeling of emptiness, guilt, and lack of perspective. Death thoughts haunted me. I didn't live; I just existed.

At work, I was exposed to a situation of conflict and harassment, in which I felt very humiliated. One afternoon in February 2015, I heard from a social worker that I couldn't work in that sector because, although I had the aptitude for the position, they didn't want me there. I felt empty, disrespected, rejected!

That day, my husband would pick me up. I cried a lot and, ashamed that anyone would see me in that condition, locked myself in the bathroom at my workplace. I heard a friend call me, asking me to open the door, as she knew my emotional state was serious. I jumped from the third floor of the building and saw nothing else. I don't know how it went. I didn't see the height; I didn't see the risk; I didn't see the fall; I only came back to myself when I was already on the ground being rescued, in terrible pain because of the multiple wounds.

I also felt emotional pain at that moment, as I remembered my daughter, Raisa. I had a feeling that death was certain and said to my husband, "Ask Raisa to forgive me." 

Then he asked, “Why did you do this? Ask God for forgiveness.” And today, I see that this phrase was a great proof of love. At that moment, his biggest concern was only with my eternal salvation. He knew I could die in a few minutes.

Fight to Live

It was then that a fight for my life began to be waged, as my condition was serious. I had moments of clarity and mental confusion for several days. Admitted to the ICU, I had internal bleeding, tears in my feet, arms, ribs, spine, and hip vertebrae. I went through several surgeries and blood transfusions. I had numerous complications, such as thrombosis and effusion in the pleura, the membrane that covers the lung.

I was bedridden, lost leg movement, and wore disposable diapers. I stayed in a wheelchair for months. It was a long rehabilitation process to regain my mobility. In that situation, walking again was a dream. To do so, I went through eight more surgeries and hospitalizations. I was isolated for 26 days. Because of the action of multiresistant bacteria, I couldn't touch anyone.

I lost a part of the calcaneus, a supporting bone for the heel, and needed 60 hyperbaric sessions, a therapeutic modality based on pressure and oxygenation, to help heal fractures. I lived with many people struggling for life, having their bodies mutilated by amputations. Everything was a learning process. I'm still recovering. Today, six-and-a-half years later, my foot still needs care, and I can't do any chores at home. Every activity needs to be planned. For example, sitting or standing causes me constant and limiting pain.

However, I have learned to be grateful to God in every achievement. It was a shock to have been face to face with death and run the risk of not seeing my family again. On that day of the incident, I realized what really matters. I realized what happens to me interferes with the lives of those who love me, and I don't want to see them suffer, whether out of guilt, shame, or prejudice. I realized I want to be with them in many moments. I don't want to be just a sad cameo in my family's memory.

Another Perspective

Having lost movement and needing help with basic activities has taught me to be grateful for the simplest things, recognize what is most important in life cannot be bought, and that it doesn't matter what people think of me or do against me. What really matters is my reaction to situations. Today, I know I am loved by God and my family, who took care of me without judging me. It was all their dedication that gave me the strength to fight for life.

Living is not easy, and when we are attacked by mental illnesses, the fight gets even harder, as the battle is against an invisible enemy. There is a lot of prejudice and lack of information about these emotional illnesses, to the point that it is a big taboo to talk about suicide, even though, every year, about 800,000 people take their own lives around the world. In fact, it is very painful for the family that has lost someone to bring it up, not to mention someone who has survived to face society's judgment.

In the midst of all this pain, we started the #todoscontradepresao movement on social media, as I realized people's questions about my survival experience were not mere curiosity, nor were they intended to embarrass me. The point is that many identified with the feelings and circumstances that led me to take the desperate attitude I had.

Therefore, I decided to open my “black box” in order to dedicate myself to the mission of helping those who are suffering. We follow this movement in favor of life together, believing it is necessary to ask for, accept, and offer help when we identify symptoms of mental illness. We need to be aware of this.

In 2020, God gave me my first and, so far, only granddaughter, Luísa. Being a grandmother is celebrating life on a daily basis, and this has helped me reframe my pains. I am grateful to be alive and witness great little miracles. Today, I could be just missing it, but God gave me another chance, and here I am with my family.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site