Sam Jeffrey discusses her journey to finding mental wellness through fitness, but not before hitting rock bottom and attempting suicide.
My long story starts back 19 years ago to when I first started having problems with my dad and his wife (I refuse to even give her the credit of being a step mother). To save you a lot of time, I will fast forward 13years to the summer of 2014. Prior to this summer, I was the “yes person”. I said whatever my dad’s wife needed wanted to hear and did whatever she wanted me to do, in order to not be the subject of her wrath or manipulation. While this was of course an exhausting lifestyle, it was how I survived. In August of2014, for the first time in my life, I said “no” to a request that my dad’s wife wanted. Please note, this request would cost my 22 year old self more than$30,000.00. This “no” was the catalyst that sent my relationship between my dad’s family and myself into crumbles. In addition to the fallout with the family, I was starting my senior year of college without my 3 closest friends(they happened to all graduate a year before me). I should note, since I had pretty rocky relationships with my parents, due to divorces and step family members, I put more value on my friendships than most.
On top of this, in order to graduate on time, due to a handful of concussions which put me behind, credit-wise, I had to take a full course load of 18 credit hours plusSenior Design (a class that demanded as much as a full time job), plus working part time. Long rant short, I had a lot on my plate and no way to handle my stress.
During the early parts of my senior year, I prioritized school work and work, without having a support system. I honestly could not tell you what my diet was, but I can promise you that I never ate anything that was the color green. I can also tell you that I rarely went to the gym. During this time as well, I was still dealing with the residue of the fallout with my family, from threats of being sued to receiving calls from other family members warning them to stay away from me because I was “dangerous”. At some point during this time, I went into autopilot mode. I was moving through life without a purpose, without joy, without connections. Just moving.
In the beginning of September I received a concussion. At the time I did not think much about it. It was concussion number 3. I went through the concussion protocol of trying my best to take it easy; however, I could not afford to take any time off to properly rest my brain. The following weeks, I found my anxiety going through the roof and I found myself falling into a dark mental state. I felt numb, physically and mentally. As the weeks within September went on, I truly felt that life would be better and easier if I just ended everything on the spot. It turned to the point of how will I do this? I couldn't shoot myself, my roommate would hear. I couldn't cut myself and bleed out, because that would be a mess for my roommate to walk into. If I followed through with these thoughts,I would overdose. As the lazy person that I am, it seemed like the easiest way to go about it.
I would reach out to my best friend at the time (she lived in a different state at this point), to talk about how I felt. At this time, she was the only person who knew how I felt; however, she did not know the full extent that I had thought this through. As the time went on, I could tell that my emotional instability was taking a toll on my relationship with my friend and this would not be a sustainable relationship to keep. On September 24th, I booked an appointment with my doctor to get prescription pain medications. A post-concussion symptom that I had were migraines. While the migraines were far and few between, it was a way for me to get my hands on some medication.
On the night ofSeptember 25th, I felt the more alone and helpless than ever before. It was physically taking over my body. I decided to call my best friend for support asI explained how these suicidal thoughts were taking over my body. On this phone call, she told me that she could no longer do this and she had a birthday party that she needed to attend, so she would prefer to put her attention there. She then hung up the phone on me. As I sat on my bathroom floor, I decided that if my best friend did not care if I was alive or not, why should I? It was at this point that I decided to move forward with the suicide attempt. During this time, I popped all the medication that I could, mixed it with alcohol and attempted to cut myself.
At some point during the night I passed out. I was hoping that would be it, quick and to the point. What no one told me was how painful an overdose would be. I woke up eventually with this excruciating pain that was ripping though my stomach. As I laid physically stuck on my floor in pain, I began to feel an insane amount of guilt. Guilt for what would happen to my younger brothers when they learned that I had died and how much this could mess up their lives. It was at that point that I decided I wanted to live, for them. Following this thought process, I somehow managed to crawl to my roommate’s room, where I was able to get her to drive me to the Emergency Room at 2AM. To this day, I will for ever be grateful to Libby Kane for not only taking me to the ER, but for sitting with me until my mom arrived the following morning.
In my head, I realized that this, right here in the ER, was rock bottom. There was literally nowhere else to go but up. Of course, my words meant very little, and I still had to go through the whole process of being hospitalized, medicated, etc. WhenI was released, I KNEW I would never go down this path again; however, I was angry. I was so angry at family members, for being manipulated for so many years, for putting every single person’s needs in front of my own. When the anger settled, which honestly took a few weeks, I wrote a letter to my dad and his wife, explaining what had happened and some of the causes that led me to the suicide attempt. I told them that at this time I needed to take care and protect myself. In order to do this, I had to put a hold on my relationship with them (6 years later and that hold is sadly going strong). I told them thatI needed to take care and protect myself as I begin to heal, and at that that I could not handle the toxic threats from them. I then decided it was time to take care of myself further and put my wants and needs first. The very first thing I did was take a weekend trip to the Outer Banks, a place that I have always wanted to go to, but never did because no one wanted to go with me. So,I went alone, and I jammed insanely hard to the 1989 Taylor Swift album. I returned much more level headed, and I wanted to keep the momentum going for this self-care.
The next task in this new mindset of self-care was joining a Krav Maga school. See, before college, I did Krav Maga and loved it. It not only was a form of exercise, but it gave me goals and it challenged me in so many ways. I decided that it was time to go back to this version of myself, where I was genuinely happy and motivated, outside of school. What I did not know was that joining this gym was one of the greatest things that I have ever done for myself. This gym not only forced me to exercise, which released the endorphins that I needed, but it gave me something to look forward to. It broke up the routine of school, work, and homework. It was the one hour that I dedicated to myself, and the one hour I truly looked forward to, almost everyday. In addition, it gave me a new community. A community of people who had similar interests, passions, and who would push me harder than I could ever push myself. Finally, this gym gave me goals and obstacles to overcome, from new footwork drills to self-defense drills. I was able to work my ass off, yet have an insane amount of fun with my training partners as well.
To this day, 6years later, I do not think I would be half as strong as I am now, if it was not for getting up the courage to walk into Krav Maga Raleigh. That one day was the day that I decided that my physical and mental health were my top priority, and I would never again sacrifice them for anything or anyone else. 6 years later, and I still make it a point to workout, because I know my body and brain need it. And it is not only for the sake of exercise, but it is for the community that comes from these gyms, which I personally feel like is just as important.
Finally, 6 years later, I now understand the importance and severity that comes with a concussion. I am aware that anxiety and depression will follow, and to be prepared for how to deal with these symptoms via a support system and putting my brain health first.