The first time I actually thought about ending my life was one of the scariest days of my life. Wow, how’s that for setting the tone of this post? I promise there is a happy ending; I mean, I’m still here and I’m writing this post, so of course there was a good ending. But for real, when the thought of ending your own life genuinely crosses your mind, you begin to question your sanity.
Let’s go back a ways before I get to this dreadfully, terrifyingly dark day. It’s the summer of 2014. I had just graduated from K-State; life was LITERALLY a dream. I was tan, skinny, and ready to take on the world. I had signed a contract to teach high school biology, ecology and A&P in Larned and after traveling to Larned with my mom, I had found (what I thought) was my dream house. I had gotten a new car (RIP to my cute little dark gray Escape). I was working on campus at K-State and planned on moving around the middle of July.
One night in mid June, I went out with my sister-in-law and a few of her friends. We went to Taco Lucha in Aggieville, then to a few different bars. I remember having SO much fun. It was so nice to relax with friends and spend time in Manhattan. The gravity of the big move was slowly starting to get to me. I did my absolute best to hide it. I was living at my parents and commuting to Manhattan every day for work, but I slowly started struggling more than I was willing to show. I stopped eating, and was genuinely living off coffee and beef jerky.
On one of my last days at work at K-State, I remember my boss asking me if I was ok. I told her I totally was, I didn’t want anyone to know that I was scared shitless. I was the one who had chosen to move 4 hours away and start a new job. I was the one who had wanted to get away from Manhattan for a while. It was a hard pill to swallow – is this really what I wanted? I remember hugging my boss a little tighter on my last day of work. She’d been like another mom to me during my time at K-State and I still love that lady, to this day.
Moving day came. My mom, dad and big brother helped me move to Larned. We had loaded up my parent’s stock trailer and my Escape and were headed west. I remember my dad was still healing from back surgery so my bro came to do most of the heavy lifting. After we got everything into my house, my brother headed back to northeast Kansas. My dad stayed a few more days to help get my house situated and my classroom organized. I don’t honestly remember how long my mom stayed (she stayed longer than my dad), but I remember it getting harder to breathe with every day that passed. I questioned, every single day if I should have made this huge decision. I kept telling myself it was only for a year. The contract was only for a year and I could move back closer to home the minute it was done.
So back in March or April, after I had accepted the position and word got out I was moving to Larned, a guy named Ty Josefiak added me on Facebook. I will NEVER forget what my dad said when I told him some rando from western Kansas had added me. “Don’t add some creep you don’t know.” I am giggling thinking about how I was sitting in my parent’s living room and Ty slid into my DMs. Anyway, back to the big move; I had been in Larned a few days, and my mom was still there helping me clean, organize and get settled. I had been texting Ty some, because I literally did not know a SOUL. He asked if I wanted to hang out sometime, just to see the area. I thought, totally harmless right? Cute farm boy from western Kansas, what harm could it do? So, on July 14, 2014, we decided we would hang out for a bit. I remember getting ready, my mom was bustling around my house. I called Ty and told him what time I’d be ready (keep in mind, as I type this I think it’s INSANE I was getting ready to go hang out with a perfect stranger). Ty and his buddy Sean showed up that evening. As they walked through the door, I remember thinking: Dang, Ty’s pretty cute. My mom also informed me later that after she met Ty that night, she had a fleeting thought: “Kayla’s going to marry that boy someday.”
Ty, Sean and I drove around and booze cruised for the evening. I think I drank two beers; I was so nervous and the anxiety of my mom leaving in a few days was really getting to me. It really was a fun evening though and Ty and I continued to text pretty much every day from then on. Then the day that I was dreading came. My mom had to leave and head back to her home. I don’t think I’ve cried that hard in a long time. I’m getting a lump in my throat typing this, because the emotions all come rushing back. I remember I texted Ty right after she left and asked if we could hang out, just because I needed a friend. The cool thing about him was that he always listened, and he knew how hard of a time I was having with this transition. Over the next few months we hung out, a lot. We weren’t officially dating. We were friends, and I loved that.
By September of 2014, I was really struggling, still. I was exhausted. I had made some friends; teaching was going alright (I was a major hardass when I first started and that didn’t sit well with some people in the community). Honestly life WAS good, I just didn’t have a very good handle on my emotions. I was not going to any counseling, wasn’t on any medication, I was doing virtually nothing to get a handle on my anxiety and depression. I hadn’t learned the coping skills I have today and it was evident I needed some sort of help. At one point during those first few months in Larned, I weighed 121 pounds, was in size 2 jeans and again, I was surviving on coffee, popcorn and beef jerky. I decided to make an appointment at the local clinic to see about getting on some sort of anxiety medication. I needed my yearly well-woman exam anyway, so I figured I’d just bunch all of that into one appointment.
Ty and I were still hanging out and talking. We still weren’t officially dating, but I mean, I thought he was great. Cute, funny, sometimes a huge asshole but that’s kind of what I needed. I didn’t want to commit to anything because I didn’t think I wanted to stay around Larned my whole life. At my doctor’s appointment, I remember telling the doctor there was a guy who I kind of liked but didn’t know if I wanted to pursue anything. She, very pointedly, asked me if I felt like he was pressuring me. I remember feeling genuinely annoyed that she thought that. I immediately told her that, in no way, did he make me feel like I had to do anything. I just didn’t know what I wanted. After my exam and talking to her about my anxiety, I got a prescription for Xanax. I had never, in my life, been on any sort of actual anxiety medication. I had tried numerous SSRI’s (depression) meds, but never an anxiety med. So, I got my script filled at the local drugstore and went on my way.
I can’t remember what specific side effects the doctor had said could occur, but I’m pretty sure I experienced almost all of them. After three days on the medication, my anxiety had worsened. I was not eating. God bless Ty. He had only known me for about a month and he STILL texted me back when I would lose my shit. I’m serious, looking back now, most guys would have RUN! He knew I was struggling, and yet he still answered my texts and drove around with me, just to talk. I vividly remember that day 3 of Xanax was a Saturday. I didn’t have to teach, and didn’t have a volleyball tournament, so I was at my little house in Larned. I slept in (because again, I require a LOT of sleep), and when I woke up, I remember the anxiety almost suffocating me. I could hardly get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to get dressed. I’m sure I hadn’t washed my hair in a week, because the bottle of dry shampoo in my bathroom was almost empty.
I finally got myself out of bed, and walked downstairs to my cute little kitchen. I saw the bottle of Xanax beside my vitamins on counter. That’s the first time I actually contemplated ending it all. “Just take the whole bottle” was the thought that crossed my mind. Listen people, as I type this, I feel a rush and WAVE of emotions. If you’ve ever experienced a thought even similar to that one at all, you KNOW how terrifying it is. There’s no one there to stop you. There’s no one rushing to your aid. You are completely alone with your thoughts and something is telling you, it’d just be so much easier if you were dead and no one had to worry about you anymore.
I stood in my kitchen, for a solid 5 minutes, and stared at that bottle. I remember my entire body getting the chills and tears started streaming down my face. Then, I thought about my mom and dad; my brother and sister and their families. I started thinking about my niece and nephews who I loved and missed so much. Then I started thinking about my students, and Ty and his buddies, and my coworkers and I remember I couldn’t stop crying. I remember slumping down in front of my oven, staring at that Xanax bottle and bawling. And then, when I felt like I was going to be physically ill, something must have happened to help me snap out of it. It could have been a text from Ty, or a car driving by or the Good Lord. I don’t remember but something happened that helped me snap out of it. I can’t honestly remember what exactly it was but whatever it was saved my life.
You know, as I’m typing this and it all comes back to me, it’s crazy the vivid memories you have when something is truly life changing. The Good Lord was working that day. He knew my time on earth wasn’t done. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened, because I’m still here. I got up, grabbed the bottle of Xanax and walked to my bathroom. I dumped every single last Xanax pill down my toilet and flushed them away. (Don’t judge me if that’s not what you’re supposed to do; that is not the purpose of this post). I was emotionally and physically exhausted from that terrifying episode, I just remember telling myself to look forward to hanging out with Ty that evening.
So, there it is. My account of the first time I ever actually contemplated ending my own life. I am exhausted just from this post alone. It was terrifying, exhausting, literally the worst feeling in the world. It was after that episode that I realized I really needed to get professional help. I didn’t know where and I didn’t know how but after struggling with my mental health for so long, and experiencing something this real, I knew something needed to change. And I thank God for whatever brought me out of that hell; it brought me back to the real world, and made me realize that there’s so much worth living for.