Patty Slatter is a speaker, NAMI Rock County Board Member, Co-Chair of NAMI Rock County’s Paint the Town Yellow 5k for Mental Health and Suicide Awareness, Mental Health America of Wisconsin Faculty Member for the Zero Suicide Initiative, and member of the Rock County Behavioral Health Redesign Steering Committee. Patty is trained in facilitating peer support groups, Youth Mental Health First Aid, and serves on the Prevent Suicide Wisconsin Steering Committee.
Patty’s involvement with mental health and suicide awareness is driven by her lived experience of over 20 years. After a long road of recovery, Patty shares her story in order to give others hope and assist in identifying treatment gaps. In every role, she is driven by her passion to raise awareness, support her peers, and increase knowledge and understanding to break the silence around mental health challenges and suicide.
12 Suicide Attempts…
“You will never get better”
“She wants attention”
Those are words that I heard over and over for more than two decades of my life. When you get told those words by professionals over and over, you start to live that way and believe it. Words hurt! Everyone has a story. There is a reason people are going through what they are going through and struggling with.
There came a day when I wanted to end it all and take my life. I thought no one understands, and I just wanted the pain to end; I couldn’t explain the deep pain I was feeling inside, but I felt empty and I was tired of fighting to live. I grabbed a glass of water and my bottle of pills and, at the last minute, I remembered I had my new counselor’s phone number that she had given me a couple of weeks before. I called her and waited….it felt like hours before she called me back which was probably only a few minutes. I told her what was going on and she called the police.
I was terrified! I had a lot of thoughts going on in my head in only a few minutes. I thought, “Had I done something wrong? Was I going to be arrested? I am going to jail?” I had no idea what was about to happen!
I woke up in a psychiatric hospital. Little did I know that this would be the start of the revolving door of psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, encounters with the police and mental health clinics for the next two decades. This also would lead to a lot of judgments, pain, and labels that I would encounter because of my mental health condition.
Treatment did not come easy for me over the course of my illness. Sometimes I would walk into the emergency room seeking treatment and they would see me and I would hear the nurses say “I do not want her, she always come in here”, “You take her”, “She just wants attention”.
Do people really think that I wanted the thoughts going through my head? Do you really think I wanted to be there. Do people really think I had nowhere else I wanted to be? Do you really think I woke up that morning and said “I think I will go to the ER today?” NO! That is NOT how it works! I did not want those thoughts in my head! I wanted to get rid of them; that is why I came to the emergency room. I would also see the nurse and doctors eye rolls when they would see me because they would recognize me.
No one asked to hear my story. No one said, “I am so sorry.” No one took the time to ask what I had been through to bring me to this point. At one point early in my treatment, I was told by a psychiatric nurse that I had to accept that this would be my life and that I will always be in and out of the psychiatric hospitals for the rest of my life. I held onto this comment for many years and lived this way for almost two decades. I thought she was right; I thought, “Why even try if this would be my life?”
One time I went to a treatment provider right after a hospitalization and I walked in, sat down, and she told me that, because I have been hospitalized so much, she could no longer see me. She looked up counselors and called a few but she could not find any that would take me once she said the word: “borderline personality disorder”. Right before I left, she told me that my psychiatrist was going to tell me the same thing the next day. So, I went to the store and bought a bottle of pills and a bottle of water and took them with me to my appointment. I heard the same words I heard the day before. I was done! People were giving up on me once again. I was going to kill myself. I told her that! She said she had to call the police. I told her I had the pills with me. She got on the phone and I was sitting right there digging in my purse and she said, “I can’t stop you from taking them.” To me, that was permission to take them, so I started popping the pills right in front of her. She then said, “You don’t have to stay here,” and so I left popping pills all the way out to my car. She followed me while she was on the phone watching me. I panicked and called 911, too. They got there and got me to the emergency room. I had a nurse in the emergency room say to me, “I don’t feel sorry for you.. You did this to yourself as I was drinking the stuff to soak up all the pills I just took.” I ended up in the intensive care unit for a couple days almost damaging my liver.
My last suicide attempt happened when I thought I was doing okay. I was with a counselor I trusted and it was working. I was in Dialectical Behavior Therapy Group and was working hard on my recovery. I was realizing how much you have to work at your recovery. I was also realizing it is not a perfect path. I had just got back from a missions trip and the suicidal thoughts came back. I had a safety plan but I failed to use it. I had people to call but again I failed to use them. I had mapped out a plan to kill myself and this time it involved crashing my car into a tree. One morning I woke and it was the day...I was driving and picked up speed in the car and I did it ...I crashed into the tree. It didn’t work I survived..not even a broken bone. A passer-by called the police and I remember telling the paramedics that “I did this on purpose and I need help”. He said “don’t worry, we will get you help”. I showed up to the same emergency room that I had been at times numerous times before but this time something was different. They were a little more compassionate and caring and they got me to where I needed to be. By them acting different with compassion and caring they have now seen less of me for mental health needs in the emergency room.
One day I was thinking how people don’t understand depression and suicide. Friends were leaving me. My family was not talking to me much at this time. I came to the realization maybe it wasn’t them maybe, it was me. Maybe they didn’t understand depression and suicide because they haven’t been there. Maybe I need to do something different. I thought maybe I need to change my social media post to something more positive instead of something negative all the time. I began to realize that my negative thinking and talking was feeding the negative feelings I had going on and that was translating on everyone else and people did not want to be around that. Would I want to be around someone like that? No, I don’t think so. I began to think and had some revelation that I really needed to work harder and work on changing. I needed to call my friends more and instead of talking about me I needed to talk to them about them and ask them how they were doing. If I wanted people to understand depression and suicide, I realized that I needed to educate them. People can’t understand something if they have never experienced it. I realized I also had to be my own advocate.
So, in a combination of me finding that realization, finding the right therapist, becoming a volunteer as well as starting to become an advocate in mental health and suicide awareness I found my voice and I found recovery. It is not an easy journey and it is not a straight path but I have surrounded myself with a great support system and work on being honest with them as well as being honest in my speaking engagements to let people know that someone that has struggled with mental health conditions and suicide sometimes is not just “cured” one day. When we share our stories, we are saving lives.