From Full Ride Scholar to Convicted Felon; A Suicide Attempt Changes Everything - OC87 Recovery Diaries

From Full Ride Scholar to Convicted Felon; A Suicide Attempt Changes Everything

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Listen to Editor in Chief Gabriel Nathan read this story: 

Here’s a fairy tale for you: Once upon a time, there was a Division 1 Academic All-American princess with a full ride softball scholarship but, with the wave of a magic wand—poof— that princess became a convicted felon. The story begins with waiting.

For the past couple of years, my life has been nothing but waiting; waiting to go to court, waiting to get off of house arrest, waiting to be able to move to a different state. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I’m an impatient person so I feel that patience is a valuable lesson I needed in my life. I’ve learned to fall in love with the ride and to stop obsessing over the destination. The second most important lesson that I’ve learned is that I believe everything happens for a reason. What I thought was the biggest mistake of my life was actually the beginning of something extraordinary and beautiful. My journey has made me a better person and for this reason I have no regrets. I’m grateful for the path that I’m on in life, regardless of the imperfections it took to get here. This is my story.

My parents were ridiculously young when they had me; my mom was sixteen and my dad was nineteen. We resided in the Midwest where the corn was plentiful and the winters were harsh. Despite their young age, I had an amazing childhood filled with love, laughter, and support. However, their love for each other dissipated and they divorced when I was eleven years old. This took a toll on me because I was put in the middle of their problems and I felt like I had to “pick a side.” I was young, naive, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around the events that were unfolding. Even through their messy divorce, I always had softball; the one thing that took my mind off of everything. My hard work eventually paid off and I was offered a full ride softball scholarship my junior year of high school. In August of 2014, I left for Lake Land College in Illinois and never looked back.

Life was going very well in college, but on the night of November 21, 2015, I got a devastating phone call from my stepdad that altered my life. I knew something was wrong because he never called me. All he could mutter was, “I’m sorry, Brittany; your mom is no longer with us.” I hung up my phone and dropped to my knees as my legs became Jell-O. I started bawling and howling in agony. I ran into the bathroom and began to throw up and hyperventilate. At this point, some of my teammates had come in and they realized what had happened. No one knew what to say and no one knew how to comfort me. Everyone was utterly speechless. A couple of teammates drove me to the hospital to see her. When I arrived she had already been deceased for a couple of hours, but I insisted I wanted to see her one last time. I walked into the room where she lay on a cold hospital bed and all I saw was her purple face and lifeless body. I screamed and I screamed for her to wake up. I wailed, “Mom, wake up! Please I need you here. Stop playing—this isn’t funny.” I stroked her beautiful blonde hair and wept hysterically. Everyone in the room bowed their heads and choked back tears as they watched me say goodbye to my mom for the last time.

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The next couple of months were a blur. It didn’t feel real that my mom was truly gone. She was only thirty-six years old, but lung cancer doesn’t care. There were so many loose ends that I didn’t get the opportunity of tying up and I kicked myself for not saying I love you more. I stopped caring about softball; I didn’t care if I played or not. I didn’t care if I missed the ball or if I struck out and I definitely didn’t care what other people thought. My world was shattered and everyone else was going about their days as if nothing was wrong and it made me so angry. Severe depression and suicidality fully kicked in for the first time ever in my life, but I kept my head down and acted as if I was fine.

I graduated in May of 2016 with my associates of the arts and a 3.9 GPA. I was offered three full ride scholarships, but didn’t take any of the offers up until January of 2017 when I had some time to recover from the loss of my mom. My second night at the new school in North Carolina, I got into a sledding accident and severely gashed a cut in my butt. I had to have trauma surgery and was in the hospital for a few days. This took a toll on my mental health because here I was at this new school as a transfer student and I was known as “The girl who cut her ass sledding.” It was humiliating and I felt like no one liked me. About a week after my accident, I had my first real suicide attempt. It was the middle of the night and I laid in bed sobbing. My roommates were all at a party so I had the apartment to myself. It was the perfect opportunity. I swallowed forty pain pills before I lost consciousness.

 

As I was dozing off, I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I truly thought I was dead. However, I somehow awoke the next morning and I was sicker than I had ever been in my life. I was profusely throwing up and I was as white as a ghost. I was too ashamed to tell my roommates what really happened so I played it off like I had the flu. Eventually I had to tell my roommate the truth because my condition was worsening. She immediately took me to the hospital and they told me I had to have a transplant because my liver was failing. They called my dad and prepared him to make decisions in the case that I didn’t make it. It was an extremely serious situation and not a single friend or family member knew what I was going through at the time. My liver ended up healing itself and I didn’t have to have a transplant, but my health was in critical condition. I missed too much school from being in the hospital and I moved to Florida. Things were good at first, but I eventually began to slip back into my depressive ways.

 

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In July of 2017, I made the final decision to end my life once and for all by crashing my car into a tree head-on. I drove to a field, parked my car, took a few deep breaths, and just sat there. This was it. With tears rolling down my face, I threw a bottle of liquor back and began to drink. The taste was nastier than I remembered and I began to choke. Once the bottle was finally finished, I grabbed my keys from the cup-holder and stuck them in the ignition and started up my car. I was mentally prepared for my death on that eerie night in July. I was done suffering and I felt as if I had no place in this world. With a foggy mind and shaky hands, I stomped down on the accelerator and took off for my death sentence.

In those small moments I envisioned what my funeral would be like. I pictured all my friends and family gathered around looking at my lifeless body. Or, who knows, maybe my body would be so mangled they wouldn’t be able to have an open casket. I thought about everyone I would be leaving behind and how much their lives would be altered forever. I thought about my dad and how horribly he would handle the situation. I thought about my siblings and how they would have lost their mom and sister. I began to feel an overwhelming amount of sadness and guilt, but I realized I was too far to turn back now.

From that moment on the rest of the night was a blur. I remember going in and out of consciousness on the way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I wasn’t dead. What I did know was that I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach and I knew that something had gone terribly wrong.

I woke up in a hospital bed that morning to find that I didn’t have my phone, keys, or wallet. I felt a throbbing pain in my right foot and looked down to find a stitched up and swollen cut. A taxi cab drove me back to my apartment and I was left with bits and pieces of what had happened the night before. It turns out that I crashed into another car instead of hitting a tree like I had planned.

At first, I paid a reckless driving ticket. I went about my life for the next five months thinking that that was all behind me. I started working at a new job and this is where I met my now husband, Edward. In February of 2018, I got a knock on my door and it was the police, coming to formally arrest me for a felony DUI from that warm summer night. At that point in time, I had no idea what was going on. I texted Edward in a panic and told him that I was going to jail and he needed to come bail me out. From that point on it was dealing with the pressing legal matters in front of me. I had to hire a lawyer, which was $6,000. I had no prior record whatsoever, but it was the severity of the accident that led to it being a felony case. Although the driver of the other car that I crashed into was not injured, the passenger broke her ankle and had to have numerous surgeries to get it fixed.

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For the next seven months I was in and out of court. I mentally beat myself up for so long because I felt like a monster; just another statistic of a DUI case and I felt so guilty that other people had to get involved in my suicide attempt. My intentions were to solely crash into a tree and kill myself. It was never my intention to have anyone else involved. When you’re depressed and suicidal, logic goes out of the window and you’re completely overcome with numbness and a desire to die. As much as I regret that night, I’m relieved things played out the way that they did. I definitely had my mom watching over me and she wasn’t ready for me to be with her yet.

When the court case was settled, I was sentenced to two years house arrest, $7,500 in restitution, over $4,000 owed to the county, 75 hours of community service, I had to take DUI classes, a victim impact panel course, and I lost my license for 3 years. Even through all of the punishments, I felt a feeling of relief. I felt relieved because I deserved every single thing that I got and I had hoped that this would provide a sense of security to the victim from the car accident knowing I got the punishment that I deserved.

As of now, Edward and I are happily married and moving to Kansas soon. I finally went to see a psychiatrist for the first time since my mom passed away and I was diagnosed with severe depression, and insomnia. I regularly see a therapist and take medication every day. At first I was ashamed of the fact that I needed medicine to aid my mental health, but then I finally realized that I have nothing to be embarrassed about. Taking medicine doesn’t make me weak or invalid. In fact, it makes me strong because a day in the life with depression is no joke.

Living with depression has been one of the biggest challenges that I’ve ever faced. Some days I lie in bed from dusk until dawn. Some days it’s hard to muster up the energy to shower or put makeup on. Some days all I want to do is sit in the dark. I’ll go days without answering calls or texts from my friends or family and it’s not because I don’t love them. It’s because I don’t have the emotional capacity to carry on a conversation. It feels like my soul is tired. There are days when I put on makeup, do my hair, and go out, but deep down I just want to be in my bed. Depression makes it exhausting for me to be around people or crowds for too long. I have to give my husband “the look” when I’m ready to leave or else I’ll start to shut down and get quiet and anxious. Sometimes my depression makes me irritable for no reason at all. My medication helps tremendously with these things though and my “bad days” are pretty rare. Once in awhile I’ll get down in the dumps, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be.

Throughout my journey of highs and lows, I’ve matured in ways that I didn’t think were possible. I have a new appreciation for the beauty of life and I feel grateful to wake up healthy and happy every morning. I haven’t magically gotten better with medication alone. I’ve had to constantly work on myself and alter my pattern of thinking towards a more positive mindset. It was so easy for me to hate myself, but loving myself was a daunting task that has taken a lot of work. However, I’ve learned to step up to the plate and swing at whatever curveballs life throws at me.

EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

See Related Recovery Stories: Depression, Mental Health First Person Essays

Brittany Lopes is an artist, coffee enthusiast, creative soul, and mental health advocate. She has high aspirations to one day become a full-time artist, which is completely achievable given her determined attitude and fierce desire to succeed. Aside from the freedom, being a young entrepreneur will also provide a platform for her to shed positive light on mental health and spread awareness. Brittany is the fur mom to a precious lhasalier, Bella, and a wife to her wonderful husband, Edward. She is proud of her journey and hopes that her story will inspire others who are battling with their own demons.