When the police and paramedics opened the door, they pushed through the lounger, the kitchen and coffee tables, and found my body there, in the hotel room. I was lying on my back, covered in vomit. There was vomit on the bed, on the floor, and it had projected up the wall behind me and covered a massive picture that hung behind the bed.
Those who found me thought it was a murder scene. Apparently the pink Benadryl pills, along with the tens of thousands of other milligrams of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications I took, made it look like blood. They thought I was dead and I should have been. I wanted to be. I had been unconscious nearly twelve hours.
The one flash I have of coming to was being transferred by the medical personnel from the gurney to the hospital bed. Everything was colored white except the navy of the nurse’s scrubs. I’m assuming it was in the ER.
I remember them cutting my clothes off and it was all like a nightmare. I couldn’t respond but I remember them counting “1…2…3…” before lifting me up and over. And what emotion do I remember from that? Shame. Ashamed of being naked. I had never been more vulnerable.
I couldn’t process all of this in that brief moment, but here I was, a failed minister, an embarrassment to anyone who ever cared about me, and I couldn’t even get a suicide right. The same thing happened when the male nurse came in the next day and I woke up in one of those momentary fogs. I wasn’t worried about the pain of him ripping out the catheter. I had experienced far greater pain. It was the shame attached to being naked and having my penis touched by another man. A stranger.
After three days in ICU, the doctors decided my liver wasn’t going to fail, and I had regained feeling in my legs. I was released from ICU and immediately transferred to the psych ward. The psych ward. Me. The former worship leader. The youth pastor. The Christian radio host. The blogger. The ministry school graduate. The father. The husband. The outgoing one. The friendly one. The upbeat one. Me. I was sitting in a wheelchair, headed to the psych ward. And I stayed there for several days.
Since those darkest days, I’ve fought really hard to recover and learn to practice self-care daily.
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Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
Pastors and Suicide: How Do We Keep this From Happening Again?
Podcast: When You Feel Like You Can’t Go On
Suicide Survivors: 7 Things to do the Day After You Leave the Psych Ward
Living with Depression & Anxiety: 7 Coping Strategies that Work (e-book)
Guest Blog – Worthy and Unashamed: Facing Mental Health Stigma in the Church Head-On
Guest blog: It’s Depression, Not Demon Possession
VIDEO: The spiritual hero who was depressed and desperate
Peace, Be Still: Finding Hope in the Midst of Anxiety