Freedom: 18 Years After a Suicide Attempt

We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started. ~Henry Ward Beecher

HOPE by Claudia Johns

The fourth of July holds a special significance other than it being the Birthday of  American Independence. It is a day that marks my freedom from inner oppression and celebrates my life. It’s the day I almost died.

I woke up on July 4th, eighteen years ago, excited about the day ahead. My mom was throwing an afternoon BBQ celebration and all my siblings and close friends were coming. After the cookout, we would all go to the town park and watch the fireworks. It was a perfect plan for a fun family day. But I never made it to the cookout. Instead, by mid-afternoon, I was in ICU fighting for my life.

I was only 25 years old at the time and suffering from severe depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). My romantic relationship was a violent one that had already put me in the hospital earlier that year – the beating to my face so severe that it caused hearing loss and minor brain damage. I left him for a while and sought medical help — antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and weekly therapy sessions became the norm. Seven weeks into the therapy and medication, working toward recovery and planning to leave the relationship when I could afford to move, I was feeling happy and hopeful. The therapy and medications were equally helpful. The fear, anxiety and depression  were easing. The harsh inner commentary and criticism became quieter, and the dark self-hatred and suicidal thoughts started dissipating. I wasn’t afraid of hurting myself anymore.

Ironically, just six hours after waking in that happy mood, I would hate myself enough to actively attempt suicide. The argument started over the cookout at Mom’s. He didn’t want to go and I did. I decided to go without him, expecting him to feel relieved, but he became livid instead.  He ranted about my idiocy, how I didn’t love him, and how selfish I was.  I listened to several hours of this as he continued to drink and scream at me. He became angrier and louder as the minutes ticked toward time for me to leave.

The time came  to take my medications. By then I was in deep depression, crying, and distraught. I made a flippant comment that I should just take the whole bottle – he agreed, grabbing me and slamming me to the couch. He forced half the bottle of pills down my throat, pouring wine behind it until I swallowed. I would take the remaining two bottles on my own an hour later – I had given up, believing life would never get better than this. I wanted peace and I wanted the pain of my life to stop. The only way I believed I could find peace was through death. It was my final phantasy of control, the only thing I could personally still do to stop the pain I was unable to bear. I remember making that choice consciously and taking the pills.

The memories after that are splotchy – distorted pieces and moments filled with erratic voices. Half-lucid minutes in the ambulance – asking if I would live, telling them I had children, begging them to help me. The paramedic, telling me she was trying, would do all she could to keep me alive.  A silent blackness, deeper and heavier than any I’ve ever known, closed in about me.

In the Dark Silence

I’m not a big believer in “near death experiences,” and I don’t categorize my experience in the dark silence as  one. It’s more like a window of internal – spiritual sight appeared and then opened into an epiphany.

My life was separate and apart from my emotions or perceptions. There was no confusion and no pain. In that dark silence appeared two metaphysical windows opening on two different lives – the life I was living and a life more true to my soul. The greatest part of the epiphany was a sudden flash of understanding that it was my choice. I felt empowered. I suddenly understood with perfect clarity that either path was open to me. All that seemed not to exist showed itself to me in such a way that I would never doubt it’s existence again.

The suicide arrives at the conclusion that what he is seeking does not exist;  the seeker concludes that he has not yet looked in the right place.
~Paul Watzlawick

I spent several weeks in ICU and then moved in with my sister for several months following my release. I started building a new life, with a focus, almost immediately. I turned to writing, something I had always been good at in school – even to the point of being published and winning competitions. I envisioned a path, the small steps as well as the big steps, and I started walking that path with pen and paper in hand.

Anyone desperate enough for suicide…should be desperate enough to go to creative extremes to solve problems: elope at midnight, stow away on the boat to New Zealand and start over, do what they always wanted to do but were afraid to try. ~Richard Bach

In the Bright Light

I took responsibility for my life in a way that was totally new to me. I focused on my children and my art, traveled across the country, and explored things that I’d always feared. The years rolled past and I become the woman in my vision, the woman on a happier and truer path. The ups and downs, the successes and failures, remain as a part of life. There are always the good days and the bad, but I’ve learned how to put victimization of myself (whether by me or others) behind me.

I have a healthy and happy life, a productive career in the automotive industry, a wonderful husband, two lovely children, and four adorable grandchildren. I’m blessed and lucky to be here this July 4th celebrating another year of Life and Freedom. From me to you – a joyous wish for a beautiful and Happy 4th of July!  

The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments. ~Gustave Flaubert



Autism: An Interview with the Founders of William’s Garden

An Interview for Whippoorwill Journal with Marilyn and John Winright, founders of William’s Garden: A Camp for Autistic Children.

WJ:  In the Testimonial section of your website, you and John describe the initial decision to start William’s Garden and your belief that it is a God-given mission. Can you elaborate for our readers how you came up with the idea and what it means to you as Christian to be able to serve in this ministry?

Marilyn: I’ve always loved children and working with them.  For years I’ve worked as the girls club leader in our church, as well as teaching Sunday School and assisting with the teens. I was immediately on board when John approached me with the idea of starting some sort of a camp for children as a retirement career. This was something that I could get excited about because of my love for children.

We originally thought about a “camp” for children with Down’s Syndrome. We were familiar with illness and felt a strong desire to try to make life more complete and fun for those special kids. Then, after sitting down with our consultant, Ms. Dee Moody, also of Gaffney, SC, we learned that there are many programs available for children with Down’s Syndrome. However, we discovered a new, growing type of special needs children, those suffering with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and very few local programs  or other assistance available to help them and their families. We didn’t know that much about Autism. We’d heard it mentioned, but knew few details. John and I did some research and realized there was a great need for help in the Autism community.

As to what it means to us as Christians to be able to serve in this ministry: we feel that God has laid this project on our hearts and has given us the desire to do whatever we can to make William’s Garden a complete success. We are excited and hopeful every time we sit down to discuss our next step. We consider it an honor to be used of God to make the life of children with Autism and their families happier and more productive. We also hope that William’s Garden will help remove some pressure and aid the parents of autistic children as they try to find a place within our community and work toward their child reaching his or her greatest potential.

We believe that God leads us every step of the way and guides us in this effort. We feel confident that he confirms His Will in this for us through some awesome signs. That’s what we write about in our Testimonial on our website,  There’s just nothing more fulfilling then knowing that you are doing the will of God.

WJ: What were the most difficult steps in the journey once you and John made the decision to start the William’s Garden project?  And, how did you overcome those places of struggle?

Marilyn: William’s Garden is still a work in progress and, so far, we’ve been blessed not to have what I would call “struggles”, but we have had to learn more patience. Creating a non-profit organization is not an easy task. There are many rules and regulations to follow. I’m sure that as we move forward there will be difficult times, but we know that God will provide the way for us to get this done.

WJ: Tell us about the struggles and the joys so far in this endeavor?

Marilyn: The hardest part at the moment is waiting for the finalization of our 501(c)3 Tax Exempt Status. We’ve gotten a head start by getting our name out to the community, we are working with developers  create the plans for the facilities and the campsites. It’s a process that takes time. Sometimes it’s a struggle to be patient, but we are making progress, and that’s what matters. Slowly but surely, William’s Garden is coming into being. We’ve met, emailed, and had comments on our website from parents who are so excited about what we are doing and how it will benefit them and their child with Autism. That’s a real joy. To know that we are already making a difference.

WJ:  Can you give us an idea, a description, of what you see William’s Garden becoming in the next 3 years? Five years? What are some of the goals and benchmarks you’d like to meet?

Marilyn: Wow! What we envision for William’s Garden? Lots! That’s for sure.

Our plans are to have a facility constructed on 7 acres of land that will include a shelter-house for outside activities and gatherings, campsites for 10 children and their counselors for a week long summer camping experience, outdoor gardening projects as well as nursery garden, and a “petting zoo” with farm animals and a few exotic animals. We have hiking/nature trails and will have horse riding  for the children as well. We plan to build “dorm” type sleeping facilities, offices for professional service providers which will include psychologists, therapists, family counselors, etc., as well as a Sensory Room, a computer lab and a Media Room for photography.

We plan to work with the school system and provide after-school programs for those kids who need extra help with homework, and communication and socialization skill sets. A swimming pool will be available to teach swimming lessons and water safety (which is very important because the Autistic child is often drawn to and sometimes has a deep fascination with water). As William’s Garden grows, we plan to offer various job training programs such as growing and selling produce, pottery classes, basket weaving, all types of arts and crafts, and some specialized training for industry within our community. We will begin with those children/youth from Cherokee county, SC and then expand into surrounding communities. We hope to one day be a national program.

A BIG part of our focus will be on making our program affordable. Most of what these special children need is not federally funded. We hope to raise enough in donations, contributions, and sponsorships to make it possible for ANYONE who wants to participate to be able to do so.

WJ: On your website, you mention that you do not have an autistic child and explain why you felt pulled toward this project. Can you explain that a little here for our readers? Also, how do your children feel about the project and will any of them be involved in it?

Marilyn: John and I love children and wanted to do something in our retirement years for children with special needs. It’s just something that we feel the need to do in our hearts. What really solidified the decision for me was an event that happened a few years ago in Spartanburg, SC. A 2 1/2 year old little boy was playing outside with his siblings when his mother needed to run back into the house for just a moment. When she returned, he was gone. She searched for 2 hours with no sign of him so she called 911.  There was a massive search. two days later his little body was found not far from his home –  in the river behind where he lived.  His mother said he had always had a fascination of the water. Investigators assumed that he could hear the sounds of the river, which was full because of recent rains, and went looking for it.  He apparently slipped and fell.  I followed it on the news very closely – there was just something in that little boys eyes… he had such beautiful, sweet, precious eyes! It just tore at my heart when I heard that he had died. His name was William. It just seemed fitting to name our program William’s Garden in his honor. His mother is aware of what we are doing and is supportive.

John and I, between us, have 6 sons, (as well as a foreign exchange student that we had several years ago that we also consider a son), 2 (3) daughter-in-laws, 1 (3), grandsons and 6 granddaughters.  They all support what we are doing with William’s Garden and are as excited as we are about it. Our youngest son, Caleb, lives with us and will be helping us with the gardening/landscaping/maintenance aspect of William’s Garden. He loves helping us with the planning and is really looking forward working in the gardens with the kids. The rest of our family lives all over the US, but if they were here, I’m sure they would be willing to do whatever it took to help make William’s Garden  a success.

Originally published in Whippoorwill Journal, Spring 2011 edition. Http://

Cigarettes as a Positive Factor in Treating Mental Illness?


There is a wonderful post about cigarettes, nicotine, and schizophrenics by Dirk Hanson over at Addiction Inbox. He has a great blog with some wonderful content. The first paragraph of the piece is below…continue reading at Addiction Inbox Link.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Medical Cigarettes

Is it “Inhumane” to Take Cigarettes Away from Schizophrenics?
In an article for Brain Blogger a couple of years ago, I looked into the astonishing fact that, as a typical study of in-patient smoking among schizophrenics in Britain revealed, about 80-90% of the patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were cigarette smokers. Given that the running rate in the general population hovers around 20-25% on average, this is really quite amazing. It seems clear that nicotine is doing something for a schizophrenic that makes cigarettes into a form of self-medication that almost all schizophrenics apparently discover at one time or another. Read the rest of this interesting article at Addiction Inbox.