It has been nearly 5 months since my husband and I met suicide attempt survivor Kevin Hines. It was actually a dream of ours to meet him and hear his entire story. He is such an inspiration to us and, frankly, to anyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts. For those who don’t know his story, I will give you just a little background.
It was a September morning when a 19 year old Kevin Hines thought life was no longer worth living. He made his final plans, said goodbye to his father, took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge in his hometown of San Francisco, and, after much mental turmoil, catapulted himself over the bridge railing to end his life. As soon as his hands left the rail, he said, “Oh God, I don’t want to die!” Miracle followed miracle and Kevin is now one of the few suicide attempt survivors that have actually survived that jump. I encourage you to read his book Cracked Not Broken and follow @kevinhinesstory on social media. Twenty years later, Kevin and his wife, Margaret, spend their lives sharing his story of hope and encouraging all of us to #BeHereTomorrow. Kevin is a true examples of a hero with a story.
You may wonder why am I sharing Kevin’s story? It’s now four years since Dani’s “wing day.” As hard as it is for me as her mom to not just focus on her last moments on earth, it has become a time to reflect on Danielle’s incredible life, goals, dreams and passion. Finding gratitude in this journey often times is a decision to be made. It does not come naturally. There is nothing natural about losing your child.
Dani could be Kevin Hines. Yes, we lost her eventually. Yes, she took her life. But Dani actually was him 3 separate times. At the tender age of 15, Danielle’s tormented young mind told her that life was too complicated, painful and hard and she ultimately found herself in the hospital getting her stomach pumped, spending a week in a children’s mental health ward and, thankfully, surviving her attempt to end her life. What followed was this: life was good, or, at least, so we thought. The worst thing that had ever happened to her or our family was over. Dani became a suicide attempt survivor. The thing is, back then, we couldn’t talk about it. The shame and “stigma” was so deep at that time that it was rarely mentioned. Because of that, there was also very little healing. We found out later of another attempt Dani made during college but, somehow, she was able to dig herself out of the pain and turmoil and discussed it only with her psychiatrist 10 years later. Basically, once again, she put a bandage on her pain, thinking that would heal it. Of course, it didn’t.
At the age of 22, Dani had her most serious attempt up to that point and we nearly lost her. I still thank God we didn’t. She didn’t know it but she had so much more to give this world. After this attempt, fortunately, Dani knew her work had to begin. She knew that in order to survive her depression, PTSD, anxiety, body image issues and suicidal thoughts that she needed help. Dani couldn’t do it alone. No matter how much we all loved her, encouraged her, believed in her or prayed for her, she had to take responsibility and do the hard work to survive. And let me tell you, it truly did take work. After 18 long months, she was stronger, healthier, happier, and in a place to make a difference in the world.
Dani not only survived, she thrived those next 10 plus years. She worked hard at her career, mentored women in her workplace, led book clubs, attended self help conferences, all the while taking care of her own mental health. Counseling, medication, yoga, positive self talk, and surrounding herself with like minded people was her life. She ultimately had ownership in the company she worked for, drove her dream car, lived in a beautiful townhouse, and showered her family and friends with gifts and love. Dani was generous with her time, belongings, money, and heart. She was a suicide attempt survivor and seemed destined to continue to help others live, too.
Dani wanted to be a public speaker so she could share her story with those who needed to hear it and help them believe that, no matter what, life was worth living. She wanted to tell young girls that there is a tomorrow and that no matter how you look, what you have done, what your diagnosis is or medicine you take, it does not and will not have to define you. She asked me during this time to help her find someone to write her story. This story would encourage people to take care of their mental health, first and foremost. In doing so, it would also allow them to believe they had a future and could do whatever they wanted in life. Dani wanted to give hope, especially in the depths of depression when it seemed impossible to find. She loved being 33. That was the year she was going to do something great, she said. She didn’t know what it would be, but she was going to do something great to help others.
You may have heard the saying “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” That was Dani in February 2019. Her heart and soul wanted to keep going but her brain and her depression lied to her, telling her she had nothing left to give. Because of those lies, we lost her early that year to the very thing she was trying to save others from. Some people may think she was weak or selfish or that she gave up too soon. However, if we believe that, we let suicide win. And we have vowed to never let suicide win.
We know that everyone’s story follows different road maps. Some take the easy road while others travel round and round. The roads may cross and often the direction becomes confusing or difficult to choose. But, in the end, with persistence and the refusal to quit, the journey can lead to a place of hope and inspiration. It’s a matter of never ever giving up.
Kevin Hines fights his fight every single day. He shares his story everywhere he can. He wants people to see that it is possible to have hope, to fight the voices and brain pain from mental health struggles and keep on living. Kevin Hines is a hero with a story.
To us, Dani is also a hero with a story. I am now here to share her story. Her family is here to share her story. You, too, can be or, perhaps, right now, you are a hero with a story. Your story can rewrite history. Your history. Your family’s history. Your friend’s and co-worker’s history. My history. All it takes is to never give up, remembering that you do not have to do life alone and no matter how you feel today, things will change. Things will and can get better. My hope is you will receive this story and keep fighting. For Dani. For Kevin. For yourself. I believe in you.