Lessons from Desperation: Suicide is Not Inevitable

By Nancy Virden (c)2020

Seven years ago I entered a treatment center for a 40-year eating disorder, depression, and trauma. One month later I emerged with a new focus and a clearer mind. 

The center is Timberline Knolls (TK) outside Chicago. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to speak there several times. 

Recently, a fellow survivor posted 100 Things I’ve Learned and How I’ve Grown at Timberline Knolls on the TK alumni group page. I found her comments honest and familiar. With her permission, I post this trimmed down, open, and somewhat quirky 25. This list can encourage anyone with a history of or current suicidal thoughts.

  1. My suicide is not inevitable.
  2. I deserve to surround myself with people who validate, honor, and believe my trauma.
  3. My emotions aren’t so big that other people can’t hold them.
  4. The Subjective Units of Distress Scale. Use it. 
  5. Trains scare me, but every time a train goes by, I don’t have to freak out.
  6. “Tomorrow needs you.”
  7. My trauma is not my fault
  8. If I killed myself now, after being at TK, I’d teach the women here that is is possible to kill yourself, and that this place can’t save you.
  9. Going for a walk may not fix anything, but it can make things more tolerable.
  10. “Are you willing to chase life and recovery as much as you chased death?”
  11. I didn’t get into the condition in one day–it’s going to take time to get out of it.
  12. Suicide is a choice, but it isn’t the only choice. I have options!
  13. Going off all medication is a horrible idea.
  14. When I do ask for what I need, in a “real adult” way, I will often get that (and more)!
  15. One of the most hilarious gifts I could receive is a blanket with my friend’s face on it.
  16. There is a difference between isolating and intentional alone time for self-care.
  17. It is possible to find joy in singing again.
  18. Prayer really does help. Use it more!
  19. Hope is not “the sun’ll [sic] come out tomorrow.” It is choosing to stay alive despite heart-break. It is believing that you don’t have to be happy at all to be happy you’re alive.
  20. Although compassion fatigue is real, even in my darkness I have the capacity to show compassion towards others.
  21. I can have self-compassion too
  22. Making art is for myself and absolutely no one else.
  23. If Jesus, feeling completely abandoned, can talk to his father from the cross saying my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then you can certainly talk to God from hospitals and treatment centers.
  24. I am worthy of love and belonging. I don’t need to do anything to earn that right.
  25. I finally learned the meaning of “don’t quit before the miracle.”

Today’s Helpful Word

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.


Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.., Carlo Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved




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