CROSSETT, Arkansas (09/17/19) Many people across the nation have been raising awareness about suicide prevention through community forums and social media, including one wife and mother who survived her own suicide attempt.
Felicia Toler is the mother of two college girls and happily married to her husband, Tim, of 24 years. She attends church and is a listening ear to many people in the community.
While people may assume she has a perfect life, she is far from it. Toler, 44, was raped in high school. That traumatic experience has affected every part of her life. Since then, she has had uncontrollable seizures.
She visited doctors all over the United States to try and diagnose her issue but there was never an answer.
Soon after, she found relief when she visited the Mayo Clinic. They diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from the sexual assault as a teen.
For much of her adult life, she has had to lean on support from family and friends for everything. Whenever Toler is reminded of that moment when she was a teen, her body panics and she has a seizure.
Up until July, Toler had gone four straight months without having an episode. Her life started to become a little more normal.
“Anytime I go for a long period of time, I get excited,” she said. “I think I’m going to get my independence back soon and then when I had it, it just knocked me down.”
Toler said she just wanted to be like everyone else who could go and do as they please. The constant thought of depending on other people to help her with basic activities really put her in a dark place.
“I can’t drive. I can’t work,” she said. “People always have to get me and do for me and I felt like a burden. I just thought life would be so much better if they didn’t have to deal with me.”
The day she had her seizure, the suicidal thoughts began ringing through her head. The second day, she said she couldn’t take it anymore and decided to take matters into her own hands.
“Pretty much all day that day I would drink the antifreeze,” Toler admitted.
She can’t remember much of that but her youngest daughter remembers vividly. She came home and found Toler acting very strange. Toler admitted to her daughter that she drank Antifreeze, an engine coolant.
After a few hours, someone poisoned by antifreeze may seem drunk or groggy and complain of stomach distress. After a few more hours, the victim may go into a coma, thankfully, her daughter found her just in time.
Immediately, Toler’s youngest daughter called her grandparents who live next door and soon the emergency crew had arrived.
“It was just God’s grace because I wasn’t permanently hurt by all of this,” she said. “They said normally my kidneys or my liver could have really been damaged and I was fortunate that I came out with no damage whatsoever.
Toler says that moment isn’t something she was proud of. In fact, she was embarrassed. It took her two months to come to terms with why she did what she did.
Last week during prevention week, she wrote in a Facebook post:
As most of you know, I thought suicide was the answer not too long ago. I was sick of being sick and tired of feeling like a burden to my family. I now realize that’s NOT the answer. You will never understand unless you’ve been in that dark place. Do not judge a person that’s there-just love them. That’s what they need more than anything. I am a walking miracle because I should not have survived. But, I think I did so I could tell others it’s ok-you will be ok. Just hold fast to God’s promises. He NEVER leaves us alone.
Now, she wants to share her testimony of survival and let others know that suicide is not the answer. You have to make yourself live.
“Don’t close yourself off even if it’s hard” she said. “Concentrate on the things you have to be thankful for.”
Licensed health professionals like, Yolanda Johnson-Martin says this and other methods are key to getting over the suicidal thoughts.
“Yes, you are in a dark place but seek help,” Martin said. “Find somebody that you can talk to.”
Martin is a licensed, certified social worker and is the owner of a private practice in Crossett named Resolutions Behavioral Health Services.
She provides individual behavioral health counseling, family counseling, marital counseling and crisis counseling.
She encourages victims of suicide to see a licensed professional, but if they don’t take that route seek help from family and friends.
“If you’re having a cold or get the flu, you go to the doctor. If things are going on with your mental health, you should find a therapist,” she said.
She urges loved ones to be active listeners not just while someone is having suicidal thoughts but when they start showing signs, and even after treatment.
“Don’t be judgmental,” she said. “Actually sit down and hear what they have to say.”
Martin says signs of suicide can range from a person consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs. A person may gain or lose weight. They may even become distant and actually communicate feeling hopeless.
However they communicate, if it’s not their normal attitude or activity, that person may be silently crying out for help.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Martin’s business is located on 304 Main Street. She can be reached at 870-305-1221.