The Beauty of Defeat

Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of my suicide attempt. I’ve written about this before, but this year I have been writing my book and in this process I have been reviewing my journals. It is no coincidence that last week, I was reading my journal from 1994 (age 27) when my struggle into darkness seemed impossible to emerge from. I think I have had the experiences I have had, the struggle of coming to the place of understanding & acceptance and the pain of feeling ostracized my entire life in order to learn to accept myself. For me – being adopted into a family some of whom weren’t as open to the idea of adoption (on my dad’s side) when they said to my parents – “Well, blood is thicker than water….”…this contributed to my feeling like I never “fit” anywhere – especially being adopted into a Norwegian family full of blonde haired, blue-eyed beauties. All of this was necessary for me to learn forgiveness ultimately of myself and others.

In school, I was always highly sensitive, shy and teased. Then my plunge into the depths of depression, anxiety and bulimia were all hard pills to swallow. These mental health labels were something I hid. It has been a secret that is deep, dark and covered in lots of stigma, shame, discomfort, taboo, lack of acceptance and denial. They are my “shadow” sides1 – the disowned parts of myself that I didn’t like, love or accept.

For the past 30 years, I have been working on accepting these aspects of myself and learning to love those parts of myself that I don’t want to look at – that I shun, disbelieve and deny – essentially, I have been acknowledging my shadows.

With the writing of my book, where I unveil all my truth – and risk all my greatest fears – fears of ostracism, misunderstanding, judgment and stigmatization – I reclaim these denied aspects of my soul that need as much love as the rest of me. I have been scouring my journals from 1984-2014 – and I found it fitting that last week I stumbled across the last entries I made in my journal before attempting suicide – here is what I wrote:

February 24, 1994:
I am home today (at Mom’s) – took a day of bereavement leave for my Grandma’s (on my Dad’s side) funeral and I will go to the memorial service tomorrow. Last night and today I almost feel depressed!! I think it is because I am worn out, tired, sick with a cold (still), lonely, confused about the future etc. As far as work goes, I haven’t had a chance to enjoy anything because I’ve been stressed with mutual funds. My colleague is picking the shit out of me, going through my papers and things, but soon it will be better when I have the time to do what I want. I must try hard to maintain the correct balance – don’t overwork yourself, try to get to work by 7-7:30am and leave by 5:30-6pm in order to do your workout and things for yourself like write, sew, decorate, visit friends, etc. I think I’m feeling really single at the moment, but you know that it doesn’t matter – you have to be comfortable with yourself & love yourself & then you’ll meet the right person. Its not that I am “miss picky” – it is just that I know the importance of finding a “soul mate”. Don’t worry about things Chris, you’ll be fine, look forward & up with a smile on your face & in your heart!

Next entry: March 20, 1994
Well, work is still stressful, but getting somewhat better. It is frightening what I don’t know, but it’s just as frightening to see the way the Branch operates. Oh well, things will get better – just remember that you can’t do it all in one day! Be patient, work hard, but also relax and enjoy yourself. Sweet dreams Christabelle! Remember who loves you the most and always will xoxo

Next entry March 31, 1994
I’m really not digging my job – I can’t stand the disorganization, how long it takes to do one thing, lack of support. The person I replaced was a jerk. Things just seem to get dumped on you – I can’t seem to get ahead. My time doesn’t feel like my own. Solutions? Suicide! Quit your job! No, come on Chrissy, you can do it – have an attitude adjustment & be positive. It will just take time before everything comes together. Make out your to-do lists and try to stick to them.

Next entry: June 5, 1994
Well, it’s been two months since I’ve written and things haven’t been going that great. I’m still very unhappy with life, my job, etc and I can’t seem to figure out what is the problem. I am definitely depressed. I’ve been to Dr. Remick who put me on an anti-depressant (Zoloft) which has helped a bit, but not a lot! I have to try and figure out why/what it is that’s making me feel this way. Is it work? Do you like what you do? Can you even answer that question? I’m not thrilled with the Branch Manager or the other Commercial Lender. I don’t really trust them, especially when they go behind my back and authorize commercial deals that I’ve just declined without even explaining it to me so I can learn.

Is it your love life? What love life! Well, not really because I’m not ready for anyone serious right now. I’m not interested in physical contact – the companionship would be welcomed, but it’s not really that.

What about the fact that you’ve been wanting to take your life! You have to make a decision either way – you make your life better by changing what is bothering you – or you give up. To give up is a cop out, I suppose, but it seems like a pretty good option at times. Over the past 8 weeks you’ve been trying to think of other career opportunities – cop, teacher, your own business or Outward Bound, but nothing has really happened – you haven’t come to any conclusions except you want to quit your job. But why?! Do you hate banking? What would be more along your lines – health, nutrition, helping others? I wish I never decided to do a Commerce degree and go into business/banking. Well, no decisions have come now with this writing. I may or may not talk to you later depending on how things unfold. Don’t compare yourself to others; just do the best you can do. Maybe you should go in and talk to the Branch Manager – tell him how much you hate your position right now. Maybe I am in over my head – Ask him what he thinks I should do?

And that was it. I never talked to anyone about how I was feeling. That the thoughts of self-doubt had been plaguing me for 6 months – thoughts that constantly told me: I wasn’t good enough, I was stupid, I was a loser, I was not worth the breath I was breathing, etc. Four days later, I tried to kill myself. I consider June 9, 1994 like my birthday. It is the day I woke up and started the process of acceptance of myself which has been unraveling for the last 21 years. Given the amount of poison I consumed, I really should not be here. I realize that no one leaves the planet until God decides it is time, and you’ve passed the tests that you’ve come here to learn. I’m still learning to love myself and others, to be open to all possibilities, to let go of my fears, to go deep into the darkness and from this, I know that all will be what it will be in the end – and it is beautiful. All of it. May you continue to see the beauty in your life – and may you be able to see the beauty or gifts in the pain you endure.
My heart will always go out to you.

Reference:
1. Ford, Debbie; Chopra, Deepak and Williamson, Marianne: “The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self” (May 3, 2011)

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10 Comments

  1. Lachlan Crawford

    Dr. Bjorndal your bravery to be so vulnerable makes it easier for the rest of us to aspire to do the same. I am so grateful for your willingness to share your story. It highlights the importance of first accepting ourselves- the darkest, scariest parts of ourselves- which opens the door to so many wonderful experiences in life that can only come after that.

  2. Avril Siddle

    Chris I had no idea that you had been going through suicidal thoughts when you were at gestalt.
    I guess that was the change you needed. You have too much caring and compassion for “the Bank” Thanks for sharing that in your book.Enjoy your “new” LIFE

    1. Dr. Chris

      Thank you dear Avril! I think of you every day as your paintings are in various rooms of my house and the smile on your face in one of our experiential exercises at Gestalt school still wells me up with joy! You looked at me and had to say one word…..and as I braced myself for the worst….you smiled infectiously and said “Love!”. I miss you my friend!

  3. All I want to do is reach back through time and give younger you a massive hug. Thank you for opening up this vulnerable part of your life. It was painful to read but showed the resilience of the human spirit. Your bravery and determination shine through.
    I am so glad you are here!

  4. Celeste Kadatz-Cornfield

    I am always in awe of your bravery to share your story! It has helped me to accept mine and even though it’s a work in progress I am leaps and bounds from where I was and it is all thanks to you.
    Can not wait for your book 🙂 eeeekkkk

  5. Veronica

    I am very grateful to have you as my ND. I am learning and growing. I appreciate you sharing. Much love to you.

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