Overcoming the Odds
Story from a Suicide Survivor
Dedicated to Suicide Prevention
Project Director at Harborview Hospital
Tell me a little bit about yourself
My name is Topher Jerome, and I attempted suicide. A little background- both my parents were alcoholics, and I grew up with drug addiction all around me. I suffered from sexual abuse, PTSD, neglect, just a whole situation of child adverse series. Not to mention I had trouble getting to school and getting an education, so I did not have the best literacy. At the age of sixteen, I moved out of my house and went off to find myself. However, change of pace I got into drugs and became a drug addict. Fast forward I managed to go to college with drug addiction. Somewhere along the way, I held on to the idea that “well if things get worse then I can always just kill myself.” Eventually, I just kept running into issues in my life and I could not tolerate the discomfort, thus I wanted to die. I felt as if I could not see beyond what I was going to, and I just wanted to escape. Using drugs, alcohol, and suicide were all ways for me to cope. Somehow through all this, I managed to stay employed, and continued to suffer through life.
Explain your suicide attempt
While I had minor suicide attempts/run-ins in the past I eventually got to a point where I felt as if I could not stand it anymore and that I was at the end of my road. I was in a troubled relationship in my early thirties, and I made the decision to kill myself. It was not a rational decision. No one knew. I just wanted it to be over. After attempting, I wound up in Harborview in a coma for a couple of weeks. I ended up being there for a month. When I woke up, I was just so angry that I survived. I did not want this. I was discharged back into the life that I did not want to live.
What was your turning point in realizing suicide was not the answer?
Fast forward in and out of drug and alcohol centers, and emergency centers I was still working, and I got to this point where I realized I needed to stop blowing up my life. After my suicide attempt, I had promised my family that I would not do it, and I just felt so stuck. I was in this place where I could not die, but I also could not live. I was so desperate. I realized that there was still a life that was awaiting me outside of my misery and I needed to be the one to take hold of it and seize the opportunity. This is where my story changed. The main part of that for me was adjusting my mindset. I decided through a series of events that I needed to do something to give service to others. I found a job at Harborview as a peer counselor. I saw this magic where someone with lived experience shared their life with someone else. This started the basis for my professional work both in and outpatient.
What is one thing you wish you knew back then that you know now?
I wish I could have felt hope. I wish that I knew that my life would change. I just did not believe anything would work, but when I began to dedicate myself, my entire life began to change. I wish I had respected and understood that the pain would pass.