Suicide is a subject that makes people feel uncomfortable. Mental illness is complicated and a hard diagnosis to receive. People who live with it feel ashamed. I should know. I am one of the 8.3 million Americans per year, that has experienced suicidal thoughts. I am one of the nearly one million per year, who has made an attempt.

There I was sitting in the bathtub with the water running, crying. It wasn’t the first time I had found myself in this situation, but I was thought it would be the last. My mind was racing and my thoughts were all focused on dying. I wanted out of this life. My mental illness had taken over full force. Suicide was on the top of my list.

Being an international top model for ten years, I had, “had it all.” I graced the covers of magazines like Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. I had experienced fame. My friends were celebrities. I had money and traveled all over the world. But that was over and done.

“Right,” you’re thinking. “You had it all. You were an international model for a decade and you wanted to die.” Yes, I did. I know that it is hard to understand and doesn’t make sense. How could someone with so much feel so little about herself?

I lost everything the night I accidentally overdosed on steroids that had been prescribed to me by a doctor. That overdose caused a bipolar psychotic state.  I spent the next five years in and out of psych wards. I was 5’9 and had stopped eating and weighed 90 pounds. I was locked up against my will to keep me safe from my deep depression with psychosis. Doctors threatened to put a feeding tube in me if I didn’t eat. They threatened to put me into a mental institution for good if I didn’t take my meds.

I was abused in their care. I was dragged down the hallway with my pants falling down, revealing my privates to the people I passed and taken to a bathtub where I was given a shower in my clothes by two nurses. When I asked for the doctor, he ordered for me to be given a tranquilizer. I was humiliated and made to feel less than human.  When I got out of the hospital, I didn’t know how to live with who I was and how I felt.

So I found myself alone in my bathtub, with my crazy thoughts and distorted thinking. No amount of fame or money could bring back my sanity. My thoughts convinced me that I didn’t matter. I was beyond depressed and had no hope.

Eating a bullet, overdosing, slitting my wrists, checking out of life all sounded like a vacation from the hell I had been living. I hated myself. I hated where my mental illness had taken me. I couldn’t bear it. But when I reached for the razor (or whatever you did) to end it all, I couldn’t do it.

Something deep inside my gut told me not to. It told me to wait, that there was another way out. I took what little life was left in me and clung to that hope. I had to decide not to slit my wrists and die in the bathtub.

All at once I felt the urge to pray to God. While I prayed I saw what my life could be. I wanted to be an actress, a writer, and a mother. I turned off the water and got out of the bathtub, being carried and led by a guardian angel. Deciding not to die wasn’t easy, when living was so hard. I knew I was up for the fight of my life.

I went to my psychiatrist. He changed my medication and told me to take it. I know that sounds silly. But taking the medication wasn’t easy. I felt like I was losing who I was with each pill I took, while in reality it brought me back to myself. Each day I got up and endured. I dealt with the angst, the hopelessness and the despair. I took my medication, always knowing that I had the choice to go back into that dark hole of suicide.

Then something changed. Slowly, the dark clouds started to part showing me glimpses of light. At first they were brief, but I could see them. The days turned into months, and one  day I realized that the clouds had evaporated completely. The new meds were working and the sheer determination in my head to survive kicked in. I knew I wanted to live and I fought hard for it. I wanted my life back.

The problem in our society isn’t mental illness. The problem is the intolerance and lack of knowledge around the subject due to fear. If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Most people with this experience are afraid to speak up and get help because they are scared to tell anyone. They are worried about being called crazy. They are worried the pain won’t stop. They are scared that the world will view them as inferior. So they don’t get help and live small and inside of their heads or they die. Taking your life because of a feeling is a final act that can’t be undone. But the feeling usually can be treated.  90% of people suffering from suicidal thoughts have a mental illness that with the right course of action is treatable. Life for those suffering with mental illness can be worth living. I’m telling you as someone who knows, that once the fog has lifted life changes. Everything gets easier.

I know that I will have to take medication for the rest of my life. With the help of my therapist I have learned what the warning signs are and when I am going down hill. If I am really down and therapy and medication aren’t working I know I need to adjust my meds. I am happy to know this today because it gives me the freedom and the will to live. From the girl in the bathtub who wanted to take her life to the woman who shares her story to help others, one thing I know is this; suffering is a choice. Knowing that the pain can stop is empowering. You have a choice. The door to hope is open for you to walk through. You are not alone and you are not a mistake. Your life will change, the clouds will part and you will walk in your own light. Here’s to sunny skies ahead.

Amy Elmore is a successful 10-year cover model, author of Brave and mental health advocate who helps women find their voice and express their inner truth so that they can be free from self- destructive behaviors and thoughts. For more information, please visit: