By Michael Ashcraft —
Nine times Shannon Palmer attempted to commit suicide.
“They were surprised that I lived,” she said. She searched Google to find the right dose to snuff her life while she slept.
A daddy’s girl despite his drug addiction, she was hit hard by her father’s abandonment when she was seven. Her mom slipped on a patch of ice in a parking garage in Colorado and injured her back. The resulting lifelong pain is what drove the single mother and two kids to church, hoping for a miracle.
“I was angry at God for a very long time,” Shannon said. “I was one of those ones who felt like I had to be re-saved over and over and over to be forgiven. God didn’t become real for me until three years ago.”
Mom worked three jobs until she met and married a “rescue dad,” who gave the kids their first Christmas. Her brother took his last name, Shannon did not, to the chagrin of the family. She wanted to keep a relationship with her biological father. Years later she finally took the last time, upsetting her biological dad.
“I still hoped to have the love of my father even though he was never there for me,” Shannon said.
She developed obsessive-compulsive disorder. Until she was diagnosed, she didn’t understand some of her behavior. “My family got so frustrated with me. They said they felt like they were walking on egg shells around me.”
In her freshman year of high school, she directed her obsessive-compulsive behavior into sports. She woke up at 5:30 a.m. to workout a couple hours before school. Once at school, she threw herself into swimming, volleyball, basketball, cross-country and wrestling – whatever sport was in season. When she came home, she turned on workout videos — even doing sit-ups in bed.
Then she became anorexic. “The feeling of hunger was an issue of control,” she said. “I felt like for the first time I could control something in my life. It was a high being able to say ‘no’ to the hunger pains when you were starving.”
At 17, Shannon tried to take her life the first time. She blamed herself for her mom’s pain. She felt pressured unfairly by a family that chafed at her psychological disorders. In one blowout with the family, she stuffed gobs of pills into her mouth and swallowed them in front of everybody. They rushed her to the nearest hospital. She was admitted to a padded room in a psychiatric hospital.
“That’s when they first put me on medications,” she said. The psychiatric drugs made her hungry and put her to sleep. She dropped out of sports and wallowed in depression. In a few years, her weight steadily rose to 270 pounds.
She moved to Juneau, Alaska, to get away from the family drama. She loved whales, which proved to be good therapy. She worked on a whale-watching boat and in a vetinarinary hospital. She tried to study, but anxiety attacks and mood swings disrupted the academic discipline.
She thrived in her jobs helping animals but felt compelled to move on every time she hit a stride. “The icky feelings would always come and make it feel wrong,” she said. “You feel like you have to change things to make it feel right.”
At Juneau she had a lot of psychiatric visits. She was admitted to the ICU after taking an entire bottle of extra strength Tylenol, and doctors thought she wouldn’t make it. When she woke up, the nurse told her she had liver failure. But God healed her.
“I prayed to Jesus, ‘Please take me. I want to be with you.’ I just wanted it to be over,” she said.
Next, Shannon moved to Bellingham, Washington, to pursue her veterinary passion at school. By now she was self-mutilating. She isolated herself from the world, sleeping 14 hours a day, and worked for a very supportive veterinary office. Eventually, she received her license as a technician, the RN of animals.
She didn’t encounter much help at church. “When I went to the small groups at church, they got freaked out,” she said. “They told me, ‘We’re sorry. We don’t feel comfortable with you here. You’re going to have to go somewhere else.’”
In 2011, she moved back to California when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Suffering severe depression, she submitted to electric shock therapy 21 times. It did no good. The anger would always simmer over, and her go-to relief mechanism was either cutting or suicide.
One day she was under the influence of another mega dose, driving from Dana Point to Oceanside, and slammed into a pole. Her gas tank punctured, and fuel spilled everywhere. Luckily, it was raining.
Shannon believes God saved her life that night. She was taken a psychiatric hospital where nurses held her down so they could inject her. She stayed a month.
A far-reaching change for the positive came in 2014. At a Good Friday service, the pastor encouraged people to write their worst sin on a paper and go up to the front and nail it to a wooden cross. Shannon wrote “attempted suicide” on the paper.
“After that, I was so emotional. I remember crying. On the way home, I was thanking God for sending Jesus. He loved us so much to forgive us,” she said, crying.
“It was the first time I told Him that I loved Him. Even though I had gone to church, I was always angry with Him. But that day was the major life change. I finally realized that I was Shannon. Before that I was ‘bi-polar.’ I became me, happy, not known for being depressed.”
Through counseling and God, she shed the stigma of being mentally ill. She realized she “had” a disorder, like a disease, but that it was not her identity. “I wasn’t ashamed any more,” she said.
“Now I don’t even have the desire to do the cutting or the pills,” she said.
She got involved in church, serving with homeless and greeting. The light turned on in her life. She was feeling the Spirit more. When she shared her testimony at Mountain View Church in San Juan Capistrano, some girls approached her and shared their dark secrets, and she encouraged them.
Shannon recently went on her first medical mission organized by the Door Bilingual School of Guatemala. She was bubbly, vivacious, helpful and hard-working at the clinic in the City of Coban with Lighthouse Medical Missions. Had she not shared her testimony, no one would have realized her dark past. The other volunteers hugged her and supported her.
Shannon shed 130 pounds in one year. She is down to two meds to normalize the chemical imbalance in her life. Things are looking up. She cries at telling her testimony. She has come a long way out of the dark chambers of despair and hopelessness.
For the first time in her life, she’s thinking about marriage.
“I never wanted love from a man before,” she said. “Because of what my dad did, I figured they’d always leave me. I always hurt the men before they could hurt me. But now since I’ve seen my step dad being committed to my mom, and seeing men of God in the church, I find that I want to get married and think it would be possible.”
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