The Day I Almost Died Taught Me I Wanted to Live

Photo: Sarah Fader
depression happiness

I am a beautiful depressed person.

When I was 15 years old, I wanted to cut my wrists. I looked down at them and had a repetitive obsessive thought about taking a knife and slicing them open. The thought tortured me.

I imagined after the act, myself lying in a pool of blood and my dog happily walking into the kitchen and finding me dead. I never did cut my wrists, because I'm still alive today. I have a scar, though you would never know it.

In April of 2004 I almost died. I was living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn in an apartment complex and working as an administrative assistant at an e-learning company in Chelsea. At 25 years old, I was struggling with my identity. I didn't know who I was or who I wanted to be. I thought by this time in my life I would have it all figured out, but I was wrong.

Money was a constant burden and I could barely pay my rent. I knew I wanted a better life but I couldn't seem to dig myself out of this hole of perpetual depression. Every day I'd wake up and ask myself why I was still alive. It seemed as if I was just a waste of space.

My friends were becoming lawyers and doctors; one of them had the impressive title of pediatric infectious disease specialist. But me, I was just an admin. I thought when I graduated from New York University I would have the credentials to score a job worth bragging about to my neurotic Jewish parents but instead I was suffering the plight of organizing a type-A boss' Google Calendar and making coffee.

One morning, I awoke with an unenthusiastic yawn. I was shivering because the blanket had fallen off my body. As I lay there in the fetal position, I questioned the reason for getting out of bed. I decided that the bite-sized brownies laying on my window sill would suffice. My body stiffened as I reached for the sugary nuggets. It was freezing in my apartment and I had to close the window.

One of the charming aspects of living in a pre-war building in Brooklyn were the casement windows. In order to open and shut these bad boys, one had to manually turn a crank and voila — the window would slide open. Unfortunately, today the window was not behaving and no matter what sweet nothings I whispered to it, it refused to open.

I was filled with irrational rage and felt that the window was surely conspiring to ruin my already depressing Wednesday. I took my left hand and pushed against the glass with my wrist as hard as I could. The next sequence of events happened so quickly that I barely had a chance to react. I heard a loud crack and saw a giant piece of glass fall out of the nine-story apartment building window.

I looked down at my wrist and could see my insides — there were tendons and blood... a lot of blood. Holy sh*t, I am going to f*cking bleed to death. The blood started flowing freely out of my hand, all over me and onto the floor. I felt like I was going to pass out.

I grabbed my cell phone and dialed my parents' number and not 911. I wasn't thinking rationally at all. The call didn't go through so I dialed 911 all the while thinking, I don't want to die, please G-d I am only 25 I don't want to die.

The 911 operator: 911 what is your emergency?

Me: I am bleeding!

The 911 operator: Where are you located, ma'am?

Me: 101 Lafayette

The 911 operator: I can't hear you. Where are you located?

There is blood all over the floor and my clothing and I am about to vomit. I'm dizzy. I don't want to die. I need help now. Focus, I can't panic now.

Me: (Screaming)

I run in to the hallway and bang with on my neighbor's door with my hand that is not bleeding. Alexis opens the door.

Alexis: Oh my G-d!

Alexis grabs a dishtowel and wraps my wrist in it to temporarily stop the bleeding.

Me: Thank you! Thank you!

The paramedics come.

Me: I can't go to work and my boss isn't going to understand. He has a deadline today.

Paramedic: You want me to talk to him?

Me: Yes.

I call my boss and get his voicemail. With my good hand I give the phone to the nice EMT man and he talks to the voicemail.

Paramedic: Hi, Ms. Fader can't make it to work today. She is going to the hospital. Thank you.

Me: Thank you.

We get in the ambulance and I call my mom.

Me: Mom, I cut my hand open accidentally. Meet me at the hospital.


Me: No.

I tell her to meet me at the hospital and hang up. Alexis leaves me and wishes me luck.

The paramedics temporarily stitch my hand up in the ambulance. We go to Methodist hospital. A nurse asks to look at my wrist. I immediately panic, thinking that looking at the nature of my injury, she will think that I tried to commit suicide.

I begin to sweat profusely and my heart begins to race. I do not want to end up in the psych ward of this hospital. My hand went through a window in a freak accident and I need these people to understand that. So I blurt out:

Me: I just want you to know that I didn't try to kill myself.

Nurse: Okay. Are you depressed?

Me: I am, but this was an accident and I didn't try to kill myself. My hand went through a window.

The nurse looks at me stoically and doesn't say a word.

What if she doesn't believe me? I'm in a hospital. I don't want her to put me in the psych ward. It looks like I slit my wrist, but I didn't. I need her to believe me.

I didn't want to die. But there have been points in my life where I was so profoundly depressed that I wished that death would take me; like that moment when I was a teenager and I imagined slitting my wrists. I could never bring myself to do it. I fought through those horrifying mind movies and I survived.

When I was 16, I stopped eating for two weeks because I didn't have the strength to live. I contracted mono and was nearly hospitalized. I wandered down the streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan hoping that the M11 bus would hit me and it would all be over.

But that wasn't today. That wasn't now. I was a moderately happy 25-year-old sitting there in Methodist Hospital hoping that today wasn't the last day of my life.

The nurse takes out a needle.

Nurse: We're going to give you a local anesthetic to numb the area before we stitch it.

Me: I'm scared.

Nurse: Hold my hand.

She held my hand and I cried and screamed. It was over.

My mom arrived.

Mom: Oh honey. Are you okay?

Me: No. I'm scared. I didn't try to kill myself. It was an accident.

Mom: I know.

The hand surgeon arrives.

Hand Surgeon: Hi, I'm Dr. X. I'm a plastic surgeon.

Me: You are? Can you take care of this dark spot on my face?

Hand Surgeon: No, I'm here to deal with your hand, Ms. Fader.

Me: Oh. Yeah.

The hand surgeon explains that I need surgery and that I have severed a tendon.

Me: I didn't try to kill myself.

Hand Surgeon: I know. I understand, Ms. Fader.

I wait nine hours and fall asleep in my mom's lap. I am 25 and feel like I am five. I am so glad she's here. It is a relief to not be alone and bleeding. I love her so much.

Dr. X arrives and I am wheeled into surgery. After three hours I am released into recovery. I wake up and my hand is in a splint. I am told that I will need occupational therapy to learn to use my hand again. I just want crackers and juice so I don't vomit on the nurse. She is very nice though.

I went to occupational therapy for three months and played with play doh and wax. I learned to shower with one hand. Finally, after some time, my hand was healed. I wanted to remember this experience. I nearly died and I am grateful that I am still here.

The doctor told me that if that glass had broken 1/2 inch closer to my wrist I wouldn't have survived the accident. It would have cut an artery and I'd be dead.


Those intrusive thoughts about harming myself (that I had as a teen) don't plague me anymore. I take medication for depression and anxiety and I see a therapist. I have worked through my pain.

The thoughts of cutting myself stopped scaring me when I stopped running from them. For years, I assumed that having suicidal thoughts and ideations meant that there was something profoundly wrong with me and that I was a broken person.

I came to realize by working on myself in therapy and looking at who I was inside, that there isn't anything wrong with me. Yes, I struggle with depression. But I am still a loyal friend, a daughter, a mother of two beautiful children, and the CEO of an international non-profit organization.

To get to where I am today, I needed to take a look inside at myself and see those thoughts are just thoughts; they don't make me bad or wrong.

When I look at my son and my daughter, they give me hope. If one day, one of my children comes to me and discloses that they are depressed, I will tell them, "I hear you, and you are still beautiful and I am here to help you in any way that I can." Because I am a beautiful depressed person. I see depression as something that has helped me grow into a stronger person who doesn't let life knock her down anymore.

I almost died that day in 2004. I wanted to remember that moment always.

I designed a tattoo to commemorate the story of my hand. It covers my hand scar — the place where I had surgery. My tattoo has the Hebrew word "chai" on it. Chai means life. I am lucky to be alive.


I was having a difficult day existing in the world as a 36-year-old woman. I texted my best friend Allie, "If you have time can you please call me." She can't make phone calls at work but she knew something wasn't right with me.

"What's wrong?" she said on the phone. Her voice had a sense of urgency.

"I'm so depressed... I just can't."

"You can," Allie said firmly. "Yes. You can."

I started to cry. I broke on the phone and she held me with her words. She told me it was going to be okay. I looked down at my wrist and I saw my tattoo. I was instantly taken back to the day when my life nearly ended.

A smile crept upon my face.

"Thank you," I said to her.

And in that moment, as I glanced at my tattoo, I was reminded how grateful I was to be alive.

The irony of this story is that I did not want to die when my hand went through that window. There have been many points in my life in which I wanted to end my life but I keep fighting to live.

The truth is that no matter how bad it gets, I know that I don't want to die. There are people out there who I can call when life feels like too much to bear. Not only that, but the world needs me.

My children, my parents, my friends and the mental health community — they need me and I need me. When I look at my tattoo I reminded of all of these things and for the fact that I am a survivor. I will never give up.


This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.


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