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Join Christian authors as they share their "Songs of Salvation" to uplift and encourage believers and glorify God.
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And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
Revelation 12:11 NLT
A Cinderella testimony: From the mental hospital to the Emmys
By Christina Ryan Claypool
It’s not easy to look back on the troubled past I experienced before knowing the transformational love of Jesus. But if it sets one person free, it’s worth it. I started sharing my story quite publicly, while working as a TV reporter and producer during the late 1990s. My former supervisor, Ginger Stache, a talented Christian journalist decided to create awareness about suicide by producing the documentary, “Before You Say Good-bye.” After a lot of prayer, I agreed to be interviewed for the project.
It all began in the 1970s, when I was a depressed teenager living in a dysfunctional home. A near fatal suicide attempt landed me in an Intensive Care Unit hovering between life and death. I survived, and was hospitalized for a couple months on the facility’s private psychiatric ward until my health insurance ran out.
This is how I ending up spending much of senior year of high school in Toledo State Mental Hospital. When I was 17-years-old, I was committed to the decaying state institution, which formerly housed thousands of mentally ill individuals. It was before Mental Health reform in Ohio, and the barbaric place was reminiscent of the one depicted in the classic film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Battling both depression and a serious eating disorder, I looked more like a 5’ 6” 97-pound Holocaust victim than a carefree teenager.
During my early and mid-20s, there were a couple additional serious suicide attempts, which found me back in an intensive care unit a couple more times along with intermittent hospitalizations. The psychiatrist in charge of my case for many years predicted I would probably die by suicide or be permanently confined to a mental institution. By then, I was also abusing drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the agonizing blackness the depression created in my mind.
In 1986, instead of fulfilling the doctor’s dire prophecy about my future, I found emotional and spiritual healing through faith by accepting Jesus into my heart on a psychiatric ward. It was about my twelfth time there, but the very last time I ever had to be hospitalized. I also broke free from the chains of addiction through God’s grace and with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Through studying the Bible, Christian counseling, and by living one day at a time, depression and shame gave way to the gradual understanding that my testimony offered hope to others still hurting. As a single mom with one son, I had finished college and eventually became a reporter/producer for the local television station. That’s why I was willing to share my miraculous story of survival as part of Ginger Stache’s documentary, “Before You Say Good-bye,” which aired nationwide and in Europe. She was even nominated for two regional Emmys for the half-hour film.
When Ginger invited me to attend the 1999 black-tie Emmy Awards banquet to be held in an opulent ballroom of an historic Cleveland hotel, I felt like Cinderella. There was only one problem, as a single mom my meager journalist’s budget didn’t allow for ball gowns.
I couldn’t find a dress at the consignment or second-hand stores either. Thankfully, I discovered a dark green crepe formal at 85 percent off, and could hardly believe my good fortune. It was my size and fit perfectly. I handed over my hard-earned $20.00 bill and triumphantly left the mall with the dress. In the days that followed, I tried to be grateful, despite the fact I didn’t care much for the nondescript gown.
A couple of my female colleagues were also attending the celebration. While they were excitedly describing their formals and accessories, I couldn’t help but envy them. They weren’t wicked stepsisters, simply women who had more disposable income. One day, another producer, Sheri Ketner, noticed that I wasn’t thrilled with my dress. While I was expounding the virtues of finding such a bargain, Sheri candidly asked, “But, you don’t like it, do you?”
My countenance must have visibly fallen, as I dejectedly answered, “No.” Then I saw a determined look on my compassionate co-worker’s face. A couple days later, Sheri brought a large cardboard box into the TV station where we both worked and handed it to me. Inside was a breathtaking burgundy velvet gown with a beaded neckline, and a skirt made of countless yards of translucent tulle over the velvet.
At the bottom of the box were matching velvet heels. Instantly I was saddened, since shoes rarely fit my narrow size 9 feet. However, I was amazed to see that the shoes were marked, “9N.” Sheri, smiled with satisfaction, and told me, the outfit was “borrowed,” and would have to be returned after the Emmys.
I felt like Cinderella attending the ball that evening, even though I didn’t get my prince and Ginger Stache didn’t win a regional Emmy. But a few years later on the evening of June 8, 2002, Ginger’s documentary about smuggling Bibles into China garnered the coveted prize. At the same time, in a beautiful candlelight ceremony, I was marrying my handsome husband, who is a public school administrator. Larry and I have been married for almost 17 years now.
Battling clinical depression is still an occasional struggle, but if I would have died as a teenager, I wouldn’t be here to share this Cinderella tale. There are seasons when despite knowing about God’s love, I have had to seek help through professional or pastoral counseling as well. Plus, my greatest heartbreak in life has been to lose a beloved family member to suicide in the last couple years.
Suicide is a lot like cancer, without intervention one’s irrational thoughts can result in a tragic decision. When our mental health is jeopardized, the darkness and hopelessness close in, creating despair. This is a time when a hurting person needs help, because it’s never our choice to decide whether life is worth living.
The Bible tells us, “…didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for…” (I Cor 6:19) The high price that God’s Son paid for each one of us was dying a painful and humiliating death on a cross.
Suicide is never a solution. Life is always worth living. If you or someone you love needs help, please talk to a concerned pastor, counselor, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go online to http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. After all, the life you save may be your own.