Today's interview is both hard to read and inspiring at the same time. It's about a woman who took a long journey back from a suicide attempt to using her platform to inspire women to love life.
Melissa Blevins runs the blog Perfection Hangover. The tagline of her site is Seek peace…not perfection. As you'll read in the interview, Melissa, like many of us, fights the urge to seek perfection in the things she does. Finding excellence can be a healthy pursuit. Perfectionism, on the other hand, can be toxic. She started her blog to help herself overcome her tendency toward perfectionism. In the interview, you will hear the consequences that come from this in her own words.
Melissa tells a part of her story here that's she has never shared. I have to say; it was tough for me to read. She tells it to help other women who have experienced something similar.
Like all of these interviews, she found triumph in the midst of her past tragedies.
With that, let me introduce you to Melissa.
Do you have a story about overcoming a significant obstacle or adversity in your life? If so, I'd love to talk to you for my interview series. Contact me to learn more. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm 36 years old, married to my husband Aaron for nine years this April. We have three kids, ages 13, 8, and 5. My oldest daughter is from my first marriage. I am a Realtor® living in Springfield Illinois, but my real passion is helping women with their finances and teaching kids about money. I've struggled with perfectionism my entire life. That's why I started Perfection Hangover….as an outlet and a way for me to overcome my own perfectionism in my personal life, my business, and my finances.
Tell us a little about your career path.
I started my financial career in banking as a teller and after spending eight years in the financial services industry as a banker, branch operations manager, and teller supervisor, I decided to become a licensed Realtor®. But it wasn't an easy start.
I grew up in a very large blended family. My parents didn't attend college. In fact, my dad didn't make it past the 8th grade! So if I wanted to go to college, I knew I'd have to pay for it myself or obtain scholarships to help fund it.
An early decision
My mom and stepdad came to me two weeks before my Senior year of high school started, and they told me they were moving away. At the time, I had a (much older) boyfriend, and my mom told me that I was mature enough and could stay and live with him my Senior year if I didn't want to move with them. As a mom now, I cannot imagine giving my child that option. But in my case, it was definitely the path I was meant to take.
I graduated from high school with honors, broke up with my boyfriend, and took my teeny tiny scholarship money with me to Oklahoma Panhandle State University….the only college I could afford. Keep in mind that even though my parents left me to finish raising myself, I still had to claim their income on my FAFSA application, decreasing the amount of financial aid I received.
After a series of terrible decisions, I quit college and began working as a pharmacy technician, which is where I was offered a job across the street as a bank teller. And that was the beginning of my love for personal finance.
I know you had a tough period that included an attempted suicide. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. Can you talk about that period as much as you care to share?
It's been 18 years since I attempted to take my own life, and I still remember that day as vividly as if it were yesterday.
As I mentioned before, I made a series of poor choices. I think the fact that I was forced to grow up at such a young age contributed to my wild behavior. The minute I was free of the relationship that made me feel like an “old hen,” I went crazy. I was drinking to the point of inebriation. I was sleeping around recklessly, and I was trying to fill a void in my heart that none of those things would fulfill.
One night I was drinking and decided to chase after a guy (in my car) and got pulled over. I was arrested for a DUI and stayed the night in jail. This was an extremely low point for me.
At this point, I was working three jobs to help pay for school, and when I faced the judge, he sentenced me to five days in jail, $500 fine, community service, and suspension of my driver's license for six months.
Here's where the hopelessness set it. I felt like I was trying my best to work hard and get through school. But I was partying my life away. I had zero self-respect, and the judge saw that.
When I lost my license, I lost my transportation to and from my three jobs. I lived in a different town than I worked in, so getting rides wasn't an option. And Uber didn't exist back then.
The suicide attempt
A couple of weeks later, when I was completely wasted (again). A man I barely knew raped me. I felt ashamed because it was “that time of the month.” When I tried to stop him, he forced himself on me. It took my body two days to reject the tampon that lodged inside my body. I could have died! It brought on feelings of complete shame. That shame kept me from seeking help. I didn't report it. I didn't go to the doctor.
The only people I've ever shared that with are my family. And when I told my dad, he said to me that I “must've wanted it“…
So I decided I didn't want to live anymore and I swallowed a bunch of pills. I called my mom and sobbingly told her I loved her but that I didn't want to live anymore; that there was no hope for me.
She called 9-1-1, and they promptly rushed me by ambulance to the hospital where they pumped my stomach. I'll never forget the feeling of that tube up my nose and down my throat.
My dad (the same one who dismissed my rape) drove me to a mental health facility where I stayed “under observation” for a few days to ensure I wasn't a danger to myself or others. Sometimes, to this day, he'll call me as he's driving past the facility to bring it up. He laughs and says “Remember when…?”
I'm obviously not very close with my dad, and I've learned to ignore him. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from toxic people who only bring you down.
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Thank you for being so transparent. You and I both share a common faith. How did you see God in all of this? Or did you?
It's hard to talk about, but I know that there are others who have been through far worse. If my story can help a single person, it's worth sharing.
Shortly after my suicide attempt, I came back home and started attending church once in a while. One day at church, I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to the altar, and the entire congregation (a group of people who didn't know me) stood up and put their hands on me and prayed over me…for healing and comfort. Bawling my eyes out in front of a bunch of strangers, I felt God telling me it was all going to be okay…and that He had a purpose for my life.
Wow! That's a powerful testimony. You told me that you recently discovered a friend of your committed suicide. That had a big impact on you. Can you talk about that?
One of my friends from the banking industry who was also a real estate client took her life last month. She was in her 40's, had just gotten married the previous month, and her daughter had got accepted into nursing school. On the outside, she was seemingly perfect. She showed absolutely no signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. I was absolutely devastated to hear that she took her own life.
Even though I'm saved and know my worth, I still have suicidal thoughts from time to time. But seeing her family's pain as a result of her suicide opened my eyes.
As someone who battles depression myself, I know there are often financial consequences involved. Lack of motivation, apathy, etc. can cause financial consequences. Did that impact you at all?
I'm an emotional spender, so when things go wrong, I tend to try to self-soothe by buying “stuff” I don't really need. The problem with emotional spending is that it makes your financial troubles even worse! I've learned that through prayer, meditation, and self-control, you can avoid many of those consequences.
What encouragement would you give to anyone battling depression or having suicidal thoughts?
First, I would say that God does indeed love you and have a purpose for your life. If you're questioning your purpose and in life, here is some scripture for reference.
13- For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14- I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
15- Wonderful are your works; My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16- Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
I'm no biblical scholar, but God was pretty clear that he created every single one of us for a specific purpose. He wrote our story far before we ever existed.
If you're feeling unworthy or sad to the point of questioning your life, please reach out for help. There are a number of resources available, many of them confidential. You don't have to feel ashamed. The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255.
Thank you, Melissa, for your courage in telling your story. Not many women come forward with their stories of a suicide attempt, let alone rape. When I asked you about it after the interview, you said it felt really good to get it out. I hope it gives someone else the courage to talk to get the help they need. No woman should go through this alone.
If you have thought about or are thinking about suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to someone. As Melissa said, you don't have to feel ashamed. You don't have to go it alone.
God loves you and wants the best for you. Melissa's story is a perfect example of that. We are all better off because Melissa is in this world. The world is a better place with you in it as well. Reach out. Life is worth living.
Now it's your turn. Share your thoughts with Melissa here. She will respond to your comments. She is someone you can talk to as well.
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