ELLSWORTH — “Castine was my eighth attempt,” said Jennifer Grant of Freeport.
Grant was recalling her Nov. 24, 2015, attempted suicide in Castine.
“What I understand is I had died right before they got there and they brought me back to life,” Grant said.
Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Frost, Lt. Chris Thornton, Maine Marine Patrol Officer Adam Madore, Castine Fire and Rescue and the Peninsula Ambulance Corps are credited with saving Grant’s life.
First responders weren’t sure anyone was home until Frost heard Grant’s agonal breath, which isn’t actual breathing but rather a brainstem reflex. First responders broke down the door and started lifesaving treatment.
They came after Grant posted a despondent message on Facebook. A friend saw the message and alerted Grant’s mother, who called the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office to ask they check on her daughter’s well-being.
On Saturday, Grant was on the Bangor waterfront to participate in Acadia Hospital’s Steps for Souls suicide awareness and prevention walk. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Grant, 32, worked hard to get there.
After first responders broke down the door to her home, she was revived and whisked to Eastern Maine Medical Center, where she spent five days on life support. Two weeks at Acadia Hospital ensued.
Her mother helped get Grant admitted to Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s ACTION program, which is a residential treatment program in Portland.
“My mother has been a huge advocate for me,” Grant said.
“At first it was very hard in treatment,” Grant said. “I was fighting every bit of it. As much as I wanted to get better, I was still fighting it.”
Grant graduated from the program on Nov. 28, 2017, and has since been living independently in Freeport.
She was also featured as one of Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s success stories in its winter 2018 newsletter.
The Saco native volunteers for the Yellow Tulip Project, which was founded two years by a Portland teenager who lost two friends to suicide within a six month time frame.
The Yellow Tulip Project’s goal is to “smash the stigma around mental illness.”
“Part of my recovery is volunteering,” Grant said. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
“I’ve struggled with this since I was 14,” said Grant. But, over the years she said she’s been misdiagnosed and over-prescribed.
Grant said one of the positive things to come out of her experience is an accurate diagnosis of her condition, which is borderline personality disorder. Incidentally, May is also Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.
Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness affecting 2 percent of the population.
The National Institute of Mental Health, a federal agency, describes the condition as a “serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of instability in moods, behavior, self-image and functioning.” This results in impulsivity and unstable relationships.
At Maine Behavioral Health, a team of providers led Grant through mindfulness and dialectical behavior therapy. The behavior therapy taught Grant how to control her anger.
She has a tattoo of a wave on her right arm to remind her of what she’s learned in therapy: her emotions are like waves. They come and they go.
Of course, things are not perfect.
Grant got depressed in February.
“I was scared to admit I was depressed,” she said. But, she did tell her psychiatrist.
“She assured me I was fine,” Grant said. “It was a wave. She told me to volunteer more and to start exercising.”
Grant has spoken about her experiences at schools in southern Maine.
“Before, I struggled with being alone,” Grant said. “Now I thrive off of being alone. I’m my own happiness. I’m confident in who I am and what I’m doing.”
Grant wants to thank everyone who helped her, from deputies to Castine Fire and Rescue to the ambulance personnel to the ICU nurses and the staff at Acadia.
Grant herself worked in an emergency room in her 20s, so she said she knows what it’s like to wonder how a patient fared.
“I’m sure my case affected a lot of people,” she said. “I would love to be able to thank them.”
“Every since I woke up — every day I’ve taken a picture,” Grant said. Whatever she’s feeling, where she is, Grant takes a selfie. “I want to get my photos in a story of what has transpired.”
Grant’s portrait is hanging at the Speedwell Projects Arts Center in Portland until May 12 in an exhibition hosted by the Yellow Tulip Project.
The point of the exhibit is to help people understand that mental illness is a silent epidemic that touches many.
“The goal of the exhibit is that someday soon people will feel less alone and able to speak openly about mental illness in the same way that we talk about physical illness,” the tulip project stated.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Crisis Text Line
741-741 text ‘TWLOHA’
(National Alliance on Mental Illness)