Suicide is a topic we hear too much about these days. And it’s usually the story of the aftermath we hear. It’s never an easy subject to discuss. In this episode’s inspiring conversation, I’m happy to report we have a survivor story to share that will help others to know that there is hope beyond the shame.
My conversation with Sarah Michelle Bliss starts with the tough subject of suicide—and ends with an empowering story of healing.
Sarah Michelle tried to commit suicide a couple of times in her young life. This story is about how she hid her shame for years, pretending to be fine as she managed a successful career—until that pivotal day when she could hide no more.
Her journey through hurting herself, hiding and healing is one you won’t want to miss.
This is another inspiring conversation in our series with women learning what it means to thrive. Don’t miss it. I invite you to watch our video conversation on RHGTV Network—the Empowered Connections Channel…
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Sarah Michelle Bliss: The Power to Heal Your Life
~María: Hello and welcome! This is from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition and I’m María Tomás-Keegan, your host. This is my continuing series of conversations with women that are strong, and supportive, and who have inspiring stories of transformation to tell and they’re courageous enough to share them with us here.
Today’s guest is Sarah Michelle Bliss.
This is a story that takes a lot of guts to share in a forum like this. It’s about hurting yourself, hiding, and healing. From the outside, Sarah was very successful. On the inside, she struggled mightily.
We call this episode, “The Power to Heal Your Life.“
Welcome, Sarah Michelle!
~Sarah Michelle Bliss: Thank you for having me, Maria, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and your guests and to share my story.
~M: I’m so happy you are here. Many of us have a turning point from which we pulled ourselves out of some dark hole and into the light.
Would you tell us what happened in April 2005 for you?
~S: Absolutely! I feel I need to do a little back story, prior to April of 2005. I grew up in a household with both physically abusive parents, an alcoholic mother, who also happened to be incredibly narcissistic and so if she set a bar for something, you reached the bar and then it was… It’s actually up here.
And so I believed that if I made a $100,000 a year and I weighed a perfect 110 pounds that the sky would open and all these wonderful things would balance my life, and love, and happiness, and peace, and harmony, and joy, and all those things that I had always wanted would just mysteriously appear. When I got there, and I actually got to 109 pounds, because I’m an over-achiever. When I got there, I was a shell of a person, I was miserable, I was suicidal, depressed, anxiety, you name it, all of those things.
April 2005 was a pivotal point for me. I was driving home from a… was in the middle of a three-day real estate seminar and during the seminar, they had us write down our greatest fear on a board, and we were supposed to all go up onto the stage and break the board by punching it, right? I couldn’t do it. I was one of 50 people in the room, and I just physically could not do it, and so we sat not physically, emotionally, I couldn’t do it. We sat at the table and there was eight other ladies sitting at the same table with me, and on my side was this rather overweight lady. She was crying, just sobbing and on her board, she had written down that her greatest fear was that she was gonna be alone because of her weight. I was sitting there having the exact same fear, however, I was in the perfect shape, had this great job.
On the outside, my life looks like it was perfect. And I’m sitting here looking at this woman in my mind I’m like, “You have no idea even if you are skinny, the sky doesn’t open up. There’s no perfect answer to anything. And so I got in a very, very dark space, from that moment, and I refused to go up onto the stage and break my board.
So I left there that day, and I drove home and I decided that that was it. I couldn’t take any more. The black hole was swallowing me up if you will, and I sent a series of very cryptic email messages out and the line just said, “I quit” in the subject line. So some significant people in my life received that email the next morning, and I proceeded to take a nice cocktail of a bunch of assorted drugs that I had in my cabinet. My intent was to end my life that night. At some point, I got ill and that’s what the doctor says actually saved my life, was that I vomited all of the narcotics out of my system. I went to the hospital — my sister was a nurse. She and my brother came to my aid the next morning and she sweeps up all of the medications I had taken and took them to the ER with us. Had I not gotten sick, I wouldn’t be sitting here today because it would have taken my life.
And so at that point, the secret was out, right? I sent emails telling the world that I quit. What a strong statement to make is that I quit ’cause literally I was broken. I have a lot of shame around that, Maria, because, on the surface, my life looked so good. I grew up in a trailer with these circumstances that didn’t set me up for success and yet I went out into the world, and I had a great career, I had friends, I owned a home, I had a beautiful car, I had beautiful clothes and jewelry, I took great vacations and on the surface, everything looked like that.
She’s really got it all together, but there was always that dot dot dot. She’s got it all together, but look where she came from.
And so for you, for a girl who came from that look at how good she’s doing. So it was sort of a… I don’t know what the word is, but it’s like, “Well, you’re doing really good because you came from all of this stuff.” I never really felt good but my secret was out. My boss knew, my friends knew. That wasn’t the first time that I had tried to commit suicide. My first attempt was in the fifth grade. But now, I couldn’t hide from it anymore. I was in the emergency room and everyone knew. So I was forced to get help and so that was the pivotal point for me that I knew that if I didn’t start healing the core of what my issue was, and really dealing with what I call the black hole. The black hole is just that space that you get into that there’s no light above you, no light below you, nothing around you, and you just feel like you’re free-falling. It’s a really ugly space to be in, and it’s debilitating.
There were days that I didn’t go out of bed because I was in the black hole. So at that point, I had to get help. I think I shared with you my friends was getting a reading from Sunny Dawn Johnston and I kept coming through in that session. Sunny said to my friend, “I don’t know who this is, but someone in your life needs to come to see me.” And so that’s how my journey started down a path that changed my entire life.
And so that one moment and that decision to try to kill myself ended up becoming one of the greatest blessings in my life because not only did I heal the core of my pain, I wrote a book in the process, and I’ve attracted a wonderful person into my life, and I no longer have suicidal thoughts, and I look forward to growing old. It’s something that was really horrible on the surface. You try to kill yourself, that’s not a good thing, but I can look at that and say, that that was probably one of the best things that happened to me because it has created an opportunity that I could get the help I needed.
~M: Well, that’s just an amazing story, Sarah Michelle, that you’ve come so far and sometimes we have to be so broken in order, and please dear God not so broken that in your case that you actually died, but that you could come back from that recognizing that you had to make some significant changes. So when you said you got help, I’d like to hear just a little bit more about that. Tell us what did you do to help you get out of that black hole and back into the light.
~S: So I did see a traditional therapist. It wasn’t my first go-around with traditional therapy. It’s a wonderful profession, however, I needed something bigger, something more, something deeper and something to connect me with a higher purpose. I now believe very strongly that everything in life happens to us for a reason, and that there are no mistakes. Traditional therapy doesn’t really allow for that type of healing and growth. And so I did seek out alternatives, I started reading all kinds of different types of books, I opened my mind to different modalities, I read Louise Hays’ You Can Heal Your Life, more than once. I just started prescribing to, again, different modalities that supported a deeper understanding because you go through something like that and you have all this trauma, and you have all this shame, and all of this pain, a tremendous amount of shame.
For me, the shame was that “Why can’t you be happy? What is wrong with you? You’ve created this great life that people would kill for. What is wrong with you?” So tremendous shame and judgment in that. And so when I started seeking out alternatives from traditional therapy, I started learning that there’s more to the story, there’s more to the story, there’s more to understand that you choose this experience. The first time I read that in Louise Hays’ book, I actually threw the book across the room, and I’m like, “Why would I choose this experience? Right?”
So I just became a seeker of different types of healing and people showed up in my life to teach them those things too. So it’s sort of when you ask for support from the universe, you get it, right? And things showed up in my life that I never even knew existed that supported my journey.
~M: I’m so glad you shared that because there are so many of us out here in the world who struggle with different aspects of our lives and traditional therapy certainly has its role.
I’m so glad, though, that you shared that you thought when that wasn’t working for you when it wasn’t feeling quite right, that you sought out something else. There are so many options for us out there and I think it’s so important that you shared that you sought out different things.
It’s kind of a trial and error thing with each of us to find what works for us individually. And traditional therapy isn’t always it and finding new modalities, new people, coaches in your life that bring different aspects of going deep and starting to heal from the inside out. So thank you so much for sharing that.
~S: No, you’re welcome.
Suicide is a real topic that we just don’t talk about. We don’t talk about it enough and certainly, recently we have started to talk about it more, but really, I think just stop judging.
I was judging myself and even still to this day, I have to remind myself stop judging and just embrace what you’re feeling, and for the experience of what it is and the opportunity to grow and evolve and that judgment piece of it just causes so many other issues.
~M: Indeed, it does. So, I love what you said that you were kind of hiding in plain sight, weren’t you, Sarah Michelle?
~S: Absolutely! Absolutely. No one knew.
~M: So you were aware, but you were wearing this mask that was so believable, and going through the motions of your everyday life and nurturing a very responsible career, yet living in that dark place when you were alone and all of that takes a toll, an emotional toll. You hit on some of those emotions, the shame, the anxiety, the depression.
I would love it if you would go a bit deeper into those emotions in our next segment, would you do that for us?
~M: Perfect! Thank you so much! And stay tuned to everyone. For this next part of my conversation with Sarah Michelle Bliss, I think you’re gonna be inspired.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan. ‘Til next time.
~M: Hello and welcome back to this next segment of my conversation with Sarah Michelle Bliss.
We call this “The Power to Heal Your Life”. And in this segment, we’ll explore the emotional ebbs and flows that come from hiding while pretending to be just fine.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan and this is from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition.
It is my honor to share inspiring stories like Sarah Michelle’s. These women have figured out how to move through life’s inevitable trials and tribulations, and come out on top, in triumph. They help us to know that we are not alone when our world turns upside down.
Sarah shared her turning point when she knew if she didn’t take control soon, her life would end badly and what she did to start moving upwards. So next we’re gonna go deeper into that the emotions that came up for her and how she got through them.
Hello Sarah Michelle!
~S: Hi Maria! Thanks for having me back. I’m glad to be here.
~M: I believe that although our stories may be different than yours, the emotions you struggled with and how you overcame them will resonate highly with many women. So, would you share that part of your story with us?
~S: Yes, absolutely. So I think I touched on having anxiety, depression, judgment. There was a lot of anger as well, anger at myself, anger at my upbringing, being a victim and why is this happening to me? I used to have the saying that, “when my ship sails or my ship comes in, all of this happiness and peace and I’ll be rid of all these feelings, these ugly feelings.” And while I sought out to get help, it wasn’t easy. It took years and committed efforts. There were times that it was downright hard and it was self-absorbing because you have to literally turn yourself inside out and it’s like peeling the layers of an onion, right? You get one layer done and then there’s more to go, right?
It took years of therapy. I did hypnotherapy, I did coaching, I did all kinds of different things, I met with different people, I joined groups, I had mentors. I would roll well down to… I think the biggest healing thing that I did for me is that I wrote a book and that was something I had been. I knew I wanted to write a book since I was eight years old. And I’ve been talking about it for years and years. I had the name of my book when I was about 15 years old and had the vision of the cover in my head, so I already knew. I had been collecting topics over the years of things I wanted to share and write about.
I very much believe that if I grew up and have the opportunity to share my story and if it made a difference in one person’s life, then all this ugly, nasty, awful stuff that happened to me as a kid, it didn’t happen for in vain if I could change one person’s life by sharing my story. I saw out, I finally said to myself, “Are you gonna write this book, or if you’re not, then let’s stop talking about it. It’s not a goal anymore and that’s okay.” So I decided I would commit 90 days to write the book and it was probably the most, the deepest healing that I did and the most cathartic thing that I could do was to write my story and speak my truth and speak the truth about really what happened to me, from a child, as an adult, all of the really difficult things I’ve been through.
The process of that led me down a path to something I never would have thought would have been the end results, and that was finding forgiveness, and really getting into what that means. And forgiveness to me doesn’t mean you let someone off the hook for what they did to you it simply means that you take back your power and stop being the prisoner. And so, taking back our power and not being a victim is huge, especially and if you’ve suffered trauma and I think we’re hard-pressed to meet anyone these days who doesn’t have a story doesn’t have something that was painful and traumatic.
So for me, that was that really the best part of healing was writing my story. I went into it with the idea that I’m doing this for me, and if no one ever reads it, that’s okay, I’m doing it for me.
~M: Wow! What’s the name? I say that a lot, “Wow!” I’m so interested in other people’s journeys. What’s the name of your book, first of all?
~S: It’s called Tales of Fried Bologna: A Journey to Forgiveness.
~M: Tales of Fried Bologna: A Journey to Forgiveness.
~S: Have you ever eaten fried bologna?
~M: Bologna is not one of my favorite things, I must admit.
~S: The normal response I get is either people go, “Oh, I feel you. I know fried bologna is.” or they go, “Ew! Why would you ever eat fried bologna?” So that’s the two responses I get, and the people who say, “I feel you”, they understand my path in life. And so, the goal with the book was that each chapter… The journey to forgiveness was added after the book was finished. So Tales of Fried Bologna was the name of the book again, I decided that at 15 years old. And so the idea was that each chapter was a story or a tale within itself. So that was the objective of the story.
~M: That’s beautiful and I’m so glad you published it so that others could benefit from that. I’m so glad you did that.
Alright, so you’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions and you shared with us that you did a number of things to start the healing process. You talk to people you, worked with coaches and mentors. I love that you worked with mentors, people who have been where you’ve been, and can help you by sharing their own journey, their story, with you. So again, you know you’re not alone, right?
~S: Absolutely! Yeah, especially when you feel like you’re gonna be alone for the rest of your life, and then you meet people that have similar stories or just have experienced similar things and you see how they survive it, it gives you courage and help.
~M: And some steps to take I call it, “Putting Tools in Your Treasure Chest”, so you can always pull those tools out no matter what happens to you at some future point. There are always tools in your treasure chest.
Thank you so much, Sarah Michelle, for baring your soul to a soul vulnerably. This journey of yours, I feel like it paid off in spades, for you, because I know you developed a process of healing from this and a process of finding forgiveness. So I would love for you to share that process with us in our next segment. Would you do that?
~S: Absolutely! Yes.
~M: Fabulous! Okay, stay tuned everyone because she’s gonna share some lessons and some steps that you can potentially use for yourself.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan.
~M: Hello! I appreciate that you’re here to hear more of the wisdom that Sarah Michelle is going to share with us about her road to healing. Sarah Michelle is a coach, an author, a speaker, and a trainer. She believes that if she has the courage to speak her truth, then she will inspire others to be courageous too and that’s why she’s here with us today.
I’m María Tomás-Keegan and this is part of my continuing series of conversations with brilliant, resilient women like Sarah Michelle, who have inspiring stories to tell and who are role models for the rest of us when it comes to learning to thrive. Sarah Michelle, this is a truth worth telling. Thank you so much for being so transparent and vulnerable as you shared your story with us.
~S: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to share.
~M: So as we do on this show always we save the best for last. This is where you get to share that process we talked about. The one you created to move through difficult events from your past, so you could heal and find forgiveness. So, help us to learn what are those steps?
~S: Well, as I mentioned in the previous segment, I never intended for forgiveness to be my end result. Obviously dying and timing is everything and my higher self had a different idea there. So when I started the book process, I actually, I didn’t start in chronological order, I started with what my heart spoke to me to write about so I had my list of topics and when it was time to sit down and write, I would look at my list and I would just place my hand on my heart and say “Okay what do I need to work on today?”
And so the middle of my book, actually, was the very first chapter that I wrote. And so then, piecing it all together in chronological order, something unique that I did for my own healing. But as a result, there were six things that really came to light for me, as I went through the process and the steps that I save for forgiveness. So the first thing is that you have to choose. You have to decide because just uttering the words “I forgive you” or saying you forgive someone, because somebody else expects you to do it, it’s not good enough, and it’s not really forgiveness. You have to truly be ready and sometimes we’re not ready.
Sometimes that’s just not like where you’re at this time, and that’s okay, there’s, again, no judgment right? So, conscious choice, the next thing is you have to find gratitude. And I know that people get angry at me when I say that because they say, “How can I be grateful for this experience?” but really if you can find gratitude in all of the experiences, to me, there’s a silver lining in everything. Even the worst thing that could happen to someone, there’s a positive that could be taken from that.
The next thing is that you have to take responsibility and that’s another one that people get upset about because we have to identify what our role is in the situation. What did I come to, what was my role… What role did I play in this experience and taking responsibility for that? Again, I believe that everything’s happening for a higher purpose and that we choose our experiences in life to help us on our journey.
And so, I chose abuse of parents to help me find the gift of forgiveness, and I know that that’s a big concept and hard for some people to accept or wrap their brain around. The next thing is that you have to have awareness. So what did I come to learn from this experience? So that ties into what I just said about choosing to have this experience because I’m here to learn something from it. And then the fifth step is taking back your power.
So no longer remaining a victim, because if you truly wanna forgive and forgive yourself, forgive the people that hurt you, forgive the experiences, you can’t remain a victim. So the victim is “Why is this happening to me?”, “everything’s always happening to me”, “the world is out to get me”. So, moving through that space and taking back your power ’cause you don’t have to be a victim if you choose not to be a victim.
And then lastly, you have to trust the process because again, everything in life, everything, the good, the bad, the ugly, it is absolutely 100 percent happening for a higher purpose. And when we can surrender to that life gets really beautiful, and less complicated, and there’s peace, and harmony, and abundance, and love, and happiness, and all of that. If we could just trust the process that everything is happening for a higher good.
~M: Those are all very powerful steps and I think all necessary. It’s funny, I never know when I am introduced to someone to have a conversation like this exactly how we align, but I teach all of those things as well. We just have a different experience. We came to this place on a different path. Yeah, many of us end up knowing that these things are important. So, I just wanna reiterate them. Conscious choice, just making a choice that a decision that you want to change where you are today. Expressing gratitude for what is good in your life and not feeling like everything is bad and it must have felt that way for you, right?
~S: Well, and one thing on that to Maria, is that gratitude. So I heard a quote from Tony Robbins years ago, and he said that “If you’re gonna blame someone for the bad in your life, you have to blame them for the good too.” And so when we look at gratitude you have to look at it and say, “Okay. My mother was narcissist, but what did I learn from that? How did that shape my life? How did that make me the person that I am today?” So that’s really, yes, gratitude, but really being grateful for what that experience brought to your life or what that person brought to your life and how it shaped you.
~M: Right. And what you learned from it, right?
~M: So be grateful for the lessons.
~M: Yes, I love that. Taking responsibility, this is a big one that victim versus victor kind of analogy. Taking responsibility for ourselves. In part, that leads me or it makes me think of the whole control issue, right? How many times do we try to control a situation, and maybe try to change somebody else rather than just take responsibility for our part in it and again learn the lessons from that?
~M: Awareness is a big one, just being open and aware of all that. These are also intertwined, are they? Being aware of all that has happened and I come back to learning the lessons from being open and receiving information that is out there for us to take in. And then take back your power, I talk about that a lot. I have a program called “Five Pedals of Power”. It’s all about that. So stepping back, taking responsibility and stepping back into that, and again it’s a choice. See how all intertwined these are.
~S: One cannot exist without the other.
~M: No, exactly, they are so intertwined. And then trusting the process is probably the hardest one because I have clients who just wanna move through it quickly ’cause they are also high achievers like you are. And let’s just get it done without trusting the process in terms of it takes some time to do some of this inner work, and this inner healing, and becoming aware, and taking responsibility, and finding the gratitude, finding those things that you can learn from. It takes some time.
~S: What we’re not taught to trust, as human beings. We’re not taught to trust the unseen or the intangible. Use your head, that’s what you’re always told as a child, is you gotta think things through. And so when you say trust the process, and you blindly step into something, or you trust the process that this really bad thing happened to me, because it’s shaping my life, and it’s gonna really be a blessing. That’s a hard thing to wrap your brain around.
~M: Yeah, you bet it is, that’s why I said it is the hardest thing. I think that where it has taken you, I think you are a beautiful example of trusting the process and working through it, and we’re all on. We continue to be on journeys, right? We’re all learning more about who we are, how things affect us, how we think about things, and that’s all a part of the process. So, I love your six steps. I think that there are many women out there who will be listening and are wondering about those six steps maybe in more depth. So, would you please share with our audience how they can get in touch with you?
~S: You can just email me or you can find me on Facebook. I know you’re gonna share this on there so you can connect with me on Facebook, but my email is my full name, so it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the best way to connect.
~M: That’s the best way, alright then. There it is, email@example.com.
Thank you so much for sharing those steps with us. I think they’re all very important and forgiveness ultimately is such a misunderstood concept for many people. And I’m so happy you share your perspective on that. So thank you, Sarah Michelle Bliss, for being here.
~S: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
~M: And thank you all for being part of our community and for watching this episode with Sarah Michelle. This series of conversations with women is inspired by my latest book, Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. My book, the articles I write, and these conversations are intended to share stories from the heart and life strategies that can help others.
I invite you to share them with the women in your life so none of us will ever again feel like we are alone. Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to support you.
I believe it’s our time to thrive. Will you join me on that ride?
I’m María Tomás-Keegan. ‘Till next time.