Pam Wild has a difficult time sharing her story. She’s naturally a private person; she likes to avoid the spotlight. She curls up on the sofa as she talks, and mentions frequently that she’s nervous. But she fights through her anxiety because she believes her experiences need to be shared. “The story needs to be told,” she says. “The vast majority of people who commit suicide, I think, fall into the same place I was, where they just can’t… it literally is a black hole that has a hold on you, like a suction, and it just keeps pulling you and pulling you deeper and deeper inside of it.”
Pam is a suicide survivor. However, she firmly believes that the cause of her mental state at the time of her suicide attempt is the medications she was taking for depression and anxiety. Her story begins with a rather difficult childhood growing up the daughter of a coal miner in Western PA. She went through three rough marriages before she met her fourth husband while working at a nuclear power plant in southern Maryland. The pair had two children, and things started out well. However, after around seven years together, “our marriage was failing,” Pam admits. The couple fell on hard times; “We lost our home, we lost our business, we moved into a smaller house… we decided to declare bankruptcy, so I was very sad. I had a lot of anxiety. The kids had to be moved from one county to the next, and their schools changed.” Not long after moving into a new fixer-upper home, Pam discovered her husband was having an affair.
Her husband suggested trying to save the marriage, but insisted that Pam needed medication for her depression and anxiety. She didn’t really want to take pills, but agreed to try because she wanted her husband to see that she was serious about saving their relationship. She immediately noticed a change in her behavior and mood, but not for the better. “The medication seemed to take me out of control,” she explains, “I couldn’t sleep, and my behavior became more and more bizarre. I just absolutely couldn’t function.” She tried to talk to her family and her doctor, but no one listened.
She also started noticing strange things about her husband’s behavior. Instead of supporting Pam and her anxieties, he began suggesting that she was worthless—that their family would be better off without her. At one point, he cleaned out the drawer of her nightstand, replacing Pam’s belongings so that when she opened the drawer she saw only one thing—the key to the family’s gun cabinet.
On the night of September 9th, 2001, Pam received a phone call from her husband. “He informed me about how I wasn’t a good mother, and wasn’t a good daughter, and I had no friends, and nobody could stand to be around me… and when I hung up the phone, it was like, ‘He’s absolutely right,’” Pam says sadly. Pam decided that she was going to end her own life. “I thought the best thing I could do for all of them was just remove myself from the picture,” she explains. She called her husband and told him about her plan, and asked him to pick up their youngest son so he wouldn’t find her. Instead, her husband called the police. When they arrived, Pam was in the bathroom with a gun. When the police kicked the door in, the noise was so loud that Pam jumped and discharged the gun, shooting herself in the face.
If it weren’t for the police being there and calling EMS services immediately, Pam would’ve died. Instead, she was rushed to a shock trauma unit in Baltimore and her life was spared. Since that day, she has endured over 60 surgeries to reconstruct her face. She has also become a fierce advocate for the responsible use of anxiety and depression medications. “When I woke up in the hospital, my head was completely clear. I had transfusions, the medications were out of my system,” she asserts. Pam is convinced that she would not have had suicidal thoughts had it not been for the medications she was taking. “Everyone said my behavior was so unlike me,” she says, “I started checking into the medications and learned a lot about the SSRIs and the suicidal thoughts they tend to cause.” While going through difficult divorce proceedings, Pam also spent time contacting lawyers about the side effects of her medications. She ended up going to Washington, D.C. to present her experiences to the FDA in a large case against major pharmaceutical companies.
“All of the people there were families of people who had committed suicide. I was the only survivor there to speak,” she notes. Pam’s testimony helped prompt the FDA to require warning labels on anxiety and depression medications. Now living happily in Holtwood, Pam keeps herself occupied by creating art she sells at Parkhill Jewelry, journaling, and writing a book based on her experiences. When asked what advice she would give to anyone considering medication or having anxious, depressed, or suicidal thoughts, Pam says matter-of-factly, “Absolutely go to the doctor, but nobody knows our bodies like us. Even a black hole has another side, and it’s going to release you back in the light. There is hope, and for anybody who is there, if you can hold on for six months—give yourself six moths of trying to claw at it and work at it and struggle through it—I think at the end of that six-month period, you’ll find things have started to turn around.”