LISTEN TO EP.84
One Woman’s Inspiring Journey with Mental Health, Attempted Suicide, and God’s Redemption
Allie Marie Smith seemed to have it all, yet she made plans to end it. Listen as Allie talks about her story, struggles, and journey with mental illness, and how she has learned to thrive despite living with a mental health diagnosis. She offers hope and encouragement to others, and wisdom for living a purpose-filled and intentional life through meaningful ways that can help you support your family and friends, even when it’s difficult to understand their battle.
If you are thinking of suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
Welcome to the Influencers Podcast. I’m Scott Young, our regular cohost Dave Donaldson is out on assignment, but we have Crissy Cochran with us and we will not miss a beat. She is the glue that holds this organization together. And when she’s on, our ratings always go up. We’re here to see the influence of your life increase to make your world a better world and to make the world a better place.
Suicide and Social Media; A Spontaneous Correlation?
The topic we are talking about on today’s podcast is so vitally important. Recent government reports say that skyrocketing suicide among teenage girls, over the last several years, has been shocking between 2010 and 2015. The rate increased by 65%, which interestingly correlates with the onset of the smartphones and social media. They probably have something to do with each other. Teenage girls’ hospital visits surged more than 50% during the recent pandemic. At one point, the Wall Street Journal did an article that revealed Facebook documents that showed Instagram is toxic for young, teenage girls, which launched a Congressional probe. There was a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate that proposed new and explicit responsibilities for tech platforms to protect children from what is called “Digital Harm” in the USA. The Mental Health Association reported in 44 million Americans have mental health conditions. And we’re going to talk about that today, but let me turn to our cohost, Crissy. We’ve just had some very shocking statistics. What do you, think’s going on in America now?
Man, Scott, these numbers are startling. I mean, when we’re looking at 2010 to 2015, the suicide rate increased 65%. And you know, when I was a teenager, looking back, I was so insecure, I had very little confidence and I came from a good home. I had no reason to be insecure about myself. And I think I just shudder to think about what the trajectory of my life would’ve been if I would’ve been in the digital age, you know? If I would’ve had a smartphone and all the social media and all the pressure and comparisons. These youngsters, do they even have a good chance? My goodness. And really their development of their brain is so different than the boys.
Right. And there’s just a lot at play there. Over time with a lot of maturity and a lot of knowing their identity in Christ, comes what I call the “God-fidence”, and getting through the struggles in comparison. I think that just kind of happens naturally, but then those with the serious mental health challenges. You need professional counseling here, you may need medication. So I think there’s a lot happening there and I’m really glad to talk about that today with our guest, right?
Yeah. We’re really glad to have Allie Marie Smith with us. She has lived with a mental health diagnosis and she has learned how to thrive in spite of an incredible challenge. She’s the Founder and Director of a group, I just love the name of it, “Wonderfully Made”, that’s what the Lord says. The Lord says we are wonderfully made. It’s a nonprofit organization, which is specifically dedicated to helping young girls, young women, to know their true value. She’s an award-winning author, speaker, podcast host, and certified life coach. She lives in North Santa Barbara County, and she loves surfing, traveling up and down the California coast with her husband, Paul, and her golden retrievers, Gidget and Ally. We are so glad to welcome you to the Influencers Podcast.
God Stops a Suicide Attempt
Hi, Scott and Crissy. Thank you so much for having me and thank you so much for having this conversation today.
So your story is quite riveting. At one point you attempted to take your own life of mental health issues. So just what, what’s your story and where are you now?
Yeah. Well, I was a really good girl from a good home, and I was pretty feisty and I was confident. But around that age of 12 things really started to change for me. And I started experiencing what I now know were symptoms of clinical depression. You know, none of it added up. I had everything a girl could want. I had a good family, a world of opportunity, talents, gifts, friends, but I was overwhelmed with insecurity and a sense of unworthiness and loneliness. And really this escalated throughout high school. On the outside, it looked like I was a girl who had it all together. I was a straight-A student. I was part of the popular girls crowd at my all girls school. I was a successful athlete and you never would’ve suspected that on the inside, I was fighting a very serious battle with darkness and with depression.
What happened was two weeks after I graduated. I had a smile stretch across my face as I grabbed my diploma, and I had an acceptance in East Coast University awaiting for me. But two weeks after that, I found myself in a dark and a very debilitating depression, unable to eat, sleep, or talk. My body was alive, but there was, there was no life within me. And I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I was put on antidepressants and I was sent home three days later and attended group counseling programs and group therapy, as all my friends were going to parties and going to the beach and getting ready to decorate their dorm rooms for the fall. And I didn’t really experience any relief from that depression. And one day I grabbed the car keys and I left my house in Silicon valley and I took off with one destination in mind. That was the golden gate bridge – with the intention to end my life by jumping off. And I was so sick and I was so broken. I really believed the lie that the world was better off without me in it. I believe that ending my life was the only way that I could relieve this excruciating emotional and mental turmoil I was facing. And I was close to that bridge and I was driving somewhat recklessly and my tire hit a curb and I got a flat tire. And I remember sitting in my car just paralyzed, unsure what to do. And then there was a knock on my window and this silver haired man with a warm smile came to me and asked if he could help me. And he asked if he could call for roadside assistance for me. And I engaged in a real conversation with that man, after not talking to anyone for probably six weeks.
Something about that encounter with him gave me hope that that maybe I would be okay and I got my tire replaced and I drove my car back home to my family. That wasn’t the end of my struggle with my mental health. I tried to go to college to that, to that university in Pennsylvania. And I came apart again when I was trying to go to college just the stress over not stopping taking my medication. I was just overwhelmed and I entered into an even darker and even scarier place that fall 3000 miles away from home. I was readmitted to the hospital where I was for three weeks. And Christians in my parents’ life lives began praying for me. And one man especially wrote a prayer for me. And I asked for a Bible.
Knowing God vs Knowing about Him
I started reading the Bible for the very first time in my life. I’d always believed in God, always prayed to God. But there was kind of like a disconnect – I didn’t know I could have like this friendship with God and I didn’t, hadn’t really truly heard the gospel message. And as I read through the gospels, I discovered that Jesus loved the broken and I was as broken, as broken as a girl could be. And he came to offer people love and belonging and hope and forgiveness and eternal life. And one day in the hospital, chapel, as a woman sang amazing grace, I said a whispered prayer and I surrendered my life to Christ and I’ve never been the same since. I have had struggles with my mental health since; that wasn’t the end of my journey. And I’ve had detours and I’ve had setbacks. I’ve had five hospitalizations for my mental health in my life. But today, by God’s grace, through the power of God, through professional help, through family support, community, and a resolve to live a very positive and a healthy lifestyle, today by God’s grace, I am thriving and I am full of joy. And I hope that my story can give others who are suffering from mental health challenges, hope that they can experience freedom and relief too.
What to Look For and How to Help
I’m sure. There are people who are listening that very much identify. There’s a pretense, there’s a plastic smile on their face, but inside they’re falling apart. I loved when you said that God is close to the broken. I love Psalm 34 that says God is close to the broken hearted, but I was just wondering, if people are around us that have that smile on their face and everything looks good, how can we kind of break through? How do we see the signs to help people? Or how do we from the outside? And the inside has person has to decide they need help and they want help, but how do we see the need for help in people?
Yeah. You know, I think that’s a great question. And I love how the Bible says that, ask for wisdom and God will give it to us generously. So we can ask God for wisdom and for eyes to see those people who are in need. You know, sometimes you can just kind of sense a heaviness in someone’s presence. That they may flash you a smile, but your intuition may tell you, the Holy Spirit may tell you, that really there’s something going on with them. And if you ever sense that in someone, maybe a heaviness, maybe you’re at the grocery store and you just have an encounter with someone and you just sense that there’s a heavy heartedness in them, I think that’s one thing. And obviously it depends who the person is. Is this person in your inner circle?
Is it a family member? Is it one of your best friends or is this just someone you’re passing by at the coffee shop? Ask God for wisdom. And to ask really intentional questions. Not that, “Oh, hey, how are you?”, but, “How are you really doing?, “How have you been? What kind of thoughts are you thinking these days?”, or you know, “What’s hard for you right now?”, and to be someone who genuinely wants to know and is genuinely interested in other people and in what they have to say, and also being available, being available for people. I think so those are just a few things. Also of course, we can get into this more later, but educating yourself on the symptoms of, of mental illness. And when you’re educated, you can kind of have eyes to see warning signs and be able be better equipped to help someone.
Well, I, for one, am sure many are very thankful for that silver haired man, who smiled and warmly started a conversation with you. And I just think you encouraging people to ask questions is so good. I just thought of a question. I like to ask people and it’s, “How have you been sleeping?” oftentimes depressive thoughts rob sleep and just to have the conversation and be there is so good.
Right. That’s so good.
And you mentioned about educating ourselves about those red flags. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong. I think from, especially your story, it’s as I’ve gotten older, but for me, I’ve heard it’s more common and coming across more stories of the teenagers, who look like they have it all together, where they’re really struggling in the inside to where when the red flags come up, everyone is by kind of bypassing those like, “No. Look at they’re smart, they got a lot going, their grades are good, they’re popular, they’re smiling”. But really then those red flags pop up And they just bypass them. They overlook them. They think, “If they were going through depression, then they wouldn’t be smiling or you would see it in their grades or in other other ways”. So I think it’s a really important, important part of knowing those red flags. Right?
Yeah, absolutely. And my story is eerily similar to young woman, who unfortunately lost her life to depression. She was a college student in Pennsylvania. She was a high achiever. She was she was well liked. She was a star athlete, a collegiate athlete. And her Instagram profile looked like she had a great life and you would never, you would never have known . And you know, when I first heard her story, I just balled. I just was so heartbroken. You’re right. So we know externals do not really tell us about the interior of someone and what’s really going on. And I think like we talked about being available, educating ourselves, asking questions, hard questions. Sometimes if you suspect someone may be struggling with depression, ask them, “Do you have any thoughts of ending your life?” You know, sometimes we’re scared to ask people that question because it’s uncomfortable. We think it might give them an idea. But research has actually found that asking that question can provide someone is actually a positive thing to do – it can provide relief for them. And and it’s not triggering. So to actually give them an opportunity to express that.
One time we were sitting with our team and we were talking about mental health and we had been reading some material and we just asked the question, “Who has ever thought at some point in your life about taking your life?” And we were very surprised, wow. It opened up some wonderful conversation. There wasn’t a current struggle, but just to know these people who, were coworkers of ours, they came to places in their life that they just felt so deeply depressed.
I love in your book that you’ve written, “Wonderfully Made”, that you quote Psalm 139, that you can’t get away from God’s presence. And it just says, “If I go up to heaven, of course, You’re there”. But it also says, “If I go to the very gates of hell, that You are there”. So why is that in your book? Why is that such an important Scripture and how do people find hope in that?
I can still remember the day I stumbled across it, 139 sitting in my bedroom at my parents’ home shortly after my second hospitalization. And it was like, I’ve been waiting my entire life to hear these truths spoken over me, to know that God knows me intentionally, that His thoughts toward me outnumber the grains of sand. That there’s nowhere I can go to flee from His presence. He knit me together in my mother’s womb, all the days planned for me, were written in His book before one of them came to be, that I had been fearfully or lovingly, and wonderfully created in His Image. I mean, I was just blown away by the Lord’s love for me. And that verse Psalm 139, verse 14 specifically, “I praise you, I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, really became an anthem over my life, pointing me to my true source of worth. When depression told me I wasn’t worthy of living.
It has been my, my life passion and mission to let you know. I work, especially with teen girls and women, but of course, men are wonderfully made too. And we all need to hear this truth that, yeah, we have so much value; God created us and loves us and wants a personal relationship with us.
Yeah. You know?
5 Ways to Thrive
I was going to say that in research for for this interview, I was looking up information about your book and reading it. And I actually ordered two copies. I wanted to dive in. I have young girls who are eight and I know, man, we’re going to go into teenage years. I want to be able to know what my girls are struggling with, how can I help them? How can I identify? But then also I want another copy to give it to a friend. Right. And I’m in a world of a lot of moms where our girls are, our boys are, in the teenage years. And it is just in this world today, I don’t even have a word, can I just say bonkers? I don’t know. There’s a lot of darkness. There’s a lot of crazy stuff and it’s not like it once was decades ago. So we’re really anxious to kind of get in there. I think, you know God has given you a great platform and a gift, but can I ask this though? What are, and I’m sure it’s in your book, but five ways, five ways in how you manage the, the mental health just battle of combating the lie that it would be easier just to, to end it all?
Sure. Yeah. I’d love to share you know, five things that really help me thrive even though I do have a mental health condition. One, I just want to say it’s really by God’s grace, that He’s given me a motivation to want to stay well and to be well. I often say that mental health conditions are not terminal conditions. They are highly treatable and there’s so much hope available. And I’ve struggled severely in my past and by God’s grace today, I’m here and I’m thriving and I’m so motivated to do everything I can in my ability to do my part, to stay well mentally and to be well. And the rest is up to God, but I’m committed to doing my part. So for me, that looks like living a very healthy and a very clean lifestyle, which has required a lot of sacrifices and a lot of discipline.
I’m pretty religious about my sleep. I got invited to, to meet some friends tonight at 8:30 and I’m like, “I get ready for bed at 8:30. I go to bed at the same time. I wake up at the same time every do every day or at least I try to. I get daily exercise. I try to get outside a lot. I am staying away from drugs and alcohol, I make good choices and foods. I love having treats, but enjoy those God made foods that really nourish my brain. Cause it’s really about our brain health. If we can get our brain healthy, we’re going to have more mental health. And there’s things that really can add to poor brain health. And educating yourselves, like do some research, Dr.
Aman has been a great source of a resource for me actually. I recently received treatment at the Aman clinic where I got my brain scanned and have been doing all these other things to learn how to better take care of myself.
The second thing I do is I take my medication and vitamins and supplements regularly, and I do them. I take them with gratitude. So every Sunday evening I get my my pill box out, has my AM and my PM pills. And I put my medication in, I put my supplements in, I put my probiotics and I thank God for these because these are tools to help me live my best life. I used to experience so much shame for taking medication. And now I see it as a gift that God has given me to help heal to really help me rise above these challenges And to live well.
Another thing is just really seeking out positive community and relationships. Who are we spending time with? Who’s in our inner circle making sure I have a counselor on hand, if I need to talk to someone. Another thing I do is I like to say I identify and pull the weeds in my life. So I identify the things that are robbing me of peace and joy, whether that be social media too much Netflix time, what are the things that really suck joy out of my life and bring me anxiety and angst? Sometimes in order to bloom, the first thing we need to do is to pull all those weeds in our life. Maybe that’s a toxic relationship, maybe that’s an issue with alcohol or drugs. Being attentive to those things that are really sucking the life out of me. And then another thing I do is really pursue my passions. I’ve chosen to be in ministry over the corporate world, because I know God has called me to this and it it brings me so much meaning and joy. So as much as we can, pursue our passions and use our God-given gifts and talents. I love getting outside, surfing, working with young women. So those are five things. Five tangible ways that I really pursue greater mental health.
How to Connect with Allie
And I would really encourage people to read the wonderful material that you’ve written. The title is long and we’ll put it in the show notes. It’s “Wonderfully Made, Discover the Identity, Love and Worth You are Created For”. it’s really especially to help young women teenagers to discover their self-worth their identity in a God who loves them and calls them wonderfully made.
You can find out more also https://wonderfullymade.org/ and connect with the book and the material there.
I want to thank you Allie, just for being with us. And if anybody is listening that has thought about, or has a friend that’s thought about suicide, I want to just encourage you, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the number will be in the show notes as well. That’s 1-800-273-8255 . That’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Every life has incredible value, probably more value than we know, and every life matters.
And Allie, thank you for sharing your story. I know somebody’s listening. I know it’s making a difference in their life and Crissy. Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of the Influencers Podcast. I’m Scott Young.