TAMPA (FOX 13) - Mandi Clay is happy to be alive. Those seemingly simple words touches the 38-year-old to her core. It was 20 years ago that she didn't feel the same.
“I'm happy to be alive. I am happy to be here,” Mandi explained. “I wanted to die every single day and I didn't know that other people didn't. I thought that was normal."
She was only 12 years old when she first contemplated suicide. On one December day, at the age of 18, she swallowed so many sleeping pills she blacked out and a neighbor found her nearly dead in her car.
“I woke up in the hospital really mad that I was alive," she recalled. "I was so mad that it had worked and they stopped me and brought me back."
That’s when Mandi’s second life, as she calls it, began. After her overdose, Mandi learned about her mental illness and how to manage her depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. Today, she always has a mental health professional in her life.
“I want somebody who specializes in mental health to see me once every couple months," she said, "and I have a good support system to help me if I’m having a rough time,” said Mandi.
Mandi has no shame in telling her story or opening up about her illness because Mandi treats her depression as she would any other disease.
“I always think it’s funny when people say, 'It's all in your head,' because your brain is in your head and your brain is the most important organ in your body,” said Mandi. “So, if my brain is broken, that is really important. So, yes, it is really all in my head.”
She wants everyone out there who feels the way she felt to understand there is something terribly wrong and immediately seek help.
“If your brain is telling you that killing yourself is an option, then your brain is broken. You need to go to a doctor. That is not healthy,” Mandi said. “Having a brain that works and wanting to keep it that way is just a completely different experience than where I was before."
Today, she celebrates her second chance at life and recognizes how different it is from the last. Even though life isn’t perfect, Mandi is always grateful to be alive.
“I got married, I went to law school, I’m working as a lawyer, I have this beautiful house in Florida, I have amazing friends, and lots of nieces and nephew that I love,” Mandi said. “Yeah, there has been some bad in the second life but overall I am glad to be alive.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, call 211. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is available 24/7.