PORT ANGELES — A scar on Michelle Fox’s chest serves as a reminder of the darkest day in her life: the day she shot herself in the chest with a .357-caliber Magnum.
After fighting with her then-husband as their marriage of 20 years was coming to an end, she loaded a bullet into the gun, wrapped herself into her favorite blanket and shot herself May 11, 2013, in Bonney Lake, where she was living at the time. The hollow-point bullet destroyed a rib, punctured her lung and went through her right shoulder. She lost half of her blood.
“Something died in all of my close friends and family that night,” said Fox, who now lives in Port Angeles. “It does irreparable damage to the people who care about you. That is why I would never consider it again.”
Fox said that no one — including her doctors — thought she was going to survive. She suffered cardiopulmonary arrest twice while in the hospital.
She recalled waking up in the hospital 10 days after she was brought in and seeing the expression on her parents’ faces as she opened her eyes for the first time. She saw devastation in their eyes and realized what she had done to her loved ones.
The recent death of 15-year-old Ashley Ann Wishart, who jumped from one of the Eighth Street bridges Nov. 13, compelled Fox to share her story publicly. Wishart became the seventh person to jump from either of the bridges since they were reopened in February 2009 and the third within five months.
Fox hopes that by sharing her story publicly and by making herself available to people who feel suicidal, she can make a difference.
“Please, please, if you think you’re going to do something, just talk to me,” she said. “Just listen to my story and maybe you’ll realize that you don’t have to die to feel better.
“I don’t care who you are, if you need someone to talk to, I know exactly what you are feeling.”
She felt like a burden to her loved ones, she said. She was always crying as she battled depression and she felt everyone would be better off if she were gone.
It’s painful when people describe suicide as a selfish act, she said.
“You don’t see it that way when you are in that much despair,” Fox said. “You have tunnel vision and you can only see that if you are gone, everybody will be better.”
She said she has since learned that isn’t the case and is now the happiest she has ever been.
“I’m in a better place mentally,” she said. “I still have depression, but I don’t think anymore about dying.”
Instead, Fox is looking forward to marrying her fiance, Darren Nickovich, whom she has been with for more than four years. She met him shortly after she attempted suicide.
A friend had wanted to get her out of the house and reintroduced her to Nickovich, whom she had gone to high school with when she was growing up in Port Angeles. They hadn’t seen each each other for years.
He had a crush on her when they were in school, but the two never connected at the time, she said.
“We literally fell in love within weeks,” Fox said. “Now, my kids are doing well, I have two grandkids and a job I love.”
Fox had a chance March 1 to meet the East Pierce Fire & Rescue paramedics who saved her life.
“I thought I would love to apologize to the people who saved my life,” she said, adding that she made sure to hug each of the paramedics who kept her alive.
She said it had been difficult, but she found a doctor and therapist who is compassionate, and she has been learning how to calm herself down and relax.
She was previously prescribed “outrageous” amounts of pills, she said, but has been able to wean herself off the medications as she learned to calm herself.
“I know there are certain smells that I like that relax me, and I have my favorite stuffed animal,” she said. “I’m 46 years old, but I have things that calm me down.”
Fox has learned that one of her best strategies is just sitting down and coloring while watching movies in her living room.
She said she still has bad days but now knows good days will always follow the bad ones.
“Life is just so up and down,” she said. “You have to be OK with the downs because you know the ups are coming.”
Fox can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at email@example.com.