Monday, February 11, 2013

Author profile: James L. Atkisson

In today's author profile, we're pleased to feature James L. Atkisson, author of two books that deal with suicide: "When an Angel Intervenes" (written under the pen name of Christian Price), and "After I Pulled the Trigger - Surviving Suicide's Lie By Clinging to Hope's Truth."

I am a survivor of a near fatal suicide attempt. This occurred January 24th 1986. At the time I was 16 years old and had lived for a number of years in an abusive violent home. This attempt on my life came at the end of a seven month long journey that started in June 1985. After that cold winter night my life was never the same. When I got home from school that day I snuck out of my bedroom window armed with a rifle and headed off to an isolated patch of woods. When I arrived at a tranquil spot I sat down and wrestled with myself for an hour. I was fearful of what I was about to do because it was one thing to plan to pull the trigger and all together different animal to actually do it. I knew I was looking at another round of isolation, verbal abuse and threats of bodily harm from the adults in my life for issues related to school, I decided it was time to see an end to what I started the summer before. I laid the rifle next to my heart, I asked God to deliver me and I pulled the trigger. I knew when the round went off, I had made a terrible mistake. It was really an intervention from heaven that I lived to see another day.

I tried to share with people what I learned about life, death and suicide months following the shooting. I was asked to refrain from sharing and told I needed to create a lie to protect myself from the social stigma that was coming for me. Frequently I was asked, "Is that a bullet scar in your chest?" "How did you get that?" "Did you put that there?" "Why?". The reactions many times did more damage to my life than the actual bullet ever did. Very few people knew what happened when the gun went off: Yes, I woke up on that morning, fully intent on taking my life but my perspective changed when I saw the muzzle flash. I found out, life is a gift. I hated I quit on my own life. They didn’t understand that I found a reason to live for moments after. The power of hope. They didn’t know how hard I fought to get myself out of the woods and towards help. They didn’t know I pleaded with the paramedics to not let me die.

* *

The years turned to decades and thousands have continued to die from something I barely survived by only an inch and a few minutes. I started to write as a hobby last summer. At the beginning of the year my wife saw an ad for a short story contest and suggested to me I enter it. She also wanted me to enter this story into the contest. Unable to fully put the content of this story in the space of a short story I decided to take a few pages of my life and plant them into a short novel, “When an Angel Intervenes”. My life and death battle with suicide and child-abuse gave life to two fictional characters. I encountered the first emotional wall as soon as I typed, “THE END”. How was I going to admit to something I had been lying about all of my life. How was I going to admit to anyone, I shot myself with the intent to kill myself on purpose? I turned to a writers tried and true way around this sort of issue by creating a pen name. I received emails from readers asking me if my book, "When an Angel Intervenes" was true. I told them, parts of it were. I felt it was time to reconcile my past and remove the badge of stigma I was branded with so long ago. I also knew as I always did, people need to know the truth about suicide. I would imagine, I wasn't the only person to encounter that moment of regret when the gun went off and the understanding...a terrible mistake had been made. A mistake many times, impossible to undo.

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