VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- For Lauren Compton, survival is a choice.
It hasn’t always been that way for the VCU graduate who spent years honing her skills as a television news reporter in Lynchburg.
Described as a go getter, Lauren set her sights on one day landing a job back home in Norfolk, near her parents and family.
“That was like amazing. I was going to be reporting in my hometown. To me that was like the 'I had arrived moment.'
A dream that came true, but not without struggle and sacrifice.
“I felt like I needed to be there seven days a week,” said Lauren. “Come in early, leave late. I didn’t take vacations... I came in on my day off.”
It was a high-profile job that came with high pressure.
Overshadowing it all was a battle with depression that dated back to a diagnosis in her teens that Lauren says her family made her keep under wraps.
She took an anti-depressant, but stopped and for years struggled with her mental illness, always working to conceal it from others.
“My mom said ‘you know this is just something that we keep between us. Nobody else has to know about this. Whenever you get a chest pain just take this pill or whatever, but don’t tell anybody,’” recalled Lauren.
That silence led to a deep inner struggle.
“I couldn’t talk about the depression. So, growing up I felt like it was this taboo thing and when I went to college and I decided to be in a television career, I knew I couldn’t talk about it,” she explained.
From the outside Lauren was on top of the world in her dream job, owned a home before 30 and was in a stable relationship. But, things still fell apart and often, she contemplated suicide.
“I thought about overdosing, jumping over a bridge,” said she said. “I thought if I just slipped out at night and just did it, it would just… It’s hard to describe... It’s like I just didn’t want to exist anymore.”
Her battle with depression intensified until one day she attempted suicide.
“I’m just done. I swallowed about 29 pills and I just laid there. I said I just want to fade to black,” Lauren recalled.
“I thought about my funeral, I thought about my down syndrome sister. I thought, God, this is not going to comprehend to her. She’s going to see me in this casket and she’s not gonna get it,” said Lauren tearfully. “I said OK I can’t do that to her, so, I called my mom and I said mom ‘I’ve done something really bad. I’ve swallowed some pills.’ She said, ‘why did you do that.’ I said I don’t know.”
From the hospital to a psych ward. After a short leave of absence from her tv career, Lauren went back to reporting but the self-pressure to be perfect in her job was too much. Four days after she returned to work, she resigned.
“Stumbling, freezing, and that fear was starting to overcome me,” recalled Lauren. “I walked into my news director’s office and said I’m really sorry. I can`t do this anymore.”
With her life spiraling out of control, Lauren lost her home, her relationship with her family and there were other failed suicide attempts.
In May of 2016 she became homeless.
All Lauren had was a rented office space that she used to work on her Good Girl Chronicles blog.
“I had an office for my business and I would take pillows and sheets at the end of the night and put them under the desk and when everybody left, I’d go to sleep under the desk,” she said.
She slept under the desk for about a month, until she got caught.
Many nights she slept under covers in her Volkswagen Beetle in a Walmart parking lot.
After that, temporary shelters became her home.
Getting on a bus night after night with other homeless people to be shipped off to a shelter at various churches is when Lauren says she realized she hit rock bottom.
But, surprisingly inside of those walls, the grace and compassion shown to her in those moments gave her hope.
“God kept me from getting murdered, killed, raped or worse in my journey. He comforted me on those nights where I would cry in the shelter,” she said.
Lauren decided to share her story on Facebook.
“I talked about the suicide attempts, why I had to leave my jobs, how I felt so much shame about my mental health condition and I posted it,” she said. “I hadn’t been on Facebook for two years. I didn’t think anybody cared. People were like pouring out. ‘Oh my God. I always wondered what happened to you. I prayed for you. I have a child who committed suicide and I live with depression.’ It connected me to people in a way that my TV career had never done.
For nearly a year, Lauren survived off GoFundMe donations.
Just as the shelter program was about to end for the season, a Christian couple opened their Western Branch home to her.
“Not looking over your back and clutching your items, stuff like that. Pat gave me peace for my soul and that is priceless.”
Peace for her soul, a renewed faith in God and hope like never before.
Lauren, who now goes by Lauren Hope, connected with a therapist who prescribed the right medication she needs.
In early 2017 she landed a job at a Virginia Beach hotel. Recently she was hired as a peer specialist, helping those in crisis.
Her biggest mission now is to use her once silent voice and her story to help others.
“I realized two things. There are a lot of people suffering in silence and second, people need to see fighters. They need to see survivors because it shows they can overcome too,” said Lauren, speaking at a recent Virginia Beach event.
These days you can find Lauren sharing her story at various suicide awareness and prevention events.
She wants the world to know she can no longer remain silent. For in her words someone who needs it most, she prays, could hear their own story and make the choice to live.
“I see what god did for me at my lowest moment and I need to go tell them,” said Lauren.
“Survival is a choice. It’s a choice we all made to keep living despite our circumstances, our bank account, our despair, our heartache. Every day, you will yourself to try and endure. But to survive, it takes hope that what we endure is worth it and there is peace and joy on the other side.”