Finding Purpose In Her Pain

Article by Jennifer Bennhoff

Photography by Jennifer Bennhoff

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

Franklin resident Lauren Clements, 29, has made the news quite a bit these past five years, but not for reasons one would necessarily want. Lauren struggles with her mental health and is known locally as “The Girl Who Was Rescued From The Bridge.”

In 2018, Lauren took a rideshare to the Natchez Trace Bridge and stepped out onto the ledge. Within seconds, she felt a stranger’s arms pull her back. The stranger was a former state trooper who happened to be riding by on his bicycle. After police arrived and Lauren was safe, he left. Lauren persisted in tracking him down and last year the two reconnected so she could thank him. Since then, Lauren has continued working to overcome her health challenges.

Mental illness can be a silent disease. Lauren looks like any cute twenty-something; a smiling, polite young woman welcoming a reporter into her cozy apartment. She wears cropped jeans and a sweatshirt that says, “Mental health is health.” Framed inspirational messages line her kitchen with reminders like, “I am enough” and “Have I done good in the world today?” Fall-scented candles give off a welcoming vibe. She’s comfortable sharing personal details about her chronic suicide ideation with the media
and with her 32,000 TikTok followers.

“Something that’s important to me is being super raw and transparent. Not in a hopeless way, but more like, ‘This is what life actually looks like for people who struggle with the illness I’m struggling with.’”

The deck was stacked against Lauren from a young age. “I was about seven when I first contemplated suicide.” She says she suffered years of childhood trauma from a myriad of abuses inflicted on her. Adults in authority didn’t believe her. She blamed herself for all of it and felt worthless. She and her mother moved to Franklin when she was 15. “I was unbearably depressed,” she says, “and since I was homeschooled, I didn’t know anyone. I had no friends and kept myself isolated.”

In the years since, Lauren has sought help for cycles of depression, suicide attempts and hospitalizations. It’s not easy, but with the help of her therapist she continues to work on overcoming these challenges. “As my story has gotten more popular, I feel pressured to share this big message about recovery and say, ‘I’m so much better now,’” but that’s not realistic with the diagnoses I have.”
Instead, she battles to write a better chapter. “I definitely still struggle so I try to do things I enjoy.”

She’s a full-time nanny to an adorable one year-old boy and is close to his parents, who are about her age. She also loves to travel and take pictures. “My dream is to do photography professionally. That’s what brings me the most joy.” She shows off stunning pictures from her travels and would like to move elsewhere, perhaps the Oregon coast because she feels at peace near the ocean, mountains and misty weather.

Lauren also advocated for suicide prevention barriers on the Natchez Trace Bridge and she speaks at events like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness” Walk.

She says she doesn’t want others to feel alone and she puts that desire into action. In January, she started her own Mental Health Care Packages program and put the call out to her social media followers. She has received over 7,000 requests for packages and has been able to send about 100 around the country. “Finding purpose in my pain is so important to me,” she says. Each
package is created by Lauren and comes with a handwritten note. “My hope is that through these packages, people will know they are loved. Kindness can go a long way. It can even save a life.”

One package recipient posted that after enduring months of intensive trauma treatment, receiving the package gave her a reason to keep fighting and stay alive. “I have no words, only tears and a warmth in my heart. The fact that a stranger who only knew me from TikTok took time to write such a touching note and send me these thoughtful gifts ... 'Lauren, you are a gift to the world.'”

“Recovery is not a linear process,” Lauren explains. “I’ve been struggling with suicide ideation since I was a child and it’s not something that will go away completely. “Still,” she continues, “I’ve survived a lot of things that are unexplainable. I have to wonder why I’m still here, and I’m passionate about finding that purpose and helping others who are struggling.”

For warriors like Lauren, it will take grit, determination and as many people as possible to love them and believe in them, even though only those who suffer can truly understand. Talking to Lauren teaches us that listening, learning and loving can save lives.

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