This post is a hard one to write. It is very, very personal to me and very painful. It may cover things I've already written about in my blog before, but I needed to approach the topic from a different angle.
Suicide has touched my life more times that I'd like. There's been a couple of friends, a couple of acquaintances Recently, friends of friends. Everyone always wonders, what went wrong? I always find it disheartening when people say "Well, they didn't seem like the type to commit suicide! They always seemed to happy." Seemed, people. No one usually walks around looking like a suicidal person. It's not as easy to spot as you might think.
The first time suicide touched my life was during my parents' divorce. I was around 13 at the time. I say around because so much of this incident is spotty to me. Washed in shades of black and loss of memory. I had been sleeping. My bedroom door opened and a police officer walked in with a flashlight. I was frozen, stunned, and terrified. He left the light off but began looking around my room, in the closet, around my dresser. He asked me if my dad was in the house. I told him no. I hadn't seen my dad. My dad had moved out. The cop left. He shut the door and I was left in the dark. I didn't move, I couldn't move. No one came for me. My mother didn't come in to check on me. I was left alone in the dark.
I don't remember how I learned what had happened. I know my mother didn't offer up the information. I know I had to ask. She told me that my dad had showed up late at night drunk. He had grabbed a gun from his bedside table. He had had it in his mouth and was threatening to shoot. My little sister had heard the screaming and went downstairs. Why hadn't I heard the screaming? I'm not a heavy sleeper. I can only assume that I had heard, but blocked it out. Regardless, my sister went down and saw my dad. My mother was screaming at my dad and screaming at my sister to call 911. From what I can gather, it was terrifying for them both. My dad must have finally come to his senses. He put down the gun and had left when he knew the police where on their way.
My mother hadn't seemed terribly shaken up when she told me what had happened. I had asked where my dad was now. She said she didn't know. This was the next morning and I can remember feeling terrified for him. My mother got my sister a couple of therapy sessions. Obviously, not enough.
I got no therapy. I don't even remember being asked if I was OK. I look back now and wonder how a mother, knowing that a police officer was going to walk into your daughter's room and wake her up, didn't go up with the cop. Why she didn't come and check on me. I wonder why she never talked about it again to me.
My sister has tried to commit suicide more times than I can count. On top of that, she engages in such reckless behavior that I can only image is meant to hurt herself. Between the ages of 16 and her mid twenties, I lived in a constant state of knowing that it was a distinct possibility. We were all tethered to my sister's suicide attempts. My mother, in particular, held herself hostage to it. She enabled and babied my sister (more than she already had) to compensate for my sister's fragile ego. My sister went to the psych ward once. Again, too little therapy was offered and nothing changed. I lived in a state of hyper vigilance always expecting that late night phone call to be the one telling me she'd followed through. Often times, it was her, drunk, and I talked her off the ledge. Several years back, she seemed to stop. But it's always there. Even with my sister's latest troubles, that was one of my mother's first concerns. That this might just be the thing that drives my sister over the edge.
When I was 16, I felt hopeless and lost. I remember being hysterical and in my car. I remember feeling so upset that I was, literally, looking for that cliff to drive off. I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't deal with the pain. I felt I had no where to go. My sister talked me out of it.
In my early twenties, I again got serious about killing myself. I remember feeling that I was such a worthless human being. I had tried, repeatedly, and desperately to get someone to love me and I was being rejected again. I was being rejected by a boyfriend but the hurt of 1000 rejections was piled on that one. I remember feeling so much pain that I could not move past it. Stress and loneliness and exhaustion were constant companions for me. The boyfriend talked me out of it.
Earlier this year, I sat with a gun in my hand. Ironically, I just realized, the same gun my father had planned to use. I was at the end. I sat battling myself. I just was so tired of the push. The push from all those around me who blamed me for their problems. The push of people who implied that, if not for me, things would be perfect. I felt completely hopeless. I felt I had tried and tried and tried to make things work but that nothing I did changed things. I was giving in to the belief of other's around me that I was the problem . That I was harming my kids, that I was ruining my marriage, that I was destroying my extended families. I knew in my heart that it wasn't but I was battling for my life. I could not rationalize how, if everyone around me felt I was such a horrible person, that I wasn't that person. In my deluded mind at that moment, I felt I would be doing them a service. I felt that if I could just get out of the way, then things would be better for my family, my husband, my kids. Sure, they might be upset for awhile, but I truly felt I was doing them more harm than good by being here. I can not describe accurately what it felt like to sit there in that moment, trying to sort through the mess that was me, trying to figure out what the right thing was.
I've come a long way from that night. I am still battling with the voices that want to label, and blame, and shame me. But I'm not going to sit with a gun in my hand anymore. I know that I did not want to die. Ironically, I'm terrified of death, of being gone, of not existing. But I've cleared my head enough to know that I would've destroyed my children. That they would never have understood. I don't choose to live today for my kids. Although they deserve their mother, and do not deserve to live with the legacy of my pain, it is also not their obligation to give my life meaning and purpose. I choose to live today because I'm finally coming to believe that I have a right to exist, just as much as anyone else. Fuck all of you who've told me differently.
**Reader's reactions to this post have prompted another post. Please be so kind to also read the second post. Choosing Life