The following blog contains sensitive life and death information and experiences and may not be suitable for all readers. If you or a loved one is expressing suicidal ideations please call 1-800-273-TALK or know your local resources. In all cases of an emergency, dial 911. It was ten years ago this week. I think if I went back and looked at a calendar, I could find the exact date. To be quite honest, I lost a few days. My turn around time was miraculous, but the fog of the what and when has never really lifted.
As I contemplated the ten year mark of survival and whether or not I was ready to share my story, I knew deep inside that speaking it is the only way to help end the stigma, and, if we can do that much, it may encourage another to speak out.
According to save.org, for every 25 attempts, there is one suicide victim. I fell on the long side, one of the 24 left to make sense of the mess I'd called life that I no longer wanted, anyhow. It would be in error, though, to say that my story of struggle began or ended there.
I was 26. I only say that knowing it's been ten years, and I am now 36. It wasn't any one thing. In the year or two prior to my suicide attempt, I felt like I was in this endless loop of struggle. Facebook does a nice job of reminding me of where my head and heart were at in the months leading up to that day through memories of a sad, lost girl. I could delete them, but I keep them to serve as a reminder for how far I have come.
I had found myself in an abusive relationship. When he decided to move out, but stay together, the trust issues were only amplified. Physically, verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive and controlling. Whoever I was before those days, she was long gone. I was never enough, and every chance I took to take my life back, I was belittled into a corner. It felt like there was no winning.
I'd moved back home with my parents who, at the time, didn't have an understanding of mental health (it should be noted here that my parents are loving and supporting; I had an idyllic childhood lacking any sort of real trauma, the only error was that they just didn’t know.). I faced a daily barrage of "Why does someone so young need so many pills?" The lack of understanding only seemed to magnify the pieces, and my eyes were always too blurry to try to put them back together. Their once involved daughter would have rather spent her days and nights in bed. Most of the sweatshirts I owned had black mascara streaks on the cuffs from wiping the tears from my eyes every day. My pillowcases looked much the same.
Due to issues that arose from the unhealthy relationship, I’d also lost my job, all because of someone else’s lies. I’d never lost a job before. I was humiliated. And the entire situation also meant I found out who my real friends were. Loneliness became a theme.
I took the next job I could find, typically working late at night. The hours lent themselves to even more solitude. Home at 3, 4 or even sometimes later in the morning, it would take me hours to unwind, alone with my thoughts. I’d then sleep all day and work all night, again. Outside of work and general disagreements with my parents about my mood and sleeping patterns, and a barrage of all the things I wasn’t enough for in my relationship, I felt like I had no one but me.
The cries for help were there, like in those Facebook memories. I’m not sure if no one cared; I certainly felt like it. In my fraught dating relationship I’d often hear things like, “You have no real friends. People only call you to go out. No one actually cares.” And I’d hear it enough, that I believed it. I tried what felt like so many times to be heard. I remember telling my then significant other how I wanted to die so many times. Sad and desperate Facebook posts. Maybe everyone thought that one day I would be fine, again.
I, however, was certain I wasn’t going to be fine. And, despite a perfect storm of broken relationships and loneliness, the theme wasn’t other people. It was hopelessness. Hopelessness that anything could ever get better. I had reached a low of lost friendships, a distorted view of love, tense exchanges with family over who I’d become. That was enough talking about it.
I’d traded shifts with someone else at work that night. I stopped being in the mood to be alive, so I certainly wasn't in the mood to go to work. The tears had advanced beyond my control, though they had been like that for probably close to a year.
That’s the thing I feel like most people don’t understand about suicide: the hopelessness. They look at a person in temporary situations making a permanent decision. Hopelessness is a pain unlike any I’ve known. It’s a certainty that the finality of life is the only possible solution to end a pain so unbearable, the true expression of it lies only in living it. Hopelessness means there is no visible resolve to the pain, any of it. It wasn’t a response to anything other than feeling fractured in a way no medication, therapy, or life changes could repair. It felt like eternal damnation on earth. It felt like nothing I wanted.
Maybe I wrote a letter. Maybe I didn’t. Like I said, there are missing pieces to the night. Since I’d been prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs, there was no shortage to achieve my goal. I took it. All. If it said it made me drowsy, I took it. Every Xanax, every Paxil, every Ambien. I was also on Hydrocodone for my migraines. I emptied the medicine cabinet: the Aleve, the Tylenol PM, the Nyquil, whatever would do the trick.
The thing that never crossed my mind, or probably anyone else’s in that position, was that all those pills required a lot of water: I had to pee. As I made my way from the bed to the bathroom, I only gained about three steps before I collapsed. And, God’s miracle willing, it was on top of a stand-alone jewelry armoire, covered in little glass jars separating nickels from dimes from pennies from quarters. All of it came crashing down with me and woke my mom.
I don’t talk about what happened from that point on much. I remember my mom screaming for my dad as she dragged me to the car. After that, it's fuzzy; I was hallucinating. I might have seen the devil that night. It might have been a figment of my imagination. I spit in a nurse’s face as she tried to restrain me. She was someone else, until the moment she recoiled. God bless that woman, trying to save my life, and I was fighting demons that only I could see. I wonder if all the doctors and nurses knew that, or if they went home hating me and everything about that shift.
At some point in time, I woke up in the ICU. My sister could hardly stand to be in the room. My parents stood silently, just watching. Who could this girl in that bed be? Where had the girl gone that was a Spelling Bee champ? That loved to dance with her friends. That loved to spend days and nights at the farm. She’d given up on her dreams and her education, and, now, life.
I’m sure at some point a doctor talked to me, about all my why’s. I’m really not certain. I do know I was transferred to a regular room for three days. I had to be on an IV drip to help repair my liver. I do know a social worker talked to me and my family. Medication was not a question and the necessity of it was real. As was the necessity of their support. And I remember making a deal with the big guy that I tried going out on my terms, and He wasn’t having it, so, now, we do it His way.
I came home on a Friday. It seemed strange. Surreal. Living didn't eliminate the depression that had haunted me for so long. I’d be lying if I said all the feelings I struggled with disappeared when I woke up in the hospital. Or even over the next ten years. I faced emotions I never thought I’d feel again. I’d be lying if I said life didn’t ever get harder than it was in the moments I decided I didn’t want to live and those feelings didn’t ever return. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I regretted my deal with the man upstairs. I’m not sure if was more upset over the return of the hopelessness, or that all I could do this time was just sit there and suffer. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry and beg for Him to just wipe me out.
But what I do know is that I’m here. In the past year and a half, I have been rediagnosed and am on a new medication, which has radically changed life. I don't miss the me that could cry for hours and days on end, at all. I am proud to say my father recently participated in a local news interview about the mental health struggles of farmers in a weak ag economy. While I carry immense guilt for how I hurt my family, I have found meaning and purpose in so many moments. I find beauty to appreciate in every single day. I have been able to use my pain to help others and to help myself in saying goodbye to those that lost their fight. It’s the sort of empathy that makes you hurt even worse for those that don’t make it. The hopelessness I wish on no one.