Can I Be Done Now?

Putting my most difficult battle on public display has been a risky venture. My biggest concern of course being, “what will people think?” I hesitate each time I publish one those bleak posts, wondering what the mommies in my new town will think. Will they still let their children come and play or am I sinking Joe and Gwen’s budding social lives by causing them be labeled “the ones with the crazy mom”? I think of my family and their tendency to pretend these particular posts don’t exist at all. I think of David’s family and wonder what they must think of his wife’s rambling tales. I find myself wondering if people feel awkward in my presence after reading a “depression” post. It all remains to be seen I guess. Perhaps this will become just another hurdle in my journey.

Sadly, no matter how hard I try to send it away my elephant is still sitting here in my room, reminding me that as a teenager I came very close to taking my own life. Ultimately, I was too worried that my mother would be the one to find me, so at the last minute I opted out of…well, opting out. I just couldn’t figure out a way to ensure that it would be my stepfather or a stranger who found me in the garage. Inflicting such ugliness on my mother wasn’t an option and simply wasn’t fair. Plus, I knew if I didn’t succeed, I was going to get in a whole lot of trouble. Life with my family would be way worse post failed suicide attempt. It was better to suffer and pray (beg) to God that he might see fit to let me check out a bit earlier than expected. (By the way, he said no. Thank you, God.)

Before settling on my “method” and true to my personality, I embarked on extensive research. I didn’t exactly have anyone’s undivided attention at home, so I was able to fly under the radar during my exploration. I was smart enough to know that talking about it would raise red flags. Talking about it would be considered a cry for help, but would more likely be met with someone scoffing and dismissively telling me to cut the dramatics. I didn’t want help and I didn’t want any further trouble.

My father unwittingly helped me explore various methods after I asked to interview him for a school paper about teen suicide. There was no paper, I just needed to find out the truth from someone who investigated death. He told me that most teenagers cut their wrists horizontally, but the people who did so vertically bleed out faster. Either way, it is a very painful and messy death. My mother and stepfather were in St. Martin for a week with my Uncle and his children. So while I was alone I tested the water by cutting through the skin of my left wrist. Not to commit suicide, but to determine if that was something I could actually bring myself to do. I still bear two faint, tiny scars. One is an X. One is a question mark. My father was right. There was no way I could handle the pain.

My father told me that it is more common for teenage females to attempt suicide by overdose. Yet, often this is seen as a cry for help since many girls swallow just enough pills to get sick. He said that overdosing often causes a person to vomit and aspirate…which ends up being the real cause of death. So when found, these poor people who had often taken the time to “arrange” themselves to look “pretty” in death were anything but. We didn’t have enough pills in the house to be effective.

He told me that teenage males are most likely to carry through with their plan by using a gun. The guns were at my father’s house, 20 miles away and it seemed so horribly violent with room for error. A few years later, someone I knew chose this method and he was successful. You might remember him too. He was handsome and kind and I think of him often even though 20-something years have passed.

I think when I posed the question, “What about carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t you just fall asleep?” my father began to catch on. I’d like to think that he had some inkling that this wasn’t about a term paper. He began by saying that yes, basically a person loses consciousness but when found they don’t look pretty. He very graphically explained the appearance of the people who had died as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning. I think he was trying to scare me. I also think he saw that he wasn’t scaring me at all. We never talked about it again. I don’t know if he told my mother or stepmother or anyone else of our conversation. I doubt if he remembers it today.

The topic of suicide makes people uncomfortable. No one likes to talk about it and would rather forget it altogether, including me. Why would anyone willingly talk about something so filled with shame? Why am I sharing the most difficult thing I have ever been through? Because of the attached stigma and shame that leaves a person feeling they have no other option. Because people feel alienated and alone in their despair, that’s why. Because this is the current outlet that my creativity chose to flow through. Believe me, I wish it would emerge in some other form, something like a beautiful painting or sewing a fantastic pair of drapes or decorating a room that takes someone’s breath away. I hope this dark subject fades from my life soon. If I write it out, I might finally be able to send it away.

If I have made you uncomfortable or, worse, caused you embarrassment or brought you shame because I publicly announced my one-time wish…I’m sorry for you. Too many people have quietly contacted me with their own struggles. Enough people have told me that they don’t feel so alone now that I’ve let my cat out of the bag. Do I think my words will ultimately stop anyone? Not really, but maybe as adults we can step outside of our ourselves and take a good long look at the young people we know and/or love. Is the persona they are presenting to the world genuine? Look hard, because if someone really wants to commit suicide, they aren’t telling anyone. Don’t just listen, but hear what they are saying…go deeper. More often than not, loved ones are left reeling with confusion. They will most likely remember a happy, outgoing person who never provided a hint of suicidal thoughts.

Countless people from my past have told me that what they saw was a “popular girl” and that to them, it seemed that I had it together. I seemed confident and happy. I’ll admit that I had my act down pat, but I do recall having a few meltdowns that spilled into school hours, becoming public consumption. On the rare occasion that a crack appeared in my public mask, I was able to duck out or claim illness to explain my crying jag away. I was barely able to breath, but the teachers wanted to believe my lie. No one else had the time to see through my act and my peers weren’t equipped (or expected) to know what was going on. It turns out that some were going through the same thing. It was easy to hide behind the façade of “popular girl”, among people who wouldn’t dream of scratching the surface. As far as I was concerned, the shallower the better and I eschewed anyone with the potential to become a genuine friend. Instead I chose remain as solitary as possible. At school, I might have appeared to be the popular girl, but by choice, I spent many nights of my high school years alone. I often heard classmates at my neighbor’s house on the weekends, laughing and enjoying those precious years. I envied them, but never would have dreamed walking next door to join their fun.

In the end, I’m not quite sure what the outcome of this blog will be. Publicly attempting to let go has raised untold possibilities. Will I lose friends? Yes. Will people question my sanity? I’m sure. Will I anger and embarrass my family? Probably already have. Will anyone admit they failed me? Remains to be seen. Will friends old and new scatter? I hope not. I can promise you, my intentions are good and my mind is sound. I laugh often and I laugh loudly. I relish the sight of smiles on my children’s faces and my heart soars when I hear their laughter. My life is quite beautiful. As my stepmother once said to my husband, “all that little girl ever wanted was for someone to love her as much as she loves them.” She wasn’t wrong.

I think I’m done now.

Comments

  1. I'm proud of you for sharing something that is so personal but that might help someone else – I'm very glad to be able to call you my friend.

  2. It is fantastic to think of the greater good, but sometimes the way in which people represent their endless and "sarcastic" arguements simply start to sound like arguing for the sake of arguing. Without knowing who in my life I might have been supporting with respect to the currently "popular cause", you presumed to think I was jumping on board of a bandwagon. You don't know who my message was meant for, but you certainly did an excellent job of undoing the support and encouragement that I was sending to a young person in my life. So please. Stop now.

  3. Isn't it strange to look back at our high school selves now that we're "adults"? The older I get, the more I realize how lost and alone each of us was back then. How impossible it was for any of us to really see anyone else's pain when we were so consumed with our own…

    I'm sorry I didn't know you then. I was trapped in my own hell. I could tell you some stories…and maybe someday I will.

    What always kept me turning the page no matter how bad things seemed at the moment was simple curiosity. I've always wondered what's going to happen next in life, and, at times, that curiosity has been the only thing that kept me going.

    Those are the things I would like your young friend to think about…you never know how your life might get better tomorrow…and time does provide insight and greater understanding.

    In many ways, my high school years were the worst of my life. It DOES get better.

  4. Mary Beth says:

    I am sorry to admit this is the first blog of yours that I have gotten around to reading (look of shame on my face).

    You are such a brave and amazing writer Kelli. I hope this does not come off sounding odd, but I am really proud of you for sharing and honored to have you as my friend. I am sorry that your teeneage years were such a challenge, that left you so sad for so many years. I could not be happier though that life now is 'beautiful' for you. You are a great person with such a kind heart and soul and deserve all the happiness in the world.

    I hope you continue to write no matter what others think. Those true to you will always love you for who you are. Those who don't stay true to you probably never really loved you enough anyway. You desreve better than that, so don't let it get you down!

    I know it must be difficult to put your life and past challenges out there for all to read, but everytime you second guess if you should write another one, remember there is someone out there that does not have the courage to write/talk, and you may be the one that turns their life around, with your raw words of honesty, overcoming and encourement.

    Good on you! MB XX

    PS – I too am really glad God did not answer those prayers of yours in HS!

  5. I am grateful for your writing. From the perspective of a parent with a daughter going into high school next year it is a blessing from me to have some perspective. As I've watched her go through middle school I've struggled with the resurgence of terrible memories from both middle school and high school. I don't want my daughter to have to deal with those feelings but in reading your posts I've come to recognize that we all are dealing with "stuff" on some level and learning how to deal with it is one of life's lessons.

    Do I wish our friendship had gone differently through high school? Absolutely. But I also recognize that your path was yours. You are who you are today because of your experiences. Your laughter is real. Your joy is yours. You have a beautiful life.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. I think you are incredibly brave to put it all out there. I admire you and respect you even more because of it! It is so true that we were and are all struggling with our own ‘demons’ while at the same time we make assumptions that everyone else has it better or more together than we do.

    When a certain person stops back peddling and really thinks about what he wrote – he will see that there were many other ways to get his point across besides attacking and ridiculing. It is this type of bulling that all of us had such a hard time with in middle school and high school and even today. It is the reason that kids’ don’t feel they can talk to an adult in their life about their problems. It is the reason that suicide exists. It is the reason for hate and judgment.

    All causes are truly equal in their importance. Supporting one cause does not negate the importance of another.

    Kelli – thank you for your honesty, your bravery, and your strong will!!! We are all better for it.

  7. Kelli, I feel so privileged that you shared such a private struggle. As so many have already mentioned, we all have our own struggles and no one really knew one another in high school.

    The rate at which young people, for whatever reason or struggle, are taking their lives in astounding. With my experiences of being a counseling intern and then a teacher in a middle school, I have heard some horrific stories of pain from young people. It is devastating to witness and we, as adults, need to really pay attention and get involved.

    I empathize with your struggles and am grateful that God did not answer your prayers so many years ago. You have a reason and a purpose in this life. And, if you lose any friends because of this, then they weren't really friends to begin with.

    Thank you for being so brave to share.

  8. Christine says:

    You really are an inspiration! Your honesty, your ability to put yourself on the line, and the clarity with which you express the deepest emotions astounds and impresses me. It saddens me that there might be people who would stop being your friend because you have shared your struggles. I guess I too have an idealistic hope that people have a greater capacity to love and accept other human beings for their strengths as well as their struggles. I truly hope that you focus on those of us who are rallying behind you, thanking you, and admiring you and letting go of the few that may not be able to see the beauty in what you are trying to do.

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