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.