Unless you have attempted it yourself there is little hope of understanding suicide. Most think it is a major cop out, someone who lacks the courage to face battles that assail them. Even if you know what those battles are it is still hard to contemplate anyone taking such a drastic measure. After all there are therapists and medications and Twelve Step programs. Everywhere you look help is available. Obviously you just don’t want to do the hard work that may be required in recovering from whatever that ghost is that lurks in the closet of your mind. Some think it is a cry for help and that people who attempt suicide don’t really mean to accomplish that goal. Most of us are in deadly resolve. We are not always a cry for help; sometimes we are a deeply rooted wish for death. This wish means only to eradicate the pain that pounds on us on a daily basis.
I have attempted suicide so many times that now that I’m totally recovered and healthy I periodically and with a certain dark humor, ask my Higher Power to “please disregard previous instructions.” The ghost that lived in my closet was an incestuous relationship that my father forced on me, starting at the age of thirteen. Along with that were beatings, usually at the behest of my mother who screamed over and over, “Hit her again! Hit her again!”
Up until a month before I turned thirteen I thought we were truly a happy Catholic family. My parents were strict but I thought that’s the way parents were supposed to be. The worst punishment I can remember any of my four siblings and I had to endure was standing in the corner. Before my baby sister came along, when I was nine, if all of us got in the same hot water, four corners were convenient. We were a mischievous bunch, especially me who periodically talked back and had to endure getting my mouth washed out with soap. Our world centered on family home life, Catholic dogma, and holiday events. Living in the Midwest meant we were able to experience the four seasons. That meant ice skating, sledding and snowball fights in the winter, raking leaves in the autumn later to be set on fire and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over it, spring gardening where we were each given a plot of land to grow whatever vegetables we chose and summer with hikes into the woods, swimming in nearby rivers, staying up late to play hide and seek, ditchem and steal the flag. In between all of this I read, read and then read some more. I acquired an addiction to books at an early age. We had our chores which we didn’t mind. We stood behind Dad, who had had twelve years of lessons, while he played the piano, singing in harmony. We visited our maternal grandparents for two weeks each summer. They lived in Northern Minnesota and were much loved. On weekends Dad loaded his family into the car and we toured the country, visiting museums, historical places of interest and learning new word games to play in the car as we traveled. Yup! Life was glorious. I loved my mother and my dad and my siblings, especially my baby sister once she came along. I was Dad’s favorite and that only increased my joy in life.
Then came the dreaded night that changed everything. My childhood was brutally torn away from me leaving wounds that bled on a daily basis. After running away from home at the age of eighteen (by then we were living in the Los Angeles area), I went from one abuser to another; the first two were alcoholics. Having given birth to four children I dragged them along with me not even thinking of the danger my unhealthy behavior patterns were having on them.
I was 24 and between my first and my second husband when I first attempted suicide. The children were with my mother in law. The chaos and depression that lived in my mind had been increasing. My self-esteem was almost non-existent. All I thought of was ending all of it. I wanted to be anyplace other than in my own body. For reasons I didn’t understand I was so filled with shame that I thought surely it must be visible to everyone. Once alone, I swallowed every pill in the medicine cabinet and then lay down thinking, “finally there will be no more pain.” I thought only to be going to a far, far better place.
I woke up in a Psychiatric Ward. It was a shock, like ice cold water being thrown at my face. I was angry. Why hadn’t it worked? The two weeks I spent there were agonizing. We didn’t talk about my childhood. I dragged myself to group therapies where I listened to others talking about their problems. Most seemed perfectly normal, just going through a tough time. Finally they sent me home. A few months later I tried it again with the same result. Couldn’t I do anything right? I hated living in this world. I loved my children with a desperation I clung to like a drowning man. The therapist put me on medication that stabilized me. For the next twenty years I was kept alive by anti-depressants. Once I had gone through a second divorce I was a single mother with no child support, struggling to hold my family together and be a good mother. I must have done something right for my children all turned out to be four of the finest humans I’ve ever known.
Once my children were grown and on their own, despair started creeping into my mind again. I had the doctor increase my dosage of pills and ignored his questions about had my father ever sexually molested me. Just the thought was so disgusting that I was embarrassed and hoped he would never ask that question again.
Then I married my third abuser, a man whose sadistic treatment of me threw me once again into suicide attempts, all unsuccessful. I lived part time in a women’s shelter. I struggled with recovery. Coupled with living with an abuser it was weakened insidiously. The going was treacherous. My last attempt at suicide was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever encountered. While returning to work after my lunch hour I stood on the curb of a busy street. A large truck was speeding my way. In a flash I realized that now no one could interfere. I waited until it was abreast of me and threw myself in its path. Someone grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me back. I felt the rush of the truck in front of my face and the trembling of my feet on the curb. Furious, I turned around to give whoever it was the rough side of my tongue. There was no one there.
I never again attempted suicide. A year later I finished recovery, got rid of my abuser, wrote REPAIR Your Life and today I’m the happiest person I know. If anyone you know is suicidal just be there for them, understand what they are going through. You may be the preserver that saves their life.