I don’t know when it happened, I could come up with a billion reasons why, but somewhere along the way I wanted to die on a regular basis. It aggravated me that I had gotten to a point where death seemed like a solution, but I knew what death meant and, looking back, what I really wanted was escape; “I just don’t want to exist anymore” was what I shouted from a hospital bed. What a terribly tragic thing for a bright, beautiful 25 year-old to believe.
Now, my opinions about suicide were much skewed from a very young age. At some point, I came to believe that suicide was a cry for attention from the dramatic, weak, self-centered people of the world who just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that life is tough but you chin-up and deal with it. I learned that people who killed themselves were selfish and cruel. Sometimes I thought of it as an acceptable release for people who had the absolutely worst case scenario events happen, (I’m talking you accidentally kill someone, everyone you’ve ever loved dies, the world is literally coming to an end, etc.). As unique and intelligent as I would love to think I am; it seems reasonable to me that these beliefs might be a common theme in society.
My first personal experience with suicide was when I was about nine years old. My sister, who was fifteen at the time, slit her wrists after drinking a bottle of Ice 101. I don’t know how she felt because we didn’t speak of such things. I only know the circumstances. I know that my Father was an alcoholic, homicidal maniac (he literally killed someone about 5 years later), my Mother was an alcoholic who placed FAR too much dependence upon her teenage daughters and my sister was trying to be an adult so she was blamed for everything that went awry in my parents’ world during that time. My extended family had shunned her based upon lies that my Father told and she must have felt alone.
She must have felt like she couldn’t do anything right. She must have felt like life would always be terrible because it always was. At that time, all I could do was wonder how she was as I struggled to go unnoticed while listening to the not-so-hushed tones of my Aunt and Uncle arguing over it. We didn’t speak of it again until I was about twenty and starting on my own downward spiral.
I suppose I had a certain set of circumstances growing up that lead me to believe you could only count on yourself…so what happens when you lose yourself? Well, that is exactly when I wanted to die, daily. I decided at a young age to try to be normal. Well, actually I decided to be awesome; freaking awesome and I’d make sure you knew it. At age ten I made up my mind to be a lawyer when I grew up. I chased that dream all the way to Law School. By age fourteen I was becoming unrecognizable with all the makeup and highlights and tight fitting clothing that my Mother couldn’t afford. I coveted labels trying to master-mind my way into a mold. No matter how hard I tried, I never felt like I was getting it. Friends always had best friends that they were closer with. I was pretty but guys always wanted my prettier friends. I got along with everyone and felt like I had no one. I just assumed it was all because of where I came from.
I shared as little as possible and lied often so you would see the persona that I had created. I was smart; too smart. It seemed to make people uncomfortable so I dumbed myself down. I would start talking about something and get blank stares, or worse; be made fun of, so I would change the subject to something on the surface. There was always a fight between who I was, who I wanted to be, who I thought you wanted me to be, who I thought they wanted me to be and who I wasn’t supposed to be. It seems like I could always feel what someone was feeling and I thought I could always change it. If I didn’t use this power properly I was riddled with guilt and remorse.
A serious relationship filled the void slightly through most of high school and into college. He became my everything. I excelled to impress him. But I didn’t let him know me either. I never told him I snuck cigarettes alone at night (the cool kids did NOT smoke, that was for scumbags). I never told him my Mom was an alcoholic. I made up lies to explain why my mother lost her license and I had to drive her to work at night and pick her up every morning. I never told him how I lost sleep at night worrying about the bills. I never told him how much I hated the charade and how hard it was.
So, I found alcohol and that made me feel SO much better. I started not telling him I was drinking my mom’s liquor alone at night to take the edge off life. It slowed the screaming voices in my mind and soothed my exposed nerves. When that boy left me, I came undone in a new and disappointing way. Each new low that I reached, I lost more of myself; I lost hope in humanity and life. After that, there were years of intermittent DWI’s, mental hospital stints, some good men, some bad men, jail and a couple of rehabs broken up by periods of trying to “get my shit together”. I was so exhausted.
The day came when I realized I had left law school, lost my sisters who I cherished more than anything, had no job, no house, no car, no license, nowhere to call home, no friends and nothing seemed to fix me. I felt like I’d tried everything imaginable and I would just never fit in this life. I was the super good girl and the super bad girl and a whole spectrum in between; nothing seemed to fit. That’s when I began hoping for a tragedy. I put myself through unimaginably dangerous situations in hopes that something would do it for me, because I wasn’t even good at having courage to off myself. I wanted to die without anyone finding my remains. I remember that thought clearly because I found a dead body once and that was pretty jarring. People were still hanging on; trying to help poor me. I really thought that it would be in their best interest ultimately if I ended it. They wouldn’t be surprised; they would just wonder why I chose to waste my life.
I’d like to say that I had some great epiphany that changed me forever, but the truth is that it came slowly. I had to stop the alcohol and drugs. That was clear. But life was innumerably worse when my numbing agent was taken. It was like a million TV’s all on different channels in my head while I was trying to remember a song I once knew. It all hurt and it hurt worse to think of the damage I had done. It seemed like it was irreparable. There were a lot of nevers then. There still are. “I’ll never be able to get out of this.” I didn’t “rebuild” my life. I built my life. People I barely knew taught me how to build my life.
My experience is that medication wasn’t a solution for me even though it helps many others. I needed guidance, direction, love, honesty, support and hope. I needed to hear that someone was a waste-case and became a decent human being. I needed to hear happy endings that didn’t start so great. My whole life all I’d ever seen was people get worse. I’ve been sober almost two years. I have a career. I have a family. I have friends. I have goals. I have my own little apartment and my own little car. I have joy. I have laughter. I have love. I can be myself while finding who I am. I get overwhelmed and sometimes I feel alone. I call up a friend. I hug my loved ones. I look at all the beauty around me.
So, why share this? Not to get a pat on the back. I share this because I never knew people got better; only worse. We hear horrible news stories and rarely uplifting ones. Suicidal attempts and threats shouldn’t be taken lightly. “That person is crying out for attention.” Yeah, and so what? Isn’t that a good thing? Do you think they should just keep it to themselves until they can’t take it anymore because that talk makes people uncomfortable? All I know is that it felt like I had no purpose and no hope. I was lucky enough to find some people who showed me how to build those things. They weren’t in mental institutions or therapist offices. They were just ordinary, extraordinary citizens who didn’t fit into a mold either. Do any of us, really? Some days I feel like my life will be over when I turn 30 because society says I lose most of my physical value as a woman by that age so I should be married with a super career and children by then. My people tell me I’m crazy and I laugh.
That is pretty crazy, just like it was crazy to think my life was over at 25 and to truly believe it. People need people. It’s a cliché and it’s true. I hope to help start awareness and action. Mentors, support groups, community service, etc. Whatever solution that worked for me could work for someone else. I know that there is nothing that has given me more of a sense of purpose than helping another suffering human being. Being a human being; everything in life doesn’t have to be doing, it can mean being. Turn down the pressure and do or be what you are inspired to do or be without worrying about an end result.
Write if you want to write, draw if you want to draw, find out how to be an astronaut if that’s what you want. Limits, “buts”, excuses, setbacks…they are all lies. My mind lied to me for so long. My mind said, “You are never ever going to be enough no matter what you do. It will all always go to hell. People like you don’t go anywhere.” Find people who help quiet those lies because you might not always be able to depend on yourself. You might need a hand climbing out of the hole, and that’s ok. Your story is your strength so don’t lie about who you are even if you aren’t sure who that is.