“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis
One thing, subject I should say,always bouncing around in my head more so than the pain of depression and tiredness of life was the ones I would be leaving behind. I knew that no matter how terrible a person I knew myself to be and although I was sure everyone was going to be better off without me, they would be sad and they would wonder why I chose to go.
In my experiences hearing about those that had chosen suicide both before and since my own attempt in November 2012, the phrases and expressions are always the same. “How selfish of them to do this.”/ “They had so much to live for.”/ “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”/ “Why didn’t they think of the children/their parents/ their husband/wife?” / “Why??” Before my own attempt, I would raise my voice in agreement. “Yes..how selfish!! How could they?! I am so angry!” When in fact, I knew I had been fighting my own urges to do the same for years. But I felt somewhat superior because so far I had managed to avoid acting on it, so I was NOT selfish. Or, at least I hadn’t been caught acting on it.
Since my attempt, and even during, I think about the people that love me and how things would be for them after my life was over. In my extreme depression and pain I felt that I could not be a good mother, daughter, employee, friend to them and this was the kindest thing I could do. I felt they would be grateful for relieving them of having to deal with a person like myself. My kids would be left with my life insurance and would be taken care of through college. My parents were already burdened with my sister who asked so much of them all her life with her disabilities, I couldn’t heap anything else on them. I see things more clearly now and understand the pain I have caused. I see how scared they are for me and know how much worse it would have been if my attempt had gone undiscovered for a few moments more. I have read everything I could get my hands on about the subject of depression and suicide and I know what that legacy means for children. The last thing I have always wanted is for my children to be like me and for them to follow me into that darkness would have been more of a Hell than any I have ever seen in any movie or imagined in any nightmare.
After I was released from the hospital I willingly gave up the big, beautiful house I had worked so hard for and moved my children and me into my parent’s house and our things into storage. This was step one in helping everyone trust me again. This was not easy for me because I have always been fiercely independent and would never ask anyone for anything since the day I left home for college but not asking for help was a huge weakness of mine, so this was probably good for all of us. I was still scared of what I had done as well and didn’t completely trust my own judgement so anything my therapist and parents advised, I was willing to comply. In those first few days and weeks I concentrated on starting a new routine for the girls and trying to break out of this zombie state I was in, even though sometimes all I could manage was folding laundry and laying on the couch exhausted.
My favorite time of the day was bedtime but in order to get there I had to shower. That was my least favorite part of the day because I was exposed to what I had done to myself. The bruises on my neck were still faint and the wounds on my arms were unavoidable. The stitches could not be removed for a few more days and until then, I still felt bound to that horrible day. I was becoming more aware of my condition. That it was not normal to feel this way. My mother and father would ask me questions, trying to understand how I was feeling. I was more than willing to answer anything they asked because I was expecting anger and even anticipating that they would disown me. They gave me complete support and love instead and that is what ultimately helped me heal so well. I could not have gotten to where I am now without everything they have done for me. They have never, not once, made me feel guilty for what I did. I guess they understand I do a good enough job of that by myself.
My father asked me one morning as I shuffled around getting the girl’s breakfast and school lunches ready, “Is this hard for you, getting up and doing the morning routine?” I said, “It’s not hard, Dad. It just hurts. Everything hurts. It’s so hard to explain depression. It’s like I have a scuba suit on and I’m at the bottom of the ocean where it’s dark and there’s all this pressure and I’m doing everything I am supposed to do at the bottom of the ocean in this scuba suit as fast as I can but I’m frustrated because it’s difficult and exhausting to even move.” My Dad looked at me and said, “I just don’t understand, I guess. I wake up happy every day.” And I said, “Dad, I don’t know that I understand what it feels like to be happy.”
I do know love, though. I remember being small and laying in bed at night crying because I loved my parents so much and being afraid they didn’t know how much I loved them. I love my children, without a doubt. I worry about how everything I do and have done affects them. My main motivation for getting well and staying well is them. I suppose stating that I would step in front of a train for them doesn’t have as much weight as other mothers but how about saying that I would live a long life and die a normal, natural death for them? That, I am working for. And I won’t give that up again.
For now, I feel compelled when I hear someone say of a person I know of who has taken their own life (of which there have been two since my attempt) that they are selfish, to tell them that they weren’t feeling selfish when they made that choice. They were in more pain than they could bare. They most likely had a mental condition that wouldn’t allow them to see outside of that pain. And I want to tell the ones they left behind (as I want to assure my parents and children) that it WAS NOT your fault this happened. You didn’t miss something. There wasn’t something you could have said or done to make it better any more than you can cure cancer for a person on chemotherapy.
And to those out there like me that are hurting. I understand the pain. And I know the cliches you hear from well meaning friends aren’t making it better. And I know I felt like no one would ever really love me or understand me again, but they did. I know I will be sad again, but it is okay. I know now how to ask for help and it doesn’t make me weak. You are not weak either. You, too, will be okay.