Last night, my fiance was on Facebook, when he started to read a post from an old friend of his about his son (stepson, I think.) It opened with a statement about how he had been having a hard time deciding how he was going to tell people about something that had gone very wrong in his world. He decided to write that his son had chosen to take his own life, and that he had been wrestling with severe depression and alcoholism. My fiance could not read past that first couple of sentences that spoke of his friend’s son’s suicide. He handed his phone to me, and I read the rest. His son, his friend wrote, had left a beautiful wife and three children, and loving father and stepmother. He wrote about his son’s challenges in trying to cope with alcoholism and depression, about how his son’s parents had tried to get him the best help they could, but that, in the end, his son’s demons proved too strong. My fiance was angry with the young man who committed suicide, and I just started to shake as I read the rest of the post. Huge tears began to roll down my face as I read of this young man who had fought so hard against his depression and his battle with alcohol.
I understand to the very depths of my being why he did it. My fiance said that there had been a couple of times when he had thought that suicide seemed like a good idea, but that he had never really considered it as a viable option. I have had more than my share of suicidal thoughts; in fact, I think about it maybe once or twice a day, but I never tell my fiance about it unless I have gotten weird and gone into one of my mood episodes. Then all hell breaks loose, and in my altered state, I will lock myself in the bathroom and play the “do I have enough medication to take my life” game. I nearly always have more than enough because I know exactly how much it takes, and what to take. Why do I know this? Because, nearly 11 years ago, I took an entire month’s prescription of Wellbutrin with a month’s worth of Geodon (never did like that stuff.) I didn’t really want to die in the literal sense. I just wanted the pain to stop, however, I think at some level I did want to be gone from this world. I knew that the pain was forever, that it would never really be gone. It would hide itself from me, convincing me that it had gone away when it was really just waiting and biding its time. It will be 11 years in July 2019 since I made my last and, hopefully, final attempt on my life.
I have a long history of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation. I have been depressed for my entire life. I remember feeling intense sadness even as a young child when I should have been happy and playing with my friends (if I had had any.) I was always a solitary child who preferred to read than play with other kids. I was prone to depression (which my parents didn’t catch until I was about 12 because I was very skilled at hiding it,) and I preferred to be alone with my journals and books than playing. This is not to say that I didn’t play with the other children. I just knew that I was different from them in a way that I had no words to describe. I still have no words to describe my difference from other people except now I have a clinical diagnosis for it. Whoopee! Anyway, I digress. Adderall hasn’t kicked in yet, I didn’t sleep well, and my mind is not as focused as it could be.
I remember being bullied starting in grade school. I was a smart child (perhaps all the reading and writing) and I tested into what our school system called the “gifted” program when I was 7 years old. I had no idea that meant that my I.Q. was higher than the other kids including my younger sister who also tested but did not make it. I also had no idea that I would become the object of bullying because the other kids did not understand why I got to leave class for an hour everyday while they stayed behind. Why was I so special? To this day, I do not understand bullying, but I can pick out the kids that are likely to experience bullying and those likely to be popular with their classmates. What a useful skill to have. Anyway, being that I was a depressed child, I really did not need to be culled from the herd, so to speak, and made even more different than I already was. My first thoughts of suicide came when I was 10, and I wrote a short story in my journal about my own funeral. In the story, I had committed suicide, and was being buried, but no one came to the funeral. Not my parents, my sister, my grandparents, not a single soul came to see me leave this world. I was 10 when this story was written. Tell me that’s a normal thing for a 10 year old child to be thinking about. That’s the first time I can remember seriously contemplating my own mortality. I was in deep and searing pain from what would later be diagnosed as clinical depression, and the kids at school bullying me was not helping.
My first attempt on my life (of what would become many) came when I was 12 years old. I remember what caused it. I was opening a soda bottle, and it foamed over onto the counter (my mother hates messes in a way that is probably not healthy.) I said “Shit!” quite loudly, and was immediately yelled at by both parents (I’ll write about my family at a later date.) For some reason, that evening was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had had it with being yelled at, I had had it with being depressed and feeling sad all the time, I was tired of feeling like a failure, I was tired of being “weird” and not having any friends. In my naivete, I figured I could poison myself by drinking ammonia mixed with soda. It was my mother that figured out something was up. I had become very quiet, and wasn’t feeling too well. Go figure. She came and asked me what the matter was. I told her then broke down crying. She called poison control. I hadn’t ingested enough ammonia to warrant a trip to the emergency room, but I had for the first time set out to end my life. I was 12.
When I was 16, it was a brand new bottle of aspirin, and Metallica playing “Fade to Black” on the stereo. My life both at home and at school had changed quite a bit, and were perhaps worse than they ever had been. I was at a new school with a lot of kids I simply could not relate to on any level. They were rich, like really rich. I was not. They had all the right clothes, the right cars, the right houses, the right friends, and listened to the right music. I have to say their musical taste sucked. I didn’t like The Cure back then, and I still can’t stand them. I am more of a hard rock, heavy metal, trance, electronica kind of gal. I really did not fit in…..at all. These kids did not play nice either. They had a different way of torturing a person. It was much more psychological and not physical at all. I could stand up to bullies who tried to beat me up; I was bigger than they were, and I could hit a person hard. This type of bullying I had no defense against. And, my home life was rapidly becoming a wreck. I had problems with my parents, my parents had problems with each other, my father had become an alcoholic, was having an affair (I did not know that was what was wrong), I just had problems. Then, I was raped. Life came to a screeching halt. This was more than I could deal with at 16. So, I swallowed a bottle of aspirin (not a good idea.) I freaked out at the last minute though. I couldn’t go through with it, and I called my best friend to tell her I needed to go to the hospital. This would become a pattern.
My last attempt of maybe 20 attempts with about 10 of them serious enough to hospitalize me came when I was about 37. I remember that my mother who had been there for me through almost everything (except the rape) had decided that she couldn’t talk to me for a while. It had become too much for her, and she felt she needed to distance herself from me to “protect herself.” By this point I had been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and several other co-morbid mental illnesses, and had become a “frequent flyer” at the mental hospitals in my city. My mother was the only person left that I could call for help or to talk. All my other friends had almost vanished from my life. I really depended on my mom for support. I had only been diagnosed for about 5 years at this point, and I was having a hard time swallowing the idea that I would be like this forever; happy one minute then chest crushingly sad at the next. One afternoon, I decided I was no longer going to try and cope with this disorder. I was in so much pain, and my mother had forbade me to call her unless I absolutely had to and then, only on her cell phone. She took my key to her house. The house I had grown up in. She forbid me to come over unless she invited me. I perceived this as a permanent and unacceptable situation. This really was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
One afternoon, I pulled out my medications to see what I had. I had every intention of ending the searing emotional pain that I was in. I was going to overdose on psych meds, and just bring an end to it all. I was 37 and I was really fed up with a life that had not gone according to my plans. I was tired of the ups and downs, I was tired of the anger, the irritability, the guilt and shame I felt at having let everyone down, I was tired of solitude, I was just tired. I picked the Wellbutrin up, counted the pills. There were 27. Almost a full prescription. I swallowed them with a lot of water. I picked up the Geodon, counted those. 28 pills. Another full prescription. I swallowed those with the rest of the water. I sat back to wait. 20 minutes later, I was feeling really drowsy, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I got scared at how sleepy I was getting. I thought to myself that I had better call 911. I called, and they came and took me out of my apartment on a stretcher as I could no longer walk.
At the emergency room, the doctors and nurses put a total of 8 IV’s in me in an attempt to flush the medications out of my system. It was the only thing they could do because the pills had dissolved into my bloodstream. My stomach could not be pumped. I slowly became paralyzed from the neck down, and I couldn’t really understand what was going on around me. I remember hearing one doctor saying, we’re going to lose her. Everything in the emergency room turned a hot pink, and I began what would be three or four days of psychosis and hallucinations. I was really scared at this point. I frantically focused on wiggling a toe. I knew if I could accomplish that, I would be alright. Eventually, the IV fluid began to work, and I wiggled my big toe. A long term of hospitalization followed. I had come too close this time. I had touched my own mortality.
A few years later, I would run into the doctor that had saved my life. She said they have three levels of triage in the E.R. The first are people that are hurt or sick, but not in any imminent danger and can wait. The second are people that need to be seen as soon as possible. Then, there are those that can’t wait because they are in immediate danger of dying. She told me that by the time I reached the E.R., I was in the third category. She told me she wasn’t sure they could bring me back. It has been nearly 11 years since that afternoon alone and deeply depressed in my apartment. I flew way too close to the sun that day, and my wax wings nearly melted. I fell down that afternoon. This is why the suicide of this young man I didn’t even know has affected me so deeply. I understand with every fiber of my being what it means to want to be depressed, I know what it means to fight a seemingly endless battle against alcohol and drugs, I know how it feels to want to die. I have touched death and survived.