Today is the 5th Anniversary of my brother's suicide.
Since that time, it has been very important to me to help prevent suicide. To be someone who will help, a resource.
For this year's anniversary, I've asked my amazing & wonderful "bloggie friend" Cassandra at Fire and Rabbits to guest post for me.
If this post helps even one person, I am eternally grateful.
And now, I give you the lovely Cassandra...
we, the broken
Jenn has given me the humbling and honored task of writing a guest post about something that is close to both our hearts on this important anniversary for her. I wish that neither of us had anything to say on this subject, but sometimes life chooses your strengths for you and God puts you exactly where you need to be, even in times of abject weakness. I’ve struggled with bi-polar, mania, and depression since I was a small child, and never has it felt like a blessing until now. The dirty secret about being suicidal is that once you reach a certain point, you don’t care about anything anymore. Well, except for dying. You care about that a great deal. You don’t believe what anyone says to you. The words of comfort roll off and hit the floor. The platitudes of PSA’s swarm and retreat, meaningless. Making the decision is freeing and empowering. And selfish. And cowardly.
That’s what no one explains: to seek help is brave. It’s scary. It feels unnatural. When you reach a point where your survival instincts are turned off it’s a terrifying journey to ask for help. To admit brokenness. To admit defeat. I can say all this with absolute certainty because I’ve been there. I am there. I live everyday as a person who has to ask for help.
A year ago this September was my sixth attempt to end my life. In the hospital, after the cobwebs began to clear, I wrote in my journal:
October 3, 2011
I think one of the biggest things I have to do to get well is let myself remember what I did. I have to confess to what I willfully and intentionally did to my family and to my body. I have to put all the ugliness on paper.
Then I have to forgive myself for it.
I remember spending time with my grandmother and mother that day, all of us wondering what to do as my depression worsened. My lights were barely flickering and any signs of life were becoming harder and harder for my family to see. I’d been lying to them for years about my condition, pretending to be well and functioning when inside I was slowly unplugging. They thought I was at the beginning of another cycle of depression that we could cut off at the knees, and secretly I was trying to organize my life enough for my death.
I stayed with a friend because everyone was worried I was too depressed to be alone. I went along with this because I knew they could take care of my dog when I was gone. I also did not want to die in my mother’s home, or in mine where my dog might be alone for days. I zombied through an afternoon with my mother and grandmother feeling like a petulant child mumbling automatic answers to empty questions.
I went back to my friend’s house and showered and put on makeup, trying not to consider my fat, pale form repulsing the people who would have to get my body.
I took eight beers from the fridge and hid them in the guest room, feigning tiredness and excusing myself for the night. I started with the Klonapin first, 27 pills washed down with cowboy cold Lone Star beer. Then the Atenolol for good measure, also 27 pills. Then I fell asleep with my dog curled up on my feet. I woke up about three and realized I hadn’t done enough so I went to my friend’s medicine cabinet and took 24 Walgreen’s brand 12 cold and sinus pills then 18 Aleve 12 hour cold and sinus pills, then 8 more Aleve. I remember they spilled on the floor.
Then I slept.
The rest is a blur—my friend found me around four the next afternoon and wondered why I was still in bed. She called poison control and we went straight to the ER. I know my mother and grandmother were there.
No one could understand how I had lived. Even my liver enzymes were fine.
I was sent to a mental hospital, again, numb and lethargic and angry. The first five days were spent detoxing out what I took and trying to get my bearings. My nephew was born a few days later. I looked at his little face in the pictures my mother sent and wanted desperately to re-join the living:
October 3, 2011
Today I laughed with my fellow patients. I mourned their losses in a group, and I began to see how lovely We, The Broken, can really be. We reflect and expand and contract. We tell the truth about our own shame and guilt, and we admit the courage it takes to heal from deep wounds. We accept that sometimes the only answer is “it is what it is” and that has to be enough.
I have victimized myself and my family for too long. I have used my illness as a tool to manipulate and be an observer in my own life. If I had only understood that being well doesn’t mean that problems go away and the waves of life stop crashing.
I no longer have to put on a brave face. I can be brave, courageous, fearful or scared and know that I am loved so completely that people are willing to fight for me. Everyone, including me, is a person who is loved deeply. We have mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters and friends who care for us when we do not care for ourselves. There is an army of love out there, people who are fighting their own battles to understand what brought us here.
The most obvious thing I see in my journals from the hospital as a person now struggling to live and be well is that I was never, at any time, alone. I had people holding me up—in prayer, in support, in tears, in compassion; I was surrounded by love. It was seeping into all the hollow places I had allowed my depression to eat away over the years.
I guess that I’m the tough love version of suicide prevention. I’ve earned my stripes in a terrible way so I can use tough love. If you are struggling, ask for help. It’s scary. I get it. But the consequences of staying the way you are is more far reaching than you can understand right now. I know what it’s like for your brain to be clouded in depression—nothing anyone says makes sense—but listen to them anyway. They love you. They love you more than you love yourself, most likely, and they are your advocates right now. Let them be until you are well. Let your army fight for you. There isn’t a big secret to life somewhere that you missed but everyone else knows. Life is for living, even if it sucks sometimes.
I live with the damage I’ve done to my family and friends every day; the trust that’s been broken, the wounds I’ve administered with select intent, and the shadows of things that I can’t undo. I’m okay with that, because I’m living. I get to wake up every day. I get to write, I get to paint, I get to listen to music and eat good food and hold my nephew and see bluebonnets and have my heart broken. I got to turn 33. I didn’t think I’d do that.
Who cares if I’m in a million pieces most of the time? I’m beautiful. My life is beautiful.
Even shattered things can reflect light.
I’m determined to be very open about my struggles and victories, and if you have any questions or comments please visit my blog Fire and Rabbits or e-mail me at email@example.com. You’re not the only one who feels lost. I can say with all honestly I know exactly what you’re going through. Let someone help you.
Thank you again, Cassandra. Your story touches my heart in such a way I can't even clearly state.
Be well, young friend - your heart and spirit are amazing - as are you. I am in awe of your strength.
Smoochies to you all!