Tie another knot and hang on (suicide awareness and prevention)
We’re going to deviate from sewing for a post here, because there is too much suicide going around these days.
It seems pretty easy to sit where you are as a (reasonably) mentally healthy person and wonder how someone could get so low as to contemplate or even succeed at suicide. But when you’re in that chasm, and the walls, dark and high, are closing in around you, it’s not hard at all to imagine that suicide is the only way out. In fact, it almost becomes so clear to you that this is the ONLY way out, that it’s amazing that more people don’t succeed at it.
Flash back to about 2004 and 2005, I was newly bereaved/miscarried mother. I’d endured infertility for a while. My hormones crashed. All of my friends were pregnant, including one that was the same week along that I was. And I fell, hard. I can still remember how it felt: like sliding down a long embankment of slippery, dark soil that was impossible to climb out of. I’d try, and slip right back down there, into the darkness with the bugs and the self-doubt, self-incrimination for whatever I’d done to deserve this. One night, in January, about two months after that miscarriage, my dog got hit by a car. I remember raging at the dark night sky, the stars out overhead and screaming at God: Why her? Take ME instead. My dog lived (she was in a cast for a month, recovered mostly to live a long life, full of arthritis from her injuries, but with four legs.)
It was about all I could take when a group of friends gathered one evening (January 17th, to be exact) and one friend began asking another about her pregnancy, and the pregnant one showed off her belly (albeit somewhat reluctantly.) I remember feeling the walls close in around me then, my breathing shallow, not really able to hear what people were saying to me. I left abruptly and nearly (intentionally) drove off a bridge. I didn’t, mostly because the thought of drowning was scarier than the pain and I had other options. Later that week, I grabbed enough prescription painkillers to do the job. I sat in my bedroom – unbeknownst to my husband in the next room, or my parents three hours away – that I had everything to do this job well. Chaser of beer, the will to do it. It didn’t matter that my friends had said “reach out to me, call a hotline” – it seemed the only way out was to do this thing.
In fact, the startling clarity of the decision to do it was and is still what amazes me now. I was convinced that this was the only possible solution to my never-ending pain. I was enduring emotional beating after beating, on my knees, unable to breathe, to get up, to get away from the pain.
Suicide seemed the only option. And it was such a clear one, too.
I have no idea what (or who) the divine intervention that stopped my hand – I had stashed away blades in my lingerie drawer, I had the pills out of the container and in my hand. It shook wildly as I let them fall into my palm. I was really going to do this. Something stopped me. Someone stopped me (someone not on this earthly plane.)
I took those pills into the other room and handed them to my shocked and bewildered husband, who finally (after arguing with me earlier that week about needing to “snap out of it”) understood the gravity of the situation. He phoned my parents. They arrived hours later. I have no idea what mad dash they made to come be with me. Everyone rallied. I got a therapist.
That wasn’t the end, though, it would be months in therapy with meds. I’d have setback after setback – those same friends whom I cleaved myself from (out of preservation of my own sanity) who then turned on me in anger. I grieved the loss of those friendships. I endured another miscarriage. And another. I turned to blades which, surprisingly, offered solace. The physical pain of cutting myself seemed to dull the emotional pain with a rush of endorphins.
I share this – probably my weakest point, my most fragile place – because I want those that say “call and get help” to understand that it’s not that simple. I believed, truly, that no one could help me and that I was better off not here any longer. You cannot expect the person in that place to help themselves. They cannot. It takes someone to step in and say “let’s call the therapist and get you in to some help right this moment. Let’s go to the hospital, right now.”
To those that are there, right now, I say to you, you cannot believe it now, but there is real and powerful joy ahead for you. You experience the lowest of lows – but you can also experience the highest of highs too. The flipside of where you are now, in that chasm, is a light that is powerful. If there’s an ounce of will left in you, tie another knot and hang on.
What I’d have missed: the birth of my two liveborn children, including a rainbow that is as fierce as I am. A quarter century of marriage to my best friend. The death at a ripe old age of my dog, and the birth of a new one who is my cuddly buddy. Several businesses, all of them successful.
I’ve been there, again, too. On a glittery, happy spring weekend full of friends, bike rides, brewpubs and fun, I was mired in a long and difficult business separation. I hung onto this world only because of my children and the fact that I wanted to see that situation resolve itself for them – to not leave that hanging by my death. I am not afraid to admit I got out my blades – but set them down after only a prick of blood.
I’m happy now. Somewhat anxious occasionally, but happy. I am pretty sure that my depression either unlocked or created some cracks in my armor that I can’t ever quite fully patch.
I’ve gone on to have even more challenges since then, but the resilience I’ve built up has been like a callous – my armor against going too far, again. I’ve learned some really powerful coping skills – journaling and exercise seem to work the best for me.
If you think, if you even think you have a friend who is suicidal, do not ask them to reach out for help. GO to them. Take them to a therapist. Take them to the hospital. Take them away for a weekend. They may not have the power, or the will, do this on their own.