It’s World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers or that I can provide some sort of step by step guide of what you should do if you’re feeling suicidal. There are a million of those out there and I don’t know how useful they are, to be perfectly and perhaps shockingly frank. What I can do is share the story of the year I struggled regularly with suicidal ideations, made a plan right down to the method of my suicide, planning my own funeral arrangements, and a manual on how to take care of everything I would be leaving him to deal with after my death. Hopefully I’ll also be able to shed a little light on how I survived it and why I’m thankful everyday that I’m here to live another day instead of carrying out those plans.
It was 2013. I struggled almost daily with suicidal thoughts for around a year. I had just severed my relationships with my remaining family for their lack of support and understanding about my illnesses. I had been forced to give up work, my health The continued to spiral and no one could tell me what was wrong with me. I suffered daily with migraines, severe brain fog and any number of odd symptoms that had me barely functioning. I kept running life threatening infections. I was forced to give up all of my pets because I could no longer care for them and we were living in a pit of a mobile home where I was convinced we were going to freeze to death if we were forced to live there one more winter and it felt like it was my fault. We were in the process of filing for bankruptcy, my husband had given up his job to take care of me and was then forced to work at a convenience store 50 hours a week on second shift and was never around after the money ran out. By this time, most of my friends had already abandoned me and I felt completely hopeless. I didn’t know if I was dying or if I was meant to linger on in agony for decades, but I knew I couldn’t face the possibility of the latter, and felt like I was running out of options. Suicide began to feel like the only way out.
On top of that, everything going on with my family and my health had started me into a cycle of nightmares and PTSD flashbacks that I could rarely escape. I’ve never been properly tested, but I’m pretty sure I have androgenic POTS, meaning that when I have an episode or flare up, I get epinephrine and adrenaline dumped into my system. This puts me into a panic attack every time, triggering PTSD episodes. It also caused terrible insomnia, in addition to the painsomnia I was often fighting. Sleep was very rare and precious indeed, but to have to deal with repeated scenes of childhood abuse, bullying and rape, it just completely broke me. Tactics I’d used earlier in life to control my PTSD episodes no longer had any effect, because the triggers were now chemical and I had no control.
I started to squirrel away the money to buy a gun (even though I couldn’t even afford my medications) and settle my affairs, writing up instructions on what to do upon my passing for my husband, since I’ve always been the one to take care of the household affairs. I had no tears left for myself or anyone else. I was truly convinced I, and everyone who ever knew me, would be better off if I were dead. I was consumed by my uselessness, obsessed with the fact that I could no longer work and that my value was tied entirely to that, having been rejected for every other reason a person could have value. I could no longer create poetry or short stories. My brain didn’t work that way anymore. I couldn’t conceive a child because of PCOS or endometriosis or my health or the perfect storm of all those reasons, no one really knew. I couldn’t even care for myself properly. What good could I possibly be to the world? I couldn’t even be a proper wife or friend.
I wasn’t exactly rational at the time. I was still writing poetry, not to publish, but to try to funnel some of the rage and desperation I felt. As you can tell from the poems, written over the entire year, I was stuck on revenge and suicide fantasies both, which combined to create some pretty wacky, morbid, startling scenarios. The parts I relished the most (the discovery of my body) are often the parts I left out, because the truth is the family members whose living rooms and private spaces I chose in which to off myself are all people who would be more bothered by the mess I left than me dying, and I’m just not that good at lying to myself. I had no intention on acting on any of the things in these poems. They were an outlet, a way to get the emotion behind the actions out in a safe and completely private way.
Holding on and Letting go
With the first signs of trouble, you drifted in with the high tide on your brightly colored boogie boards, left me drowning in ocean swill of sickness, anger, self loathing. You mistook my S-O-S for ransom note, deemed the price too dear. Now I tread these dangerous waters alone, no raft to rest my weary bones. How much easier it seemed on the other side, this letting go. If only I a bullet for my rusty gun.
Head in the oven, like Sylvia Plath? Poets, both though she far cleverer than I. To simply fall asleep and never wake sounds so sweet, so traitorous a lie. Come Sylvia, lie beside me, read me charmed lines predicting our deaths; you and I and sweet misery staining our cheeks. Until we sleep our poetic deaths.
Death’s Thesis Statement
I don’t want to die weak like a “woman,” pills piled in the back of my throat, the sweet lustful sally of unconsciousness. No, I want to go out with a bang. Not in the heart; a bullet through the brain, bright blast of crimson spray from the back of the head, visceral paint on a pristine wall. I want the violence of it all. Perfect punctuation for this life’s sentence.
Beauty on a Trailer Park Lawn
Ice falls from the stars, crystalline tears captured in monument. Emerald green refracts beneath their surface here, pallor of death twinkling just around the stairs, where once a lawn mower was kept. We dance upon the ice, death and I, knowing the danger. The tinkling of sweeping ice our music, the time we are keeping. The bones, lovely flesh, they are weeping. A crimson fountain completes the scene. We freeze lockstep. I always wanted to be statuesque.
If I Die as You Died, Will I Join You?
The Ohio has frozen and my car wants to go skating upon the ice like a dancer, careening and curving until the great water takes her, defeating the ice like a great barge cutting through with its hull. Thirty-two degrees and I won’t struggle long, feel the pain flag and wane, the ice penetrate skin, bone and vein. I never wanted a coffin, but if have one I must, the car that took me 150,000 miles will do me just.
I could steal into his home. Break a lock and load a gun. Sit in his favorite comfy chair, pour a Jameson’s or have a beer. I could roll a joint or toke a bowl, peruse a mag or ogle some porn. When I’ve had my fill, I’ll raise his revolver to my ear. I always told him guns in the home were dangerous.
For you, I would paint a picture in blood. A Picasso representation of me and you would know exactly what it means because you are me, raw in your pain, victim to your disease. I would die by inches, from a million cuts made in the construction of this picture and your house would be bathed in the blood of the million cuts, the million times you have cut me with your rejection. You would decipher the layers of my blood on the canvas of your wall, the faint shades from wrist, the dark heavy heart blood, feel the years of silence in the curve and weft of each stroke, intuit the retribution paid for leaving you, for saying I do and not really meaning ‘for sickness and in health,’ for going when the going got too tough. Your wife would view it as a murder scene, my body a trophy left at your long slender toes by an admirer; you in the role of Jodie Foster. She wouldn’t be wrong, but she wouldn’t be right, either. I wanted you to care. I wanted you to love me, if from a distance. I wanted you to say that what we once were together as one meant I still mattered to you apart, if in only some small way; a phone call once a year, the occasional text message, an email. I wanted to die somewhere other than the tiny trailer where my husband still has to live. I wanted someone other than him to mourn me. Remember me. Remember me then. Remember me now. Remember who I became, this warped image of who I am; because in all my perversion, I still count.
Damn you all. I still count.
Weekend at Daddies
(A dark comedy starring Capricious Lestrange)
After the deed is done, they’ll prop me before the TV, happy not to listen to the nonsensical chatter I picked up from my unfortunate edu-ma-cation, the awkward questions about their health or retirement or politic or Cherokee grandmother, sliding in their not-too-subtle knife blades during the autopsy of my youth. They’ll insist on dragging my bloated body to the mini-van, buckling me in for a trip to Wally-world only to deny me purchase. This will be the grand trip, topped off with a meal at Sonny’s barbeque. Dad will polish off our buy one get one meals, napkin conveniently erasing all guilt. The remaining visit filled with home improvement projects; no time like a visit from the daughter he abandoned at four to replace the carpet on the bedroom floors. ‘No, no. No need to help. I insist. No, ladies relax.’
Watch Facebook for your next vacation. Jump on a plane and catch a cab to the house I’ve only seen in pictures. Creep over crabgrass to the lanai and slip into the hot tub you disdained because it was not a pool. Think of how you left us to find you overdosed so many years ago and I am the last to even the score. Slit arms, thighs with straight razor in warm puckered fingers. Watch the foam turn red: The salute you and your state deserve.
Tell me why I shouldn’t die, leave you behind to learn again the language of happiness. It’s not like I’m asking you to fly, perform an appendectomy, speak French. It wasn’t so very long ago we laughed beneath the sheets, the swaying trees, the winking gaze of an evening sky. Get on that bicycle, my love. Ride.
Of course if you have someone in your life you can turn to at the moment you’re dealing with these things, that’s best and of course I was doing plenty of talking with my husband at the time. Most articles on suicide prevention say that dwelling on these things is exactly the wrong strategy, and they might count these poems as just that, but if you’re an emotive person who needs to get these things out with nowhere to turn, writing might be a good option for you. I’m of the opinion that there’s just no one size fits all model.
I wasn’t able to find a counselor at the time. Money was at a premium. I wasn’t suicidal enough to want to be locked up and I can pretty much guarantee that locking me up would only make me more suicidal, not less. So I kept writing poems, kept journaling, kept reading articles on mental health and doing my best to begin researching about my own health to begin trying to figure out what was wrong with me so I could get some relief. I discovered dysautonomia and talked to my doctor. I got some ORS and medications and slowly but surely got more regular control over my POTS episodes and insomnia. I started taking antioxidants and herbal sleep aids and supplementing some of my vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Each thing helped just a little more until I found fasciablasting and more supplements and the proper diagnosis and got back to mostly being me and realizing that I could have a life that wasn’t plagued by constant pain and untenable symptoms. Then I came to the realization that I had to allow myself to accept and mourn all those things I had lost before I would ever truly be able to move on and forgive myself for becoming sick and letting myself down. Since that time, the progress with my mental health has been many more steps forward than those I take backward.
I’m quite glad I battled those demons and won, as I rather like my life, multiple chronic illnesses and PTSD be damned. Yes, I still suffer some days, but I rarely ever experience the kind of suffering I once did. I finally found valid diagnoses and doctors and treatments that could help. We survived bankruptcy, we moved, we’ve welcomed a new pet into our lives and after 14 years together, we’re still very much in love. My mind works better than it has in years and my health continues to improve. I produce writing that I can be proud of again, including this blog, but even when I can’t, I have learned how to be okay with that and accept that it doesn’t make me less. I have much to live for as far as I’m concerned and no one else’s vote counts.
Even when you can’t see anything positive in your life, when all seems hopeless and change impossible, it’s simply because you don’t have the perspective necessary. You never know what it may take to change that perspective, but eventually perspective always shifts. Change is one of the laws of nature. Nothing can ever remain constant. We need only survive something for a finite period of time. If you’re struggling to maintain that hope, remember this. It may not seem like much. But sometimes it’s all we’ve got.