I decided the subject this week will be Depression. To invite you, my reader, into one of the most desolate times in my life. Most people don’t like to talk about suicide. When I was a teenager it was a taboo subject. As taboo as the thought of having a mental illness and admitting that you suffered from it.
When I was a teenager I didn’t think to myself “hey, I have a mental illness.” That was reserved for the adults in my life. As I have mentioned before both of my parents suffered from mental illness. They were too busy dealing with their own demons to recognize that I was battling my own. I had survived being placed in a foster home where I was subjected to mental, physical, and sexual abuse. All on top of feeling abandoned by the parents whose job was to make me feel safe and protected.I was in second grade when all of this came raining down on my head.
What made it worse is I knew there was something wrong with my Dad. I remember the adults whispering in small groups, and on the phone trying to keep me and my brothers from hearing the grown-up talk that was circling around having my dad put into a mental hospital. To this day my mother is in denial of what occurred during that time in my life. She likes to hold this sanitized version of the events that pushed the button to “on” in my own mental issues.
I couldn’t have remembered it correctly as I was only a child at the time. I want to scream at her “I remember! I was there, you weren’t. You signed your own children away after you said that if anything happened to you or dad we would be kept safe with family and friends.” But she had lied. Instead of going to stay with my aunt or my uncle. Even her closest friend, the police came and ripped us away from safety and delivered us into hell. That day marked the beginning of most of my fears. Up to that time, yeah I was afraid of Dad when he would have a schizophrenic episode, but somehow I knew he would never hurt me or my brothers. He turned all his pain onto himself.
You know what is bad. The fact that what occurred during those days became locked away in my child’s brain. I blocked it all out once our family was whole again. I locked all the pain, betrayal, abuse away in a small lightly lidded box and hid it away in my psyche. I lived with this huge fear and couldn’t for the life of me remember why I was so afraid. My whole personality changed after those months of hell. Where once I had been an outgoing friendly girl who dreamed of being an actress up on the stage. I became a secretive, withdrawn fearful shadow of myself. I spooked easily and soon learned to stay to myself. The world overwhelmed me now.
If you go back and read my report cards, the remark made most often was that I was too quiet and needed to come out of my shell. I was better friends with my teachers than my schoolmates. I had friends but I wouldn’t let any of them in to see the real me. I didn’t want them to see my shadow world and hate me for it. I kept to myself to avoid being hurt. I refused to let anyone close, I thought I was tainted by what had happened to me. To my mind, I was dirty. What had happened was all my fault. The thoughts swirling in my head were not appropriate for other kids my age. They were unspoiled. Clean.
Deep inside I felt this evil mixture swirling around me, enveloping me in a cloud of despair. By the time I was in junior high, I had become a proficient actress. I kept everything locked up and went about my day as if I was any normal teenager. Once I got home and behind my bedroom door though my demons ran free. I was basically the mother of my brothers at this time. My mom had checked out. I kept the house clean, I fixed the meals, I was the mom. I didn’t have time to be a kid, a teenager. I didn’t go to sleep-overs, parties, or join any clubs. The only subject in school that made me feel happy was my choir class. For that one hour, I let my voice rise, I sang my heart out.
When the others kids mourned having to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. I loved that I could sing both the soprano and alto parts. The only other class that held my attention was history. I loved learning about the olden days. About what happened before I was born. It was around this time that I made a friend who would become more like a sister to me. The sad thing is even she didn’t know how the darkness was closing in on me. The feeling of desolation, the feeling that if I was dead the pain would go away.
This was a disturbing thought for as I was raised from birth in a very strict religious household. You know the ones. Every time the church doors opened we were there, no music except for spiritual, no TV except for news and a few family shows that my mother deemed safe such as Little House on The Prairie and the Wild Kingdom. When other kids were watching the latest shows and going to the movies, I was busy being “mom”. The church taught if you committed suicide then you would go to hell. Since our religion preached that hell was all fire and brimstone, you were left reliving all your wrongs, my mind swerved away from the thought.
With each year though, my fear of the church’s hell grew less as I lived in my own living hell. All I wanted to do was go to sleep and never wake up. Through all of these morbid thoughts though, I maintained my act that I was happy and the world was great. I learned to lie like a pro. I still find myself doing it to this day when someone asks how I am doing. “I’m fine. No complaints. Everything is coming up roses.Yadda, yadda, yadda.”
When I was fifteen I reached the point where I was done. I started looking for my way out.My dad had booze hidden up in a cupboard in the bathroom. I started sneaking drinks to get through my day at school. The problem was I didn’t like the taste of alcohol, still don’t for that matter, so I started gazing longingly at the medicine cabinet which was filled to the brim with all kinds of bright shiny pills just beckoning me to try them. Who was I to say no? I began experimenting with the drugs trying to find the perfect blend to make me numb. The perfect blend to let me sleep forever.
I began to flunk out of my classes at school. I was just not in the mood to learn anything. Why spend my time learning when I was checking out? When asked why my grades were failing, I would just say that it was the new school. I wasn’t adapting to it. Around this time I also started having health issues. I was out of school for a month with the mumps. And then because I had to walk in the weather in Illinois winter between classes, I caught a cold that would turn into pneumonia. I was miserable. I was done.
I woke up. The mix had let me sleep for a day and a half. The real kicker is that no one noticed me not at the dinner table, or doing my “mom” chores. They hadn’t missed my presence. That was the real wake-up call for me. I truly was alone. You know what? I let that build me up instead of knocking me down. I came out stronger. I decided that I was going to do anything I could to break free of this hell I lived in. I stopped caring what my mother thought, what the church thought, what anyone thought. I was a lone wolf without her pack. I have to admit the first few months after the attempt, I wandered in a fog of how I would get stronger but I began the process.
We moved again not long after my journey into awareness. I also moved into a new school. It was here that I found two people who at the time were so left field of everything I knew. They were just what the doctor ordered. They would become the best friends in the world to me. The first was a guy, who had grown up in a broken home with some really messed up family values, who was just figuring out that he was gay. The second was a girl who lived her life wholly. She didn’t care what others thought. She was a force unto herself. They did what no one else could do. They made me laugh.
They made me live. Not in the shadows but out loud and in the open. I was now part of a group. Funny now that I think about it, but we were the kids that really didn’t fit into any clique in high school. We weren’t the jocks, the brains, the rich kids, the poor kids, the outsiders, the weird kids. We were beyond definition. We could easily slip into any of the other groups and fit in, we just chose not too. We would sit in a cluster, off in our corner of the cafeteria and study the drama happening in the other groups. For once I felt like I belonged somewhere.
Did I still fight with my darkness, yeah? Only now I had friends I could call and talk to. They helped me keep the feelings at bay. Did I still think about those bottles of pills in the medicine cabinet? Of course. I had discovered something new though. I had discovered recreational drugs. I found alcohol that I could actually drink without gagging. I could medicate the darkness. Numb it for small bits of time. Did I ever let someone get close enough to know all my secrets? These two people came the closest to breaching my walls, but I hid even from them.
Did I ever try to commit suicide again? No. Thought about it, but something always pulled me away from the edge. Do I still think about it? More than I like to admit but that is part and parcel of Depression. You learn to be a survivor. A fighter. You learn that you are not alone. There is a lot of resources out there to help you. It took me a long time to figure that out. I like to think I can help someone else with letting you into my world. If you feel the need to talk please leave a comment or use one of the links below. Don’t try to do this alone, because you are not alone.
I hope you have stayed with me to the end of this post. When I began it I thought it would just be a short one about my attempt and the aftermath, but my muse guided me in a different way. Remember you are not alone. And above all remember to love fully and laugh often.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline-1-800-273-8255
The Lifeline @800273TALK
International Suicide Hotlines
National Institute of Mental Health
National Alliance on Mental Illness