Friday, September 5, 2008

Heavy on my mind

So I've had suicide on the brain lately. Not because I want to kill myself--if I did I wouldn't post it on my blog--but because, well, suicide is sort of always around.

See, when I was really little my grandmother tried to kill herself. She was depressed after the death of my grandfather and she decided a big ol' bottle of pills was the best course of action to take. One of her sons had a premonition to check up on her. He called her house and she didn't answer so he went over. He found her passed out on the floor. He took her to the hospital and had her stomach pumped. After that she spent some time in a sanitarium and it came out that she had struggled with depression and bulimia/anorexia for most of her life. It was sad and she was sad. At the end of her life (she was killed a few years later in a car accident) she was almost always sad. Her suicide attempt left a strange legacy in my young mind. Like maybe suicide was an option.

Then when I was thirteen my best friend tried to kill herself. She too took a bottle of pills--but this time I was the one on the phone. I listened as she told me all about how her parents hated her, about how she had been sexually assaulted at a party, about how she couldn't deal with anything anymore--the pills rattling in the background as she dumped them out of the bottle and then put them back in, not sure how many to take. I listened as she cried and swallowed the pills. It never occurred to me to tell my parents. I just prayed over and over, "Please, God, don't let her die. Please God, don't let her die. God, don't let her die!" I started to cry and made her promise that she'd show up for school the next day. She didn't make it to school and I started freaking out. That evening I got a phone call. Her parents had found her in the bathroom piles of pills still clutched in her fists. She was calling me from the psychiatric unit of the hospital. She kept saying, "I just want you to know it's your fault I'm alive. You made me promise I'd come to school and I couldn't break a promise to you. This is the most horrible place. I just want to get out. But it's your fault I'm alive. It was your promise." I mourned her life and I mourned my promise.

In high school seven of my friends tried to kill themselves--none of them were successful, thank heavens, although my ex boyfriend did come close when he threw himself off a (small) cliff and took up driving with his eyes closed. It was strange, listening to all my friends' goodbyes and hearing their tales after the attempts. Sometimes I was sad. A lot of the time I was scared. Eventually, I got angry.

After awhile I began to draw cut marks on my wrists and have dreams about watching myself bleed out. It made me anxious because I didn't really want to die but, maybe, I did. Things were so overwhelming--AP classes, theater rehearsals, Young Women's responsibilities, I was Seminary class president--sometimes I just couldn't figure out any way to make it all slow down. Death seemed so still and quiet and sounded so peaceful. However, because I knew the plan of salvation, I knew that there would just be more questions to answer and more work to do on the other side. When I got my patriarchal blessing it said I had a long life to live and I took it as a sign. The suicidal thoughts were pretty much gone then.

Things were good for a number of years, but then I got hit with postpartum depression and felt crazier than I ever knew I could. I really wanted to kill myself because I deserved it. I was such a horrible mother and such a failure and a latter-day saint it just wasn't worth it. I figured I could pay the hell on the other side. The suicidal visions returned but with much more detail and color. They were scary. Anger seemed the best way to fight off the fright--until I started therapy and antidepressants.

These days the images come and go but I mostly ignore them. The medicine helps them disappear.

I guess the reason I've been thinking about this lately was the legacy all those attempts left me. I was sad and scared and angry for a long time--especially at my grandma and my best friend. They had introduced so much anguish into my life and for what? Even though I imagined I knew how they had felt I still didn't understand it. And I really didn't understand what part I had to play in all of it. I prayed a lot (and wrote a lot of bad poetry) about it. But, still, my feelings roiled around inside me.

Given some time, though, the sting lost its venom. The ache began to heal. I still don't understand all of it. I still have a lot of questions, but the anger is gone. I think what I struggled with was my own responsibility in relation to all of it. I began approaching peace came when I began trying to give it up to God. He was the one who was responsible for it. This life, is after all, a part of His plan. And, I came to understand, He was planning on being responsible for it. He planned for His son to come to earth and suffer, bleed, and die. God was in control.

I also began to feel better when I realized that my grandma, my friend, and I might all have had the suicidal thoughts simply because it is part of an illness--not because of what my grandma did or because I hung out with the wrong crowd or some other nebulous sin. It was an illness and illnesses are covered by the grace of Christ through His atonement and resurrection.

I still need the therapy and the drugs, but my testimony helps with the healing too. These days I admire my grandma. Her struggle and her faith are inspirational to me. She survived and I can too. I pray for my long-ago best friend. I don't have contact with her any more, but I know she is in God's hands. I pray for me, too. And I'm working on forgiving myself for my own weaknesses and self hate. And I'm working on accepting myself--craziness and all--for what I am now and for what God can help me learn to be.


Kelly said...

Hey Laura,
Thanks for posting this. It takes a lot of courage to talk about this stuff. As a friend, sometimes I don't know what to say or how to help, but being able to understand at least a little bit makes me feel better -- like I sort of know where you're coming from.

Just for the record, you are not and never have been a bad mom, and weaknesses are what keep us (or me anyway) somewhat humble so that I can't look at the rest of the world with disdain for their weaknesses. Stinks to have them, though, huh?

Love ya lots! Keep fighting the good fight!

Elizabeth-W said...

Excellent post! And it really speaks to why all the literature says if a family member has attempted/succeeded at suicide, other family members are at greater risk. You were surrounded by it, so how could you not think of it as an option in some way?
I think sometimes just knowing that suicide is always an option, instead of fighting it, knowing you can always choose it, but you probably won't, can be a comfort. I don't know if that makes sense. I'm not describing it very well.
As in "I can stand this. I am standing it. I don't like it and if it gets unbearable, death is still an option. But, I'm coping for now. The suicide card will not be played today."

Misty Lynne said...

Kelly said it better then I could. Thanks for your thought Laura.

Anonymous said...

I used to think about this subject. I had a terrible marriage. I loved the two kids it brought but would've done anything to get out and nearly took that way out. My life in general sucked. I made it out of the marriage; the kids have grown up and married and .... the best? they had kids. It's now those little kids that keep me wanting to stay here and enjoy them. I'm the best grandmother in the world. At times life still sucks big. But never around those kids. My point? Hang on tight. There are good things down the road. You will find a day when you are so thankful to be alive and enjoying your grandchildren. They are the fun-pass to life.

Kalola said...

Laura ~

I am a reader of your blog and have, personally, found it very supportive.

I have an entry on my blog titled "Are You Mentally Healthy?" This may seem an odd request, but I was wondering if, perhaps, you would like to participate in the discussion. I am interested in discovering what being "mentally healthy" means to people. You can find the discussion at:

I hope you'll add your insight.

With much appreciation,

Carol aka Kalola

Charlotte said...

Very well written Laura. I'd never thought of all those incidents put together like that in your life and what they must've meant to you. I'm glad that you have found some peace with it and that the toughts are mostly held at bay. Although I do hope you'll call if it ever changes...

Laura said...

Thanks for the support guys!

Kelly and Misty--I'm grateful to have friends like you in my life!

Elizabeth-w--I do know what you mean. With my suicidal thoughts, I 've come to view them as a sort of intrusive thought and that they are there but that they don't have any more power than I give them. If I worry about them instead of just looking at them as one of many thoughts (like you mention) then they become more powerful.

Anonymous--I'm so sorry you had to struggle and be sad. Struggles are a part of our lives though and it sounds like you came out all the better because of them!

Carol--thanks for reading my blog! I feel like you all support me too! I'll definitely stop by :)

Charlotte-- you know I will! love you!

Heathie said...

I felt a heavy feeling just reading this post. It's one I've felt before, as I watched a friend struggle with whether or not to just end it all. Thankfully, she didn't. And I've felt the feeling as I've sat at the funerals of two friends who did end their own lives. But I felt lighter as I read the last paragraphs of your post. The Savior truly can lift our burdens. I think of the hymn "How Gentle God's Commands" (It's number 125 if you want to check it out) I especially love verse three: "Why should this anxious load press down your weary mind? Haste to your Heav'nly Father's throne and sweet refreshment find."