In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), 38,364 suicide deaths were reported in the United States, making suicide the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. That year, someone in the U.S. died by suicide every 13.7 minutes .
What I am sharing is from my heart. I am not a writer, but someone who finally wants her story heard.
In 2009-2010, with Doug gone on his fifth deployment, Seth in high school, my sister diagnosed with cancer and dying, I was overwhelmed. We’d had issues with Seth for a few years, between stealing from us, smoking marijuana, and just struggling within himself, I pushed my own issues to the back burner. A parents love often comes at a larger price than we may be aware, or want to admit. Doug came home on R&R, and we had a few getaways planned, but we found drug paraphernalia, we cancelled our weekend B&B trip much to Seth’s surprise. When he came home from school, an argument broke out between myself and Seth and when Doug intervened it got physical. I had no choice but to call 911. We were given two choices, have him arrested and taken to jail, in Texas at 17 in the eyes of the law you are a legal adult, or we could have him be taken in on an EOD, (emergency order of detention). This involved drug tests, an officer outside his ER room, and a long line of therapist coming to see him. When I was asked if I wanted him to come home, I said no, but we wanted them to place him in a drug rehabilitation center. Texas saw him as an adult in the eyes of the law, but from a medical perspective we still had control for three short weeks. We thought it was important he went, we knew it was changing who he was as a person. That day as a mom I went through two things I never thought I’d go through, watching your child be handcuffed and put into a squad car, and telling someone you don’t want them to come home. The first 36 hours were tough, it was a voluntary admission and he wanted to come home, I stood firm and made him stay. It worked out, he came home happier, determined, and he’d had some very significant revelations. He continued in therapy sessions and taking medications to help with depression, his inability to sleep, etc. We felt like things were back on track.
Fast forward to March 2011 my sister had passed away almost a year prior, Doug is home from his deployment, and we are getting back into a normal groove. I knew deep inside of me I was struggling at such a deep emotional level, but I had already pushed it all so far down. It’s like trying to fasten the lid on an overflowing garbage can, its full, you know it is, but you keep trying to smash the contents further down, make that lid close and fasten so nothing comes flying out. I managed to push it down and keep the lid on, but afraid it would burst at any moment.
I was excited my niece Deven was coming to visit. She had lost her mom, she and I were always close and I was thrilled to finally have her take her first plane ride and see her Auntie. Everything was going good, then a fight broke out between Doug and Seth. I was mad about the situation, and I tried to break it up, Deven had already went to her room, she didn’t want any part of that, can you blame her? The fight moved into the garage and we continued to scream at each other, and I finally told Seth to give me his phone and just leave! Its pitch black out and our house rural Hill Country, so at night, you have the moon and the stars and not much else. He left and Doug and I started to fight, and I remember thinking, what have I done right? What am I doing right? Seth had walked off, I had no idea where he was, I was mad at myself. At this point, all that I had pushed so far down was about to explode. I walked into the bathroom, and I saw Seth’s bottle of sleeping pills, Trazadone 150 mg. I looked at the pills and I just didn’t want to live with the mess that was now my life. I’d spent the last few years acting like it was all okay, but, really I just didn’t care anymore. I’d spent years listening to empty threats of suicide, so to me, I saw it as a normal reaction. I grabbed the 90 pill prescription bottle, to my knowledge still had 75-80 pills left, and swallowed them all. I remember the feeling of being in the clouds, and then thinking, this is what my life has come to, now I am going to die. Doug was still in the garage and I told him I’d taken the pills, I had threatened suicide before so he didn’t believe me. Doug said something changed his mind to believe that I had overdosed. When he came in, it was confirmed and he quickly called 911. As I lay on the floor, vomiting I could hear him talking to the dispatcher, I could hear the pain and the panic in his voice, and I was overwhelmed with guilt. I remember thinking to myself, I am going to die, and I have made a mistake. My son is gone, my niece is asleep in the other room, and I am going to leave Doug a widower. I remember the ambulance coming through my front door, and being wheeled outside. I recall the EMT talking to me, wanting me to stay alert the whole ride and telling me how cooperative I was with him, and wondering if they would get me there alive. I don’t recall much else. I do remember being wheeled into the ER and hearing the EMT say aloud “we have an intentional overdose”. I remember in that moment the extreme shame hearing those words, a shame I am finally dealing with today. Just like my son before me, I had an officer outside my door, and a slew of professionals come in to talk to me. I laid there in the ER not knowing where my son was, how much pain I had caused him, seeing the sadness and fear on Doug’s face, and knowing my niece was out in the car, alone, worried and confused. I went home that night, sad, ashamed and engulfed in humiliation. In the days to follow I made a few calls to people in my life I knew I could trust to not just keep my secret, but still love me. Past that, I shared my embarrassment with no one.
I became closed off, not talking to people I knew, and most certainly not making new friends. I continued on that trend for nearly three years. Therapy helped me understand the why of my choices, it didn’t change the guilt or embarrassment of what I had done. I felt it was best to just not make friends, just remain with my small core of people that knew, and could trust with my secret.
I’d met an amazing person, who has become my friend and confidant Kerry Bosworth. Even though our friendship was new, we were friends on Facebook, naturally. I saw a post about her stepson having committed suicide and that day would have been his 21st birthday, and that she was going to do a walk here on Oahu. I had no idea what that would entail, but I felt an even closer bond to her when I read that, thinking maybe this person can understand me, maybe she is in my life for a reason. So, I decided to do the walk, and when she needed helpers, I signed us up. Once I realized just what was in front of me, I was overwhelmed. After the first meeting, I sent Kerry and text and admitted what I had done. She just assured me if I needed to, or wanted to share my story she would be there. Naturally I postponed it, but eventually I sat down at her table after a committee meeting and shared my story with Kerry and her husband Boz. They were the first new friends I had told my story to. I continued go to the meetings, but not consistently, I would hate the way I would feel when I left. I would sit next to Doug knowing that everyone at the table had lost someone to suicide, and I felt an immense guilt for being there, not having died. When it came time for the walk, I decided I would be there, but then I was done!
The day of the walk arrives, and I already know about the bead necklace system, which is where there are color designations for why a person is supporting the walk. Kerry, with her kind loving way came to me and said, “You know you can wear the green ones [struggled personally], but if you don’t its still ok”. We walked to the tent together and I decided I would wear them, after all I was among people that could accept me as I am, in spite of what I had done. I went back to my food and drink station and the young girl who was my volunteer asked about them. I was able to share a small portion of my story, and she didn’t look at me in horror as I had always feared, she just hugged me and said that I was an inspiration! I was already emotionally drained, and we hadn’t even walked yet. I did the walk, and I am immensely proud of EVERY picture I see of myself from that day. Not only did I walk but I showed a part of who I was by wearing green beads. We had a committee dinner that night, and I honestly didn’t want to go, I felt I’d done the walk, and it was all I had to give. My car was in the shop and Doug had a crisis at work that had him going in all weekend, and it seemed like a good reason to not attend. Melissa, who is on the committee encouraged me to go, she said she would even come get me. I wasn’t very close to her at that point, but I finally relented and let her come get me. On the way there, which wasn’t that far, somehow I shared my story. By the time we are at the restaurant, I am emotionally drained, but I felt a strong connection to Melissa, and I can feel the love and sympathy radiating from her.
The walk is all done and over, thats where the real changes and transformations started for me. I felt a need to really work on myself and come to peace with what had happened. I wanted it to become “this is what I have done, not who I am.” Self flagellation is not pretty!
The startup for the walk just got under way, and I told Doug, I am going to attend the first meeting, but if I feel like I did last year, I’m out! He was in Japan, so I went solo, which made me feel vulnerable. Knowing I have friends there, I think, it’ll be okay. I planned to stay for the first part with last years committee members, then take off. While there, I decided to stay for the second half. New people come in, and we talk about the walk, the goals, etc. Its winding down and I’m thinking…YES I’m home free we didn’t do any introductions, but I didn’t get that lucky. I honestly didn’t know if I could say the words aloud, everyone looking right at me, but I did! It took me a moment to compose myself, and I remember looking over and Kerry, Boz, and Melissa and the kindness in their eyes, feeling Selene reach for my hand, and young Reagan come and put her tiny hand on my shoulder. It was a huge accomplishment for me to say those words. It is the first step of many to heal my heart and my spirit.
I am sharing this with you for a variety of reasons, most importantly to heal, it is exhausting to hold onto something so dark. It brought me down as much as the pain I felt before the overdose. The thoughts of suicide were with me before I had overdosed, and they have not left me completely. I am a work in progress, but I feel stronger and more confident that I am here for a reason. I want to be in a place in my life to stand in front of a group and/or a crowd and share my story and help even one person. If I don’t reach that one person, I know I will at least help myself in the process.
Making a donation to AFSP, you CAN make a difference and help people like me, because I am not alone in my struggles, attempts, or thoughts. Your donation can fund research help to save a life. We are all connected by an invisible thread of suicide, and suicide attempts, and we may not even know the person next to you is struggling, or has lost someone to suicide. You can donate to my team, join as a virtual walker and help raise funds, or if you want to be here for our walk on 13 September 2014, you have a place to stay. I did not raise any money last year for fear of sharing my story, this year I want to raise money, and let my story be heard. Will you help me?