NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
I woke up this morning to the news that another celebrity died of an apparent suicide. Tragic!
I’ve read that suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do because they don’t take into account the devastation that it leaves behind for their family and friends and the unanswered questions of “How did we miss that?” or “What else could I have done to prevent it?”
If you have not been to a place in your life where all around you seems hopeless, that’s wonderful! But for those of us who have travelled this road in our minds, let me try to explain at least my journey to seriously contemplating suicide.
I’ve shared in the past a troubled upbringing with my parents: my father physically abused my mother for years. Home wasn’t always pleasant, especially when my father came home after several days of spending time with his girlfriend and her family or after having stayed out drinking with his friends. He would argue with my mother and then hit her. My sisters and I tried to stop him, but it seldom worked.
Thankfully, at about the time I turned 8 years old, my mom (and my sisters and I) had had enough; she filed for divorce! I know the decision to do so was very difficult because she was now responsible for 3 children under the age of 11 and knowing that she would get little, if any, help from my father. I admire her courage!
We struggled for a few years living on her paycheck, whatever child support my father decided to contribute and whenever he decided to pay it, and government food programs for which we were suddenly eligible.
I think my mom was looking for a real partner to help share her load. Unfortunately, she found help in the form of an alcoholic, who promised that he would buy her a house and support her children. My mom saw it as salvation, we lived it as a nightmare. They were married for almost 17 years until my mother’s untimely death from heart disease at the age of 53.
During those years, I recreated the most influential relationship I had experienced in my young life: I found two men to abuse me — one physically and one mentally— in successive relationships over a 13 year period.
I wrote about my failed marriage in my blog “Fish Don’t Know They’re In Water: So Why Should You?” (May 24, 2012):
I’ve written earlier about the abuse my mother endured and how I unwittingly recreated the same lifestyle when I was a teenager. What I didn’t mention is that I continued to try to recreate that same situation during my first marriage. Fortunately, my ex-husband asked me a profound question during an argument. He said, “Are you trying to make me hit you?” That was the first time that I became consciously aware of how my actions, unchecked, were leading me to the same abuse I had just escaped two years earlier! Thank God that my ex-husband was clear enough to know what I was unconsciously trying to do – swim in the same unhealthy, but familiar water!
The details I left out include:
- Marrying my first husband to escape the home where my stepfather was constantly propositioning me, so I had to sleep with a chair under my doorknob because I didn’t trust the lock or him;
- Having to leave college because I was no longer eligible to receive a financial aid package I could afford now or in the future due to the marriage, which devastated me because my hoped for future (through attending college) was the most stable thing in my life at that time;
- Living in what quickly became a dysfunctional marriage rather than the supportive one I thought I was building;
- Realizing that I lost a child at the same time I learned I was pregnant. My mind processed this as another failure on my part — in addition to a failing marriage, I couldn’t even bring a child into the world!
I’ve often described to others how I felt during that time that led me to contemplate suicide: it’s like stuffing clothes in a drawer until the drawer is too full to close and everything falls out.
The loss of my child in combination with a terrible marriage and not attending college, pushed me to a mental breakdown. I couldn’t eat or sleep for two weeks; everywhere I looked I saw despair, loneliness and personal failure — the pain was too great to continue to live!
So, I decided to end my life by stepping in front of a bus. I assumed that people would think it was a terrible accident because I wasn’t paying attention, but God and I would know it wasn’t!
And here’s the thing: a bus was coming down the street and I was getting ready to step in front of it when my mother’s voice popped into my head and reminded me of her belief that she shared with me years before: God was not pleased with suicide — it was a ticket straight to hell and I couldn’t come back from hell! While I know others believe differently, that thought stopped me from stepping off the curb!
Instead, I walked to my dorm (I was separated from my husband and had returned to college) and told my roommate my plans for finding a way to kill myself so that God wouldn’t know it was suicide!
My roommate, God bless her, walked me to the counseling office, where I signed a contract to contact them if I felt suicidal and to attend daily counseling sessions.
Unpacking long packed drawers was painful…extremely painful… but absolutely necessary to healing. It was during this time that I committed to seeking counseling — regardless of anyone’s opinion about it — whenever I need it because I’m worth the investment!
My dear roommate and caring counselors changed my perspective from one of failure, despair, fear, and loneliness to one of hope for a brighter future. In fact, right before I would have stepped in front of the bus, I jokingly thought, “With my luck, as soon as I died, the day after, everything would get better!”
I can’t honestly say that the day after things got better, but with much soul searching, self- and other-truth telling and hard work, my life eventually moved forward toward reaching the goals I set for myself prior to my breakdown and the new goals I’ve set since.
With God’s grace, I eventually divorced and found my husband and soulmate Robert, who has been with me for 35 years; birthed and raised two phenomenal young women Robin and Jennifer (who I was absolutely certain I couldn’t have because of the miscarriage, but God knew otherwise); welcomed to our family to spoil and love to distraction my grandchildren Shanum and Yahya; and earned three college degrees including a Ph.D. (when I despaired of finishing just one degree) and a professional career that amazes me!
I now live everyday thankful for my ups and my downs, but mostly for my life because the despair and pain led me to get the help that I needed to “live anyhow!”
(I’ve included information above for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you or someone you know needs help, please call them or seek local mental health resources. I owe my life to people who helped me find my way out of darkness so that I can share my experiences through this blog with you!)