I have no idea where I am going with this post, but I am moved to write, so you folks get to be the sounding board.
Over the past few days, on this site and in other places where I write, I have seen multiple confessions of suicide attempts along with others damning suicide.
There are themes that have run through my life that have caused me to believe/feel/suspect that I have a calling to address those issues. The first is the virgin/whore dichotomy, (my first name was Virginia on my birth certificate, after all).
The second can be summed up with #metoo.
The third is suicide. My first loss to suicide came when I was a sophomore in high school. I had a very vivid dream that my best friend had called me and asked me to come to her house to read what she’d written in her diary.
Her stepfather had picked me up and driven me to her house. The only visual I remember from the dream is looking at the dashboard of the truck as we pulled up in front of a garage. Then, I heard people running and screaming, “oh my god, she’s killed herself.”
I woke up very upset. I told my mom about my dream, then I called my friend and told her what I’d dreamed. She laughed at me. She told me that I was weird and that she didn’t even have a garage.
I’d had that dream on a Friday night. On Sunday, my mother read an obituary in the paper for the girl I walked to school with. She’d hung herself in her garage on Friday night.
At that point in my life, I was just beginning to recognize that I had unusually high levels of anxiety. Back then, kids my age didn’t really have a word for it. I just thought I was going crazy, or worse, I believed that the rapture was eminent, and God was warning me to get my heart right and to also get the hearts of my family right. My parents were using and dealing meth out of our house at the time.
As I’ve mentioned before, I married just out of high school because I’d succumbed to the sexual pressure my boyfriend had been putting on me for over a year. I knew on my wedding day that I would regret it. I prayed every day that God would make me happy and satisfied in my marriage. I prayed that I would love my husband the way a wife is supposed to love her husband.
What happened instead, was college. I began to see patterns of the oppression of women throughout history. Look at Michelangelo’s depictions of the creation of man vs. the creation of woman on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to get a good indication of how society viewed women, and how the church often still does.
I divorced my husband and shortly thereafter, he laid down in front of an oncoming train. I woke in the night sitting straight up in bed and knowing something awful had just happened. Before that, my dreams had always felt like a special gift to me. I never had another dream until 9/11.
People kept telling me that his death wasn’t my fault. Of course, it had been my fault. If I had stayed married to him, he’d still be alive. I’d be dead inside, but is that really such a heavy price to pay?
People kept telling me that I should be angry. I did eventually get angry, but never about his suicide. I imagine his decision was made in desperation. I imagine it was like his whole body was aflame. He didn’t think about the consequences of his actions, his only thought was to stop the pain. I hate that he chose what he did, but I am not angry with him for it.
I lost a student and more than one friend to suicide over the next several years. I could never wrap my head around it. I had struggled with depression and anxiety since before I had language to describe them. But it had always made me want to fight harder to live.
Then, just before I was to turn 40, my favorite professor from my favorite class in college reached out to me. We had exchanged letters and emails over the years, but this time, the exchange was more personal. I’d had a mad crush on him in college, so when I felt like things were blossoming between us, I thought I must’ve been dreaming.
We had a brief but passionate romance before he realized that the age difference was a bigger issue for him than it was for me (he was the same age as my mother). But in that time, we talked a lot about depression, and he confessed that he had seriously considered suicide just before he reached out to me.
Forty was about when my chronic illness really began to take hold. I went to the doctor for a stomach ailment that wouldn’t seem to go away. The doctor told me he thought it was X and sent me to the ER. They did a CT at the ER and told me that I had a large mass on my ovary, and that there were inflamed lymph-nodes all throughout my body. “We think it’s cancer.”
I had recently lost my job and my car had been repossessed. I was driving this $400 special whose hood would fly up if I didn’t put a padlock through a hole that had been through the hood. I was pulled over on the way home for not having current registration, which I couldn’t do because the beast wouldn’t pass smog.
Then I went home and stewed for six weeks while I waited for the doctors to give me a treatment plan. I was running triple digit fevers that entire time. I had an alarm set on my phone to remind me to take ibuprofen every six hours to keep the fever down. I coughed all the time, and frequently vomited or urinated on myself. My house was a mess and my dogs were neglected, and I had no one to help me.
One morning, I woke up to find that on top of everything else, I had strep throat. I sat on the edge of my bed, that morning, and understood. Dying would be easier than this. I wouldn’t hurt anymore. I wouldn’t burden anyone with my problems. Someone would take care of my animals. This is no life.
Fast Forward to today: It wasn’t cancer. It was an ovarian abscess. The process led to the diagnosis of a Primary Immune Disorder called CVID.
I am permanently disabled, but I am so loved, and had I checked out at that moment, I’d never have learned how loved I am. I’d never have met my fiancé, who is absolutely 100% the man of my dreams.
So, I guess the point of this is that I’ve seen suicide from pretty much all angles. I know that none of the lip service that people give like, “It’ll get better,” or “You’re stronger than this,” are going to help a person in the throes of suicidal thinking.
My advice would be to make depression/anxiety/suicidal thoughts your enemy. Give them an evil name like Voldemort or Dementors, or Death Eaters or Delores (yes, you are noticing a Harry Potter theme). Then when they get you down, stop blaming yourself. Blame Voldemort. Tell Voldemort to fuck off. You won’t let him win.
I named my abscess Thelma. We fixed Thelma, good. We made her sorry she messed with me. I still struggle with the dementors, but, as you probably know, chocolate helps. So does counseling or having a good friend to talk to.
I’ll gladly be that friend.
And this concludes my Thanksgiving Morning essay. Be blessed.