I wrote this blog post on December 23 but thought it best not to post it until after the holiday had come and gone.
19 years ago today I tried to kill myself. It was the only time I would do so, unless you count a decade of drug and alcohol abuse. It wouldn’t be the last time I would want to, but it was the last time I was brave enough to try. I was 14.
I took a bottle of aspirin. People laugh when I tell them that now. It is funny, I suppose, thinking a bottle of aspirin would be able to kill someone, but this was an era before information on how to kill yourself was readily available on the internet.
Most of that age is a blur, save a few reserved memories that are very clear. I don’t know the span of days or months from which these memories are pulled. A month, a year, who knows? I don’t remember much but this…
I remember my mother picking me up at school, crying, wanting to know if the confession my father had just made was true. It was. I remember her letting him come home after a few days. I remember doing dishes and him sitting at the kitchen table. I remember being upset and feeling awkward.
I remember being left in charge of my younger brother, who had just turned two, when my mother went to the hospital to give birth to my youngest sister. My older brother stayed shut away in his room. I remember scanning the cupboard that held various family medications, but don’t remember what I was thinking, how my mind got to that place. I remember kissing my younger brother goodnight when I put him to bed, thinking I would never see him again and that I would miss him very much. It was a tough goodbye.
I came downstairs and lined up the contents of the aspirin bottle, one by one, around the perimeter of the lamp stand. I sat in the rocking chair with a glass of water and took them, all, one by one. I went to bed thinking I would never wake up again. I fell asleep. Surreal.
I woke up. And how. A startling, sit up straight while vomiting wake up. I remember thinking that this is what it felt like to die and that I suddenly didn’t want to. My father had come home from the hospital sometime during the night, I guess, but I passed his room and went downstairs to wake up my brother. I don’t remember what I said to him but I know he told me drink milk. I tried, while he went upstairs to get dad. It didn’t go well.
Dad came downstairs and stared at me for a long time, scowling. He said, “That was stupid”, and “I guess I’d better bring you to the hospital, or your mother is going to be pissed.” I’m sure he said other things, but I don’t remember them. He was disgusted with me, disgusted by me.
He brought me to the hospital. I was certain I would die, I couldn’t believe how painful it was to be that sick. I remember being struck by the change in my father’s nature when we reached the door to the emergency room, he was so protective suddenly, arm around my shoulders, consoling. I thought he’d had a change of heart, I remember feeling encouraged. I was a fool.
Fading in and out again, not sure what happened next. Memories come in flashes, a doctor(?) leans in and says ‘why would you do this, you are so beautiful’. I’m sure I’d been told I was beautiful before, isn’t everyone? But it had never meant more than it did in that moment, covered in vomit and charcoal.
Aunt Kathe and a fluffy white, stuffed something-or-other… I won’t let it go. Mom’s there, she seems mad … I have to stay, I have to talk to a psychiatrist … I’d better not tell him anything about what happened at home. I talk to the psychiatrist, I say nothing… He thinks I should stay. Mom’s back, wants to know what I said to the psychiatrist… I said nothing. They’re signing me out and taking me home. I want to stay at the hospital… I don’t say anything.
We told the rest of the family I’d had a stomach problem but was just fine now. I remember talking to Aunt Kathe when she came to visit. I don’t remember what we talked about but I think it made Mom mad. The minister from the church we attended came to see me. I can’t remember what it was he said to me exactly but I remember something about how “grownups make mistakes”.
I remember being called into the living room, and told to close the door. It was our impromptu conference room. I remember the lecture. What I did was inconsiderate and stupid. Did I realize the ramifications of causing my mom to sign out of the hospital early to come and see me in another one? She would never get back those precious first days with her newborn daughter, those were gone forever. How could I do this to them? How could I be so selfish? I needed to apologize. To both of them.
I was numb. I apologized. It was not to be mentioned again. For the sake of the family, do not mention it again.
I say all of that to say this: not everything is a product of disease. Some of the experiences in my life made me who I am today. While bipolar is a disease that I can’t fully control, wounding of this nature, and the scars left behind, are a different matter; they can be overcome. Healing can be achieved. If the truth is told.
Sometimes it’s good to remember that the root of some things lie outside of myself, which means the answers do to.