i accidentally survived suicide – the stigma around mental health can be deadly
October 24, 2016
TW: suicide, mental health
In August of 2015, a father came home to every parent’s worst nightmare:
The unresponsive body of his twenty-six year old daughter, naked, and lying in a pool of her own pink, red and white vomit, with the music list of her phone deleted to just two songs set to repeat over, and over, and over again:
“Center Of The Sun” by Conjure One (skip to 1:55), and “Breaking The Habit” by Linkin Park.
By Jacqueline-Elizabeth, AFROPUNK Contributor*
And, addressed to him, her mother, her stepmother, her younger sister, her very best friends, and the lost love of her life, all of whom, she’d taken for granted:
A six-page suicide letter detailing how much she “hated” every, single, last one of them for “abandoning” her, but that they could take genuine solace in knowing that however she may have hated them, she hated no one else as venomously as she did herself.
“My life force is one that drains from others, instead of gives, and I’ve brought nothing but pain and suffering to those around me.”
This was the only way; she rationalized. She truly believed suicide was the only way to protect them–and herself– from the monstrosity she was, and had always been.
“I have to do this. I have to go away. So that I can keep you all safe; I don’t trust myself. I never did. I’m terrified of myself. This is the last time I’ll hurt you guys ever again,” the note read as it drew to a conclusion. “And soon, you’ll go on with life knowing you no longer have to live in fear of me as I do of myself daily.”
Imagine my horror when I woke up in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) seven or eight hours later.
I say “horror”, and not “surprise”, because there was only thing going through my head at the time:
Am I truly so much of a failure and fuck up that I couldn’t even kill myself properly? Failing at life is one thing; failing at death makes you feel as though your existence is so full of fail that not even Jesus wants to have to deal with you.
Sitting at my bedside was my Stepmother. At the foot of the bed, standing there, with eyes red, vacant, and lost, was my father.
I’ll always hate myself for what I put him (and everyone else) through. He’s a great man; he’s a wonderful father. He didn’t deserve having to come home to such a sight.
A deafening silence filled the room.
My father turned his head to glance at my Stepmother, of whose eyes were locked with my own.
At the time, I thought she was disgusted with me; surely, she had to have known what I said about her in my suicide note, just as every bit as my dad knew what I’d said about him.
It would take me an entire year, as in, very recently, to finally understand her expression and recognize it as true despair.
She’s my Mother. I can hardly fathom just how deeply she loves me. It takes everything a woman has to put up with children who aren’t her own.
But to love them and raise them?
To calmly handle every, single shred of drama with dignity, selflessly sacrifice herself in every way possible time, and time, and time again, and at the end of the day, still says: “I love you” at the ending of every phone call; every departure and arrival, and always welcomes you home with that same smile on her face?
That’s not a stepmother. That’s a Mother.
And she felt just as any mother would feel upon seeing the daughter she’s raised and loved for over twenty-six years, laying in a hospital bed in the ICU, attached to IVs; only to have with that very same daughter glaring at her out of cold, numb, and listless eyes.
I didn’t know that at the time.
Actually, I didn’t know or feel anything else in that moment, except a cold numbness resonating deep from within me that shattered like precious crystal upon concrete over what happened next:
My parents asked me “Why”.
I could barely whisper; my throat was raw, my mouth was dry, and I could still taste hints of the nauseating coating of the countless cocktail of pills I’d chased with vodka, even seven hours later.
So, that my next words came out in a rush of rage-fueled shrieking and crying genuinely took everyone within a ten mile radius of my raspy voice by complete surprise–myself included.
“WHY?!? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN WHY?!?!?!? FUCK YOU AND YOUR “WHY”; Why am I still fucking here? What the fuck have you done?”
That’s right; I was livid with my father for having the audacity to save this life of mine I no longer wanted, nor did I ever ask for. But nothing infuriated me more than them asking me why.
Since my first suicide attempt at nine, I have tried very, very, very hard to explain to my family and friends that there was something deeply wrong with me.
In retrospect, the signs of mental and emotional instability (or “quirkiness”, as the people around me preferred to refer to it as) were glaringly obvious in my childhood, and a good chunk of the reason as to why their “Why?” sent me into a rage unlike anything I’d honestly experienced up until that moment.
There is nothing more terrifying to a young child than being so self-aware of the fact that you know there is everything wrong with you, only to have people deny it (more for their benefit than yours), and make you believe you’re fine, but you don’t feel fine, so you have to pretend to be fine like everyone says you are.
Maybe I was fine.
Maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough like they said.
That worsened the problem, because if there’s supposedly “nothing” wrong with you, then you never see a reason to reach out, and if you do, they snatch away their hands, use it to cover their ears, and liken your issues to “quirks” that you’re expected to grow out of.
But you never do.
So, the unresolved issues continue to pile up. And you continue to pretend you’re fine. You keep up that mask until you become it.
Your emotions no longer come naturally to you; they become what are known as “manufactured emotions”, and making a conscious effort to keep up the façade that you even have emotions when you don’t is completely counterintuitive of what it means to have emotions and be human.
You question yourself daily over the validity of your emotions; your thoughts.
The older you get, the further away your natural emotions become, and before long, you’re left with apathy as your only genuine baseline emotion.
You don’t feel human, so you have to make yourself cling to the illusion that you are:
You cut yourself to feel pain.
You forcing yourself to watch sad movies because you can no longer cry on your own. You cry because you don’t feel human; you cry because you have no idea if the tears spilling down your face are genuine.
You allow yourself to be used physically and sexually by giving in to instinctual you believe certainly every human has, and you reinforce your existence through connecting your body to another human being’s regardless of if you experience sexual gratification or not.
You have to pretend to be interested in what’s going on around you. You pretend to feel sadness at the death of a loved one instead of not really caring.
You terrifyingly pretend to love the people closest to you without letting them onto the fact you have no idea how to love because you have long since stopped generating genuine feelings about twenty-plus years ago.
To paraphrase Allie Brosh: “There’s a difference between not giving a fuck, and not being able to give a fuck.”
Still, so long as you’re relatively decent enough at pretending you can, it’s a good cover. For a little while, anyway.
Everyone around you continues to tell you you’re fine, or accuses you of being dramatic, and that you just need to “try harder”.
Until, finally, you just don’t want to try anymore than they want to understand.
We as human beings tend to believe the concept of “insanity” is just an overdramatized, supposedly impossible extreme reaction often likened to hysteria, or a farcical state of mind that, yeah, you’ve heard of, and you think you know what it’s about.
That is, until you literally experience what it is like to truly go insane, and you discover that unlike Narnia, it’s a very real place, and sure, while I’m certain it’s shocking to–and for–those who are witnessing it from the outside watching on, it’s terrifying for the person experiencing it.
Suddenly, you have all of these emotions coming out of nowhere, zero clue as to what to label them, and no idea how to stop them.
That’s why I Lost. It. Completely. when my parents, and later, closest family and friends, asked me “why”. At the time, I could not believe they had the audacity and a half to stand there acting like this was a complete surprise to them.
At the time, I likened it to wondering what the weather is going to be like a month from now, checking reliable weather sources, all of which say that there’s going to be a storm, while throwing out hints that the storm is on its way.
And it’s not slowing down; it’s evolving into a category twelve hurricane.
So, you do the logical thing of planning an expensive outdoor event for the date you know it’s supposed to storm, and then get furious with the weatherman and Jesus because it’s raining, as if you were caught totally unawares.
Add to the fact that I was certain they were aware of the fact that if a family member has committed suicide, there’s a high chance of someone else committing suicide as well.
In my case, it was my maternal Grandmother who committed suicide by way of overdosing herself on Tylenol in what will have been ten years ago come this November.
At the time, I was insulted because they believed they had the right to feel shocked and insulted; and I was offended by the fact that they believed they had the gall to be offended.
That was all it took to catapult me into a lot of (ineffective) bedbound thrashing, shrieking, and some back and forth blaming.
After that, the rest sort of blends together in a nonlinear blur, because whilst in the midst of my emotionally and psychologically unhinged maelstrom, I’d accidentally ripped out my IV.
Not that I had noticed it at the time; I was entirely too preoccupied with being an obscenity-shrieking, one-woman mosh pit and screaming at my parents to leave to notice a completely inconsequential thing such as bleeding all of the place like the Black Knight from Monty Python.
It was the very first time in my long-standing history of psychological hospitalizations–from ages nine and upwards–that I had ever been put into restraints.
And. I’m rather certain the staff realized –in hindsight, as is so often the case in terms of needing impromptu ideas on the fly– that while it might have been a bit unorthodox in regards to protocol, sedating me prior trying to put me into said restraints might have been a bit less riskier than having two or three burly nurses and orderlies holding me down first.
A bite-guard probably would have helped immensely as well, given I valiantly tried Tyson’ing whomever was unfortunate enough to be within teeth-reach, because by God, if I had to be involuntarily strapped down to a bed for an indefinite amount of time, and for reasons that had diddley to do with my sexual kinks, someone’s appendage was staying behind with me in this final, undignified act of inglorious defiance of the “Screw You” variety.
I remained in the ICU for another week-plus before being declared stable (“stable”, she says) enough to be discharged into the psychiatric unit where I remained hospitalized for a full month and a half before being discharged.
Less than a month later, I was right back in the hospital.
It needs to be said: just because someone gets the “OK” to go home, or “doesn’t look sick” it doesn’t mean they are “OK” or “fixed” anymore than it reflects their illness, and there is no one else who has to accept this fact more than the patient themselves.
Chronic emotional and psychological wounds aren’t like physical wounds, such as breaking your arm, for example.
I’m sure it’s a lovely sentiment to compare the two in the philosophical sense that broken bones heal stronger than before, and broken emotions and states of mind are capable of doing the same thing.
The problem that makes this analogy so philosophically unsound is that, while you can’t predict when you’re going to break your arm, you are generally given a timeframe as to how long it’ll take to heal, depending on how bad the fracture is.
With mental and emotional fractures, you never really get the luxury of knowing when you’ll be back up on your feet again, or if you ever will.
They take years and even lifetimes to treat (once you start treating them properly, that is), and even with all of the medication in the world, you never quite know where the damage ends and the healing begins. And a single backpeddle can feel like the end of the world.
I really don’t know what the future holds. Every day is very touch and go. One minute I could be loving life and twerking on sunshine, and the next, I’m locked away in my apartment for weeks upon weeks, wondering if it’s all worth it, and abusing myself mentally and emotionally over those I’ve hurt and those I’ve lost.
That said, I hope that all of my friends, my family members, strangers I don’t know, and every, single reader who comes across this can promise me something:
If, one day, things ever get too overbearing for me, and I actually do succeed in committing suicide, I want you to never sugarcoat my death; let everyone know exactly what I did, how I did it, and why.
It’s far more harmful and dangerous than you realize to ignore the mental and emotional health of a loved one, or even yourself, just because it’s “uncomfortable” to discuss, than it is to acknowledge, accept, understand, and support someone who will likely have suicidal ideations (even if they are never acted upon) for the rest of their lives.
*Chicago-born and raised Androgynous AltModel and Pokemon Master, Jacqueline-Elizabeth (AKA Kurosune Suicide / JaxJax Attaxx of the SuicideGirls, and Cosplay Deviants) developed a lifelong love of reading and writing at ages two and three, scored her first big writing gig as Nerdy But Flirty’s first, Black writer, and was later recruited by the Jace Hall Show (now TwinGalaxiesLive!) as also not only their first Black writer, but their first female one as well.
Her interests include watching anime, cosplaying, modeling, reading manga, gaming, 420 shenanigans, surfing, increasing her number of tattoos, rainy days in bed journaling, and writing about anime, manga, and hentai for Jamie Broadnax’s site, BlackGirlNerds.com
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