What could’ve been

Last month someone close to me attempted suicide.

Maybe you noticed I didn’t write much during that time, maybe not. It’s been easier to write about crusty old scabbed over wounds than the ones currently tearing open my flesh. But now I’m ready to jump back into the flames of the fire that consumes me and threatens the very walls of my foundation.

Part of it I blame myself. I was where I spent most of my life, in survival mode. I was consumed by everything going on with my dad. It’s very bad and it sucked every ounce of energy, joy and peace out of my life. I thought about it every day and every night much like we are thinking about the corona virus. There is not a day that goes by we can completely purge this crisis from our minds.

I didn’t notice anything was wrong. If I did, I dismissed it as superficial (not as bad as what I was going through with my dad). When you are drowning, you tend not to notice if someone else is going too deep.

This person took a handful of pills and settled into bed for their last peaceful slumber. But it wasn’t like that, peaceful. Their life passed before their eyes taking a nightmarish turn. What have I done? Terror coursed through their veins as they struggled to purge the pills. Then they reached out for help.

When I found out, I screamed wildly with rage. I kicked the garbage can and assaulted the contents within. I wanted to put my fist through the wall, but restrained myself. For a few days after, my logic brain shut down. I forgot what day it was. I couldn’t process things in my mind that before I did with ease. My strong suit of structure shut down. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. Fear coursed through me day and night making it nearly impossible to sleep.

I felt angry with my dad. After what he did, I didn’t think I would ever smile again. Did this person think I was angry with them because of my reaction to my dad? I pushed everyone away. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize they needed help until it was almost too late.

I’m not going to lie, this past year has been tremendously difficult. What little joy remained within me was destroyed after the suicide attempt.

I feel like the mistakes of others are ruining my life. My childhood was ruined and is not salvageable. I tried really hard not to let the things other people do ruin my life, but it is easier said than done. If I am going to wallow in despair my whole life from the mistakes of other people, I might as well just screw up my life myself.

I can’t bear the weight of this anymore. Have it back. I don’t want it. Call me selfish, but I just want to worry about myself.

Thankfully this person realized they made a mistake to try to end their life. They are now getting the help they need. But still my mind wanders to what might have been. What would life be like if this person was not around? It would be horrible to find them dead.  Gone forever. There is much sorrow in thinking of what might’ve been. Thankfully this is not how their story ends. If nothing else, I can take comfort in that.

When fear calls

I called my daughter that Sunday morning right before church started.

She was worried about suicide…or murder/suicide. After everything that happened, I shared her concern. What could I do about it?

I had been scheduled to sing that morning with the worship team. I ended the call abruptly as I saw everyone head up to sing.

I worried. Maybe this is good-bye. Maybe I will never see my parents again. It’s a horrible feeling especially when I had to act happy and sing on a live recorded feed. I felt so fake.

Smile! I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out. I started shaking. Smile. This could be the last day he is alive, they are alive. My God, the horror. Twenty minutes later, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Everything in my body told me to run off the stage. Flee. I had to stay. Everyone was watching me, in church and even online.

Maybe they would think I was having stage fright. I wish that was all it was. I couldn’t tell anybody. I wanted to drive out to the house. But the day before the car broke down, the only one free that afternoon. Plus I was asked not to because my family didn’t feel like it was safe.

I wanted to ask for prayer that day. But my husband was not in church that morning. He got asked by a friend of mine to help her out with something in place of her husband who spent the night in jail. I told him that helping out someone in need was more important than attending church. He agreed.

Shallow, I suppose. If I left the stage for prayer, it would be obvious. Then people might wonder if I was having problems with my husband because he wasn’t there. It could be misconstrued and gossiped about. I didn’t want that.

I called my brother Luke when I got home. Although he was treated the worst by our dad, he was the first to try to pull dad out of the grave he dug. That day my mom took my brother Matt back to his group home and stayed with us for several days. I made sure the doors were locked and became hyper-vigilant to signs of trouble.

Sometimes I wish my only stress was worrying about the holidays. The simple worries of getting that perfect gift. I couldn’t even think. Or worrying about hosting parties with special diets. Or having 4 teenagers in my house. Anything but this.

We are all worried. You’ve been depressed, suicidal before. Now you have a reason to end it all. Is this the only way your heart will change? Will your curses to God change to cries for help? Maybe this is the only way. But it’s not what I wanted for you, for the rest of us.

It’s been a month since I initially wrote this. I feel anxious. Tomorrow I will be singing on the worship team for the first time since this happened. I don’t want to do it anymore because it is triggering my feelings of fear. I understand why people seek isolation in times of despair. So many seemingly innocent things trigger bad feelings and memories associated with them. I’ve been trying to see my world as it really is but at times it is utterly terrifying and I question everything I blindly believed before.

Notes on music

Things went well this past weekend with my daughter Angel’s singing competition. She made it to the semi-finals. Although she didn’t make it to the final round, she was satisfied with her performance. Being satisfied with her performance was big. She is like her mother and tends to cut herself down if she makes mistakes. Plus earlier in the week she told me that she wasn’t doing it. She had tonsillitis and was not able to practice much.

We didn’t run into any of her previous stalkers on campus which was a plus. The biggest problem she encountered was on her way there. Her map wasn’t working on her phone and she got lost. I had to find her on my phone’s map and give her directions from where I thought she was which was no easy task in the dark in a strange town.

I checked into the hotel a long time before she arrived. I checked in at the same time as her singing professor whom I greeted in a very friendly manner. He didn’t recognize me and I was hoping that he didn’t think I was a lady of the night.

 

We ended up eating supper after 9 PM. It was great watching Angel perform. I think the visit will tide her over until she comes home at Thanksgiving. This is the longest she has been away from home and she was starting to feel homesick.

Then Paul and I returned back to the same college yesterday with Alex for a campus tour. His girlfriend also attended the tour. Alex and Baylee have been dating for almost a year and a half. They have been talking about going to the same college. We think that if they go to the same school they might get married someday.. Time will tell. I thought that Angel and Mitch would marry, but they broke up this year.

Alex wants to go to school for saxophone performance or possibly jazz studies. My oldest two children want to or are going to school for music performance and don’t want to be educators.. There will always be a spot open for them in my basement.. Although very talented, the likelihood of them both having a successful career as performers is slim. I always like it when people ask me what their backup plan is…My basement, that is their backup plan.

I remember when I bought Alex his saxophone. I bought the instrument used for half the price of a new one. New saxophones are pricey and I didn’t want it to end up collecting dust on the shelf after high school ended.

I went to a stranger’s house to purchase the instrument. She kept all of the receipts. She told me that her son lost interest in band. A few months after I purchased the instrument for my son, her son committed suicide. It was a strange feeling. Was the selling of his instrument a warning sign that he was losing interest in his hobbies? It was very sad. My son asked me afterwards if I bought the instrument from the boy that died. I did not lie.

I was afraid that my son would find playing the instrument distasteful after that, but he brought the instrument to life. Many years later, my son wants to take this instrument with him far into his future. I want the previous owners to know that this instrument that once belonged to their only son did not end up on a shelf somewhere. But maybe through it a small piece of his life is carrying on…

 

Depression, my old friend

In response to my neighbor’s suicide…

I understand your struggle…

When I grew up, my childhood was very difficult. It was so difficult that the big people in my life could barely cope with the circumstances that they had to deal with. In early childhood I developed two friendships to help me cope, depression and anxiety.

Depression was a close friend of the family. My dad made friends with depression too. Sometimes when the house was really quiet, I was afraid of what he might do. My brother Mark found friendship with depression too. When he was a teen, my mom found several nooses in the tree. I knew the temptation. I knew the struggle.

In late childhood, I tried to break my friendship with depression but she fell in love with me.

When I became an adult, I learned how to live with my friend. I kept myself very busy so I wouldn’t have time for my friend to visit. I worked harder and harder. When my friend noticed I was free, she would visit me.

Have you ever been suicidal before? Do you know what it is like to be that depressed? I do. It is very frightening. Thoughts and images popping into my head of my own demise over and over again. Me in the bathtub with slashed wrists. Driving very fast into a tree. A loaded gun. An empty bottle of pills. Horrible, intrusive thoughts that invade my mind unwanted. The more I try to push my friend away, the more she clings.

Over time I learned how to cope with having a difficult friend. I am a workaholic. Keeping busy keeps her away. I have a strong faith that exorcises my demons. I try to outrun my demons by running 100 miles a month. I take massive doses of vitamin D over the winter months. I try to have something to look forward to. I find the support of family and close friends who have survived difficult times.

What can others do to help that haven’t experienced it? Listen without condemnation. Allow venting, even if it means listening to things you don’t want to hear. Don’t tell them to get over it even if it has been several years since they experienced the initial pain. Sometimes being a good friend is encouraging others to seek professional help.

Does that mean that I no longer get depressed? No. Sometimes when I go through hard times, my friend comes back to help me. A few months ago when I was having difficulties with my son, she visited me for awhile. I spent a long time staring off into space. This is very hard to explain, but when I stared off into space I felt peaceful. When you sink down low enough, sometimes you feel so empty that even the pain is gone. It is a very alluring trap. I had to pull myself out of that dark void. I feel sorry for those that struggle to break free.

Over the years, I learned a few things about my friend. It is okay to feel sad. Sometimes the negative feelings in our life motivate change. During difficult times and emotions, I tell myself that the feelings will pass. I also tell myself over and over that I have felt this way before and survived it. I know how to cope, how to get through.

I am trying hard to face all of the feelings that were locked away for so many years. Writing has been very therapeutic. Maybe if I write honestly about my experiences and struggles, then others won’t feel so all alone. I am okay. You will be okay too. Find a way to cope. Be understanding toward others that struggle. Maybe it will prevent one more unnecessary death.

Same road, different paths

A few days ago, my neighbor committed suicide.

This past week after my kids got home from school, Angel told me that she thought something was wrong. “Mom, there are a lot of cars in the neighbor’s driveway. There is also a police car in the driveway. He never had that many cars in his driveway, even for Christmas or Easter.” I looked over that way in curiosity, but dismissed any concerns because I saw the neighbor the day before and he was fine.

It all started a couple of houses down a couple of months before. Our neighbor had a rummage sale on a cool fall weekend. He told us that his wife of over 20 years left him for another man. They never had children, but were delighted to see ours when we stopped by year after year on Halloween. We looked through his rummage sale of broken dreams. He sold empty picture frames where wedding pictures, happy moments, and vacations used to be. He sold games, his and her costumes, wine glasses, and kitchen items. Then after that weekend, the driveway was empty up until a few days ago.

 I frequently saw our neighbor out on the road. When we first moved here, he walked his two dogs by our house. Then after awhile, he walked with one dog. That dog would walk slowly and the man would wait patiently. Then after awhile, the man walked by himself. He was a large man and every time he went by my dog would bark. He walked in all kinds of weather sometimes with weights. He wore a blaze orange hat. Every time he saw me he was friendly. He noticed when I ran longer runs and asked if was training for something special. I told him about the marathon. He wished me luck.

There are a couple of people that I see often while running and he was one of them. I spoke to him a few weeks back. I think it was about the weather. I told him that I couldn’t wait for warmer days as I ran by. Then I saw him the day before he died. We were going in separate directions on the same road. 

I feel sad that he was so lonely and unhappy that he took his life. I will miss seeing him on the road.