The suicide Game

I’m sitting in the eye doctor office waiting for my oldest daughter to finish her appointment. People walk past me. Patients sit across from me. But they would never know.

I’m tired. No, nix that. I’m depleted. I pulled my hair up in a presentable bun. Threw on some “good enough” clothes of jeans and a short sleeve black sweater. Tossed on my sensible flats even though nothing in my life seems all that sensible.

My husband stayed home. Thank God. I couldn’t have survived this day if he didn’t.

We both tried to resume some sense of normalcy. I ran to the store this morning to get donuts. Maybe copious amounts of sugar will make this day less awkward.

No, not really.

Yesterday my middle child sent me a text at 7pm telling me how she should’ve tried harder. The text was sent 7 minutes before. I instantly knew what that meant but was I too late? Just moments before I heard the water in the shower running. I didn’t know what I’d see on the other side of the door. I wiggled the handle but it was locked. I pushed on it as hard as I could and it popped open. My daughter was in the bathtub full of water, fully clothed with cuts up and down her arm. They were mostly shallow cuts.

My body started shaking. I could only express anger. “What the hell??” I managed to yell at her. She sat there sobbing.

The next hours were spent contemplating hospitalization or something else. We talked to her psychiatrist who said we didn’t need to hospitalize her unless she was unsafe. She wasn’t. We have done this 2 other times, once in a hospital. We knew to hide everything and to watch her like a hawk.

She was angry but wouldn’t say why. I knew that once her anger subsided, we’d be better off but sometimes her anger didn’t go away until the next day. So she treated her dad and I like monsters and then fell asleep. Usually we have approached this with lots of empathy, patience, and coddling but last night, I was done with that. I told her exactly how all of this made her dad and I feel and what would happen to us if she succeeded. She needed to hear it. And I figured all the empathy and egg shell walking hadn’t prevented a thing.

It seemed as if we had jumped back in time to a year ago. Nothing had seemed to improve despite all the damn therapy, drugs, hospitalizations, and doctor visits. We have gone broke trying to make her happy. And I’m sorry if I’m insensitive, but no one gives a fuck about the people who have to deal with this day in and day out. Everyone is concerned for her which they should be! But no one seems to care about the toll it takes on me, on her siblings, or on her dad. No one understands the cloud of shame, the anxiety from being on high alert, the inability to share what really hurts (because who can understand this?), the level of secrecy her siblings must have, and the days where we just don’t function that well. It’s like being in a war zone, all the time. Every counselor we speak to, every social worker, doctor, nurse, or psychiatrist is paid to help her. I’m glad they try. But who is there to help the rest of us?

Our time and energy is spent keeping her alive. We maneuver our lives so she can’t possibly end hers. We deplete ourselves trying to make her happy, but we become miserable. Her pain and agony become ours. There is no individual pain when it comes to mental health. Behind every depressed, suffering person is a family of people who suffer with them. Or die trying.

And yet through all of it, we are told things like we can’t give up hope, we have to fight, we can’t detach, we have to have empathy and show concern, we need to be rocks and never waiver.

Who can do all that, honestly? Who can lose hours of sleep, their own sense of sanity, and not turn bitter, angry, and depressed themselves?

Of course, I keep fighting (for someone who won’t fight for themselves) and trying (even though giving up sounds less painful). But I’m also angry and ridiculously fed up with this game. It’s becoming rather predictable. The ending, I still fear, because that part is always a mystery. I can’t know whether her cries for help are feigned suicide attempts or not. To guess wrong might end up in terrible regret. So I’m a puppet on her string, being pulled this way and that, tossed in a box and pulled back out for the show. This is my reality. It’s how I feel.

And the show must go on. But I don’t know how long I can keep going. It’s nothing but pure emotional torture and I’m exhausted. Sometimes I think a cancer diagnosis would be a relief. Life is hard when you feel like you are not in control of your own life anymore.

My life has become a series of power plays and coercive manipulation. How do I get my life back? How do I do it without causing great harm? That is my cunundrum.

There are no easy answers. I keep looking though.

She is in better spirits today. I sigh. This is the temporary relief in the raging storm of depression. I don’t know if it’s game, but I’m so tired of playing.


Fighting Depression

Trigger warning: If you struggle with depression or suicide, please don’t read this post as it may be a trigger for you.

I feel on edge this week. News of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain is heart wrenching. Today I read a post on facebook about the importance of checking up on people even if they seem fine. Kate Spade talked to her father just hours before her death and seemed happy. Sometimes it seems that the solution to check in isn’t always the help a person needs.

I have such sad feelings about this topic. My brother committed suicide in 1995. No one knew he was even depressed. Mental illness wasn’t talked about as much back then, although the year before, Kurt Cobain took his life and that made headline news. But, it was still hush hush in most circles. We certainly didn’t discuss it in our family. Church people thought people took their life due to sin, Satan, or bad lyrics in music pulluting the mind. All are ridiculous assumptions but that didn’t stop their words from hurting my family a second time.

Twenty plus years later I still feel the monster beating at my door. My daughter struggles daily with depression. I hate how dark things get for her. And the battle to find solutions seem to only work in part. Being in church made things worse for her. She felt even less human. Christians still view depression as a sin issue. I am not sure she’d ever feel loved in a church setting.

I wake up often with anxiety and struggle with panic attacks. I know I can’t control everything. I fight so hard to get her help, to support her, to keep her from dying. Some days it feels like she is slipping away. Some days it is like she doesn’t have depression. I start to battle my own feelings of hopelessness. And other days I’m fine.

Reading about these celebrities makes my heart ache. My daughter says she doesn’t want to live her entire life with depression. She says she doesn’t want to be my age and still struggle with these thoughts. But I can’t guarantee she won’t. I can only tell her to focus on this day. Can I blame these celebrities for giving up when I see just how much my teen struggles? I wonder if someday I’ll be the one saying “I just talked to her. She seemed so happy.”

That thought kills me.

I know what it does to a family to bury one of their own, thinking if they could have just done more, things would have turned out better. I know what people say, what they think, and all the after effects of suicide. I know that those left behind struggle with their own hell.

The truth is that we can only do so much. And as hard as it is to realize, sometimes a person can live their whole life fighting a disease and will die. We see this with cancer or heart problems or other more acceptable forms of an illness. But with suicide, we try to place blame on the family or on the person who took their life. Maybe we should look at it another way.

If a person has cancer, should we blame it on them for dying? Is it the family’s fault for not doing enough? Or maybe, we can agree that it is the disease and it’s no one’s fault.

I will fight… I don’t want regrets or to say I could have done more. And I hope with help my daughter survives. But I also know the possibility remains that I will lose her. If celebrities have money and access to help, support, and services yet still die, we know that it isn’t that we should’ve done more. How can we fight against a person’s own mind and the darkness they become experts at hiding?

Sometimes some things are beyond our control. And that’s the hardest truth to embrace in this life. All we can do is try but the results are not in our hands.

With help, many people do survive and live wonderful lives but the tragic fact of suicide dampens this fact. I hold on to hope in the stories of countless people who fight and live and go on to bring light into this world because they have a perspective others lack. Depression sucks but I have hope in the people who fight it and are stronger for doing so. Their light and strength help us to keep fighting this deadly disease.