I just read that September is National Suicide Prevention Month. That combined with some recent song releases like Kesha’s “Praying” & a couple others, it has me thinking of some of my personal battles & growth.
In the past, I haven’t talked much about this part of my life. Mostly because I didn’t want to appear flawed, feel less than or embarrassed. I felt the need to look perfect to others.
Over the last couple years, I have slowly been more comfortable being vulnerable & open about even the things I am not proud of. I am not who I was 10 years ago, I have learned from it though. If this can help anyone give suicide a second thought than I don’t mind being an open book.
Growing up, I always thought suicidal thoughts only happened to broken people & that you could spot them without even really knowing them based off their angsty look. Later on I realized there is no “look” for someone with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. Most of the time you would never know. I wasn’t particularly religious either so I was just raised to think that suicide was extremely hurtful to those left behind & a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Fast forward to my early twenties, I had been in a relationship for about 4 years with a man who never laid a hand on me to hurt me but spent all that time telling me I was crazy. That when he did something wrong & I called him on it, I was told that it was all in my head & everyone else would agree with him. We worked the same shift at the same job, he controlled the finances & the job itself was a call center of customers yelling at you all day. There was just so much emotional abuse that I became a ball of nerves. I lost weight, I had ulcers, I wasn’t eating because I was nauseous all the time from the anxiety.
But here is the thing, I hid it. I hid it well enough that even my parents had no idea how bad it was. To most people we looked like a happy Barbie & Ken. We had gotten engaged within 6 months of dating & that engagement lasted 4 years until we had the money saved for our wedding. I was stalling but I never spoke up to actually say no to the wedding. I thought if I called off the wedding, I would have to explain why & I wasn’t ready to leave. I hadn’t reached my breaking point. He had made the idea of me supporting myself & making it in a life outside of our relationship seem impossible. Over time I believed him. It happens so slowly that you don’t realize you’ve lost your self-worth.
There were times that I was just in so much pain & yet numb that the idea of suicide started. I was ashamed & I buried it. It just kept lingering though. I feared being judged & shamed so I didn’t turn to the people that I could trust, like my family. That is the problem with these hidden & forbidden thoughts, whether it is suicide or thoughts of infidelity….the more you hide them the more they gain substance, grow & seem like an option. There was one night that I was just ready to not be in pain anymore & I was trying to commit suicide. Thankfully, I had a moment of clarity. I saw my family & the pain it would cause them, I loved them more than I loved myself & realized how selfish I was being. It scared the shit out of me.
Later on I admitted to my fiancé what I had tried to do. He told me that I was broken & there was something wrong with me. There was no empathy or even concern for the fact that he could’ve lost me. I quickly learned that I couldn’t be vulnerable or honest with him. The shame that I got from him hurt bad enough that I didn’t want to tell my family, their disappointment in me would have been too much. Looking back now, I realize that their empathy & loved would’ve healed & I didn’t even give them a chance to help me. It would be years later before I told them.
Here’s the thing I still can’t believe, after all this, I still married him. It felt like the ball was rolling & I thought I would give it a chance & see if he was nicer on the other side.
Boy was I wrong, during our honeymoon we were in Vegas & he did something abusive like he normally did. I realized I was stuck, it went off like a light bulb in my brain. That I was legally bound to him now & it was going to be much more complicated than just breaking up. In that moment, on that packed Vegas Strip I pulled away from him & I disappeared into the crowd & ran away. I called my Mom crying saying that I couldn’t do this & it was a huge mistake. I had reached my breaking point, I was done. She calmed me down & I made my way back to our hotel. The thing is, he never cared. He didn’t call me to see if I was alright. It had been a couple hours & he was just hanging out at the hotel piano bar chatting with people.
I began the journey over the next several months of both asking repeatedly for a divorce (which he refused) & slowly gaining my independence. I changed jobs, realizing how the anxiety & panic attacks disappeared until I had to go home to him. He was still in love with me & said that the only way he would agree to a divorce was if I cheated. So I did & he immediately gave me the divorce I had been asking for. In hindsight I regret cheating, it is not in my personality or morals to do so & I know that it really hurt him. No matter how much I disliked him at that point, nobody deserves that.
Ironically, I ended up trading an emotionally abusive relationship for a physically & emotionally abusive relationship with the next guy. But the next time I was smart enough to get out fast.
Over the next year or two I really had a lot of healing (a little floundering) & growing to do. I definitely was not always the best version of myself, but it was me & I was free. I had hard times in that first year, especially financially. But I was grateful & happy for the strength I had found.
Gradually I hit my stride. I had a good job, lovely apartment & a confidence in my independence. I was the most content I had ever been as an adult.
Then I met the man that would be my future husband. He started off for a while as my best friend & he knew me, the real me. He understood my trust issues & knew I would be hesitant to believe that he really was this genuinely good. That it wasn’t just a show. We eventually started dating & it was the best leap of faith that I ever took. I was very realistic this time around about marriage & knowing how important it is to have similar views on everything from money to raising kids. And we did.
We got married the fall of 2011 & he is truly my prince charming. Our marriage isn’t perfect because life isn’t above throwing curve balls. But we are on the same team & the other person’s happiness is more important than our own which really helps in disagreements lol.
After a tough pregnancy with 3 months of bedrest, we welcomed our son winter of 2013. My son & I had some complications during delivery & he had a brief stay in the NICU. I quickly realized that parenting is hard. Like really hard. You care more about that little baby than you ever thought possible. I had some post-partum baby blues I wasn’t willing to admit & also I have a hard time with things being messy or unpredictable. Anyone who is a parent knows that is kinda the definition of parenting.
As a parent my anxiety has returned some. Not anywhere near where it was before, not even close & for much different reasons. This time around I handle it all much different too, I am not so scared of it & just figure out how to look at things differently. Now I worry about being prepared to teach my son, how to teach him to be the best person he can be. I worry about running the household the best I can. How I will handle the challenges of parenting. I worry about taking care of everyone, even when I don’t need to. My husband is great at listening to all of it, gives advice when I ask. He will tell it to me straight & leaves me to make up my own mind about it.
What I am not sure he will ever really know, is how much I appreciate how he can just hold me, comfort me & give empathy without needing to fix it.
I learned that it makes a WORLD of difference who you let in your life & the power you give them. I think back to my ex-husband & our first big fight. I had left his house telling myself that we were too different, that his style of aggressive fighting was too hurtful. I stopped, told myself “but I love him” & went back. I can’t tell you how many times I wish that I had just left. The heartache I could’ve saved myself.
My only comfort is that if everything else hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have met my husband when I did. Earlier in our lives we weren’t mature enough for the relationship we have now. I wouldn’t appreciate him like I do now.
But most of all I am thankful that I didn’t take the easy way out that night. That I chose life. That even though I was in pain, I knew that I had to try, even if at that moment it was only for my parents.
I would encourage anyone that is struggling to talk about it, talk to someone & let them know that you are fighting this battle. If there is no one in your life that will be empathic enough, there is the suicide prevention hotline. Know that this too shall pass & what do you have to lose by shaking things up & trying something completely different? You might not feel like it, but you have the power to change everything in your world. Someday everything could look totally different, I almost missed out on a pretty amazing life! But grateful everyday that I didn’t.