I was only fifteen when I tried to kill myself. It happened nineteen years ago today.
Both of my sisters left home. One left a note behind and didn’t look back. The other moved in with a different family just a few houses away. I stayed. I had a medical condition I couldn’t get my family to face and I hid from the rest of the world. I had just been diagnosed that September. The following month, a boy who went to my school and lived up the street died by suicide the same day we received our report cards. He had gotten a B. Two other students attempted suicide. Then, I became attempt number three.
We had just celebrated Thanksgiving. A couple of days later, my parents went to granny’s house for turkey leftovers, but I stayed home that night. Maybe it should’ve been a sign that I planned it. But the truth is, I was so ambivalent in my attempt I was blinded. While the rest of the world could see what was on the surface, if you asked me, I was just trying to get rid of my migraine.
Years later, a college essay forced me to reflect on that day. I stayed in denial about a lot of things. I stood by that migraine, which I did have… and shifted the focus to home. I lived in a pretty abusive household. At the end of the essay, I needed to choose what side of the fence I was on when it came to legalizing physician-assisted suicide. I couldn’t choose one. So, I took a break from college to decide.
Ambivalence, once again, crept into my life. Attempting suicide during my youth, amid familial religiosity, made me a black sheep; sinful, troubled, tormented… outcast. I fought against that with lies.
“I didn’t try to kill myself! I had a migraine.”
When suicide isn’t talked about in the community or the home, it’s easy to feel like we have to hide those things. So, at age thirty-one, I repeated the past and my self-destructive uncertainty with a suicide prevention campaign on Facebook. Ambivalence has always been tricky with me, and it’s hard to detect.
Like when my sister told me, in the middle of my campaign, she was “broken but not suicidal.” I think she really believed that. Or wanted to. I know I did. I should’ve known better. Maybe I would’ve saved her if I had known what to look for and was listening with my heart. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know anything about suicide; the risks, the warning signs, they were lost on me. Until now.
While juggling suicidal thoughts, grief, and denial… I educated myself. But the one thing I kept running from is why feeling suicidal is a daily fight for me. I finally know the answer. When I tried to kill myself as a teen, it wasn’t because my sisters were gone or because I lived in an abusive home. And it wasn’t depressive disorder like the inpatient doctors at the youth facility tried to throw at me. It was because I couldn’t leave like my sisters did. I couldn’t fight for my life on my own. I couldn’t escape. Because the biggest thief of my hope was looking in the mirror, seeing the diagnosis I was facing, and knowing there was a solution, there was a way to address it—for the rest of the world. Not for me. My father’s insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment.
Some say I survived, but I didn’t. The following summer, I deleted me. Although, I couldn’t have told you back then. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why I wrote a new first name on every paper at school.. or how I went from a bully to one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet overnight. But I know now that it was the onset of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
I kept myself hidden, protected, for as long as I could. I ran from the reason for my suicide attempt as long as I could, until I had my daughter. Until my lack of fighting for myself began to impact more people than just me. Then, I rose from the ashes to face the demons still burning inside… and I learned the hardest lesson of my life: Hope is temporary if solutions are out of reach.
I don’t know if you know how it feels for the cure for your pain to sit just out of reach. But I can tell you how to survive. Fight. Even when there is no hope.
It’s okay to fight dirty when you’re fighting for life.
If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to chat with the Crisis Text Line.