Death Song

What does suicide sound like?

Suicide is different for every person who attempts it. Unfortunately for the living, we can not ask questions of the dead. We can however, question the survivors. I am a survivor. I have made several attempts on my life, and although I’m not proud of it, I will not shy away from talking about it. My vow of transparency about mental illness has no conditions, and I will not hide the less than glamourous parts.

An attempt on your life starts well before you even acknowledge your want to die consciously. Your thoughts change slowly, the taste of the things that you love gently fade. The retreat into the vast darkness of your mind is generally an even descent, with sadness and desperation compounding hourly. The poison floods your veins like ink in water, and soon, you hear the sounds of suicide.

Everyone’s experience is different, and I encourage who is ready to share their story. Mine continues…

A slight ringing in my ears, just loud enough that I feel irritated. The constant drone of my inner monologue, highlighting every painful event, every negative feeling, running like a nonstop ticker tape behind the rest of my thoughts. It is background noise, but when things go quiet, the sounds become more clear. The music I love becomes muted when I listen to it, the voices of my loved ones sound far away. The monologue gets louder, its hurtful thoughts getting nastier, more aggressive. It whispers to me while I read, while I do the dishes. 

You’re worthless. You’re a burden to your loved ones. You will never get your life together. Everyone is tired of you being sick. If you love them, you’ll leave. 

 After weeks, months, years, of the sybiote wearing you down, there is no longer any light to fight it with. The fire in your soul is now ashes, ashes that make it hard to breathe, hard to see. As you try to fight your way through the cloud of ashes the demons within blow it in your face, and your soul is scattered into pieces that you think can never be put back togeher. This is when the biggest change happens: you believe your monstrous ticker tape. The fog clears for the first time in ages, and you are thinking more clearly than ever before. I AM a burden. My loved ones deserve better. This is the ultimate sacrifice I can make for them. Free them from the shackles I have placed them in. 

The ringing in your ears stops, you can no longer hear your own heartbeat. You are finally filled with the calm that you have been craving. 

What does surviving sound like?

Waking up is knives in your head, sirens blaring in surround sound. Metallic ringing so loud you feel nauseous. Then the yelling starts. That inner monologue is angry, and it takes no prisoners. It screams at you, over everything else that you’re hearing at full volume. YOU ARE THE ULTIMATE FAILURE. YOU DON’T DESERVE TO STILL BE ALIVE. YOU CAN’T EVEN DIE PROPERLY, HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO LIVE? 

You drift in and out of consciousness while the medication being pushed through your veins starts to work. The volume inside decreases, and if you’re lucky, a tiny fire is lit in the brassiere. The anger subsides, and you promise yourself that you will do better. You feel ashamed and embarrased, but the fire warming you convinces you that you will survive, and thrive. That hideous ticker tape retreats back into the dark annals of your subconscious, but it takes those angry, bitter, ashamed, thoughts with it to save for a rainy day. 

You apologise profusely to your loved ones, you promise your numerous doctors that it won’t happen again; but you know deep down somewhere inside of you that suicide is a disease, and the only cure is death. It becomes dormant, you smell flowers and love and giggle with friends, but it’s always there, ready to spread through you when the timing is right. Thats when you hear the ringing in your ears…
Remember why your life is worth living. Bottle happiness, listen to every song that you love until you can sing every part, including the bass guitar. Accept and be thankful for complements, and give them back tenfold. Look your loved ones in the eyes when you tell them you love them. Eat cake. Sleep in. Feel sand in your toes. Walk barefoot when possible, and store all of these beautiful thoughts and feelings away so that when the ticker tape starts, you have a fighting chance.

The Maker Makes

I have three daughters, aged 7, 4, and 10 months. As my beautiful ladies grow older and develop their own interests and personalities, I find that I’m discovering parts of myself in them. My biggest fear for them is that I will pass my poisons onto them, and not recognise that I’ve done it. 

When I was a child and even a teenager, not many people subscribed to the idea of childhood depression. Many people, my mother and father included, believed that the brain wasn’t capable of mental illness until after the age of 18, and also that “teenage angst” was a choice – not a symptom of mental stress. 

After discussing my youth in-depth with my psychiatrist and councillor, we mutually determined that I have been suffering from anxiety since childhood, major depressive disorder since my mid to late teens, and bipolar disorder stemming from around the same time. Looking back at those times in my life I can quite clearly see the signs and symptoms, which of course, seem obvious in retrospect. 

Now, as a mother in this new mental illness enlightened age, I worry for my girls- my eldest especially. Certified gifted, I was told that I may experience behavioural problems with her, and was giving a few books about “coping” with the gifted child. My amazing, hilarious, friendly, little L has trouble getting out of bed, especially if her dad is sailing. Prone to fits of rage, sometimes physically attacking me, sometimes not being able to eat. Happiness countered immediately with sadness, coupled with anger and obsession. 

It’s hard to deal with. 

I have my own emotional shitstorm to battle with every day, sometimes trying to deal with her is too much for me. I check out, lock myself in my head, and hope that the kids will engage autopilot before I crash the plane. But they deserve better. L needs my compassion, my understanding, my experience, but most days I’m just too tired to give it to her. We do battle on a daily basis. It’s hard on all of us. No matter what, I always try to validate her feelings. She is entitled to feel. Whether I agree with her or not, she gets to tell/yell her thoughts to me. I don’t know if it helps or hurts, but at this point I feel like she’s constantly on the cusp of exploding, but it seems like the yelling and stomping keeps her from diving over the edge  

I’ve read the books, the blogs, the listicles, the forums, and the truth is: I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing when it comes to my girls’ mental health. I have no clue. I barely have a grip on my own mental health, how am I supposed to be responsible for that of these precious beings? I’m terrified daily that I’m causing permanent emotional damage, or passing on my mental instabilities (or both). On the other hand, I don’t want to see symptoms in them that aren’t there. We all know what tricks the mind can play to spike our anxiety and send us spiralling. For now I’ll keep reading, keep fighting, keep cuddling, keep trying, keep failing. I owe them my best, even if some days my best is merely existing through the day. 

I need so desperately to protect them, but I can’t save them from themselves. Or, maybe I can. I wish someone had tried to save me.  

Too Many Elephants in the Room

This month has been full of ups and downs. My sister and my niece came to visit, my husband has started sailing again, now my uncle and cousin are here for a few weeks. I haven’t been compelled to write much as of late, but a recent experience has reminded me of the healing that can come from expression, and the cathartic relief it provides. 

A few days ago I ran into the one person I was not ever prepared to face – the person who over the course of several years abused me financially, emotionally, and sexually. The encounter was brief, but the effects were immediate. I was terrified, horrified, and completely taken off-guard. Of all the gin joints in all the world, how did he end up in mine? 

My fear turned to shame, anger, and guilt. Am I being punished? Tested by some divine power, perhaps? I went home shaking, wondering ” why me?”. I told my husband immediately, and he reminded me that I’m safe, and will remain safe with my family. 

After a restless sleep full of nightmares of horrors from my past, my husband and I talked again. I learned a lot from that short talk, and I’d like to share that with you now. First, and I think most importantly, we talked about forgiveness. I am not required to forgive the wrong that was done to me at the hands of someone I trusted. He will never apologise, and I need never forgive him. I do however, need to forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault, and I need to stop punishing myself based on the actions of another. The emotional trauma that these events caused me have changed me forever, but they needn’t define me, and I can’t allow the bad memories to continue to creep into my new life. No forgetting, no forgiving, just acceptance. I can’t erase the past, and it’s time to stop living there. 

The second, equally important point was strength and success. I have conquered many things in my life, why not this? Fear of the past has coloured the way I have lived, have seen myself, and controlled my emotional capabilities. But hell, if I can survive suicide, death from illness, bullying, homelessness, and hopelessness, who’s to say I can’t survive, and thrive, because of this? 

It’s time to reclaim my life! My emotions, my mental health, my dreams at night. I own all of those things, and no one person can take anything away from me. Only I have the power to punish myself, and only I have the power to heal myself. I forgive the naive girl that I used to be, I forgive the bitter woman that I have allowed myself to become. The soul-sucking raven I used to be is gone, and a Phoenix has arisen from the ashes in its place. No more feeling sorry, no more excuses for my anger, no more burying the experiences that have helped to shape me. My shadow needn’t scare me, my nightmares aren’t real any longer, I owe myself some sanity. 

I am growing, I am moving on, and I am looking forward to a newer version of myself who refuses to be defined by the bad, but instead by the good.

I am strong. I am worthy of real love. I am a better person for all of my experiences, both good and bad. Most importantly, I am good enough for myself. I am OK with who I am as a person, a mother, a wife, a sister, and a friend. From this moment on I pledge to give no one the power to hurt me, and I will cause no one any hurt in return. I can’t forgive the wrongs, but I can move past it all and know that acceptance, in my case, is a good replacement for forgiveness.