Welcome to another writing sample day!
In keeping with our focus on suicide prevention this week, I thought I'd share a very personal and eye-opening snippet from my memoir, White Elephants. I didn't share the entire chapter, as not everything fits in with our theme for this week. I wanted to show the mindset that someone can plummet to when they honestly believe there is no other way out, and that there is no one who truly cares if they chose this route.
I don't often share from this book on the blog, not because I'm ashamed of anything in it (otherwise, my publishing it was pointless) as much as the subject matter is difficult, hard to read or to understand (unless a reader's experiences are similar).
Usually, the book will draw readers to it who need someone at some time in their life to reach out to and to 'get' what they may be going through at the time. Or I have other readers who contact me regarding my other work and books, then take the time to ask about White Elephants. Whichever way, I always receive wonderful messages from folks after they've read the book. That is so wonderful.
I didn't write this to make tons of money or to psychoanalyze other people in the world. I simply wanted to share my story and reach out to others in this quiet way not to give up hope.
The past is the past, absolutely. But we aren't supposed to completely forget it either. Our pasts, even the worst of the worst, has some sort of hand in molding us into who we choose to become and where we want to go in our future.
Dwelling on the past is unhealthy as it can lead to negative methods of coping, which can cloud over the good that is to come. I am, by no means, a registered psychologist, counselor or an expert on any area I cover in this book. All I am is a person who has a mountain of personal experiences behind her and just got tired of seeing the same things happening to others who were afraid to open up. Silence and covering up issues can cause more pain than the initial experience itself.
This is my way of saying, "You went through this, face it, then find whatever therapy is most comfortable for you to learn how to cope, so you can move forward...because you deserve that."
And if in some small way a reader feels some sort of comfort in knowing they aren't alone, then the process, to me, was more than well worth it.
One morning I decided it became too much for me. I didn’t want to feel anymore. I was tired of being a protector, a liar, a loser, a parent. So, I had a shower, brushed my teeth, then swallowed an entire bottle of pills and went to school. It took less than an hour before my body reacted.
The bell rang for morning classes to switch. As I walked down the narrow hallway voices echoed in my ears. Everything swirled around so fast, suffocating me. A shrill high-pitched scream filled the hallway. People stopped, and stared. They pointed. At first, I didn’t understand why everyone was at a stand still. Until I realized the screams came from me.
The pills in my system caused me to hallucinate. A girl I’d never talked to before helped me up, took me to the nurses’ office and stayed with me until someone came to take me to the hospital.
“Good luck trying to get a hold of someone,” I said. “Nobody’s sober. Nobody gives a shit.”
The nurse said nothing. “Just don’t let yourself fall asleep, dear. I’ll be right back.”
I enjoyed the light pins and needles sensation spreading all over my body. A tremor nestled into my right leg. It felt odd watching my leg jumping spasmodically around and I wasn’t moving it.
So tired. Just a small nap.
“I’ll bet this must be really enjoyable for you,” I said to my rescuer. “Funny, huh? The loser gets loaded again.”
She stared me down. “You don’t know what I’m thinking. I don’t have a problem with you.”
I forced a laugh. “Whatever. I’ve heard you talk about me. Look, just get lost. I’m not interested in making 'guilt friends' right now.”
“Your problem is that you are so determined to be alone you don’t realize there are people around you who actually do care about you. You just don’t give anyone a chance. I understand. Just know that, okay?”
With that, she left. I turned my head back up to face the ceiling. The tremor in my right leg jumped to the left. My Bonus Dad burst into the room. He tilted his head at me, then put his hands on my legs. I didn’t bother asking where my mom was. Obviously she didn’t want to deal with it.
He told me she didn’t believe I did anything. I was just 'trying to get attention' and she wasn’t going to buy into it. It was probably better she didn’t come. It would have been another excuse for her to drink.
I begged my Bonus Dad just to take me home, but he didn’t listen. He took me to the emergency room at the St. Boniface Hospital. He briefed a triage nurse about what I did, how many pills I took, what kind they were and how long they’d been in my system. Then another nurse, who I guessed dealt with suicidal teens too much, guided me to a huge room with three beds sectioned off by curtains.
After pulling a curtain around one of the beds she barked, “Lay down here.”
My legs still shook, but I laid down as ordered. The nurse took my pulse, stole some blood, then handed me a tiny vile of brown, syrupy liquid.
“Drink this,” she said, writing something on my chart. “It’s going to empty your stomach so we know how to treat you.”
“This is going to make me puke? No way! I’m not taking it,” I said, shoving it back on her tray.
She bent down with the vile right under my nose—the pungent smell reminded me of Jack Daniels—and said, “You either drink this or I’m going to insert a tube down your throat to flush out your stomach. What’s it going to be?”
I took the vile. The nurse stood there until I swallowed the foul vomit-inducer. Then she put a small plastic bowl beside me, and put her hand on my shoulder.
“It shouldn’t take long to work, judging by your size and the amount of drugs you took. Use this when you start to vomit. It’s for your own good.”
I laid there, and waited. A commotion stirred behind the curtain next to me. A young man’s voice begged for help. Another female voice—a mother?—told the victim’s story:
“She’s been down for quite awhile. We had her on antidepressants. We thought they were working, but I came home from work to see her…she was in the tub with blood all around her. We thought it was just a phase…that things would work themselves out…you know how teenagers are. If we’d known things were this bad…”
It’s funny how people always say that in retrospect, “If I’d only known.” I also wondered if my grandparents thought my mom’s problems would 'work themselves out'. And wondered whether my mom felt that way about me.
Then the room fell silent.
The voices faded as they stepped out of ear shot to, apparently, discuss the girl’s treatment. I wanted to go and peek behind the curtain. I wanted to talk to that girl to ask what her real story was. She whimpered, “Oh God, why? Why don’t you just let me die? I can’t do this anymore…it hurts to be here…hurts…”
Part of me understood where that girl’s feelings stemmed from. The other part of me had a lot of experience to, maybe, help her in some way. I wanted to reach out to her, but the brown potion swirled around in my stomach.
The girl’s bed creaked, and I heard her shuffle across the floor. Surprised they didn’t restrain a person who wanted to die that much, I looked around for a call button, something to call for help. I couldn’t move. My stomach lurched.
God, someone come back! Help!
Just as I tried getting out of my bed to help the girl, my stomach released. Everything I’d eaten for the last day splattered all over the sterile, gray-tiled floor. Then something glass smashed next to me. I knew what was happening. I knew what she was trying to do and I couldn’t help her. I fell to my hands and knees unable to stop the vomit from spewing out. I tried crawling to the curtain. I didn’t make it. I collapsed.
Behind the curtain, my young neighbor squeaked a weak cry of pain, gurgled then fell on the floor. It reminded me of a bowling ball landing on a soaking wet towel. Her bloody hand fell under the curtain. I didn’t want to look but I had to.
I saw her. Just before the nurse picked me up from the floor, the girl and I locked eyes. A scene forever burned into my memory. She’d slashed her throat. I couldn’t see the gash, but I saw blood saturating her blonde hair. She must have been beautiful. When she saw me, she let out a sigh then smiled.
She was free.
Amid the screams of loss, and failed attempts to regain control of my stomach, I mourned the girl. I saw her beautiful tortured face many times later on in my life.
She'd never kneo how in taking her own life, she saved mine.