This week is Suicide Prevention Week, so I thought I would share my experience in the hope that it will help someone who is thinking of this as a way out, or someone who wants to know how to help someone else.
In 1993 I met Ernest. He was to become my second husband. I had been divorced for about twelve years and my son was just turning fourteen. We were set up to meet each other by mutual friends. I had been told that he had a steady job and made pretty good money, that he was very nice and lived in the same town that I did.
My friend gave Ernest my phone number. He called and on that first phone call we talked for 3 hours. It seemed like we had so much in common. We talked every night for a week before actually meeting.
Although we liked different music, we weren’t opposed to the music favored by the other. I attended church and he didn’t but he was a believer, he said. I told him I was bi-polar and he told me his sister was too, so he understood. That, to me, was a big bonus. I won’t go into our courtship at this time, it is enough to say that less than a year after meeting, we were married.
Less than six months after the wedding the marriage started to fall apart. There had been some red flags before we got married and I missed them. Later I was told by others in my life that they questioned the wisdom of the marriage, but they NEVER said a thing to me.
He wanted a child, I really didn’t. He got mugged downtown, and somehow this changed him. He started to behave in a paranoid way. He was possessive and emotionally abusive.
He started to complain about my weight. He would drive recklessly when I was in the car. He insisted on always driving. He hated my haircut, and had to go with me when I got my nails done. He stopped trying to get along with my son.
I wanted to fix things. I was already in therapy when we met, and he went with me once we decided to get married. At that point the sessions stopped being about me and how to handle being bi-polar. It became about us, or him.
I made a decision that perhaps I should have a child for him, maybe that would make him happy.
Before stopping my birth control, I first stopped my Lithium. I would need at least six months to get that out of my system. I didn’t tell anyone about this except for him, and he didn’t think I needed the medication anyway. It didn’t occur to him that I seemed so well, compared to his sister, because I was medicated!
The first few weeks of being off the Lithium were pretty rocky. My moods were up and down constantly. At the same time, he was trying to handle his emotions about being mugged and his guilt about breaking the cat’s leg.
He started spending more time away from home. He said he was staying over night at his best friend’s house. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter now. At the time, it confused me because I would have never thought of spending a night away from him!
Several other things happened, he asked me to do some things that went against my personal morals. Things just kept going down hill, and I sank into a deep depressive episode.
One day while he and my son were gone, I drove myself to the library and parked underground. I just sat there awhile, then I began to write him a letter. It became a suicide note. I cried for a while then drove back home. I kept the note in my purse, but I told him how I was feeling. That I was feeling alone and I wasn’t sure I wanted to live. He called my therapist for advice. I don’t know what was said but he did stay home the rest of the day.
At our next therapy session, he told me that he wanted to speak to the therapist alone before we started our session. “Nothing to worry about”, he said. After about thirty minutes he came out and went into another room. I went into my therapist office.
He told me what he and Ernest had spoken about. That Ernest wanted to move out, that he wasn’t happy. I freaked. I shouted no very loudly. I told him that if Ernest did this, he would never come back home. He told me that right that moment Ernest was on the phone with my son instructing him to put away all the silverware, knives and medications, out of my reach. He told me that he believed that Ernest just wanted a break, to figure things out, that if I loved him I would let him have this time. Bullshit, I said.
I realized at that point that nothing I would say was going to change the situation. I made up my mind then. I went silent, and just sat there until the session was over.
I had a bottle of pills in my purse that no one knew about. Librium, which was prescribed for my spastic colon.
On the way home Ernest drove through Wendy’s and I said all I wanted was an iced tea. He tried to get me to have some food but I didn’t want to eat and I wasn’t going to just so he could feel better.
When we got home, I very calmly told my son to eat some dinner and I think I gave him a hug. Then I went with my purse and my tea into the bedroom and locked the door. Immediately I swallowed the entire bottle of pills, and it was a pretty full bottle. Ernest tried to open the door and found it was locked, called my name. I just told him I needed to be alone for a bit. He walked away.
I called my dad in Tennessee, told him what was going on and asked him to drive down to Texas and pick up my son. We talked a little while, I don’t remember now what was said. After that, I called my best friend who was living in Arkansas at the time, to say goodbye. People say that if you want to commit suicide you don’t tell anyone, that if you do then you really don’t want to die. Well, I did want to die. I just wanted my son to be taken care of and I wanted to say goodbye to my friend. She was too far away to stop me anyway.
Suddenly there was a confusion of phone calls. My dad beeped in, so I let go of my friend. While I was on the phone with dad, my therapist beeped in ( my friend had called him!). So I let go of my dad and talked to my therapist. I told him it was too late to do anything now. He asked to speak to Ernest. So, believing it was too late for them to stop me, I opened the door and gave the phone to Ernest. I closed the door, locked it and got into bed.
Suddenly there was banging on the door. Ernest demanded I open it. I said no. I was feeling really calm by now. He told me he was going to call 911 if I didn’t open the door. I told him to do whatever he wanted.
About five minutes later the door flew open, and there were cops in my room! They asked me if I had taken something and I said yes. They told me I needed to go to the hospital, and I told them no, I didn’t want to go.
One of them told me I was going anyway, so I could either go on my own in the ambulance or they could arrest me and I could then go in the ambulance.
This pissed me off, I can’t express how much!
I said “Ok then, if you are not going to let me die, I don’t want to be arrested either.” The paramedics came in and got me onto the gurney. I had them stop in the hallway where I could see my son and told him I was sorry, and not to worry. He looked at me with so much love and smiled.
I had requested to go to the local hospital, but no, since it was a suicide attempt I had to be taken to the county hospital were they could decide if I needed to be kept.
On the way there, my heart rate started to drop. I heard the attendant tell the driver to hit the lights and get moving, that my heart was tacky. He then started asking me all kinds of asinine questions. I know he was trying to keep me awake, but I just wanted to rest.
Finally we arrived at the hospital and I was rushed into a bay in the ER. An aide came in with a pair of scissors and said he was going to remove my clothes. I pitched another fit and told him hell no, if they were not going to let me die then they were not going to ruin one of my best outfits! I undressed myself.
Suddenly there was Ernest’s angry face inside the door, telling me that he wasn’t taking responsibility for this. He said it over and over. Just as the doctor came to the door I yelled out “This isn’t about you! This is about me so just go home and get out of my face!”
He left. The doctor came in, introduced herself as the head of the ER, and told me she was sorry that I was suffering so much. She told me she didn’t want to see me suffer anymore than I already had. She just kept talking like that in a calm soft voice and I felt myself calming down.
Then she explained that they needed to get the drugs out of my stomach. She explained the two ways this could be done. One way was to pump charcoal into my stomach, wait a bit then pump it out. The other way was for me to drink the charcoal voluntarily and then wait to throw it up. I chose option two.
It was nasty, let me tell you. It was the size of a 7-11 Big Gulp, grainy and dirty tasting. I swallowed it as fast as I could. Then I waited. It didn’t take long.
Someone walked me to the bathroom and left me there with the door closed. I vomited, again and again. And then my bowels wanted to move, again and again. Finally after what was only about ten minutes but seemed like an hour, it all stopped. I washed my face. I opened my mouth and could see that my tongue, teeth and lips were now black. I rinsed and rinsed. It didn’t help much.
When I came out, the nurse set me up on a gurney with a saline bag, parked me in the hallway and told me someone from psych would be down to get me. She said I couldn’t go home until I talked to someone there. It was now about 8 PM. I sat there in that hallway until midnight.
Sometime during that long wait, I started to pray. I felt so empty, so useless and so very tired. I really did not want to live. I didn’t want another divorce, I didn’t want to raise a teenager on my own, I didn’t want to BE alone. So I prayed to God and told him that if he wanted me to live, he would have to do it for me because I just could not do it anymore.
Within seconds I felt filled with peace. I felt this warmth drape over me from head to foot, like a warm blanket. Then other thoughts began to enter my head. Thoughts like “You still have the same job that has always supported you”. “You made it just fine before he came along and you will be just fine without him”. “You aren’t really alone”.
I felt so relaxed, I finally fell asleep sitting up. Around midnight they finally took me upstairs. Again, I waited another several hours. I didn’t get to speak to anyone until about 5 AM.
By that time, I had this. I knew what to say. I told the resident that I wanted to live and finish raising my son. I told him that if my husband wanted out he could go. I told him I wouldn’t do this again. I promised to see my therapist later that day.
At 6 o’clock I was released. I called Ernest and told him to come and get me right now. He said he would be late for work. I said “So what? I am still your wife, come and get me this minute.” After he picked me up, I made him get me some breakfast.
As we drove into the parking lot at the apartments I saw my son and his girlfriend waiting for the school bus. I waved at them. I knew we would talk about this later.
I got out of the car and Ernest went on to work. The doctor at the hospital had made me promise not to be alone that day but Ernest didn’t care about that. So I called his sister and I called my sister. Then I called my parents to tell them I was home and ok. My mother was there, my dad at work. Mom said she was so glad I was ok, that she would have missed me. That short statement meant all the world to me!
Ernest’s sister, Connie, came over for the morning. She took me to the therapist, and brought me home and waited for my sister to come over.
My little sister. We didn’t spend much time together because our lives were so different. But here she was with a huge bag of Reece’s peanut butter cups. She climbed into bed with me, asked me to tell her what brought all this on, so we talked and ate chocolate and talked some more and slept. She made me feel normal, calm, ok again. This wasn’t the first time she had come to my rescue and it wouldn’t be the last. I am so grateful I chose her to be part of my family.
My son came home from school and we talked awhile. I wanted him to understand how sorry I was to put him through this, but that I had made arrangements for him, so he would not have been alone. I told him that I really was glad to be his mom and I did really want to keep on being his mom. He told me he understood and hugged and hugged me.
I went to work the next day, smelling to my self like a litter box because the charcoal was leaking out the pores of my skin. But I went to work. I knew it was important for me to keep busy for the next few weeks.
I let Ernest go. For awhile I hoped he would come back. But as I continued in therapy I soon realized the amount of emotional abuse I had been subjected to. I had to learn to deal with that, how not to blame myself for not seeing it. How to talk to my son about it. As I talked to friends and family about the abuse, I found out they all had seen the signs yet never spoke up. I was incredulous about that! I made them all promise me if they ever saw anything like this again to speak up! Just think how much could have been avoided!
I don’t blame anyone now. I have gotten past that, so if you are reading this and you are one of the people who had thought about mentioning something but didn’t, please know I am not angry about it. Do I blame Ernest? I did for years. We never talked about it. Looking back now, I believe he was also suffering from some form of mental illness. I really think I have let it go now.
I never went back on the Lithium or the Librium. My spastic colon turned out to be a bad gallbladder. And the Lithium? That is another story for another day.
Don’t let your friends or family die before their time if you can help it. Most times, you can help. Don’t mind your own business. Keep up with what is going on in the lives of your loved ones. Your family and friends.
And never threaten to leave your spouse while she/he is depressed. Just don’t do it! Get her/him help first, get her/him stable again. Wait and see how you feel about things when the storm has passed.
I truely hope my story helps you in some way. Don’t give up, there IS more to life than darkness! Even though that darkness seems permanent and never-ending, I promise you it isn’t.
I now have a beautiful granddaughter, and I am glad I am here to enjoy her. My son has grown into a wonderful man, and my daughter-in-law is so precious to me. I shudder when I think of what I might have missed out on!