This is a weird yet wonderful blog to write. It starts out sad and hopeless but ends incredibly well. I think it is worth sharing this even though it was and still is one of my best kept secrets.
My first serious suicide attempt was when I was 14. I’d thought about it before then. Perhaps as young as 8. I can’t really recall what age I was but I honestly do not remember any portion of my life where wanting to leave it wasn’t in my thoughts. ALL the time. There was a tiny part of me that wanted to stay thanks to boyfriends and school but they were my only thin threads to staying in this world.
Then I had my children.
I wish I could say that the urge to complete a suicide left me but it didn’t. I wanted it to. I wanted to be happy and find a meaning to staying in this life but there just wasn’t enough. The constant pain from my past, I had married the man I thought I deserved… who was horrible to me, the flashbacks, nightmares, crippling anxiety and severe depression were daily struggles that hung around my neck like a boulder.
I tried medication, therapy, being optimistic, pretending I was happy, being successful, different medication, new therapists, a better mask…
No one in my life had any clue about how horribly close to death I really was. In fact, if you had to choose the happiest person in a room? I’d win most times. I had perfected the art of appearing to be perfectly fine.
The only reasons that I hung on were my children. The deserved to have a loving mother who thought the world of them. This was a sweet thought but along with that thought came despair. It would be the year 2015 before they all moved out and would be adults in charge of their own lives. Almost 2 full decades would have to pass before I could leave this world guilt free.
Something weird happens when you are truly suicidal and finally set a date to kill yourself. There is this amazing feeling of relief. It feels like you can handle almost anything because now you know there is an end in sight. My end was a far time away but it was the only thing that kept me alive all those years. Live until 2015. Enjoy my 45th birthday with a party will all my family and friends. I was going to use that party to tell everyone how much they meant to me. To say goodbye. They would not know it but my goal was to make sure each of them was left with a positive last memory of me. To leave them with nothing left unsaid.
My death of course was going to be an accident and with my medical training, I knew how to do it so no one would ever know. I planned this event meticulously over many years being sure to cover every possible angle. I didn’t want anyone to think they were dealing with a suicide. Just my unfortunate death.
In my mind this all made perfect sense and sounded like the most amazing plan ever. I would be doing everyone a huge favour by leaving this world in a way that they would never have to face the harsh reality of my life.
Then 2012 dealt me a blow that I could not recover from. A court case that rocked my world and would change me forever. The one belief I had always hung on to was that the world was a VERY different place than it had been when I was a child. That if someone complained of sexual “issues” at school, it would be taken care of immediately. If social services was involved? They would not miss the signs. That if someone was charged, it would be taken seriously and the best possible (fair) sentence would be given out.
None of that proved to be true. None of it.
My world that was held together with the thinnest of threads finally fell completely apart. Now? Living those last 3 years until 2015 seemed impossible. I was trying. I promise. Trying harder than you could ever imagine to just hang on but my grip grew weaker with every passing day.
Enter this worlds true angels. The people who do their jobs and care so much for you that get what you need to truly begin to heal. For me? That was a referral to a program at a place called Homewood. My referral was for an 8 week in-patient program for people with PTSD.
Even though I was still very suicidal, I made my husband a promise. That I would do EVERYTHING that I was asked to do with no exceptions. If at the end of that 8 week program, I still just did not want to live? He would let me go with no blame and no guilt. He knew the depth of my pain and knew each day was torture. Letting me go despite his own personal devastation was such a huge gift. He loved me that much. My gift to him would be my full effort applied to the program at Homewood.
I can’t even possibly go in to everything that the staff in the PTSR (Recovery rather than Disorder) did for me. We were kept busy morning, noon, and night with classes, proper meals, a fairly tight schedule and the encouragement to get to know others in the off hours. When I look back now I see that I knew very little of the basics to having a healthy life. Taking proper care of myself was a huge one. I thought being hygienic was about all their was to that. How wrong was I? They taught me about self care, letting go of guilt and shame, setting boundaries, and more than I can ever list here. They basically taught me everything I should have learned through a healthy childhood but didn’t. They made me feel like I mattered. I wasn’t just a number on a chart. I was Heather and Heather was really great. I never felt judged. I know they never hid anything from me or lied. They showed me compassion that I had never known. Eventually they gave me another huge gift. A proper diagnoses. PTSD and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).
Finding out that I had DID was almost impossible for me to comprehend. I knew that I had a very hard time remembering certain times in my life, had friends who knew a lot about me but I knew nothing about them, people close to me would mention how different I seemed at times… there were so many clues but who on earth thinks about DID? Isn’t that only in movies? Wrong.
At first this diagnoses freaked me out and made coming home very difficult. I felt shattered. Broken. Too crazy to be any good to anyone. I got over that rather quickly when my friends and family would hear my new diagnoses and rather than freaking out, they reacted with such relief. “Oh that’s what it is!!!”. The only person that didn’t really totally believe it just yet was me.
After awhile I learned more, started to accept it, find out how to remain present more often, find many of my triggers, and become a more complete human being. Knowing that all those missing parts of me were all inside of me but I just hadn’t found them yet made me feel whole for the first time in my life.
I ended up back at Homewood for another 2 months later that year thanks to a huge amount of effort given by my psychiatrist who had to really stand up for me and push it through “the system”. I get the feeling that a few cartwheels may have been necessary too. 😉
By the time I went back to Homewood to redo the program (my first time was amazing and helpful but I was not stable enough to complete the whole program in its entirety), I was so much stronger, safer, calmer, more open, more ready to give this world a chance.
My life today…
Well, my PTSD and DID didn’t magically disappear as I had hoped for. That said? My ability to cope with both are amazing. With the tools that I learned at Homewood plus the continued efforts of my psychiatrist and a new therapist help keep me moving forwards.
I have crappy days, hard times, stress of every type, and disappointments like everyone else but now I know what to do about them.
My mind very occasionally goes back to that suicidal place but I immidiately take out the “toolbox” I got at Homewood and make sure i am doing everything I need to be doing. Usually I find something missing and when I correct that? The suicidal ideas start to go away again.
I am writing this on my blog now because I will be 45 tomorrow. Saturday January the 10th is my 45th birthday and it would have also been the day I would have held my birthday/farewell party. This Friday post would have been the last one I would write and rather than a story of hope, I would have been trying to say goodbye to you all without letting you know I would not be alive to write a post for Monday.
Thanks to my husband, my friends, my psychiatrist, all the staff at Homewood, the positive reaction to this blog, continued participation in a support group that I run, and a gargantuan effort from me to do everything I was taught on a daily basis?
…………….I’ll see you all Monday!