Can You Give Your Family One More Day?
I've been battling a terminal illness for 29 years. That’s a long time, you say. You’re not dead yet? Are you sure it’s terminal?
Yes, I’m sure. It’s a daily fight to keep breathing, to give it just one more day.
It never goes away. It recedes a bit, seeps down into my pores, hides, bides its time. You might not see it, but it's always there. It never leaves me, and I don’t expect it ever will. I’ll never be “cured.”
“It” is severe clinical depression, and it has been my constant companion since the age of 12. That was when I first felt that ending my life was the best and, perhaps only, choice.
I overdosed on OTC pain medication and children’s chewable vitamins, of all things. Luckily, only a day of vomiting ensued, and my parents, unaware of my new companion, blamed a stomach virus. To this day, the smell of vitamins makes me gag.
I had, in fact, taken those pills with the intention of dying, turned thoughts into action. I was 12, and I wanted to die.
There was no particular reason. I just didn’t feel my life was worth living. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t ask for help. But I knew something was wrong with me. Something inside of me had changed.
It would be three years before a psychiatric hospitalization and an official diagnosis would give my companion a name: depression.
I'll be 42 soon. I’ve reached mid-life despite my crises. Over the years, my depression has been controlled to varying degrees, mostly with prescription medications.
Still, I can honestly say that not a single year in the last 29 has gone by in which I did not at least give serious thought to ending my own life. That’s sad, even by my standards.
Another Mother's Story
As you might expect, I take the news of suicides personally. It’s very personal to me, and it’s eerily familiar.
I was drawn to the story of a missing mother in Oregon in 2014. Jennifer Huston was a stay-at-home mom of two, whose family went on a media crusade, when she went missing, after leaving home to run errands July 24, 2014.
Jennifer went to the bank, filled her gas tank, bought OTC sleeping pills, and drove to a secluded area 25 miles from home, where she committed suicide.
Although I didn’t know Jennifer, I know her, at least in part. I know her story by heart because her story could have been my story.
I was saddened, but not at all surprised, by the news that Jennifer’s body was found, and that it was a suicide. I got it.
How many times had I made a similar plan? To check into a hotel and overdose on sleeping pills or hang myself with a belt or cord. To drive my car into an enclosed space and breathe in the exhaust fumes. To wade into the ocean and simply drown. To end my misery.
So many times.
The Dark Place
Often, the loved ones left behind after a suicide say, as Jennifer’s parents did, that they don't know what led him or her to such a dark place.
Of course, I don’t know what goes on in anyone’s head but my own, and sometimes even that is iffy. But I know the “dark place” quite well because I’ve been there, or the next street over, many, many times.
If you've never been to a place, you can’t truly know it. You can look at pictures and maps and read about it. You can try to understand.
Maybe you can even hop on a tour bus and watch from a safe distance. But you can’t know a place, until you’ve been there, waded into the darkness.
Let Me Explain...
You can’t know what it’s like to be pushed to the bottom of a pit, buried in despair, failure, worthlessness, self-hate, and disgust.
You look up to see who has put you there, what evil creature dug the hole and shoved you down.
You see the creature looks just like you. It’s your own foot packing down the dirt.
After a while, you stop struggling against yourself. You've struggled so long, and you're tired right down to your bones. You give up.
You believe your life is not worth living, and the only relief is death. You rationalize: Everyone will be better off, if I'm gone. You berate yourself: I'm ugly. I'm stupid. I'm useless. I'm a horrible mother. You see no hope for the future: Things will never get better.
YOU LIE. Your depressed mind lies to you.
If you last long enough, the pain gives way to numbness. You're surrounded by nothing. Your insides go blank. You're alone, empty, resigned.
This is the dark place, my version of it, and not everyone who goes there makes it out alive.
My God, I made it out alive. Thank God, my heart is still beating. For this moment, I'm grateful.
the view from the light
It’s easy to stand in the light and pass judgment, easy to say you’d never leave your children, never cause your family so much pain.
Sure, we all struggle. We all have our battles. But your brain is not my brain. Your life is not my life, and vice versa.
If your loved one is living with depression, and you're not, please understand: It's not the same for us. If you're not living with depression, remember this:
The depressed brain does not work the way a non-depressed brain does.
After all, you can see so clearly in the light. It's much more difficult to see things you don’t want to see, to acknowledge that you or someone you love needs help, before it’s too late.
And sometimes there's no way to know what's coming. There are no glaring warning signs to be seen and heard.
We plot and plan and are careful to make it so. The suicidal person might seem normal, happy, ecstatic even. She might get things in order. She might tell you how much she loves you. She might hold onto her babies just a little longer before bed.
for those who lost someone to suicide
If your loved one ended her life, please know it's not your fault. It hurts. It rips out your heart. I know. But it's not your fault.
Please know she loved you. The pain was too much, and she lost her fight. Never forget, she fought.
for those living with depression: give it One more day
After Jennifer’s death, I wondered: "If she had given it just one more day, would it have made a difference?"
No one will ever know how many times she gave it "one more day." I can't claim to speak for anyone else. But for me “one more day” has made all the difference.
Now, when I take a turn toward the dark place, I ask myself:
Can I give my family one more day?
You see, at that point, you may not care to give yourself one more day, even if you should. But for your family, you may reconsider.
I’ll ask myself this question every day, if needed. The answer so far has been yes.
Yes, I can give my family one more day. Yes, I can hang on. Yes, it does get better. Yes, I can fight.
You're not alone. We can fight it together. You and me. It's worth it. You are worth it.
The battle goes on–29 years and counting. Maybe it’s not terminal. Maybe it doesn’t have to be. Yes, I can give my family one more day. With everything I am, I hope you can too.
(Hi there. I know I've read things online when I was suicidal, and those things literally saved my life. So, if you are considering suicide right now, please pause. You're not alone. I know it may feel like it. I've been there. I get it. But can you give it one more day?
I promise, there will be a day when you feel differently than you do right now. There will be a day when you are grateful to be alive. You'll be happy your heart is still beating, and you'll wish for so many more days.
I know it's hard. I know you're hurting. Please, please reach out to someone you love, someone who wants your precious heart to keep beating. Yes, you have that someone.
You can always reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Take care.)