Please be aware that this article discusses suicide, rape, and abuse. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SeakingofSuicide.com/resources for additional resources and support.
This isn’t my story, it is my mother’s. But it is also one I find myself in at parts along my own life journey. She asked me to share her story. I do so in the hope that it may shine a light on the paths we may travel together…
Is Suicide an Ending? A Finishing? An Escape?
It could be different things to different people. I’ve been suicidal before. I had an especially horrible experience that caused me to set a date for killing myself when I was 16. I didn’t have hope that life would get better, that the pain would ever stop. Of course, it wasn’t that one experience that “finished” it for me. Like many others, it was all the things that led up to that particular time and experience.
Childhood was not happy; sure there were some happy times and good memories. Overall, they were few and far between the struggle to survive the emptiness of my family.
A Childhood Lacking In Love and Hope
My parents were not well mentally or emotionally and of course that reflected in me. At 14 I ran away from home and got locked out of the house shortly after. I lived with random friends and other teenagers who had left their homes or had been kicked out. We were definitely the “outcasts” which we wore like a badge of honor. It was strange to watch other families whose parents seemed to love their kids. I never felt loved, wanted or treasured, on any level in my family. It was always a time of avoiding beatings, molesting, and anger from my dad.
Watching my mom live like a zombie, just moving from vacuuming to dishes, and looking in the mirror to make sure she kept up the appearance of the “good wife”. Not that there weren’t some wonderful traits in both. My dad was an artist and so creative. He was an explorer and student for everything that interested him. My dad had good work ethics and a sense of responsibility, doing what needed to be done. He was very intelligent and knew history back and forth.
Living with Jekyl and Hyde
We’d play Shakespeare and he made us a chariot from our red wagon. He’d build us igloos in the winter to play in. My mom was beautiful, dressed like a model and always looked just right. She could put on parties and organize big events for VIPs. She did ceramics and painted beautifully. When she took cake decorating, we all had the most magnificent cakes for all occasions, but she didn’t continue long because my dad just ridiculed her “art”. We were given piano lessons, French lessons, judo lessons and were good students, obedient and respectful of our elders and teachers and everyone we were told to.
By all standards, we were good kids, my sister, brother and myself. We all tried our best to please my parents, especially my dad. Because he was the one who hurt us the most. Consequences were pretty extreme, even if we didn’t do anything really wrong, just something he didn’t like, or if he was in a bad mood. I learned to read him very well and could see the flicker of a finger, the twitch of an eye, or a vague change in countenance, and I would disappear.
Adolescence Lost, Hope Gone
My parents got divorced when I was 14, and we went from upper middle class to poverty overnight, as my mom “got stuck” with the kids, and my dad moved on to another woman and created the single life he always wanted. I was relieved he was gone. I thought it would be much better. The fear of poverty was never as great as the fear I lived in around my dad.
My mom retreated to a back bedroom in our rented house with a bottle and we hardly saw her. We took care of ourselves. My brother got into drugs almost immediately, and in a few months got me into it too. My sister became the “mother” trying to control us, but we ignored her. I started running away, staying at friend’s houses often, all to see if my mom would ever come look for me, but she never did. Then one late night, the door was locked, and I was outside.
I looked at it as an adventure to see what I could find on the “outside”. A friend had a small apartment having moved out from her dad’s house. She had a 350-paper route I helped her with every morning before school. We went to school every day. It was a “safe” place and I did what I was supposed to do. But I mostly slept in my classes and was actually trying to fail because it was important to my parents to be a “good student”, and it was a way to get back at them. But the teachers never failed me, or anyone. They passed everyone. It was during integration and there were constant fights, riots, bus burning, and gangs walking the halls of the school. It was a rough time in Florida.
Planning My Permanent Escape
Drugs soon became a normal part of life. I got all my drugs free because we would let dealers use our apartment for buying, cutting, and selling. They would always leave some of the drugs, whatever they were selling at the time, on our table when they left. I would crochet bags to sell at school for money, and the paper route paid for the apartment and so we were ok. Life was as empty as it could be. I took drugs to escape, not even for pleasure.
Hallucinogens were my fave. I could escape into fantasies, making up my own “worlds” to live in. I also got into the occult, praying to Satan for power. Power to change my life and make sure no one could hurt me anymore. But living in that environment and around the people we lived with did not bode well for a “good life”. Bad things happened, around us and to us. One in particular ended any hope of my ever creating a life I wanted to live. And so, I set a time to die.
I collected my drugs to overdose on. It seemed the easiest way. I set a 2-week deadline (pun intended). I simply told God if He was real, I wasn’t happy anymore. And if He was real show me, if not I was done. I figured, if He cared He would do something. And if He didn’t care, then there was no point living anyway.
The night I was going home to kill myself, a friend came and talked to me and it changed my life. He said he’d found what he was looking for and it was Jesus. And I believed, and it felt like a waterfall rushing through my soul, washing everything away, and I’ve never been the same. I got clean and finished school and found a new place to live and new friends and life started becoming good.
It was a fight, a struggle to leave everything behind and believe but not near as hard as life had been before. I found ways to enjoy life, to connect with people who were a light in the darkness rather than suffocating myself by falling deeper and deeper into it.
Love and Hope had always been there, I just didn’t allow myself to see it. Life was good. I had two great kids and did everything I could to make sure they had a better childhood than I had. One filled with love and support, where they didn’t have to fear the world. But some things I thought were best forgotten, so I had buried my past rather than tending to my wounds. Childhood pains do not simply disappear as we get older. If we don’t deal with it, the darkness still holds on inside of us, waiting for us to fall back in.
Darkness Returns, But Not For Long
The second time I became suicidal was after I was raped in my own shop, in the daytime, during work hours. My shop was a place I felt supremely safe and secure, and that haven was violently ripped apart.
The man was a yellow page ad salesman, no one I knew outside of signing papers for ads in the yellow pages. It was so totally unexpected, at a time I was feeling so very sure of myself building my own business, and successful in my arts and community. I was in my 40’s so really not expecting anything like this to happen on any level.
But there it was. Violated beyond understanding. My safe place had been intruded upon and destroyed once again. Shaming everything around me. Polluting my life, my shop, my space, my being. I was in absolute shock and felt like a child again with no one to protect me, no one to stop the bad things from happening. I recoiled into myself. Fear and shame and worthlessness filling up the spaces that once had hope and love and optimism. I felt as if my world had been taken from me.
My world, already built up from the ashes once. I didn’t have it in me to do it again. If not for friends, I would have found a way to die. But my friends took hold of me and would not let go, even when I shut them out, cut them off, rejected them. Still they stood with me through the years it took to recover.
Surviving the Monsters
One of the hardest things was to forgive God for allowing it to happen. How could He do this to me? How could He let this happen? I believed in Him, followed Him, did what I was supposed to do. But it wasn’t God I was really angry at.
Going thru therapy revealed my survival instincts had not changed. I learned to obey and/or hide when monsters attacked. Whether that was my father or a different ghoul, my response was the same. I thought I had grown up, become stronger, worked through those wounds and healed. But when this particular monster came into my shop, and I realized his intentions, I chose not to run or fight but to comply.
I obeyed, almost as though my mind and my spirit were turned off, and my body was on autopilot. I couldn’t believe I did that, after fighting through so much garbage in my life and winning, I submitted to him. It felt like I when my dad did things. In that instant, I went all the way back to my dad’s relationship with me, it felt like that all over again. I thought I had overcome that, changed that, and it was not there anymore, but there it was.
Lean In, and Heal, and Hold On to Hope
As bad as that experience was, during the counseling and year that followed, is when I truly dug deep into what my dad had done to me, faced it and truly changed. As bad as the whole thing was, and I don’t believe anyone has to experience such a thing to “learn” or change on any level, I realized I had never really faced what my dad had done to me and when confronted by another who had the same spirit, attitude, intentions and in a circumstance I felt out of control in, I repeated my reactions that had been programmed in me so long ago.
Obviously, I overcame all that and even succeeded more. I not only faced it, in myself, but I helped others face their deadly memories and experiences as well. I learned to use that pain and turn it all to the better. Those experiences, and the strength I gained from them, helped me greatly in my next adventures.
Help Others Heal As Well
At 50, after both my kids had left and joined the Army to pursue their own dreams, I moved to India. I went to help women overcome their poverty and abuse. To become more of who they wanted to be. Creating a safe place where they could learn and grow, protected in the ways I wasn’t as a child.
I was there for 10 years and had great success in many areas. I loved the women I worked with, and I loved the work I was doing. It was supremely fulfilling and satisfying. I was accomplishing things I only dreamed of. And so many experiences that were just phenomenal on so many levels. I saw the beauty and hope and light of the world in my travels. Met fascinating people from all over the world, made great friends. All the while helping women who thought they were nothing or could do nothing.
Showing them the hope and possibility of what they could do and could be. It was everything I ever imagined being and doing. I am forever grateful to those friends, who knowing I was in my darkest moments, reached out and didn’t let go. Had I given up on life as I planned, twice, then I wouldn’t have been able to step into my purpose. I wouldn’t have been able to reach out and share hope with others and help them face their monsters and heal as well.
Embracing life, knowing there are hazards, but striving to go on anyway.
Thank you for hearing her story…
SHINE Your Light! – SHARE HOPE, Inspire, Nurture, and Empower each other!
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