This blog is not FDA approved
Good morning. I’d like to talk about something that’s been a part of my life in some form or another for the past 15 years. The threat of it has been used to hold me captive and it has been used to escape unbearable pain. It has a devastating effect on everyone it touches. And it is linked to mental illness 90% of the time.
As a 20-year-old lad, I had just gotten involved in a relationship with an emotionally fragile young woman with two children. I quickly realized that we were completely different people in almost every respect. Our senses of humor were different. Our taste in music was different. Our taste in movies was different. Our family values were different. I like to read. She doesn’t. I like crude jokes. She doesn’t. In short, we have nothing in common. I quickly realized that I was not happy in this relationship and decided to end it three months after it had begun.
I told her that I wasn’t happy, that we weren’t working, and that I was going to move out. She responded by getting drunk and suicidal. She stormed out of our apartment right after telling me she was walking to the I-75 overpass and was going to jump off the bridge. I couldn’t chase her. I couldn’t try to stop her. I could only sit in the living room and cry because her two children were laying sound asleep in their bedroom. I wanted to stop her, but couldn’t abandon them.
She didn’t jump. She came back and I was so relieved and so afraid to hurt her any more than I already had that I agreed to stay. The relationship eventually deteriorated further, as you can imagine. I tried two more times to leave and each time she became suicidal. Each time my resolve would break and I would stay.
I eventually decided that I needed to sneak away. I called my mother and arranged for her to come over one day while the young woman was at work and her children at school so we could quickly gather my belongings and I could leave without having to face the pain I would have caused and to have her threaten to kill herself again. The night before I was to move out I somehow tipped my hand. I never told her, but somehow she knew something was amiss. Woman’s intuition, I guess. She knew I had something planned and grilled me until I confessed. Not only did she get suicidal that night, she actually attempted it.
She told me again that she was going to jump off of the bridge. She tried to force her way out of our bedroom multiple times, but I was able to physically restrain her from leaving. She seemingly gave up, and eventually told me she needed to use the restroom. I acquiesced and let her use the restroom, where, I had forgotten, all of our medication was. She swallowed an entire bottle of Benadryl while she was in there.
I was dumbfounded. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. In retrospect I know what I should have done. I should have called 911. I should have had her committed. I should have done something, anything, to help her, but at that moment I was simply in shock. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. When she came out of the bathroom she laid down on the floor next to the bed and calmly looked into my eyes, smiled sadly, and as a single tear ran down her cheek told me that when I awoke the next morning all my troubles would be gone. I was completely stricken. Frozen. I held her hand and cried. I bawled until I fell asleep.
Luckily, the pills didn’t kill her. She did however, sleep for the next three days almost nonstop. It was at that point I became a hostage. I gave up any and all attempts to leave her. I acquiesced to everything she ever asked for after that moment. One day she told me she wanted us to get married. So we did. Another day she decided she wanted to have another child. So we did. Two, in fact. Twins. Those boys are the only reason I wouldn’t go back in time and change a damn thing that happened.
In 2005 I faced another suicide attempt. This time is was my ex-wife’s sister. My then sister-in-law already had two children and had gotten pregnant a third time with a child she did not want. So she had an abortion. Eventually, the guilt of what she’d done overwhelmed her. For the life of me I can’t remember what kind of pills she took that night, but as she lay dying she realized what she’d done and decided to save herself. She couldn’t talk, and could barely move, but somehow managed to convince her 5-year-old son to call 911. No 5-year-old should have to endure an experience like that.
I finally reached a boiling point the next year. My ex-wife had sought treatment for her mental woes, but I could not tolerate being in that marriage any longer. I had reached a point where I didn’t care if she made an attempt for her life if I left. Luckily, because she was on Prozac at the time of our separation, there were no suicide attempts or threats. There was verbal and physical abuse, but that was all directed towards me.
Not long afterward, I went on my first date with my current wife. We had been friends for a while and decided to go on a date. Shortly after that, she received the horrible news that her brother had committed suicide. I know what it feels like to be the reason somebody wants to die and that’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anybody, but I can’t imagine going through what my wife has gone through these last six years. I can’t imagine what my in-laws have gone through. I can’t imagine what this did to my brother-in-law’s ex-girlfriend, on whose doorstep he shot himself in the face with a shotgun.
I have watched my wife and her parents struggle with this death for years. A suicide is so different from any other death. Natural causes can be explained. A murder, while unjust, can be explained. When a loved one commits suicide there are no answers unless a note is left behind. So I’ve watched my wife struggle with this. I watched her beat herself up for not seeing the signs of her brother’s depression and drug abuse. I watched her seethe because he voluntarily ended his life without considering the feelings of those who loved him.
Every July when his birthday comes around she becomes sullen and inconsolable. Every November when the anniversary of his death rolls around she becomes even more sullen and inconsolable. I have done my best to support her, but there’s not much I can do. I can’t answer her questions. I can’t bring her peace. So I let her cry on my shoulder.
My wife immediately got involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. AFSP’s mission is to understand the mental illnesses that lead people to commit suicide. They also offer a wide range of support programs for suicide survivors or those left behind by suicide. They currently have 50 chapters across the country.
I’m not much of a joiner, but after seeing the devastation this suicide caused, I had to get involved. I have met so many people who were affected by the death of my brother-in-law. If I can do something to save one life, save one person that pain, or save one person the pain of knowing, like I do, what it feels like to be the reason somebody commits or tries to commit suicide, then I’m going to do it.
Each October, the local chapter here in Cincinnati holds a walk to raise awareness and money. Each year my wife has headed up a team and collected donations for this worthy cause. On a cold Sunday morning on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, there is a short ceremony recognizing all of the people who organized the event. Next is a balloon launch. Last year the twins went with us for the first time and wrote messages to their step-uncle on their balloons. Messages to a man they were never able to meet. Then there is a collective moment of silence for those lost. The moment of silence brings it all home. It reminds you why you’re there. You can look around during this moment of silence and see mothers weeping. Fathers crying. Siblings shedding tears.
I have further interest in raising awareness and helping fund research into suicide as 90% of people who commit suicide have some sort of psychiatric illness. The most common illnesses are depression and drug use. I have depression. I had some suicidal thoughts as a young teenager, actually before I was a teen, but I haven’t had any since that time. But you never know. The mind is a very mysterious thing.
I highly urge all of you reading to find out if there is an AFSP chapter in your area and to become involved. Suicide is more prevalent than you may know. A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the U.S. An attempt is estimated to be made once every 40 seconds.