Shame Ate My Soul
Rising Above the Stigma of Mental Illness, Suicide Attempts and Addiction
Written by Susan Walz
Mesmerized by thoughts of my own death, I never heard my children enter. They magically materialized in my house and stood at the edge of the precipice—the open doorway of my living room, tentatively peering in—afraid and unable to enter. Invisible prison bars barricaded them from getting closer to me as I slowly sank deeper into the quicksand of my own abyss.
They silently studied me as I sat motionless, alone in the dark, reclined in my favorite old mustard yellow Lazy Boy rocking chair—the one with my Grandma’s lace doilies dressing up the armrests and top of the chair. My legs stretched out with the bottom of my callused heels planted firmly into the footrest of my chair where concave indentations were permanently etched into the cushion from many years of past and recent overuse.
Every light in my house is turned off, or rather has never been turned on. I do not have the energy or desire to turn the lights on. The darkness inside my house and my internal darkness is haunting to most. The only source of light comes from an outside street lamp and my 30-inch flat screen television set which is perched on an old peeling faux wood TV stand five feet in front of me. I stare at the meaningless images on the screen.
The 2017 Winter Olympics are triumphing and celebrating inside my television box, but I can’t celebrate with them. I am usually a huge fan of the Olympics, but not this time. The Olympic creed, or guiding principle, of the modern Olympic Games is a quote by Baron de Coubertin: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” The problem with that creed for me is that I can’t take part in my own struggle, anymore. I’ve lost my ability and desire to fight.
I used to love watching the entire Olympics from the lighting of the torch to extinguishing the flame at the closing ceremony. When I was a young girl, I lived vicariously through the athletes and dreamed of what it must be like to be them. I’ve always been greatly inspired by the comeback stories and the athlete’s stories of courage and perseverance, but not this year. My despair and mental unwellness have become so unbearable that even the Olympics’ figure skating competitions can’t distract me enough to stop my suicidal ideations, even momentarily.
I used to dream of having a good and purposeful life. Since I was ten years old, I dreamed of having my own children and being the best mother in the world. Being a great mother was my passion and is what I wanted more than anything.
At fifty-four years old, I’ve been very blessed to be the mother of three amazing children and two more children that married my children. I’ve always loved my children unconditionally and praised them as often as I could. I was a good mother until I just wasn’t—until I failed miserably—like now.
Maybe my children are afraid to get too close to me because they know I am not their real mom in the true sense of the word. I am not the mom they once loved and knew. That mom is gone—removed from herself and life—lost somewhere deep inside the brain chemistry of her disease. She has come undone, unraveled from her spool of life.
Kylie and Keagan sensed the seriousness of my situation and felt helpless not knowing what to do. They wanted desperately to do the right thing but didn’t know what it was. Upon their arrival at my house, they were frozen from fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. They stood on egg shells, afraid to move, fearing one wrong move would cause their mom’s fragile shell to crack and break for good, this time.
Their fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stopped them from doing or saying anything. In my eyes the lack of doing anything was a sign that no one cared. But, of course they cared. I just could not see it. My perceptions were misconstrued and like anyone that has ever been in the middle of a severe suicidal depression my mind was telling me constant lies and I believed every one of them. At this stage of my disease, my reality was orbiting Venus and I was hanging on by only a small thread of shredded rope. How many more lifelines could my children throw at me when I refused to wear a life jacket as I continued to sink deeper from the weight of my own anchor?
My son Keagan leaned against the mahogany wood door frame as he looked at me and said, “Hi, Mom.”
Turning my head slightly to the left, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and mumbled, “Oh. Hi.”
“What are you doing?” he asked kindly.
“What do you mean?” I said, knowing what he meant.
“Why are you sitting alone in the dark? he asked.
“I like being alone and I like being in the dark,” I said in an uncaring tone because I could not care about anything at the time. I had already died while breathing. I felt dead. I was gone inside. There was nothing left. I sat in the dark because the dark matched my mood. I was dark. My life was dark, and I couldn’t care about anything, especially myself.
As always when I see my son, I’m amazed at how handsome he is and not just because I am his Mom, but because he has model good looks. As he stood in the corner of the entry way of my living room staring at me, tears began to trickle down his face slowly, one at a time. I saw the tears. He could not hide them from me. I’m his mom. I saw his tears before he wiped them away.
I saw the tears spill out and trickle down around his high cheek bones and fall into his dark stubble resting on his square jaw. The tears I could not catch on my adult son, my baby boy. Another tear I could not save. Another tear shed that I could not prevent. Another tear I missed because my own dried up tears interfered with my ability to be a mother. I am his Mom and I am supposed to catch his tears no matter how old he is, but I couldn’t do it. Instead I caused his tears to form and his eyes to swell.
My oldest daughter Kylie stands further back, but firmly in the center of the doorway. I can see her entire self—her healthy and slender five-foot seven-inch dancer body frame. Luckily, she took after her father with his family’s body type genes and did not get my fat genes and short five-foot three stature. I look like a teapot. Tip me over and pour me out. Kylie on the other hand looks like a fancy wine glass with all the curves in the right places. Her hair is long and wavy and the same color and sheen as the milk chocolate of a Snicker’s candy bar. Her large brown eyes stand out as her greatest feature above her orthodontics enhanced straight teeth now hidden behind the frown of her full lips. It breaks my heart, shattering it to shards of emptiness to know I am the cause of her pain, again.
“Mom, it smells like cat pee in here. It’s pretty bad,” Kylie said concerned.
The pungent ammonia-like odor from both stale and new cat urine permeates the house. One of my cats must have urinated in the nearby litterbox and did not cover his pee well enough to dissipate the smell. Or more likely, my poor cat couldn’t cover the pee because there wasn’t any clean litter left in the box to cover it with. I don’t recall when the last time I scooped their poop or changed their litter box. Feeding my two cats uses up most of my lifeless energy.
“So, what,” I say. “I don’t have the energy to clean it up. I can’t do it and I don’t care.”
“Do you want us to help you?” she asks.
“No. I don’t need your help.”
“Yes, you do Mom,” she says wiping her nose with the end of her sleeve.
I didn’t see her tears, but she was better at hiding them than Keagan. “I don’t need your help. You don’t care. So, it doesn’t matter,” I tell her.
“Mom, I do care. We all care. We love you,” she pleads.
“No, you don’t,” I snap back as my tears start coming and once they come I can’t stop them. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, “I say as I wipe my tears from my eyes and face with my fingertips and then sleeve of my sweatshirt try to stop my steady flow of tears. “I can’t do this anymore. I want to die.” It should never be this normal and easy to talk about dying, but lately I talk about it like I am announcing what we’re having for dinner.
“Mom, I love you. I need you to get well. Who will love my children like only you can? No one will love my children the way you do. You need to be here to be my children’s grandma, Mom,” Keagan said even though he didn’t have children of his own yet.
“Mom, we all love you and want to help you,” Kylie reiterates.
“No, you don’t,” I sob. “No one loves me or cares about me. I’ve failed at everything.”
“That’s not true.” Kylie says.
“I don’t have any money. I don’t have any friends. Lexie even moved out. My own daughter doesn’t even want to live with me anymore,” I continue. “I am all alone in the world.”
It will get better. It always does,” Keagan says.
It’s like they are taking turns with this banter. “No, it won’t. Not anymore. I can’t live like this anymore,” I add. “I will never go to the hospital, again. I won’t start that kind of life again. I won’t do it.”
“You need help though, Mom.”
“No one can help me. Nothing can help me anymore. I’m done.”
After we continued this never-ending conversation that was going no where fast, Kylie finally asked, “Mom, are you going to be okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine. I’m not going to kill myself tonight. I promise,” I say this knowing it to be true because I always promised myself I would never kill myself without writing my children a note first. I was too tired to write a good-by note tonight.
“Okay. Are you sure, mom? You promise?” They both say worn out from their fruitless efforts.
“Yes, I promise,” knowing it was true, at least for tonight.
“I love you, Mom,” they say in unison.
“I love you too,” I tell them. “Thanks for coming over. I love you to the moon and back a bazillion trillion times. I am sorry I am so sick. You don’t deserve a mom like me,” I tell them as they walk away. I’m a hugger and I would normally never let them leave me without giving them hugs, but I didn’t have the energy or ability to get out of my chair.
Kylie and Keagan walk out the back door of my house and sneak out of my house the same way they snuck in. After they leave, I sit alone in the dark staring at the meaningless picture on the television as it tries to talk to me, but I don’t listen or even see it. Thoughts of death are very seductive at this point in my life.
People don’t understand that suicidal thoughts are sometimes the only hope for the hopeless. At least dying gave me an option to end my pain. It was bittersweet because it would end my pain, but I didn’t want to leave earth forever. I wasn’t ready for that. I just needed to stop this never-ending pain.
Throughout my life, I’ve made some of my biggest decisions at my weakest, darkest and worst moments. Once again, I am struggling with the most important decision of my life—to live or die.
Where is my fight to live? Where did it go? I’ve had suicidal thoughts off and on for years, but this time it’s different. I knew one day it could happen. It’s extremely frightening and comforting at the same time. Maybe at last, there is an end to my painful unlivable, unmanageable life.
When you are contemplating suicide—planning it—selecting which day will be your last on earth, you think a lot about the life you lived, the mistakes you’ve made, the good things you’ve done and your children. You reminisce as much as you can about the good moments, your past, your childhood and the life you lived. I thought a lot about what lead me to this lethal moment.
Copyright @ 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved