Letter to Brian: January 14, 2023

Dear Brian,

I gotta tell you… I’m struggling.  HARD.  I’ve been trying to give myself a little grace because I was struggling with the typical post-holiday blues on top of many of my go-to resources being unavailable to me for the better part of a month.  Group therapy was cancelled 3 weeks in a row due to the holidays and other conflicts… my therapist went on maternity leave so I had to try and pick up with a brand new person while she’s away… I went a whole month without a ketamine treatment and work has been incredibly stressful with our transition to a new accounting system.  Learning new things can be very difficult for me, but moreso when my brain is in survival mode and I can barely function. To top it off, the few people I do get to see from time to time are quite busy with their own lives, as they are absolutely entitled to be, so I’ve been spending an undesirable amount of time alone, which has only added to my feelings of isolation and despair. But that is a problem I have created myself because when I’m in the height of despair, the last thing I want to do is see other people and I’ve isolated nearly everyone, and I know it.

I had a friend tell me once how much she has struggled to lose weight over the years… she’s tried it all.  One stint consisted of a strict diet accompanied by a gym workout 6 days a week for 6 months and she didn’t lose a pound.  Frustrated with the lack of progress, she quit. It’s hard to work and work towards something and see little (or no) progress being made.  I sometimes think of my mental health that way. At what point do all of the things I’m trying start to pay off?  If ever??

I received a call yesterday that under my new health insurance policy that took effect on January 1st, my ketamine infusions will no longer be covered.  If I want to continue to pursue the one thing that finally seemed to be dislodging some of my “stuckness” I will have to pay for it to the tune of $300 a week. It’s lovely that some jerk I’ve never met sits behind a desk far, far away and decides whether or not I get to continue getting treatments that have been the best thing to happen to me in my entire mental health recovery journey thus far. And today, when picking up my prescriptions, I paid $400 for only 2 of my 7 medications for just one month. Money has always been a trigger for me; or, rather, the fear of not having ENOUGH money has always been a trigger for me.  Even in the best of moods, my anxiety can go from a 1 to a 10 very quickly when faced with a financial setback like this or from receiving an unexpected bill.

I’m so tired of treading water, you know? People keep telling me they are proud of me for still being here and that I should just keep going.  But I feel like I’ve been in the ocean treading water to the point of exhaustion and people sitting in functioning boats pass by, give me a smile and say, “You’re doing great, just keep swimming.”  Easy for them to say… they have a boat.  Although that’s not the best analogy, I guess… because it’s not their job to pull me into their boat to save me.  That’s my job. But sometimes, when it feels like all your efforts are not getting the job done, the easy way out becomes more and more appealing.

I heard yesterday that Lisa Marie Presley passed away at age 54 from a heart attack.  It’s not a normal response to think, “Man, how lucky. I want that for myself.” But that’s the kind of things I think about. It’s just getting harder and harder to see a way out of these episodes; it’s like a fog that gets thicker and thicker with each occurrence and I can’t see a way out. I don’t know if the hormone changes that come with perimenopause are to blame for the worsening moods, but it’s exhausting.  I’m pretty sure most people know how frustrating it can be to deal with doctors and insurance companies; but when your brain is what needs help, all it takes is one rude person to push you towards giving up.  In fact, it feels like I’m perpetually teetering on the edge of giving up; all my energy has been going towards just surviving that the smallest of triggers often push me closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.  Sometimes it’s a friend who won’t text me back.  Sometimes it’s someone cancelling plans on me when that was the one thing I had looked forward to all week.  Sometimes it’s feeling excluded or ignored.  Sometimes it’s making a mistake at work. Basic, basic crap that everyone deals with feels insurmountable when your brain has an “out of order” sign hanging from it.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this today aside from the fact that I just needed to talk… talking keeps me safe. I know I have people I COULD call… but I, despite their proclamations to the contrary, feel like a burden. Plus, I’m infinitely more honest when writing to you, I think. After all, you knew what it was like to feel all of these things.  Deeply.

Even in the fog, I look and listen for you and Moomie around me.  I heard the song you sent my way, today… “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by the Crash Test Dummies.  I could almost hear you singing it as we drove to school in that red Camaro.  It did bring a smile to my face for a brief moment today.

Love,
Me

 

 

Letter to Brian: December 29, 2022

Dear Brian,

A few days ago, I experienced on of my worst mental health days in a while.  It was such a struggle to get through the day– my mind was racing at high speed with destructive self talk, desperation and very powerful, intense suicidal thoughts.

I went into “triage mode” and actively tried to turn things around by utilizing some  of my self care tools such as guided meditations, journaling, deep breathing, etc. But it was all so intense and painful that even amid all the self care stuff, I still felt an overwhelmingly intense pull towards self harm. I took out all my supplies and had them all lined up on a tray ready to use.  I had decided that I’d wait until my work day was over to do it… but I was able to distract myself and kept putting it off but still left it all sitting there with the intention of allowing myself that release later.

Eventually, as I sat on the couch (with a couple of very concerned kitties keeping watch over me) putzing mindlessly on my phone, I received an alert.  Sometimes, Google Photos will pop up with a notice that says, “Look Back on This Day” that when opened, contains a slide show of photo memories from that day a year ago, or several years ago.  But this alert popped up with one word: “Rainbows.”  I opened it to find a collection of rainbow photos that I’d taken over the past few years, followed by a few pictures from Christmas last year.

I’ve been trying to listen to the little “nudges” I get from the Universe and I’m certain that this was another one of them.  I don’t believe it is coincidental as just when I’m at my lowest points, something happens to try and knock some hope into me.  A meaningful song comes on the radio just in time… or I receive a text from an old friend who is just “checking in on me”… or I find a penny from you… or, in this case, I suddenly receive a slideshow of hopeful rainbows– reminding me that the storms do eventually move through.

I don’t know if you and Moomie had a hand in this or not, but I like to think that you did.

Love,

Laura

 

 

Letter to Brian: December 27, 2022

Dear Brian,

Well, shit.  It’s difficult to know where to begin, here. Aside from my letter to you last July, it’s been a few years since I’ve written. Years!! It’s certainly not for a lack of material as in that span of time I’ve changed jobs… there was a global pandemic that shut the whole world down… there was a presidential election and several months later, thousands of ignorant assholes attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of said presidential election. I spent the better part of a year trying to figure out some bizarre health issues (consisting of, but not limited to: too much of my hair falling out, my hands and feet going numb, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, nausea, excessive dizziness and fatigue, my heart rate shooting up anytime I stood up, starting out each work day with an hour of dry-heaving into the garbage can underneath my office desk, night sweats and excessive sweating throughout the day, unbearable brain fog, chest pain and 60 pounds falling off without trying, etc.) In the last year, I also resumed mental health treatment and have been back on psychotropic meds, have been attending weekly individual and group therapy sessions and I even got myself back out into the dating world! I’m surely forgetting about a hundred other things, but I’m not going to spend any amount of time trying to remember them all; and quite honestly, anything I have forgotten I’ll assume was the result of my own mind doing me a solid and sparing me the discomfort of recalling those details.

While I’ve enjoyed an increase in good mental health days overall, I’ve still been experiencing very deep lows and decided to pursue another treatment option: ketamine infusion therapy. It’s been a profoundly moving experience that is virtually impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand. The goal is to create a dissociative state in which your body and mind are essentially disconnected.  Though ketamine was approved as an anesthetic over 50 years ago and is legal when prescribed by a physician, it is not yet approved by the FDA… but they’ve had success with many people suffering from various mental health disorders such as Treatment Resistant Depression, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and chronic suicidal ideation, all of which have been a great struggle for me.

So far I’ve completed 6 infusions and will continue to get sporadic “booster” infusions for possibly the next month or so.  For starters, I’ve been incredibly blessed with a very special friend/neighbor that has taken me to all of these appointments which not only are an hour away, but the session itself takes a solid hour-and-a-half so it’s a massive time commitment for which I am immensely grateful; without that help, or without a job that affords me the time off to attend these appointments, this therapy wouldn’t even be an accessible option for me.

The session itself begins with receiving a dose of Zofran to help to reduce any nausea that may occur during the session.  As they are preparing my infusion, I get myself comfortable by taking off my shoes, covering myself with a comforting blanket I bring from home and reclining back in the chair as I put in my Air Pods and cue up some wonderfully trippy meditation music to help me clear my mind for the journey and finish by pulling my soft sleep mask over my eyes.  After the IV infusion is all hooked up, the nurse shuts off the light and leaves the room; I have a call button if at any point I require any assistance.

About 10 minutes in to the procedure, I can begin to feel the changes in my mind and, more notably, in my body.  It’s almost as if I can feel the exact moment at which my mind detaches from my body; like I can actually feel my spirit being lifted out of my physical body. It’s such a calm, relaxed, cared for and safe feeling that I’ve never experienced in my waking life… ever.  I value these treatments so much because for that 90 minutes, I don’t worry about a damn thing, and that feels fucking incredible.  The imagery I see in my mind as I’m “traveling” is so hard to describe; it’s not as though I’m seeing clear and immediately decipherable images like a serene pond or a mountainside sunset… but more like a series of shifting shapes and layers and opaque colors… the only way I can verbalize it is that it feels like I’m reduced to only my consciousness and am being shown a “behind the scenes” look at the very fabric and makeup of our universe…as though I’m a tiny atom floating around in space that just becomes part of the energy that makes up our entire world.  It’s a humbling, but very freeing feeling.

The first meaningful theme that kept coming up for me was, “It doesn’t matter.”  Going in to that initial session, I had been wrestling with an interpersonal issue that was really working me up into a needy, anxious ball of nerves.  However, the message I received back from my consciousness was, “Let it go…. just let it go.  In the big picture, this interaction doesn’t really matter, you’re letting the things that don’t matter take up too much space in your mind.”  It sounds silly, but I left that session feeling instantly better about that situation that had had me in tears the night before.

What I’ve since learned about these sessions is that behind the scenes, while I’m relaxing and floating, the ketamine is restoring electrical activity and repairing lost neural connections.

From an article I found on www.albanyketamine.com: According to research, mental illnesses tend to interfere with neuronal connectivity in the brain’s areas responsible for emotional processing, stress regulation, and memory. These changes can make it difficult for people with mental illness to experience positive emotions, cope with stress, and remember good memories.

Ketamine is thought to work by restoring balance in these areas of the brain. As an NMDA receptor antagonist, ketamine helps increase neural activity and repair damaged neuronal connections by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters like glutamate and GABA.

In other words, ketamine helps to “rewire” the brain by increasing communication between neurons. This improved communication restores normal brain function and helps relieve symptoms of mental illness.

Additionally, ketamine also increases levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that helps support neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. BDNF is vital for the growth of new neural pathways and the survival of existing neurons. This means that ketamine not only helps to improve current brain function but also has the potential to promote brain healing and regeneration.

While I have certainly noticed some positive mental and emotional changes and moderate changes in the intensity of my suicidal ideation since starting this ketamine journey, there are also some other effects that I won’t say are bad or good, they just are. One such effect is related to my suicidal thoughts.  Those haven’t become more intense, but they have changed.  After feeling what it must be like to exist as just “energy” without the heaviness of the physical body or the difficulty of life existing among other humans, I will say that I wish I could experience that feeling always.  So admittedly, there are moments where I do still feel that pull from the “other side” and wish I wasn’t still here.  After a whole lifetime of always feeling an unrelenting desire to die, I’m finding it hard to believe that I’ll ever be able to experience a life where those thoughts aren’t present.  I’m hopeful, but it still feels out of reach just yet.

Some of the things I’m continuing to work on in my therapy center around my interpersonal dysfunction. My brain is still so hard-wired for knee-jerk trauma responses which still result in self-harm episodes; not as frequently as before, but it’s still happening. I’m trying harder than I’ve ever tried in my life and it hurts, dude.  Many days, while I’m missing you and Moomie, I’m envious of your early departures from the pain. And I sometimes think if I were to pass on, that few people would truly be affected by it.  I mean, people might be upset for a little bit, but their lives would not be interrupted in any real way because I genuinely don’t believe that I matter to anyone as much as you and Moomie mattered to me.  I have people in my life who care and all, but it’s not the same as feeling as though you truly belong. It’s not that I believe people don’t care about me, I know they do; it’s that I can’t believe that anyone could ever love me that much. I’m trying so hard to unlearn my toxic ways of thinking– believing that I’m just a burden and that people just tolerate me to be kind but eventually tire of my presence.  My mind is like a tornado– it swoops in and picks up these random thoughts like a twister picks up debris.  The thoughts get pulled up into the vortex and are whipped around and around and around in my brain getting bigger and bigger.  I want to reach up and pull some of those thoughts out of all that swirling anger and hurt, but it’s going too fast and it feels impossible.

I really should get back into the habit of writing these letters to you more. It helps me to get my thoughts out and I’ve learned over the years that people appreciate my honesty as it’s helped others feel less alone in their own similar struggles.

Thanks for listening, dude.  I look for you and Moomie in every sunset and soft breeze… I know you’re listening.

Love,
Laura

 

 

Letter to Brian: July 3, 2021

Dear Brian,

Sooooooo…. the dress I’m wearing in this picture is the very same dress I was wearing 3 years ago tonight. It’s what I was wearing the night I attempted suicide on July 3, 2018. It feels so surreal… because I’m astounded that somehow I’ve managed to come this far.

When I didn’t succeed that night, I spent the next few days planning out my next attempt and came dangerously close to carrying it out several times since then. You’d be surprised at the skills you can learn on YouTube. In fact, if you were to go to the closet next to my front door at this very moment you’d still find the rope I tied into a noose on July 4th after watching many tutorials in an attempt to perfect my next try at leaving this excruciating earthly existence on my own terms.

I wish I could say that I had some incredible words of wisdom to explain why I’m still here… but I don’t. Honestly, it’s been nothing but day after day after day of telling myself to wait “just one more day”… and now I suddenly find myself miraculously 3 years older. I don’t use the term “miraculously” lightly… I whole-heartedly consider it a profoundly confusing miracle that I’ve managed to battle against a mind that has been doing it’s very best to destroy me each and every day. It often feels like I’m just treading water in a tumultuous sea in the dark of night… unable to see more than a few inches in front of my face… not knowing what waits out in the darkness… and feeling quite certain that I’ll never be rescued.

Last night I wore this dress again to make a new memory in it. A happy memory with the company of a good friend, delicious wine, beautiful scenery, music, incredible food and laughter. This dress has been hanging in my my closet just begging for a new experience; one to take away that horrific night of tears, profuse sweating and the nauseating stench of exhaust from my Subaru Outback.

I recently started therapy again and the plan is to resume antidepressant medication in the near future. It’s oddly hopeful of me to try this again after so many failed attempts. But I am learning to accept the two conflicting halves of me that somehow manage to coexist– the one half that still finds the strength to reach out towards a rope that’s offered to her as a lifeline and the other half that can’t seem to bring herself to throw away that other rope…. the one tied into a noose in her closet. I don’t know that I’ll ever truly get better… but here, in this moment, I’m choosing to consider the possibility.

I spent all day today on a boat on the river with my Aunt and my Uncle… fresh air, great music and even better company.  And this evening was spent with my chosen family/friends watching fireworks.  It’s not lost on me that these experiences are more than reason enough to keep trying. As I was watching the fireworks, I realized how much better it was to be surrounded by people I love looking up at the sky… when I think back to 3 years ago at that very moment, I was staring up at the ceiling of my garage thinking I’d never wake up again and that would be the very last thing I ever saw.

I have a lot of healing to do but days like today remind me that it just might be worth the effort.

I’ll do better at writing more often, I’ve really missed it.

Missing you and Moomie today and always,

Laura

Letter to Brian: August 22, 2019

Dear Brian,

The summer is nearly over… I made it through another July.  There are a lot of “anniversaries” during the month of July that I just can’t seem to shake.  It begins with Mom’s birthday on the 1st.  Then there’s July 5th… the very last time I ever got to hug you and when I watched your car drive away after you dropped me off at the airport knowing full-well that I likely would never see you again.  And July 25th… that was the awful day that I received your suicide letter via an email that you unintentionally sent to me.  I guess it’s a PTSD of sorts; each time these dates roll around… my memory is utterly hijacked and I keep reliving all of those moments over and over and over again.  It’s fucking crippling, dude. I used to be able to share this part of my heart with Mom… she’s the only one who truly understood what each of those days meant because she experienced them, too. We shared that grief together.  But she’s been gone a few years now, and it’s been so hard not having anyone else that understands the gravity of each of those dates to share the pain with me.

And now, as of last July, there is another event to add to that list of dates I dread.  July 3rd marked one year since my suicide attempt. If you’d told me back then that I’d still be here a  year later, I’d never have believed you.  When I failed that night, I’d already had my “Plan B” in the works and came dangerously close to carrying it out 3 months later.  I’ve been seconds away from trying again about half a dozen more times since then.  I still think about it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  No joke.  There is not a day that goes by when I don’t have to say to myself, “Ok… just get out of bed… get yourself together… just try and get through just one more day. If it’s unbearable… that noose will still be here waiting for you when you get home.” If I’m being completely honest… I still wish that I had succeeded in ending my life that night.  That’s not to say that I haven’t had some wonderful moments in the past year, because I absolutely have.  I have a fantastic group of friends and “chosen family” that have been a lifeline for me.  I’m surrounded by people who love me. But as wonderful as my support system is, when my heart and my head hurt as unbearably as they do, those few great “moments” don’t even begin to come close to outweighing the painful experiences that go on inside my mind all day long.  Everything just hits me WAY harder than it would if I were mentally healthy.  I think of it sort of like a bank account.  Let’s say you’re overdrawn (you know… much like I’m emotionally in the hole)… and you get a bill for a car repair… and another bill for the dentist… and a bill for a home repair… you’re feeling pretty overwhelmed as the bills start to pile up.  After doing laundry, you find a $20 bill you didn’t know you had in a jacket pocket.  Is finding that money a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  But does it make up for all the previous bills and fix everything and suddenly you’re not worried anymore?  Hell, no.  Much like my “happy moments.”  Are they unappreciated?  Of course they aren’t.  I love those moments.  But are they enough to undo the damage that the depression has done to my self-worth?  Not. Even. Close.

I just finished binge-watching all eight seasons of House, M.D.  Man, that guy could be such an asshole. He lived with immense physical pain as a result of a crippling leg-injury and became addicted to Vicodin.  He was constantly popping pills and lashing out at everyone… including those who loved him in spite of his behavior. But all throughout, I couldn’t help but identify with him.  I understood so well how pain, whether it be physical or emotional, can cause us to hurt those closest to us, even unintentionally.  I had a very close friend in college who I’ve since lost touch with; about 15 years ago, she stopped returning my phone calls and emails.  I finally reached out to her to ask what I had done to upset her.  She let me know that I hadn’t really “done” anything… she simply just grew tired of my depression and self harm.  She said, “I tried to fix you… but you weren’t getting any better. I knew that you weren’t ever going to get better so I just couldn’t be around you any longer.” I’ve long battled fear of abandonment by those I love… and that conversation certainly confirmed my worst fear: the fear that if my depression continues, people will eventually tire of me and leave. I miss her friendship greatly, but I also completely understand her act of self-preservation, too.  After all, if even I don’t want to be around me, why on earth would anyone else want to be? And honestly, I am well aware that my depression makes me an undesirable friend.  It causes me, at times, to distance myself from everyone around me.  It means canceling plans when I can’t stop crying or I begin to feel everything so deeply that I just can’t seem to be around anyone at all… it’s all just too overwhelming. And my depression tells me that people won’t care if I cancel because they likely will be relieved that I’m not coming… they surely only extended me an invite to be polite, anyway, right? I can become incredibly emotionally distant and withholding. I clam up and run from showing my emotions outwardly. I turn down social invitations because I’m in one of those moods where I feel every single thing with such intolerable intensity that it actually hurts to be out in the world. I just don’t know how to turn that off.  I’m very aware that it is quite difficult to be my friend at times

I am often haunted by a line in your suicide letter where you said to me, “I’m very sorry for those who tried to help me—I shouldn’t have brought anybody into this because I’m not sure that I really ever wanted any help.” I think about that a lot.  I find myself reaching out at times… but then I feel enormous guilt over reaching out because I truly don’t believe that anyone can actually help me, anyway.  I’m 45 years old, for christ’s sake… if therapy and medication haven’t helped by now, I don’t believe that they ever will; which is why I made the decision to stop taking medication.  I’ve been completely off both of my antidepressants for about 7 months now.  I was experiencing just as many serious depressive episodes on medication as I do without them so I’d rather not spend my money on them any longer. And with regards to seeking any help– honestly, sometimes the suggestions I receive from other people can just agitate me further.  Like the old, “Just tell yourself something different and you’ll believe something different” adage fucking pisses me off.  It probably shouldn’t, but it does; that kind of remark makes it feel like my lifelong depression and suicidality can be reduced to “Just snap out of it, you silly goose!”  I also have great difficulty taking feedback from anyone who has not experienced chronic, life-threatening depression themselves.  This isn’t a “Boo hoo, my car won’t start and I had a bad day at work” kind of sadness.  It’s a “my mind is literally taking over, it’s telling me that I’m absolutely worthless,  that I don’t fit in anywhere and no one actually REALLY cares for me and that the world would not be remotely affected by my absence” kind of sadness. I heard a great quote on a show I was watching tonight.  A father was trying to explain to his young daughter why she wasn’t ever going to see her mother again because of her mental illness; he said to her, “Do you know how sometimes when people get sick, no matter how hard they try to get better and no matter how many doctors try to help that they just don’t get any better?  That happened to your Mom.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks… that’s exactly how I feel about my own illness.

I heard the best podcast recently.  It’s a mental health podcast called “So Called Normal” and it is facilitated by Mark Henick, a suicide attempt survivor who is very active in promoting issues relating to suicide and mental illness. In episode #30, he was interviewing a guest who vehemently opposes forced hospitalization and openly supports the “right to die” movement; he believes that if someone has suffered long enough from an illness with no relief, they have a right to end their own suffering. I also share that belief which is why I chose to end my activity in suicide awareness and prevention efforts. I felt like a traitor having the thought that some suicides simply cannot be prevented.  In the podcast, the guest recounted how therapists and friends would say to him, “You’re incredibly smart, you’re capable of soooo much more and you have so much potential.”   But none of it ever truly connected with him… he said there was absolutely NOTHING they could say to him that would convince him that there was something greater waiting out there for him… he didn’t believe it.  He said, “I KNOW I SUCK.  I don’t deserve to be loved, I’m a loser, I can’t even love myself.”  That prompted the host to respond with, “Do you love yourself now?”  To which he replied, “NO, I don’t. Why? I don’t know. I want to…Maybe I will get to that to that point someday.” It was incredibly refreshing to hear someone speak so honestly about those feelings.  It was reassuring to hear those words come out of someone else’s mouth for a change; it was a reminder that while I may feel terribly alone in experiencing these emotions, I’m NOT.  But this kind of self-hatred makes even the most common of adversities that most people face unbearable in my mind.

I recently put myself back out in the world, musically speaking.  I’d really been missing playing piano and singing… so I tried out a few open mic nights.  I seemed to get decent feedback so I reached out to a few people in hopes that someone might like to get together and collaborate– just for fun and practice, really.  I got the cold shoulder from each of them.  What my mind turned that rejection into was, “You really suck at this… you’re not even good enough to goof around with so you ought to just quit trying.”  I get so down on myself that when I put myself out there I secretly hope that it’ll be well-received and I might even get a few compliments to boost my self-esteem a bit.  But putting yourself out there also means risking rejection– and I don’t handle that very well.  When I’m rejected, it enforces the raging feelings of complete inadequacy already running rampant in my head and it spins completely out of control.  After the most recent open mic night, I outwardly took the rejection like a big, strong girl but started crying as soon as I got into my car.  I went home and self-harmed that night because I was so ashamed of myself. Like I said… I don’t handle rejection well.  At all.  A stronger person surely would be able to let those kinds of things just roll off their back.

I’ve been feeling extra lonely lately. Every once in a while, for a very brief second, I think it would be nice to someday find someone to share my life with… but then I remember how dating sucks ASS.  It’s far too traumatic putting myself out there for someone to just knock me back down and reject me.  Besides, lately I’ve been told multiple times by several of my married friends that my life is much better now that it would ever be with a partner.  I’ve been told that any seemingly happy and meaningful relationships I see around me aren’t real… that “true love” doesn’t exist.  If any couples outwardly seem to really be in love with one another, it isn’t real. It’s so oddly optimistic of me; as terribly jaded and cynical as I am about life in general, there is still a part of me that has always wanted to believe that there’s someone out there for me that I could share my life with; but then when I hear, “Don’t bother… it’s a waste of  your time… real love doesn’t even exist… you’re better off alone” then it gives me one less thing to look forward to in the future.  Don’t get me wrong– I know that the “fairytale love” isn’t real… because life is difficult and messy; perfection just isn’t possible.  I had been hanging on to the hope that the couples I see out there that have been making it work for 40 years have done so because they truly love the other person enough to work through all the hard stuff that gets tossed in their path along the way… not simply because it’s easier to stay and endure rather than make the effort to start fresh on their own.  I’ve always been a “romantic” at heart and had hoped that someday I’d find that one person who I could grow old with and who’d be there to share life’s speed bumps with me.  Apparently, it’s all a big lie.

Well… I  guess I’ve babbled at you long enough for today.  I really need to stop letting so much time pass before releasing some of this built-up shenanigans.

Thanks for listening, dude.  I really miss you.

Love,
Laura

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to Brian: February 14, 2019

 

Dear Brian,

I really shouldn’t wait so long between letters. By the time I start to write, I have so much to say to you that I don’t even know where to begin. It all bottles up and I reach a point where it just needs to get out as quickly as possible; I end up vomiting too many disorganized words onto the page that I worry it makes very little sense to anyone else. But here goes, anyway.

Your birthday just came and went a few days ago… you’d have been 44 this year. I spent most of the day napping because I really just didn’t want to be awake for it; sometimes it’s easier for me to just pretend that some things aren’t happening. Healthy coping skills never have been my strong suit. I turned 45 a few weeks ago. I have so many confusing feelings about that as I truly never thought I’d make it this far. As a young child who entertained thoughts of suicide to an adult who now continues to have those feelings every single day I just didn’t think it would be possible.

I spent my birthday this year in Jamaica on vacation with some wonderful friends. They’d had their trip planned since June and just a few weeks after my suicide attempt in July, they asked me if I’d like to join their family in Jamaica. I was really excited about the idea… so I put down a deposit. But I am going to be blunt– I was also very apprehensive. I didn’t go through with finalizing the trip until the last few days of November as I was still debating whether or not I thought I’d still be alive to go on the trip the end of January. There isn’t a day that goes by that the night of July 3rd isn’t on my mind. Each time I get into my car in the garage I have flashbacks of that night… sitting in the driver’s seat drifting in and out of consciousness, sweating profusely, staring through the moon roof at the beams in the ceiling and hoping that it would be over soon. (Ironically, I’d taken a book into the car with me that night, “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig. Maybe part of me thought there’d be something in the book that would be a “hail mary” of sorts and could change my mind. All it did was piss me off.) The smell of exhaust still brings me right back to that place; there are constant reminders of it everywhere. It’s like I’ve been living in some kind of purgatory since that night. I still wish that I’d died that night and I often wonder why I didn’t.

I was about 2 seconds away from attempting suicide again in October. It was the Saturday before Halloween and I’d been invited to go out with some friends to a winery; to get all dressed up in our costumes and have some food and wine. I was a bit on the fence about going as I’ve been really struggling with overwhelming anxiety about going out and being social; I never used to be that way but it’s happening more and more these days… I just feel safer at home, alone. I really didn’t want to let my friends down as they were looking forward to it… so I decided to put on my big girl panties and join them. Because I was so nervous about going, I thought I’d have a few glasses of wine before they picked me up… you know… just to take the edge off a bit, make it easier to leave the house. When we arrived at the winery I proceeded to have about 5 more glasses of wine there but no food as they’d run out of their pizzas for the evening.

After enough wine, it wasn’t very difficult at all to convince me that we should join an even larger group of friends that had rented a bus to hit a few more bars in the area. I continued to drink on the bus… because, well, it was there and I was trying to stifle the anxiety I was feeling inside yet. We stopped at a bar… I had a few mixed drinks there… but again, no food. We got back on the bus to head to another bar and as the bus was driving, a panic attack began to set in. It’s was so strange… all of the voices suddenly seemed so much louder… and the people all around seemed way too close to me… and things were moving much too fast. I became very short of breath and sort of started zoning out. As soon as the bus came to a stop, I stood outside the building trying to take in some fresh air and calm down a bit. But the panic and the fear became so overwhelming and I just started crying and saying I needed to get home… immediately. I didn’t even know where we were at that point; but luckily we were only about 15 minutes from home and a very dear friend came to pick me up and bring me home. I remember I just kept apologizing to her for having to do that for me. I was crying… I was so embarrassed that I’d let myself get to that point. She was so kind and warm and reassured me that that’s what friends do for one another.. we help each other out when we are struggling.

As soon as she pulled out of my driveway, I couldn’t contain my crying. I couldn’t breathe. I’d been so overwhelmed with pain for the past few months… and with all that alcohol to curb my inhibitions I decided I’d had enough. I had a noose in my closet that I’d actually made on July 4th… after my first attempt had failed. Knowing it was in there waiting for me should I decide to use it was an unlikely, but welcome, comfort to me. I had decided that a partial hanging would be the way to go and had spent a fair amount of time researching knots, the exact location of the carotid artery and how to secure the rope. I grabbed a handful of sleeping pills and washed them down with yet some more liquor. I could feel that I was on the verge of passing out so the timing would be perfect… I’d slip down into the noose, lose consciousness and never wake up. But as soon as I had the loop around my neck and began to tighten it, I suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to vomit. Wasn’t much of a surprise, considering how much I’d had to drink… and on an empty stomach, nonetheless. I immediately slipped the noose off and ran to the bathroom and made it as far as the sink and began vomiting. I eventually passed out in the bathroom, waking up a few hours later; I was exhausted by that point so I went to bed to lie down for a bit. It was surreal coming out of my room in the morning to see the noose still hanging from the door and the blanket on the floor I’d placed there to have something soft underneath me. How was it possible that I’d failed yet a second time?

I’m still very much in a “walking dead” kind of head space. I’m here… I’m awake… I’m functioning… but I’m really just going through the motions. That’s why the trip to Jamaica was such a blessing to me. It gave me something to look forward to– something to plan for. Something changed in me for that whole week. I had no schedule, no responsibilities. I don’t know if it was the sun, the warm, sea air, the company of my loving friends… but it was likely a combination of all of those things. I felt lighter than I had in years. It was as though my brain was in some sort of beautiful limbo… a metaphorical float tank leaving my mind preserved in a suspension of sorts. I felt more alive, I smiled more and I engaged with others more. It wasn’t lost on me that the trip was exactly what I needed. But coming back home was like a “Cinderella moment” for me. At midnight, my carriage turned back into a pumpkin and my beautiful state of mind returned to the unkempt, dark and messy existence I’d left a week ago. That persistent cloud came back and reminded me that my darkness is still there… waiting to engulf me when I’m feeling weak.

It just occurred to me that today is Valentine’s Day. I’m seeing couples posting pictures of them together… pictures of the flowers, gifts and little love notes left for one another. I don’t really care for this holiday much, it can feel very lonely. Friends have asked me if I can see myself dating again soon; after all, my last relationship has been over for 7 months now. I can unequivocally say that no, I don’t see myself doing that. First of all… I gave so much of my heart to my last love and he was extremely reckless with it and showed no remorse for that. I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable trusting another person in that way again. Besides… I’ve given up on that idea and have sort of “shut down” that part of my brain because I know that it’s just not a possibility for me. I’m quite aware of the fact that I’m far from a desirable partner and that no one would want to date me. No man in his right mind is looking for this kind of disaster; I still self-harm and I’ve tried to off myself twice. No one wants to take on that kind of heavy lifting and I wouldn’t blame them for that, either.

A few days ago I went to see Theresa Caputo, The Long Island Medium, perform locally. I was well aware that there would be a few thousand other people there and that the likelihood of getting a reading was pretty darn close to zero. But the whole week leading up to the event, I was talking to you and to Moomie. Like… constantly. I kept telling you both how desperately I needed for you to come through. I had decided that I needed you to tell her what I’d said to you and Momma that night as I sat in the car in the garage; if you were to come forward and reveal that to her, then I’d know for a fact that you were with me all along. It sounds so painfully silly to say it out loud, but I left the theater feeling so disappointed and as if I’d been abandoned all over again.

While on vacation in Jamaica, we met a lovely woman who was battling Stage 4 Cancer for the 2nd time in her life. I don’t believe that we met by accident, I think our paths were meant to cross. We spoke to one another so openly and I found that so refreshing. She asked me about my scars; I shared with her my struggles with depression, self- harm and suicidality and she didn’t judge me at all for it. She understood that my depression is very much an illness, too. She was so vibrant and full of life and so loving. Her last night in Jamaica, she handed me a bracelet of hers and told me that she wanted me to have it and to wear it and remember her and our time together there in Jamaica. I don’t think there are enough people like her in the world– she had so much love to give and wisdom to share; I’m so glad to hear that she found out at her recent check-up that she’s again in remission. If anyone deserves to live a long and happy life, it’s her.  I hope that someday I can feel the same passion for life that she has… if I’m going to keep on going, I hope I can find even a tiny bit of her spirit because it would be a far better existence to live each day with hope, not dread.

Love,

Laura

Letter to Brian: November 14, 2018

Dear Brian,

My last letter to you was a bit of a leap of faith… I wasn’t really sure what to expect after I shared about my suicide attempt and my on-going struggle with suicidal ideation.

I was a little surprised and overwhelmed at the outreach I received immediately after I posted the letter.  After all, depression tells you that you’re worthless and that you wouldn’t be missed.  So to be reminded that that’s not the case certainly was very emotional for me.

I had a variety of responses, most of which were assurances from friends that I could call on them at any time at all, day or night… which, of course, was much appreciated.  I had a few suggest grief support groups for survivors of suicide loss… but I’ve already done that; I’ve done the meetings, I’ve grieved your suicide and am at a healthy place where my grief is concerned. I want other survivors to know that the grief does get better with time.  My current mental state is not a result of your suicide, this pain is very separate from my grief over your death. Besides, it is frowned upon in those meetings to talk about one’s own desire to die; it’s just not the appropriate forum for that as it can be very triggering for survivors of suicide loss.  That’s what individual therapy is for.

I also received a lot of invitations from people to get together, go out to dinner, etc… and that’s not what I was looking for or expecting.  I realized that the offers were more about a way to make themselves feel better about having at least tried to reach out and that’s OK.  I declined nearly all of the offers because I’m not particularly good company these days and I’m certain the offers were just a formality of kindness, anyhow.

I had a few reach out to tell me that I need Jesus in my life and that He wants to help me and take care of me.  I fully respect the unconditional love behind those offerings, so I wasn’t offended by them; I know they were just trying to offer help the only way that they knew how.  But I’ve done that, too.  I was raised in the church. Even into adulthood I was very active in church and I believed in God.  But as I got older, religion (the Bible, specifically) just didn’t make sense to me at all.  And besides…. all those years that I was a “believer” I was still suffering from major depression, suicidal ideation and regularly engaged in self-harm.  Having a belief system didn’t take an ounce of my pain away… so I really don’t feel I’m missing out on anything there.  It brought me no comfort then, and I don’t believe it would now.

Over the years, people would tell me, “You should really exercise more.  The activity will be good for you, it’ll release endorphins to ease your depression.”  Again…. I’ve done that.  At my fittest point of my life, I was barely 120 lbs, running a minimum of 60 miles a week, consumed no alcohol nor caffeine and ate a well-balanced, healthy diet.  Yet… I was still chronically depressed and would self-harm up to 3-4 times a day.  By no means am I saying that exercise isn’t good for me because of course it would be.  But would it take away my depression?  Absolutely not.

The biggest frustration is when I’m told, “Just reach out, just get help.”  I can assure you that anyone that says that has not had to spend much time seeking help for a chronic mental disorder.  I decided that I’d like to share just a handful of some of my experiences to elaborate on my belief that help just isn’t there.

Back when I was about 25 years old, I hit a deeply low point and was contemplating suicide and harming myself pretty often.  It took more courage than you could ever know to make that phone call to try and get myself an appointment with a mental health professional.  Here’s how that conversation went:

Me: Yes, I’d like to make an appointment with a psychiatrist, please.

Her: What’s this for, ma’am?

Me: (stuttering) Well… I…. I… I’m very depressed.  I’ve been self-harming a lot and I’m afraid I’m a danger to myself and I think that I need help.

Her: (sounding agitated) Well… you can try, but know that we are pretty booked up and we won’t be able to see you for at least 12-14 weeks.

Me: (on the verge of tears) Is there a waiting list or anything?  If something opens up, I can even come in that same day.  I just really need to find somebody who can help.

Her: (after a long sigh, with a snippy tone) Well, I mean…. are you gonna kill yourself TODAY? If you are, then you just need to go to the emergency room.  Otherwise you have to wait 3 months.  What’s it gonna be?

Me: Thank you for your time.

There are plenty of therapists out there.  But finding a good one… or finding one you can really relate to is another thing. One therapist I saw for a few sessions when I first started to address my self harm said to me, “If you’re going to continue to cut yourself, then I refuse to see you.  If you want to continue therapy with me, that needs to stop right now.”  I was floored.  That was WHY I was coming to them for help, because I was trying to stop and I needed help getting down to the root cause and deal with it.  It wasn’t until a decade later when I finally had one kind therapist that understood me and my disorder and simply told me, “I understand why it happens but I wish that it didn’t.  As we get into really talking about some deep issues that you’ve been suppressing, it might start to happen more frequently for a while and that’s OK.  All I ask is that you’re honest with me about it, that we can talk openly about it and that you seek medical treatment if you’re in danger.”  She was wonderful.  I saw her regularly for a year until my insurance decided to stop reimbursing her for our sessions and she had to ask me to pay out of pocket; but $130 an hour was just not feasible for a young person barely making rent so I wasn’t able to continue my therapy with her.

Monday, November 30, 2015 was my first day back to work after the death of our Mom; I happened to have an appointment scheduled for that day to follow up on my progress with my medication. My psychiatrist was pretty surprised to see the shape I was in; I was crying uncontrollably and I couldn’t stop.  So of course the obvious question came… “Did you harm yourself?” I’ve made it a policy to always be honest with my doctors and therapists when I harm, so I told her that yes, I had cut myself. The night I returned back to Austin after 2 weeks in Minnesota for Mom’s funeral I just hit a breaking point; I was finally alone and had the opportunity to do it… so I cut.  It was a pretty ugly one, but not one that I felt I didn’t have under control so I didn’t seek medical treatment. With all that I’d been experiencing during those weeks, I wasn’t surprised that I’d slipped up and self-harmed to release some of that pain and tension.

By the time I saw the psychiatrist on Monday, it had been nearly 48 hours since the injury.  She asked me to show her the wound and I was absolutely mortified. There is no part of me that felt comfortable doing that.  I’d never felt very emotionally supported by this doctor, but I had needed to see her every 4-6 weeks for a med check. (My primary care physician said my depression was serious enough that she did not feel comfortable managing my dosage so I was required to seek specialized care.) I never shared much emotional detail with the psychiatrist because she didn’t seem very receptive and, quite honestly, had such a full patient roster that she tended to rush through each session anyway.  She pushed and she pushed until I finally lifted my bandage and showed her my wound. I’ll never forget her response. “Oh, god!!! Laura, this is bad. Like… really bad!! You need to go to the doctor for this, you could totally lose your arm, you know… like if this got infected or something… I mean, it looks infected. You have to go see a doctor TODAY so they can stitch this up and get you on an antibiotic.”

Admittedly, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been doing this for a very, very long time.  I told her that first of all, since nearly 48 hours had passed, that they could no longer stitch up the wound.  I also assured her that no, the wound was not infected and that a visit to the doctor would be a waste of my time and money.  In fact, of all the hundreds of wounds I’ve had over the years, many of them quite deep, I’ve never had a single infection. While the behavior itself seems like quite the reckless outlet, I’ve always been extremely careful and sanitary and have taken very good care of the wounds afterwards.  But she was focused on getting me to the doctor so she made me promise her that I would take myself to urgent care to have them examine the injury… and threatened that she could have me involuntarily committed if I didn’t do as she advised. She had me quite scared about that possibility, so I did what she asked– I took myself to urgent care.

It was a horrible experience.  In the exam room, I explained to the nurse that I was there per the instructions of my psychiatrist to have a self-inflicted wound examined; she said she’d be back with the doctor in just a moment.  I sat there, fidgeting and doing my best not to cry so I’d appear strong. I was feeling pretty good about it until the doctor came in, looked me up and down, rolled her eyes and sighed as she said, “Are you Laura?” I replied, “Yes, that’s me.”  She abruptly walked over and while avoiding eye contact with me said, “Alright, let’s see it– take off the bandage.” I did as she asked. The look of contempt on her face was unbearable; she looked at it, then looked at me, rolled her eyes again and then turned her back to me.  After a few seconds that seemed like years, she turned to face me and said with a sneer, “Why are you even here?? There’s nothing I can do for you. If you wanted this stitched up, you should have come here right away… too much time has passed. And it’s a clean wound, there’s clearly no infection, so there’s no need for an antibiotic.  I honestly don’t understand why you bothered to come here today.”

I mustered up the strength to tell her I’d only come because I was instructed to do so by my psychiatrist, whom I’d seen a few hours earlier and that I knew the visit was unnecessary… I was simply following her orders.  She repeated that there was nothing she could do for me so it was a wasted trip. I checked out at the front desk, forking over another $75 that I really didn’t have to spend having just spent $130 at the psychiatrist that same afternoon.  And all it got me was some shame and humiliation.

A few weeks later, the psychiatrist called me to find out why I hadn’t called her to follow up on that last visit and to update her on my visit to urgent care.  At that very moment, I was at Mom’s house, waiting for the movers to come take away all of her belongings and I was being pushed my emotional limit. Something in the smug tone of her voice just triggered something in me and I found myself, surprisingly, being quite uncharacteristically assertive with her.

She said to me, “Did you even go to a doctor like I told you to do that day– to get stitches and antibiotics?”  I replied, “Yes. Yes, I did go to the doctor like you urged me to do by threat of being committed. It was a complete waste of my time, money and energy and it turned out to be a humiliating experience. No, they did not stitch me up, too much time had passed.  No, they did not clean the wound because it was already clean. No, they did not prescribe antibiotics because the wound was not infected. There was nothing they could do for me at all and to be honest, the doctor was quite cruel towards me. The visit was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.”

There was no part of her that seemed remorseful or even compassionate about the experience I’d had.  Her only response was, “Well, you should have called me to schedule another session with me like we talked about.”  I calmly told her that I was not comfortable continuing to see her as my psychiatrist and that I’d be seeking treatment elsewhere.  I know I have a problem and I know that I need help for that problem. But I’m also an intelligent, self-sufficient adult who deserves respect, too.  I wish finding the right help wasn’t such a painful experience.  This behavior is so misunderstood even by the medical and psychological professionals, how are we to expect the general public to understand?

An acquaintance of mine worked at a psychiatric hospital and would carelessly say such derogatory things about some of the suicidal patients. It made my heart hurt to hear that he felt that way.  I also dated someone who was a social worker and was regularly on-call at a hospital; he was often contacted when someone was brought in who had either attempted to take their own life or was in danger of doing so.  The things I heard him say off-the-clock about these people (i.e. calling them a “freak” or a “loser”) made me very sad.  I’m sure the job could be quite frustrating and exhausting at times and that he surely needed to vent; but to know, as a consumer of mental health resources, that this is how some professionals feel about having to help people like me surely doesn’t give me confidence in how I’ll be treated.

Last summer I had hit a particularly low point and decided I’d better share with my primary care doctor how I’d been feeling.  She spoke with the consulting psychiatrist there; I was prescribed an additional medication to add to my existing two drugs and was then given a card for the next available appointment with him which was THREE MONTHS AWAY.  The day finally arrived and it was so disappointing.  He clearly had read nothing in my chart, was rushing through the questions and barely made any eye contact with me at all.  I was doing my best to remain light-hearted and engage him a bit but to no avail.  You’re expected to open up to these people and share intimate details about your feelings and emotions but when the doctor barely even looks at you, you certainly do not feel comfortable baring your soul to them.  It’s no different than in your daily life, you know?  We all have people that we only share certain parts of our life with because we don’t trust them with the private details.  But when it’s a doctor, you don’t have a choice.  And it’s so much more difficult sharing those details with someone who doesn’t even seem to want to be there themselves.

A year ago today, on the 2 year anniversary of our Mom’s death, I had made a plan to take my own life that evening.  I’d already started the folder and planning materials I mentioned in my last letter.  I was going to pull the car into the garage and die by carbon monoxide poisoning.  But that morning when I tried to leave for work, it wouldn’t start.  It had a brand new battery… a new starter…. but I couldn’t get it to turn over.  I ended up having the car towed to the shop and $250 later, all I’d gotten was an oil change because they told me that after having it for 3 days, they couldn’t find a darn thing wrong with it– it was starting just fine for them.  I was inclined to believe that was a sign from you and Moomie… that it maybe wasn’t my time, I guess?

But the pain was just continuing each and every day.  I want people to understand how difficult life is is when your mind is what is unwell… when your own mind is what is telling you that it will never be better, that you should be dead.  Each and every day there is a painful war going on inside my head.  My mind is doing it’s best to try and kill me.  I’m so exhausted.  I don’t socialize much anymore because literally ALL of my energy is going towards just getting myself to work, doing my job, paying my bills… by the end of the day, I just want to be alone, on my couch, watching some King of the Hill to take my mind off of how I’m feeling. I’m literally in survival mode all day every day.

People ask me, “How can I help?”  I’ve started saying to them, “Honestly, just VOTE.  Do your part to see that people are put into office who actually care about improving our healthcare system. Who care about expanding resources for the care of mental illnesses.” Until we get rid of the stigma around seeking help and until we make sure that there are affordable, accessible resources for people who choose to use them, people are going to continue to die by suicide and drug addictions.

Brian, I miss getting the little “reminders” you used to send me.  Have you stopped sending them?  Or have I simply stopped noticing them?  Or have you stopped sending them because I wasn’t noticing them anymore?  Or am I totally bat-shit crazy and there never were any “signs” to begin with?  I had a dream about you a while back where I was trying desperately to talk to you but you were ignoring me… you had your back turned and while you seemed to hear me, you chose to ignore me.  I guess it’s no secret that I’ve been feeling extra lonely lately and I thought, “Man, I must really suck if you’re even ignoring me in my dreams.”  If you get around to it, maybe give me a sign one of these days?  I’m missing you and Moomie extra hard lately.

Love Always,
Laura

 

 

Letter to Brian: October 12, 2018

Dear Brian,

I haven’t written you in quite a while so this is gonna be a little long-winded, I’m afraid.  Certainly not due a lack of things to say but rather a lack of knowing just how to say them.  Tomorrow will make 8 long years since I found out you had taken your own life.  While that’s certainly been weighing on me, there’s been something else I’ve been struggling with a great deal.  I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth (and back and forth some more) in my mind about whether or not to publicly share this.  Doing so is going to put myself in my very most vulnerable position yet and I fear that the interweb trolls may dish out things that I’m not quite strong enough to withstand.  But… after a lot of sleepless nights and self-examination, I’ve decided that it’s important to my well-being (and possibly even some stranger’s well-being) to just speak my truth and get it all out in the open.  I’ve been so fearful about admitting to it out of embarrassment, shame and fear.  I’m not sharing my story in the hopes of receiving any pity, attention or outreach from anyone; in fact, I’d prefer that I not receive any of that at all. It’s only out of self-preservation that I’m sharing; I hope that this will release all the tension and discomfort I’ve been experiencing. The secrecy has been eating away at me and causing so much pain and has only served to create more loneliness and seclusion for me.

I’ve only told a very select few about this because I’m embarrassed and, moreso, I’m ashamed. On July 3rd of this year, just 3 months ago, I attempted suicide.  After decades of depression, self-harm and chronic suicidal ideation I’d never, ever actually followed through with a plan or attempt though I’ve been so dangerously close dozens of times.  Many things have stopped me over the years, mostly always concern for those I’d leave behind.   After you died, I wanted so badly to end my own life as well but just couldn’t do that to our Mom; to lose not one but two children to suicide would have been just too much for her to bear.  After she passed nearly 3 years ago now, the feelings have become so much more aggressive and I’ve felt even less grounded here in this life than ever before.  In fact, while cleaning out Mom’s home I came across her bottles of insulin in the fridge.  There were many moments throughout that week that I thought about how it would be so easy to just do it right then and there… I had the needles… I had the insulin… all I needed was the nerve to follow through.  But instead I dropped off all of her unused medications at the police station like any responsible citizen would do.  There was just still so much to do… my demise would have to wait until I’d settled Mom’s affairs.

Nearly a year after Mom died, I moved back to our hometown in Minnesota.  I thought maybe being back here with so many people to support me would surely help these feelings subside.  That just hasn’t been the case.  I’ve had many great moments over the past few years, of course… but it seems even after a night out with friends sharing many laughs I still find myself sobbing uncontrollably as soon as I’m back home alone.  It’s just always there… lurking underneath the surface.

About 5 months ago I posted something on Instagram joking about the dangers of online shopping and Amazon Prime after a few glasses of whiskey; I’d gone and purchased myself a $500 gas-powered generator in the middle of the night.  We all had a nice laugh about it… but the truth is, it wasn’t an accidental drunken purchase.  Though I have since returned that generator, I actually bought it with the intention of using it to die by carbon monoxide inhalation by running it in a small, enclosed space.

I guess I’ve stalled here a bit… I suppose I should tell you about THE night.  After work, my boyfriend and I were cooking a nice dinner on the grill and enjoying a few drinks and talking.  Things were really going well between us and we made each other laugh endlessly.  We truly loved just being around each other; I was really happy with him. At some point in a conversation about the future, I’d told him that someday, (not anytime in the near future, but someday) I could see myself marrying again… or at least  be committed long-term to one person and share a life and a home with one another. That possibility gave me some comfort and hope. It became pretty clear that he was uncomfortable about that as he became very quiet and withdrawn. As I was getting our food dished up to eat, he got up and walked to the back door and said, “I gotta go.”  I said, “Um…. I’m sorry?  You’re leaving?  You’re not going to eat?”  He replied again, “No.  I have to go.  I gotta go…. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”  I began to sob like a crazy person, begging him to stay and talk to me.  There was no explanation, no conversation, just an “I gotta go.”

I wish that I were exaggerating when I say that I made a complete fool of myself crying and pleading with him.  I begged him to please, please, PLEASE stay, admitting to him that I really didn’t want to be left alone that night.  His response was to turn and walk away without looking back.  If he had, he’d have seen me in the fetal position on the floor of my breezeway crying and saying to myself under my breath, “I can’t be alone.  I can’t be alone.”  After a year and a half together, I felt that I at least deserved a conversation about ending our relationship… certainly more than, “I have to go.  I’m sorry I wasted your time.”  (I mean… I assumed that what he was doing was breaking up with me; I wasn’t totally certain until the next night when I received a text asking me if he could drop off my belongings I had left at his house.) That’s not how you end a relationship with someone whom you love and respect. In his defense, he had admitted to being a complete stranger to the dynamics of a truly healthy relationship never having experienced one before.  What he didn’t know, and what I certainly wasn’t going to tell him, (because I didn’t want anyone to try and interfere with my plan) was that in the next room I had a folder ready to go that contained a suicide note, a copy of my will, a list of my emergency contacts, my driver’s license, passport, credit cards, social security card, passwords to all of my online accounts as well as my wishes regarding any funeral arrangements. I’d already spent the previous months purging my belongings, donating items, giving things away to friends and tossing a great deal of it in the garbage so there would be less to deal with after my demise. Having the person who said that they loved me treat me that way made me feel as though I must be worthless; I figured, if I really mattered, he’d have stayed when I said I didn’t want to be alone. I’d already disrespected myself by continuing the relationship after he’d been unfaithful to me early in our time together.  He’d apologized and cried and begged me for another chance.  (I clearly made the wrong choice; I foolishly thought someone that was trying so hard to keep me must have actually saw themselves having a future with me.) I can’t stress this enough: I wasn’t about to kill myself simply because I got dumped; it just happened that getting dumped was the very last piece pulled from my wobbly, Jenga Tower of a mind to make it crumble to the point of desperation. If it hadn’t been the breakup, it would have been something else, I’m absolutely certain of it.

I put the folder on the counter and made sure that everything was order.  I put the cats in their room, made sure they had plenty of food and fresh water and said my tearful goodbyes to them and asked them to forgive me for leaving them behind.  I tossed the beautifully grilled Ribeyes and potatoes in the garbage.  I took all of the dishes and cookware and tossed them in my dumpster.  Why leave them out for someone else to clean up?  And why on earth would I have spent any time washing them when I knew I’d have no use for them in the future?

I placed this note on the counter where it wouldn’t be missed:

Having lost my own brother to suicide, I’m certainly no stranger to the immense grief that is left in the wake of someone taking their own life. This is my only regret; I leave knowing what this will do to those who care for me and for that I am so deeply, deeply sorry.
It’s certainly not one single event or trauma that brings me to this choice but rather nearly 40 years of wrestling against an overwhelming will to die that has been present in my mind since early childhood.  I’m so incredibly tired.  I’ve done the therapy.  The medications. The switching of medications. And more switching of medications. The calling of friends to talk. Support groups.  Hypnosis.  EMDR Therapy.  Talk therapy. DBT Therapy. Yoga therapy. Biofeedback therapy.  QNRT Therapy. Biofeedback. Natural remedies. Reiki. Healing Touch. All the self-books you could imagine.  I’ve gone so far as to try psychics and past life regressions. Even when any of these provided me a little relief for any amount of time, it always came back.  I’m so tired of it always coming back.  Because it always will; and as always, it will come back worse than the episode before it.
Much like my brother, I’ve never in my life felt truly grounded in this world… even at my best, I’ve always felt like an outsider and painfully uncomfortable in my own skin.  There’s a disconnect that all these years of therapy and soul-searching couldn’t seem to repair.
This emptiness in me has always been present… and with each trauma, loss, failure or failed relationship in my life it seemed as if larger and larger pieces of my soul were being carried off and that persistent emptiness grew larger still.
The only responsibility in this is mine… and mine alone.  Those closest to me have done everything possible to make me feel heard, supported and loved. No additional amount of love or attention could have created a different ending to my story.
This quote sums it up:  “The time came when the pain it took to stay was greater than the pain it took to go.”
My cats are in the spare room. Please, please… someone take wonderful care of them and continue to love them for me.

I washed down a heaping handful of sleeping pills with an entire bottle of rum.  I hung blankets up over the windows in my garage (to prevent anyone from seeing me in the car from outside) and pulled my car inside.  I sat in the driver’s seat, with the car running, until I passed out. The last thing I remember was lying back in the seat and looking up at the ceiling of my garage and saying “Momma and Brian, I’m coming.  I’m coming to be with you,” then drifting off to sleep.

I know that on any given night that 2 sleeping pills will ensure that I sleep soundly throughout the entire night; so I figured it was safe to assume that a handful of the same pills in tandem with a shit-ton of booze surely would keep me asleep long enough for the carbon monoxide to do it’s thing. But for whatever reason, I could just Not. Stay. Asleep.  I drifted in and out of consciousness in there for over 4 hours.  I had such a terrible headache and I was absolutely soaked and dripping in sweat and just couldn’t take it any longer.  I was so damn uncomfortable.  And also very angry that I could not stay asleep. I was so certain that I’d planned it out to work.  I was so angry at myself; not that I’d attempted to end my life, but that I couldn’t even do that right and I’d failed at yet another thing. I finally decided that maybe it wasn’t meant to happen that night and that I’d just have to try my back up method the next night.  So I stumbled back in the house and laid on the couch and slept a little bit on and off through the night as Golden Girls played on the TV.  To this day, the sound of that theme song brings back the smell of sweat and exhaust.  I don’t care for it.

I had the next day off of work being the Fourth of July.  Late in the afternoon, I decided to put my plan B into action. I went to Menards to pick up a few “supplies” for my next attempt.  As I wandered through the aisles, I was still overwhelmingly shaky and dizzy so I gripped the handle of my shopping cart for support.  I wondered if those walking past me could smell the stench of exhaust coming out of my pores; I could sure smell it… but then again, I didn’t really care. It felt so surreal making small talk with the cashier, watching him ring up all of my items wondering if he had any clue that a few hours later I intended to collectively use those same items to end my own life.  As the day progressed, I had decided, “Maybe I can just hold on for a few more days.  I’ll finish out the week– button up some things at work and then just kill myself on Friday.” But Friday arrived and after having a nice evening with my friend (who did not know about my attempt) I thought to myself again, “OK, tonight turned out to be sort of decent.  Maybe I’ll give it a few more days.” Some dear friends came to visit me on Saturday against my will and I’m so grateful that they did; it did me a world of good… but I didn’t tell them about what I’d done. They didn’t take no for an answer and just showed up at my house.  It felt good to be reminded that some very wonderful people care so much about me.  Then Sunday rolled around… my best friend came to pick me up and get me out of the house for the day; no small feat given that I still couldn’t stop crying, barely spoke and was still feeling pretty ill from the carbon monoxide inhalation; of course, she only thought I was just inordinately down about my recent heartbreak.  We spent the day driving around in the country and stopping at the occasional antique store and I even ate a little bit, which was a vast improvement over the previous 5 days.  But I couldn’t wait any longer… I hated that there was this horrible “secret” that I was holding inside and as we sat there in her car, I told her about what I had done.  It felt really good to release that to another human being so the weight didn’t feel quite so overwhelming.  Over the next few weeks, this friend absolutely saved my life.  She kept me completely occupied and distracted and allowed me to just hang out with her family when I didn’t feel I could be alone at home.  She let me cry and just stare into space when I wasn’t capable of engaging. (I lovingly referred to her as my “babysitter.”)  It’s not lost on me that if she hadn’t done all that I may not be here today.

Something always seems to get in the way and I find some reason to wait “just one more day.”   I recall one day on my way home from work I was contemplating attempting again soon; however, when I got home and collected my mail, I found that I’d received a beautiful necklace from a friend I haven’t seen in quite a while and it was accompanied by this note:   “Sweet Laura, you and your life are a gift and a blessing to this world. Please never stop trying, we need you. You are loved and treasured and beautiful.” I just burst into tears and asked the universe why it kept sending me signals like that telling me I’m supposed to keep trying??  It’s getting harder and harder but I still keep receiving little signs like this that tell me to wait a little bit longer.  And now… it’s been over 100 days of “just one more day.”

Unfortunately I’ve been engaging in self-harm (cutting) again; I’m sure I should feel ashamed about that, but the truth is that release is helping me to keep moving forward right now.  I realize it isn’t the healthiest outlet, but it works so I’m ok with it for now.  And having my sweet kitties, Bart and Fiona, to come home to is also very helpful… it would be really difficult for me to come home to a completely quiet house.  Those furry little souls are always happy to see me and are content to just be there with me, no matter my mood.

It’s just that I feel everything so, so deeply that it’s unadulterated agony.  Even the smallest things cause this deep, pulsing ache in me that just hurts so much.  For example, I recently came upon a teeny tiny mouse on a cold morning, it was lying on it’s back at the curb of a gas station parking lot.  I quickly realized it was still alive but obviously suffering.  I can’t explain it, but I just couldn’t leave a little being there to suffer and die alone. The thought of that physically hurt me inside.  So I picked it up, placed it inside a tissue box and took it home with me; I hand-fed it formula every 2 hours for the next 24 hours and it continued to improve; it had a safe little habitat warmed with a heating pad and ate out of my hand and completely melted my heart.  That little guy had such a strong will to survive.  A very kind acquaintance of mine took the next step and drove the little mouse up to the wildlife rehabilitation center an hour away when my work schedule didn’t allow me to do so.  I was made fun of a little bit for rescuing “just a mouse” though most people were extremely kind to me and applauded me for the love in my heart for what most considered to be an insignificant little creature.  I just didn’t see it that way; what I saw was something in pain and that I had an opportunity to do something about it.  So I did.  That’s just one example of how things are so hard for me sometimes… this time I was able to do something to help that sweet mouse and affect some change; but most of the time I see things happening around me (and the current state of our country is a big one) that make me so weak inside knowing someone or something is hurting and knowing that I can’t do a single thing about it.  It reminds me of a terrible sunburn; when your skin is so badly burned that it hurts to wear clothes, to shower, to be outside in the heat… even to touch it. Your skin on a normal day is unaffected by these benign acts… but when it’s inflamed like that, everything hurts. My soul and my heart are like that sunburned skin– things that seem so small to the outside world are burning me up inside. It’s almost surreal, sometimes; I’ve become so adept at hiding what’s really going on inside me that I am constantly hearing from people I meet, “Gosh, you’re so cheery and upbeat and friendly, I love it!”  I’ll smile and please everyone by exercising my “appropriate social behavior” but as soon as the door closes behind me and I’m alone… it all comes tumbling down.

I’m not terribly interested in seeking any therapy.  I’ve done decades of therapy, I know what to expect and I suspect I’ve gotten about all I can get out of it.  Besides… my insurance only covers two providers in town and neither are accepting new patients.  I’ve reached out to a few other providers up to an hour drive away and again… not accepting new patients.  I even reached out to the amazing therapist I saw in Texas for 4 years; she does remote sessions but unfortunately she can’t do out of state sessions due to licensing laws. The demand for therapy is far too high for the supply of therapists these days so help is really hard to find.  Finding affordable therapy is a great frustration.  And I’ll be honest… I’ve run into more than my share of providers who were not very warm it’s so difficult to open up and bare your soul to someone who doesn’t even seem to want to be there.

I saw a quote by author Matt Haig this morning that gave me a bit of encouragement to follow through with publicly sharing my story like this; it read:

Mental illness isn’t weakness.  And silence isn’t strength.  I was never stronger than when I was ill.  And never braver than when I first told people.

I hope that someone out there can relate to some of this; it will have made this painful and humiliating confession worth it.  I’m going to keep taking this life thing one day at a time.  After all, it’s gotten me  this far… I suppose I can keep trying.

Please, Brian… if you or Momma have any pull of the celestial kind, give me a hand down here, would ya?

I miss you and Moomie so, so deeply.

Love Always,
Laura

 

 

 

 

Letter to Brian: June 12th, 2018

Dear Brian,

For the better part of the last year, I took a hiatus from the nauseating world of Facebook.  For some unknown, regrettable reason, I popped back on there a few weeks ago.  Then, just last week, following the suicides of two prominent celebrities, the internet experienced a deluge of activity surrounding the topic of suicide, depression and mental health.

Needless to say, I’ve deactivated my Facebook account again.  Imagine the very worst moment of your entire existence.  Now, imagine that every time you went online, turned on the news, picked up a paper or even left the house that you were bombarded with very specific reminders of your trauma.  It was so hard to be in the world this past week.  Seeing the word “suicide” in my feed from literally every direction was just too much.  It pushed me back into an abyss of sorts and as a result I’ve begun to retreat back into the same complete and total isolation within my own mind in which I found myself following your own suicide nearly 8 years ago.  It’s as though my mind and my body don’t seem to realize that it’s been that long and I’m reacting the same way all over again.  Panic attacks, nausea, fits of crying and alternating bouts of sleeplessness and the inability to wake up.  But now that 8 years have passed and I’m still this affected by it, I fear receiving an entirely different kind of pity; more of a “Oh, wow… poor girl is messed up, she’s still talking about it” kind of pity. Or the ever-popular “You know, your brother and your mom wouldn’t want you to be this sad.”  I feel even more alienated now as the support of the phone calls, texts, cards and visits from friends are no longer present– I feel as though I just need to sit through the darkness alone this time. Remember the movie Shrek?  Princess Fiona would hide in her cave alone each night afraid to show the world what she really looked like when the sun went down; I’m not entirely unlike that.  I retreat to my proverbial cave to try and fix myself alone because I am afraid people won’t love me anymore if they see that darkness inside of me.

Each year, 44,965 Americans die by suicide.  But when a celebrity takes their own life, people absolutely lose their shit.  On the one hand, I’m grateful that this issue is gaining some much-needed attention.  There’s such a stigma surrounding depression and suicide so I truly hope that this generates enough activity to affect some real change in the world of mental health care.  But think of all the school shootings so far this year!  People get all hyped up for a few weeks with all of their “Oh, my thoughts and prayers are with the people affected by this awful tragedy.” Prayers are nice and all but they don’t FIX anything.  I’ve been seeing people post things like, “To the depressed person at home who thinks they are all alone– I see  you.  You matter.  You’re important.”  Again… all lovely things to say; but even with the best of intentions these words just don’t help.  I obviously can’t speak for anyone else, but when I’m in that state of mind (in the throes of unmitigated mental anguish) nothing else seems to matter and the words just don’t get through.  It does matter to me when people tell me how much they love me but it doesn’t take away the pain.  If love was all it took to save a life, Brian, you’d still be here.

Posting all the numbers to call when you’re in crisis– again, a lovely thought… but THEN WHAT?  It’s not uncommon to have a 12-week wait for an appointment to see a psychiatrist.  And it’s rarely affordable.  How about we start trying to figure out how to help all these people AFTER they make that call for help?  Resources… affordable and accessible resources need to be there for real change to happen in their lives. People say, “If you’re feeling this way, talk to someone.  Call a friend, call a crisis line… just keep holding on.”  If I had a nickel for every time someone handed me lines like, “cheer up” or “stop wallowing” or “just choose to be happy” or”everybody has problems, you know” or “hey, look at the bright side– you have a job, you have shelter and food on the table, things could always be worse” I’d have enough money to be able to afford those bi-weekly therapy sessions.  Now that these two celebrities who seem to have had it all (fame, fortune, adoration) still couldn’t seem to shake their own mental illnesses perhaps people will start to realize that this kind of depression isn’t situational and it’s not a choice— it’s a legitimate disease.  And it’s an epidemic.

All the articles I saw last week encouraging those of us who are clinically depressed to just talk about our feelings just agitated me to no end.  Think about it– when someone dies by suicide there is a barrage of uneducated comments such as “what a coward” or “he took the easy way out” or “what a waste.”  Why on earth would someone who is having those kinds of thoughts want to share them with anyone when this is how the topic is received?  There’s such a need for education about mental illnesses and we need to start creating a more compassionate space in our communities to make people feel safe enough to share these kinds of feelings.

I’m sorry that I haven’t written you a letter in a long time, dude.  I think about it every single day but usually can’t bring myself to start typing because I’ve been afraid to let myself feel.  Guess I just had too much to say this time to let the feeling pass.

I miss you like crazy.

Love,
Laura

 

 

Letter to Brian: May 17, 2017

Dear Brian,

I’ve done it again.  I’ve waited much too long to write you and now I have so much to say that I don’t even know where to begin!

I need to tell you that had to say goodbye to both Bear and Bubba, my beloved cats, a few weeks ago… and only 3 days apart.  Bear was 18-1/2 and Bubba was 17-1/12.  I was with them so, so long… and would often joke that my relationship with them was the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a dude.  It’s funny because it’s true.

I so clearly remember the very day I brought Bear home at 8 weeks old.  I had actually intended to adopt his sister, a little grey tabby who I had picked out a few weeks earlier.  On January 14, 1999 (the day she was to be ready for adoption) I arrived at the Minneapolis Animal Control adoption just minutes after they opened and she had just been claimed by another family.  However, her brother, a black and white little guy with the cutest nose on any feline ever, was still available… so I took him home.  I think it was fate that brought us together—since I had only a 20 minute lunch break, I had taken that day off to not only adopt my new cat, but also to renew my vehicle registration tabs which had expired 4 days earlier.  While en route to the shelter, I was pulled over for expired tabs and given a costly ticket… resulting in me getting there just a few minutes too late.  Had I arrived as expected, I’d have adopted an entirely different cat.  I’m thankful for that delay from that Minneapolis cop, albeit not so thankful for the extra cost of the ticket.

I’ll never forget your face when you came home from work later that day and spotted this tiny little kitten sitting up on the couch next to me… staring at you with his huge eyes and “bat ears” that he had yet to grow into.  You guys were best buds from the beginning and you taught him all the ins and outs of the ways of the world and of football.  I remember watching you pick him up and hold him close to you as you told him all about the man on the poster above your TV, Randy Moss.  “This,” you said, “is #84, Randy Moss.  We love Randy Moss.  We love Randy Moss because he’s going to help Chris Carter get us to the next Superbowl, OK?”  Bear looked up at you adoringly, and at the poster, as if he understood every word you were saying.  His favorite toy was a little purple and white foam football with the number 84 on it… it was as big as he was!  He’d roll around on the floor with it, hugging it and kicking at it with his back legs as you cheered on the Vikings from the couch.

It did always seem you and Bear had an extra special bond… he followed you around a lot as a kitten.  So many nights Bear would “tuck you in” at night by kneading the covers along both sides of you as you lay in bed.  As adorable as that was, I admittedly was a little jealous of how much he seemed to prefer you to me.  Remember the time he got stuck in your bed’s box spring?  There was a hole in the fabric on the underside of it and he’d crawled in there.  We kept hearing these little mews but couldn’t find him anywhere.  Then we realized the sound was coming from inside the boxspring but he couldn’t figure out how to get back out the way he went in.  You and I ended up punching holes in various places around it to make room for him to jump out.  It took a while, but we finally got him out.  He always was adventurous and had a mischievous streak in him.

I also recall one day when I was about to leave the house for the day when Bear was only about 3 months old.  I’d just closed the door to my large bedroom in our apartment where he was contained during the day with his litter box, food, water, beds, scratching post and a plethora of toys.  As I walked away, I could hear him jumping against the door and crying his little heart out as if to say, “Please don’t go, Momma! Stay here!  Stay!!”  It ripped my heart out to hear those mournful little sounds so I changed my plans and decided to stay home with him.  He had my heart from the beginning.

At our apartment, there was an “island” between the kitchen and our living room.  Bear and I spent so much time playing “hide and seek” around it and he was shockingly good at it; he was so smart and I still insist to this day that he seemed to even demonstrate a sense of humor, if that’s even possible for a cat.  But he wasn’t just any cat.  He was super sassy and feisty and he absolutely LOVED the bathroom.  He used to nap in the sink, play with his toys in the sink and he was particularly enamored with the workings of the toilet and loved to watch it flush; his little head would circle around and around as his eyes followed the downward spiral of the water.  However, your ever present shadow, he also tended to follow you into the bathroom to “help” you do your business.  I’ll never forget the time you came out of the bathroom laughing uncontrollably as Bear trailed behind you, shaking his head.  Turns out Bear suddenly stood up on his hind legs and placed his paws on the rim (as you stood there peeing into the toilet) to get in on the action and watch the bubbles form in the water.  But he did it pretty suddenly and it startled you and you ended up accidentally peeing on his head.  Pretty gross… but also hysterically funny. His love of bathrooms continued into his old age because even up until 2 weeks ago, he’d still follow me in there and sit by my feet when I was on the toilet or he’d sit on the bathmat and wait for me to finish with my shower.

Bear was only 2 years old the day I brought 1 year old Bubba home.  I hadn’t intended on getting another cat; a co-worker had told me about an acquaintance who was looking to re-home her cat and we drove up to Monticello “just to meet him.”  I knew better… I should have known I’d have left with him.  The very first time I saw him, he was hiding in the basement.  They opened the basement door and called to him.  I walked to the doorway and at the bottom of the stairs sat this amazingly handsome, white cat tentatively staring up the staircase at me.  The father of the house went down to carry him up to me; he placed Bubba in my arms and Bubba just melted into my lap and fell asleep.  How could I say no to that?  The first few weeks were pretty rough; neither of them seemed too keen on the idea of sharing their space with another critter.  There were a number of battles I had to break up over those weeks and there were even moments I was considering contacting the family to take him back as I wasn’t sure they’d ever adjust to one another.  But we all stuck it out and I’m so glad we did because, though they still had their bad moments up until the end, they became very good friends.

A few weeks after I’d brought Bubba home, I awoke suddenly because I could feel my bed shaking a bit;  I looked towards the foot of my bed to see Bubba having a seizure.  I brought him in for a check-up and overall he was in perfect health, aside from a slight heart murmur.  They didn’t medicate him for the seizures until a few years later when they became more frequent.  I’ve often wondered if that’s why the family gave him up but just never disclosed that… but I don’t really care.  He was a fabulous cat and giving him a pill twice a day to keep his seizures under control was hardly a deterrent for me.  He was a bit of a “gentle giant.”  Big boned and strong but with a very soft demeanor about him.  I used to call him “sloth” because he never was in much of a hurry to get anywhere… except after a dose of catnip when he’d turn into the incredible hulk, beating the crap out of his toys like a boss.

During the years I had Sophie, whom I had to euthanize at age 7  just 4 months after you died, Bubba was the best big brother to her.  I’ve got stacks of pictures of the two of them snuggling and he’s visibly hugging her.  He adored her and looked after to her like all big brothers would.  The vet came to the house to put her to sleep and after it was done, Bubba went over to the pillow where she was lying… he snuggled up next to her, licked her face and then rested his chin upon her.  It was his gentle way of saying goodbye to his baby sister. He had the most gentle soul.

Together, Bear and Bubba were my tribe and I experienced so many life-changing things and experienced so much loss during our time together.  They were with me all of those times my depression won out and I didn’t leave my bed for days on end or I was harming myself on the bathroom floor. The 3 of us were together years before I met my ex-husband.  They were with me when my Grandma died in September of 2009. They were with me in my car for the 2-day drive from Minneapolis to Austin, Texas when we moved there in the fall of 2009.  I didn’t want to move there but having them along during that huge transition was such a great comfort to me.  They were with me those 3 months after I’d found out about your depression and worried about you every single day.  And they were still with me when I got the call from Mom on October 13, 2010 telling me that you had taken your own life.  The 2 of them snuggled up next to me after I collapsed to the floor that night, choking and gasping for air.  They knew something was wrong with me and they didn’t leave my side for some time after you died.

They were still with me a year later when my marriage of 7 years ended.  They were with me when I moved in with my significant other of a few years and when it unfortunately fell apart shortly thereafter.  They were always such troopers when I moved… but that time was more difficult.  I had just moved into his house after vacating my apartment.  That breakup was the worst one of my life and not only was I emotionally devastated, but I was incredibly stressed about finding a new place to live.  After staying with some very generous friends for a week after the split, the 3 of us moved into a room I had rented in a stranger’s home.  It was just me and my 2 cats contained in that tiny room filled with the only belongings I could fit in there; the rest of my things were in storage until I could find myself a permanent living situation.  I felt so lost and humiliated… it was incredibly humbling to have felt as though my life was crumbling around me, at my own doing. I lived in that room for an entire month and they were such sweet companions!  When I wasn’t at work, I was in that room sleeping, crying or drinking whiskey and they were always snuggled up next to me. I found myself a new apartment and we moved yet again!  That new apartment made the 5th place these little guys had lived in just 7 weeks and they settled in at each new place as if they had no worries in the world.  The fact that they weren’t stressed made that horrible time just a little less awful for me. **I like to think it’s because they loved me and knew that I would always take good care of them and they didn’t worry about all those new places to live. They just always took to new places surprisingly quickly for cats so maybe I was doing something right after all.

They were still with me 5 months later when our Momma died… and another 9 months later when I finally made the move back home to Minnesota where I belong.  Who would have thought a couple cats could be such amazing traveling partners?? They took to the car surprising well again and settled in each night at the hotels I found for us to get some rest.  Upon getting back to Minnesota, we again were contained to one room in a friend’s house while I looked for a place to live… and again, they seemed unaffected by it all.  I found the most perfect house for us and we moved in just 6 weeks after moving back home.  I was not at all surprised when they took to their new house as if they were meant to live there all along.

 Unfortunately just 6 weeks later I had that whole “breaking both of my ankles” incident and was homebound for a while.  They were such good caretakers and wouldn’t leave my side yet again.  But I’m now all healed up—I can drive again, I can walk again and I can take care of most things around the house again.  And I’m also now in the most relaxed and happiest relationship of my life.  My depression feels more under control now than at any other time I can recall.  I had adopted a 3rd cat named Bart, a 3 year old I found at the Humane Society, in February so I’m still not alone. I almost wonder if they didn’t sense that their job here was done… that I was finally in a truly healthy and content place after all the trauma and that they could finally let go.

I’m sure there are those who would believe that is giving way too much credit to a couple of animals… but I don’t care.  They stuck by me through 15 moves over those years, countless depressive episodes, job changes, many breakups and the death of my brother and my Mom…. by far the worst losses I’ll ever experience. They were far more than “just animals” to me… they were my best friends, my support system and they were my family.

I’m going to bury them together beneath the memorial tree I have for you and Moomie in my back yard soon.  I hope that Bear and Bubba found their way to you and Momma up there in your part of the universe… please tell them I love them so dearly and I’m beyond grateful for all the love and loyalty they showed me in return.  I’ll never forget them.

Love Always,
Laura

Photo credit: http://heartoflifephotography.com/
Photo credit: http://heartoflifephotography.com/

Photo credit: http://heartoflifephotography.com/
Photo credit: http://heartoflifephotography.com/

Best friends.
Best friends.