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.