Suicide: Twenty-Eight Years Later

13 mins read
Photograph provided by the author.

Content warning: This piece discusses suicide and includes profanity.

The distance between December 1st and December 2nd is actually a world apart for my family.

December 2nd was the day my dad died by suicide. All of my friends and family already know that, but this year was different in terms of research with mental illness, for me.

December 2nd was the day my heart broke wide-open. When I say wide-open, I mean in the ugliest of ways.

There is no pretty or easy way to process a suicide. It’s messy, chaotic and disturbing. It invites its guests (shame and anger) into your brain to take up space amongst the living. It’s relentless and unforgiving.

I was fourteen when dad died, so let’s just say my high school years were less than stellar. While everyone else I knew was thinking about prom and what college they might go to, I was smoking dope and fighting with my mother. I was the epitome of self-hatred and I hated everyone else, too.

High school was a fog. Between the drinking and the drugs, I didn’t know which way was up. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to die, like dad had, but I wasn’t living, either.

I remember driving really fast in my car one day and I slammed on my brakes as hard as I could because I felt so out of control. My spiral scared me.

It wasn’t until years later and lots of therapy that I shared that experience of driving so fast I could’ve flipped my car, before my therapist told me the thing that changed the conversation about suicide for me.

She asked me what I felt as I was slamming on my brakes. I looked at her like she was crazy and angrily said I wanted to stop because I didn’t want to die. She told me there was actually a very scientific response in our brain that does that. It’s a chemical called GABA. She told me the GABA is literally the brakes on your car for your brain. She said more than likely my dad’s GABA receptors weren’t working properly when he killed himself and that sometimes it can be that way for years. It can get triggered and a situational response can cause it to over or under react.

While I felt semi-relieved that my GABA situation seemed to be functioning, I was heartbroken to think what he felt in those months leading up to his death.

What I’ve learned over the years about suicide is this: there are chemical responses in the brain leading up to a suicide attempt, and during, and many are treatable. There are different variables involved, but many causes of depression can be treated with proper care.

The facts in this country also express the lack of interest in actually treating mental health. Over half the people in the United States don’t have access to adequate coverage and 1 in 5 adults is suffering from a mental health condition.

Fun fact and one I’ll gladly argue my Republican counterparts: the states who have adequate mental health coverage are also lead by Democrats and have lower suicide rates, historically speaking.

You can argue semantics all day long, but those are facts. When Democrats are in office, mental healthcare is a priority. Will it cost money? Sure-anything that’s worth having does.

I’m tired, y’all. I’ve studied this until I’ve pulled my hair out and I’ve screamed at people to listen until I’m blue in the face. YOUR BRAIN RUNS YOUR BODY.

I’m tired of watching mommas bury their babies and wives bury their husbands and friends tell me they’re struggling and can’t get help. I’m tired.

I’m tired of people begging for healthcare they can barely afford, while corporations reap the benefits of billion dollar profits.

I’m TIRED of watching suicide statistics going up for African American children for the first time in history due to exclusions in healthcare (provider bias and inequality of care), educational bullying, and extensive, unchecked discrimination by law enforcement and elected officials.

I’m tired of feeling like this new country of ours cares more about things than we do people.

What are we doing? I’m tired. I’m still angry–and yet, somehow, I’ve managed to see things differently.

For the first time people seem to be caring that our kids are choosing to take their lives. That our vets are coming back broken and they don’t want to live.

Somehow–even in my anger about all this, I see the light. It’s not bright, yet, but the truth is making it more possible.

While science can explain the chemical components that happen when someone wants to end their life, there are other anomalies that are acts of humanity.

We know that because the survivors who have attempted or thought about attempting, tell us that friends or family helped change their mind. Kindness. Love. Humility. Compassion. While it won’t fix the motor neurons in their brain that are misfiring, it can give them a moment of hope until they can get the necessary help they need.

People ask me why I make politics personal and I ask them why the hell they don’t. Deep down in the broken parts of my soul that will never be truly healed, I will always fight for people who suffer and can’t help themselves. Always.

That fire that started the day dad died has since turned to a passion for change. The anger I once felt towards him for leaving me, has turned into a desire to learn more about what killed him.

I always love the moment a suicide survivor comes to me and they recollect the good memories of the person they lost. When the blame and shame leaves them and they finally realize suicide is just a malevolent disease that robs us all. The people who are lost to it and the survivors.

I will always support candidates who choose to put human health above monetary gain. If we continue to travel down this dark and unforgiving road, it is a path we can’t come back from. Suicide is a preventable death and politicians playing roulette with our healthcare sends a very clear message that our lives are up for debate-and they’re not.

Sixteen years ago, my son was born. Nearly five months into his pregnancy , I was laying in a hospital bed and the doctors were telling us it was way too soon and he wouldn’t make it. I told everyone to leave the room. I had someone I needed to bargain with.

I already knew God was going to do whatever it was he was going to do because he’s big like that, but I needed to talk to dad.

You see, when dad died, I remember people–grown ass people–telling me they were sorry that dad killed himself and wouldn’t go to heaven. I knew my God didn’t work that way. I politely told those people to fuck off. I had a sailor mouth, even then.

As the room cleared I started talking. I told dad that if Ben were coming to be with him, that I needed him to be taken care of. Somehow, that made me feel safer. But I begged and pleaded that he tell God that I wasn’t ready and couldn’t take another loss like that again.

I’m not exactly sure why I was spared the pain, but I was. Ben was born December 1st. December 2nd didn’t seem like a dark memory, anymore.

Did rainbows and unicorns shoot out of Ben’s butt when he was born and it took the pain away? Nah. This isn’t a freakin’ Lifetime movie, but somehow that magical date shifted to a release somewhere in the cosmic heavens of forgiveness and I was finally able to just love and miss my dad. From that moment on, I knew I needed to help other families, too.

Each year as a suicide survivor, the road changes. You learn something new from a family or an experience and it breaks your heart wide open, again. Luckily for my hardened, feisty, heart, it’s managed to soften.

Suicide broke me wide-open but it didn’t break me. I don’t want it to break anyone else, either.

Love isn’t going to solve the world’s problems overnight, but what will it hurt? Losing dad once kept me so closed off, I would’ve rather risked not loving than to be hurt again. Now–I’d rather be broken wide open than to miss out on love. No matter what form that takes for you-whether it’s your family, or friends that are like family, or your job-the act of love produces the good chemicals in the brain that we all need to function and that we equate with happiness and peace.

I got dad for fourteen years. It wasn’t long enough, but sometimes the things that break you, will mend you, too.

I will keep fighting for him and all the others. Love is a bad-ass, son-of-a-bitch. It might’ve taken me a really long time to fully get that, but I’m glad she’s here.

The next time someone politely asks me why I get so fired up about politics, I’ll gently remind them that 42,000 people a year die by suicide in the United States and many because they lacked healthcare. Then I’ll ask them if they’re registered to vote…

*If you or someone you know is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.*

Originally posted at SharkMomma. Re-posted with permission.

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A single-mom just doin’ the work. Suicide advocate and defender of democracy. Wanna-be writer when I grow up....

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