TRAUMA, THE SUICIDE SOLUTION, AND POETRY
I had hit rock bottom. On the fifth day of my ongoing mental health crisis, I was seeing the world through a pure filter of gray, and I wish I could say that was an exaggeration. I could not function to the point where I couldn’t even remember how to pull weeds. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t take walks in my favorite places. Everything pleasurable in my life had become something distant and unattainable.
Then, I attempted suicide.
The telehealth doctor’s appointment earlier that day is a blur in my memory. In a desperate attempt to find some kind of solace, I asked for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. I used that Xanax prescription and what alcohol I had later that night to try to sleep forever. In some strange mix of indifference and fury, I woke up the next afternoon extremely groggy and short of breath.
This all culminated as a result of my exhaustive struggle with what I thought was major depressive disorder and a severe anxiety disorder, and, mostly, my ten-year relationship crashing down around me like old, tired brick walls. We’d been engaged for about two years at this point, and you can do the math from there.
The final year was filled with on-again-off-again break ups and reunions. I even left for a week last August because I couldn’t deal with her physical pain from an injury being taken out on me anymore—I couldn’t deal with being a full-time worker and a full-time, unappreciated caretaker. This final year was the catalyst for the creation of Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower. The rest is why I wrote my second poetry collection—a companion piece to the former—which is currently under consideration for publication.
Our relationship was, by every definition, abusive and toxic. I will never, ever claim to be an innocent party in it. I withheld affection, was distant, cruel with my words, invalidated her feelings and issues from her past, and, at times, I even resorted to cheating, emotionally and physically, as a form of escape. I often did not understand my actions, and they often took me to very dark places within myself, and my deep guilt was painted all over me so obviously that my family members, immediate and otherwise, were begging me to leave the situation.
However, she was no innocent party either. I won’t go into great detail, and I will leave her name out of this, of course. (And for clarity’s sake, I’m writing this blog post as part of my own recovery, and not to shame her or to create anymore animosity toward her from those in my vast support network “in the know and on my side” than already exists. I write, and I put these things out there so that maybe others that have endured similar traumas won’t feel like they’re alone; it’s just what I do. I wish her well and hope she finds the peace and happiness she so desires).
I was severely psychologically abused: made to turn against my own family members that would step in at times to defend me, endured threats against them and horrific insults against them hurled at me during our many blow-out arguments, barred from attending certain family events, barred from maintaining friendships with those I’d known since childhood because she believed them to be a negative influence on our relationship, told again and again that I was “gaslighting” if I ever dared to express how some of her actions made me feel, my dog threatened to be kept from me, made to feel guilty and endure extreme reactions for pursuing a career as a writer by joining a local HWA Chapter and attending their meetings and after-dinners, repeatedly told that I was the only toxic party in the relationship while I was continually manipulated and lied to (for what she believed was for my sake and safety: “maybe in a few months, when you get yourself straightened out, we can work on fixing things”) after its inevitable end, and much more. Too much to write here.
I was financially abused: while I worked only part-time in retail, I was forced to pay the majority of the bills in our home under the impression that she had no money despite her full-time job that often included overtime that she held until her, unfortunately botched, surgery. My bank account was often overdrawn by the hundreds because of this, and I was constantly fighting to get myself back on track. I even created an excel spreadsheet to budget and solve this issue, which she refused to look at, despite the several times I’d asked her to. It was from her mother during this time that I discovered she’d been sitting on over $6,000 in her checking account alone, not counting the thousands she had stockpiled in her savings account and stocks.
Mixed with those were darker abuses, which few know of, a mountain of unjustified and justified guilt, which all led to my long-time-coming complete psychological breakdown.
What breaks my heart the most about this entire situation is that I’m not even sure she realizes what it was she was doing. Her tone of voice and self-assurance the last few times we’d spoken over the phone months ago have led to that suspicion. And I hope, and I pray, that she eventually does and overcomes these dark parts of herself so that she can live a healthy life and find a suitable partner if that’s what she wants.
At around 12:30 AM on May 12th, I made a desperate phone call to my sister. My suicidal ideations were at a height even greater than the previous night where action upon those thoughts were taken. Ashley and her husband rushed to my home to take me to the local psychiatric hospital. My then-fiancée and I had a final cigarette together before my departure, and with tears streaming down her face, she told me how proud she was of me for finally seeking help for untreated and then-unknown mental health issues I’d been struggling with for years. She promised me she’d be there when I returned home from the hospital and would support me through any outpatient treatment that I required. I was reassured and made to feel like my partner was going to hold me up during my darkest hours, as I had done for her many times. Further, on the way to the hospital, my text inbox was filled with apologies and “I love yous,” and “I’ll be here,” and “I’m so proud of you.” Then, the hospital took my phone, the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy book I’d brought with me, my belt, my shoes, my hoodie, and my pajama pants that had a string in them. I was changed into gowns and brought to my wing.
The hospital itself had been a traumatic experience, and I truly hope the other patients I’d encountered are able to overcome their own struggles, even if their actions, which I know they could not help, made my stay one of fear and self-defense readiness. The hospital was also the only place I’d heard a mental health professional speak the words “Borderline Personality Disorder” to me. With symptoms generally explained to me, I finally felt like I had context for my own ineffective behaviors that caused a lot of issues and inability to communicate and gave a path to follow so that I could be a healthy person with a healthy life. They also expressed to me the next morning a plan to discharge me and get me into outpatient treatment.
In the early evening of May 13, I called my then-fiancée with the patient communal phone to express excitement that I’d be home in time to take her to her next doctor’s appointment, and that I was going to have a treatment plan to get myself to a place where my disorder would become manageable, and that we could live a happier life together. She promptly cut me off mid-sentence and broke up with me. She blamed her own therapist and my treatment team at the hospital for her decision, taking no ownership for this news I felt like I was hearing in a nightmare. I was left completely devastated in a place where the only help I’d received was a label, continued medication, and meals I couldn’t bring myself to eat.
Upon my discharge, my sister and her husband immediately took me in to care for me as my crisis understandably and severely continued. I was left for weeks with no continued treatment, daily panic attacks that often resulted in crisis counselor intervention in my bedroom or wellness checks by Pittsburgh Police. I was brought back to the hospital once to have my antidepressant immediately quadrupled in dosage and to be put on a different, more powerful, and longer-lasting anti-anxiety medication. I was brought back to the hospital a third time by police after this because I’d gone missing for hours while in a severely suicidal state of mind. I attempted suicide twice more, both times having been stopped by my sister who, thankfully, had been working from home and checking on me very often. I was lied to by my ex and her family that in a few months, if I had just gotten my disorder managed, I’d be back home, and things could be fixed. As if I were a broken lamp at the repair shop, as one friend put it. I understand this now that they did this in effort to keep me from hurting myself until I got myself managed and stable. But, all it truly did was add great layers to the trauma that I’m still left dealing with.
I was eventually referred to a partial hospitalization program, having thirty hours per week of Dialectic Behavioral Therapy for nine weeks. Toward the end of this program, after I had learned to stop defining my self-worth by the way my ex and her friends and family viewed me and to live my life for me, a wonderful woman—a real woman—walked into my life to show me what it means to have a true partner. She’s aware of this entire story, as well as parts of it that are not mentioned here, and she has stuck by my side as I process what has happened to me and work through becoming a stronger person that can manage the traumas that will be turned against themselves to build a stronger version of myself. She supports me in all of my pursuits and dreams. My family adores her, and she adores them. Her family took me in and welcomed me as their own, making me feel as though I belong right from the start. My dog loves her more than he even loves me, it seems. She reassures me often that she is here, and that she will never put me through another experience like this. She picks me up when I have setbacks and the officially diagnosed PTSD resultant from my experience sends me back into dark places like I’d never experienced before. We are to be married this coming October, and I cannot wait to call this woman my wife.
I cannot say that I would ever want this person that transformed from what was once magic and beauty into my life’s greatest horror, my life’s greatest mistake, my life’s greatest source of suffering, to be a part of my life again in any form. I would like to know, however, why I had become worthless enough to a person that supposedly loved me for a decade that they could toss me to the street like a bag of trash so easily and so cowardly.
I know I’ll never get that answer, though. I can only find my own closure and push forward through what has always carried me: the craft of pounding the pain out of my body on a keyboard.