This post will be hard for me to write, but I have loyal readers now and a few have made a request. Also, some events have happened around my loved ones over the past week that have motivated me to share. I know it is hubris to think that my little blog could really do good, but any chance is worth taking.
This past weekend, two of my lovely nieces were impacted by the depression surrounding their friends. Niece the younger, a freshman in high school, learned on Monday that a friend had been taken by suicide. Niece the elder, a freshman in college, learned that a friend was hospitalized for attempting the same. Two young people in a relatively small circle had been sad enough, scared enough, felt worthless enough, to end or try to end their very existence. The heartbreak surrounding these events will never be understood. Dealing with suicide is becoming an incredibly common affair for people in our world, and it terrifies me. Especially when I know how close I came to indulging in suicide myself.
In my last post, This is my story, I said that I had one more tattoo that I was not ready to share about. I’m still not ready, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.
About two years ago my life was on track to being the best it has ever been. I was in a job I loved, spent time with my healthy and happy immediate family, had my personal issues with mental health under control, and was losing weight and taking control of myself. I felt healthy and secure and full of joy and hope. Unfortunately, as so often is the case in these stories, everything was derailed by what seemed to be a small and insignificant event. I will not go into the details surrounding the mistake I made, but I will tell you that I made a minor error, one which I have been assured was not only forgivable but completely not a violation of any policies or rules, in my teaching career. Essentially, I said something that was taken poorly by a parent who had been saying bad things about me in my community. When that mistake happened, it was the parent’s opportunity to swoop in and attack me with all her might. Which she did. She went to my principal, my superintendent, and the ears of any community members who would listen. Fortunately, most community members, along with my principal and superintendent, decided that my actions were completely above reproach or, at worst, a minor and temporary piece of poor judgement for which I had made amends. The next months were full of parents coming to me to let me know that this mean mom had tried to say things about me and they came to my defense. There were so many ways in which I could have celebrated myself as a result of these actions. But I didn’t.
You see, the mean mom had been not only my neighbor, but a friend. We had shared bottles of wine, dinners, summertime fires, and moments of joy. Our children had played together and we had relied on each other to watch over our animals when we were away. We were close, and I was being attacked. The things that were being said about me became personal very quickly. I was told that anyone who looked like me could not be considered a role model for kids, that I was a horrible person and that because I loved the kids in my class too much I could not be trusted with students’ minds. Almost no one listened to this mom’s claims. People literally laughed at the very idea that I was anything but a powerful force in the lives of children. None of that mattered to me. What mattered was that every day when I entered or left my house, I was close to vomiting with the fear I might see her. I would hear her shoes on her porch and shake. I would question everything I did in the classroom. I became almost paralyzed with fear. I began to hate my job and, more intensely than I have ever felt anything in my life, I hated myself. Despite countless reassurances from those who love me, I was thoroughly convinced that I did not deserve to teach, parent, wife, friend, or live.
Because of my reaction to this mean mom, about a year and a half ago I decided to kill myself.
You may have noticed that earlier I said that I came close to “indulging” in suicide. I chose that word very carefully. I have heard all of the people that say that others die by suicide or that suicide is brave and so many other things, but I can’t say that I agree. I have no idea why other people choose what they do, but for me it would have completely been an indulgence. It would have been an escape to give myself a way out from feeling so horrific all the time, and there was nothing brave about it. I knew that it was cowardly when I laid my implements of destruction in front of me. It was a day when Husband was working and Daughter was out of the house. I did not want her to find me. Oh, I had planned it all out. I wept until I couldn’t feel my face (much like right now), and I hugged my dog and howled with pain. I shook. I threw up. Eventually I became numb. I was ready.
You know how the story ends. You know I am here. I would love to tell you that there was something special that happened to stop me. It would be great to say that I got a text or a call from Husband or a friend saying they loved me or they were thinking of me or something. The truth is, I don’t know what happened. I just decided right then that I could not die. If you’re a person who believes in a higher power you could say that I was saved. I do, and I was. Something stopped me, and I am grateful.
Then in May I was at a meeting led by a preacher friend. He was talking to us about how life is a gift from God, something that I now truly believe. It was at that moment that I knew what my next tattoo would be. I asked Husband to write the simple phrase “this is a gift” for me on a piece of paper. I brought it to my artist and he lovingly put it on my foot. It is the Art that I talk about the least often, because it still hurts. Even though I am grateful that something stopped me, I need to see that Art all the time. I smile every day. I give love, so much love, to those around me, but I am always afraid. I am always walking around with a half broken heart because I do not have the courage to walk into a classroom anymore. I miss being a teacher every single day. I pretend that I don’t. I even lie and say that I do not want to go back to teaching, at least not yet. This is a lie I have been telling everyone in my life. The truth is that every morning when I drop Daughter off at her school, I want to cry. I miss it like I would miss a best friend lost to cancer.
That woman and what she did, my reaction to it, it was a cancer in my life. I now have a gaping maw from where the cancer was removed. It is right next to my heart. Still, every day I will remember that this is a gift. I will be grateful that I am still here, even to feel pain, because I am doing good things. I am choosing to use my “gift” to be the best mother I can be, the best daughter and sister, the best wife and friend. I am choosing to love those I meet unconditionally. This life is a gift, and I will never take it for granted again.