September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As a result, I would like to share my personal perspective on whether or not suicide is always planned in advance. It is often assumed that it is but my own experience reveals that it is not. Although this is my personal experience and in my own words, I must alert the readers that if you or a loved one has had a direct experience with suicide, reading about the details of such a story may trigger difficult emotions and feelings. Of course, it is an option for you to read no further. If you do read further and you find this to be the case, I encourage you to turn to a trained professional that can help you process your feelings.
In reviewing my weekly planner during the spring of 1997, there was nothing in it that seemed unusual. I had both personal and work-related activities and events scheduled. I had even marked some holidays and special events in joyful participation. Looking back at my journal, during that period of time, I wrote how much better I was feeling since the onset of postpartum psychosis in early 1996. So what happened next was completely unexpected.
One morning in April 1997, my son vomited. I remember always feeling troubled when my son got sick. He did not seem to have any other signs of sickness and it did not seem serious so I took him to day care. Looking back, I have no memory of driving my son to the day care center. But I did. I have no memory of driving myself back home. Yet, I did.
What I do remember on that day was the feeling of dreadful worry. My mind and heart were racing. I was in a state of panic. Why? I did not know. I couldn’t stop the tension I was feeling nor could I relax. At that moment I was unable to remember how happy and positive my life was and had been before I was struck with postpartum psychosis.
The fear was gripping me so strongly that I began to feel panic like I never had before. It was gripping and consuming. There was nowhere to hide or escape. I felt sheer terror! I physically felt as if I was jumping out of my skin. The fear invaded me completely consuming my body, mind and spirit.
I had a passing thought that if I could get some sleep, things would be better. I felt I had to escape from whatever “it” was that was consuming my mind with fear. I no longer consciously thought or acted on my own. I could no longer make rational decisions. I reached up on top of the refrigerator. I grabbed one of the bottles of the medicine my doctor prescribed me. I reached in the refrigerator for a wine cooler that had been in there since before I was pregnant. I popped the pills in my mouth and drank the wine cooler. Although I remember what I did, it was as if my physical actions were detached from the rest of me. I was no longer able to process my thoughts.
After a short time, the telephone rang. I hear my husband’s voice on the other end. He asks if everything is okay. I told him very matter-of-factually what I had done. That is the last memory I have of that day. If it was not for my husband having a strong urge to contact me at that moment, I most likely would not have survived. I am thankful every day for my life being spared.
I do not have all the answers as to why I survived when so many others do not survive. I only know that as a result of my experience, I am compelled to share hope with others. In my case, what happened on that day in April 1997 was not planned in advance, there were no warning signs and there was no explanation or justification for my actions. It came on suddenly and out of nowhere. Although every experience and journey is unique, in my humble opinion, I believe many of those who attempt suicide or take their own life, experience the consuming panic and fear similar to what I did.
My hope is that by sharing a part of my own journey it provides better understanding, lessens feelings of guilt and shame, prevents the casting of blame and brings some measure of comfort wherever the journey has taken you or your loved ones.
Always remember there is hope even when it may seem hopeless. Help is available when you or a loved one is in crisis.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline