The first time I made a plan like this, I felt it was foolproof. It was a bright sunny day at the end of a perfect summer. Most everyone was enjoying the sun. Patios were open for white wine lunches. Kids were splashing and laughing in water parks. Dogs were happy in the shade. It was truly idyllic. Everybody would be in a good mood.
It was a perfect day to die.
The plan was to drive off the neighbourhood bridge. It had one of those flimsy corrugated steel side rails at the bottom of a steep hill and curve. I always felt those railings were only a token effort to protect against plans such as this. I had spent the morning running errands and my two-year-old was fast asleep in her car seat in the back. I had installed that seat with the help of a police officer and I knew it was secure and designed to protect on impact.
I could see her in my rearview mirror and had a moment of doubt thinking of what I would miss out on. Her first day of school. Her first teenage crush. Her wedding and children of her own. I would miss them all but she would be better off without me. They all would. I knew that driving off that bridge would amount to a headache for the family. They would be mad that I put my little girl at risk but that would just fuel their fire. I had no worth, so they would get over it.
As I approached the top of that hill, I checked behind me to see that no one was there. I didn’t want to mess up any more lives with my plan. All was clear. Was I really going to do this? It seemed the only answer. No one would miss me.
Then it happened. The kick.
My son had been quiet after a day of being lulled to sleep by the constant motion and I suppose was waking from his nap. That kick saved me and my family that day. I hadn’t thought about if they had time to get him out alive or if he was developed enough to survive outside the womb. If I bled out or drowned, he would be gone too. That was more than a headache. That was murder.
My plan would have to wait.
In a rare moment of strength, I asked my midwife, almost offhand, if you could have postpartum depression while you are sill pregnant. Her ‘Yes’ saved me from my plan. She watched me cry and sat on the couch with her hand gently placed on my back. She didn’t ask about my plan. She knew. She handed me a card and made me an appointment. I got help. Real help that saved me and my children from perinatal depression. When my son was born, the plan was long forgotten.
You would never guess my struggle. I am an A-type person who always does plenty of volunteer work. I make cupcakes for the schools, run charity events, host girls weekends and am the one to make people laugh at dinner parties. On the surface, I have everything. A great family, a fabulous home. Travel, skiing, cottage. We have it all. But the emptiness remains. I must make a plan.
This time the plan is better. My kids are old enough to help out when I am gone, and they are old enough to no longer need me the same way. My daughter is a teenager and she is pulling away anyway. My husband is young enough to find someone else. I have not been a good wife in his illness, and he needs someone better. When one of my group of friends died from cancer about five years ago, we grieved, but we moved on. My extended family don’t ask how I’m doing when they call, so I know it won’t matter to them. They want an update on the kids and my husband’s health.
I know where I stand.
I have tried to get someone to notice. When I have brought up my pain, my husband really doesn’t want to hear it because he is coping with so much himself. I have seen my doctor, and the referral to a mental health specialist is expected to take 3 months. I have driven outside the hospital emergency never braving to find a parking spot. I’m not sure anyone cares if I am well.
This time I am heading for a walk with the dog down to that same river. The ice is thin enough to walk on at the edges but is flowing fast underneath. As I will get closer to the middle, the ice thins out and becomes transparent. When it gives way, my boots will fill with the cold water and I will clench my feet up in them so that the weight of the boots brings me with the current and doesn’t rip the boots off my feet. It is very cold and dark already so nobody but the coyotes would be around to see. Not far down the river it narrows and the ice gets thicker. I hope the current will take me under and I will feel the cold wrap around me and the deafening noise of the rushing water turn to calm and bring on the peace I crave.
I will have to relax and enjoy the ride. Embrace the feeling of my heavy winter coat taking on water and bringing me under the ice. I will resist the urge to fight. I want to fill my lungs with the cold water and close my eyes. I don’t want to see the ice’s edge as it hits me in the face before bringing me down. Not because I’m scared, but because I’m scared I will resist. The warmth of the blood is soon gone with the cold, dark of the rushing water under the surface. It won’t be long now. It will be over.
But then I feel it. The soft touch of the girl who I sense no longer needs me. I was unaware she was behind me. I was unaware I was crying. She places her small hand on my back and says the word I don’t want to hear, but it’s the only word that will help: ‘Mom?’ She wraps her arms around me and I realize at once how big they are and how small. She hugs me from behind and tells me it is going to be OK.
And I believe her. For tonight.
Hi–I read this four times now and the impact is truly overwhelming. I have run the gamut from being in a similar place (with six kids) to working on a suicide hotline once I recovered (we were instructed to tell callers, “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”) And everything on the spectrum in between chronic depression and euphoria. My plan wasn’t quite so detailed as yours. I was hospitalized for three months. It helped. You are an incredible writer. All the words you will write would be sorely missed by millions of readers like me. And we can only hope to get to know you in person. Those who are actually fortunate enough to know you definitely value you, but just like we all are guilty of sometimes, don’t express it. Your piece is a wake-up call to so many. Blessings and serenity to you. If you ever want to reach out to a stranger who feels she knows you from your word choices, please contact me day or night. You will stay on my mind because you matter. Stephanie
Wow. I have struggled with depression for most of my life starting when I was 13. I have at many times been where you were- making plans. When I got to the point where I believe my daughter will be better without me I got scared and checked myself into the hospital. It was one of the smartest things I have ever done. There is help. You don’t have to feel like that. You just have to be willing to accept it. Your kids need you even though it seems that they are growing up and away from you. Your husband needs you even if you think you aren’t doing a good job being there for him. Please seek help. The world would be losing a very powerful voice without you.
I am so glad you have never carried out your plan. I have been there as well and can tell you that on more than one occassion, one of my son’s have saved me. I know they were not even aware of it. There was one time when my 20 year old son was visiting. I thought he was sleeping. He must have heard me weeping and while he was still in my room, picked up his acoustic guitar and played the one song he knows I love to hear when I am suffering my worst days…the famiiar intro begins and is followed by the lyrics, “Here comes the sun….” Through the gentle strumming, his chords say, “Mom, I’m here, I’ll always be here and I love you. It won’t be dark much longer, just know the sun is going to shine again.” He finishes his gift to me, gently lays his guitar down, comes to the couch where I am sitting and sits a cusion length away from me. Why not next to me? He knew I needed to just lay my head on his knee, he knew to just place his hand gently on my head. We sit and he turns on the TV. I cry a bit longer, rise and go into the kitchen to start dinner. No words were ever exchanged.
Stay strong, sister, you are a gift to your family and this world. The sun will shine again, ‘little darlin’….<3
My heart is heavy as I read this because I have been in a dark place like this, I have known no greater pain than depression. And at my lowest point, I also wondered if my family would be better off without me… mental illness hurts everyone around you as well. I thought I was a burden, robbing them of joy that they would otherwise have. But there was a turning point for me, somehow I decided that what I had to offer was enough. That they loved me despite everything I believed. I learned to find beauty in the world, and be inspired by the miracles all around me. I don’t have a simple explanation for how I climbed out of that hole, but I know that if anything tries to separate me from my family again, whether in time or space or in life or death… I will not go down without a fight. I will fight until I take my last breath for those I love, and it will not be by my choice that I leave them. You are needed and loved. And you are stronger than you know.
You are a beautiful, beautiful person for being able to write this and to be reaching out for help. To me, that makes you so much stronger than you feel that you are. I know that every single day is a constant struggle, and that it’s always the little things that stop you, but you know what? I’m glad those little things have stopped you. You are being looked after (by God, a higher power, the universe, WHATEVER – but you are being looked after), and that is absolutely amazing. It gives me hope in my own struggles.
I know it’s hard, and it sounds like empty words, but be strong. You don’t have to be strong for tomorrow, but be strong for this minute, hour, day…. But be strong.
Bravo to you for sharing this powerful, important story. I so very much hope you are feeling some hope and finding some support that feels real and authentic and helpful. You are strong!
This post left me breathless. Thank you for writing it and know that your family will always need you more than you could imagine.
I actually followed this from reading The Blogesses posts today. I understand your struggle. I too have had a plan mine actually was partially carried out by walking/swimming into the ocean I turned back and asked for help when I went under once and a surfer saw me. I never admitted to anyone that it was a suicide attempt I’d just gotten further out than I had realized. I hid the “shame” of my depression for decades. I’m finally getting the help I need now because I deserve it. I deserve to be here I’m worth the fight. You are too. You’re worth the fight you have with yourself every time you think your family and friends would be so much better off without you. Your family wouldn’t, your friends wouldn’t, even I the person from the internet who found your post and recognized your struggle because I struggle too needs you. Thank you for writing this post, and linking it on comments section of The Blogess. I hope that you win your battle for today and tomorrow and in the future. God Bless you.
Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. Your words resonate with me so much, I have struggled with depression for over 10 years and got to the point where I tried to end it all twice, but luckily survived both times. After years of searching for relief and trying every medication and therapy I could find to no real avail, I discovered TMS and it has been the most effective treatment for my depression. Without exaggeration I credit this treatment with saving my life, and also giving me my life back because what I knew before this treatment was not the life I know and enjoy now. As effective as research has shown TMS to be, no doctors recommended it to me and after 10 years of suffering my own research led me to learning about this option so I just wanted to put it out there as the line “she is still looking for help” resonated with my long search for help. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/new-approach-to-depression/?_r=0
We have all been there my dear…often thought the same myself. the night I left my verbally alcoholic abusive husband was my kick. I looked at the dark water on a winter night, heard the waves lap and realized my daughter needed me more than I needed this. And so the work began…it takes hard work to stay healthy. I am sorry you are feeling this way. You have love and support all around you. Focus on the things that make you feel good and embrace them. We all love you ox
This was a year ago. I hope you are doing better now. You know, depression lies to you. It will tell you you are worthless when in stead you are worthy of so much. Not my words, but they help me every single time my medication fails. Don’t fall for the lies.
I wrote this anonymously a year ago. I though it was time to own my pain to bring me closer to healing, so I asked to have it republished under my name. I am not healed, but I no longer have a plan and my family tries to understand what I am going through. Thank you for your encouragement.
You are so darn important and have such positive impact to those you touch. Please don’t. You are needed. You are important. You have a legacy. And you are my friend. I will always be here to listen, to rub your back or just share a glass of wine. XOXO
Thanks, Shelagh. You have already carried me through some of my darkest places. I know you have my back, and my glass 🙂 Love you.
Late to the game, but just read this. And through my tears I need to let you know I couldn’t agree more with Shelagh’s comment. You matter more than you know, to many. Your brilliance shines, though you may not see it all the time. And that light would be missed forever. And I also love wine, and will share a glass and wipe a tear anyday my friend. XOXOX