Although there have been other times when suicide entered my mind, the real battle for my soul came long after my salvation.
We lived in Ipswich then; our older two were three and a half and almost two years old. Financially, we had hit bottom. Being sick through both pregnancies landed us in hot financial water. Although I was working again for minimum wage, they offered free on-site child care, so while it looked like our situation would improve, our debt was still more significant than what we were bringing in.
I know for men, especially, financial stress is one of the number one things that can cause depression and is often the culprit that lands many couples in trouble, often leading to divorce.
I’m sure you have also felt the pressure to provide for your family. My husband was raised in a home with a father suffering from PTSD from Vietnam. He loved his children, but due to his experiences during the war, his dad lived in fear of losing his children. My husband and his brother were not allowed to interact with other kids the way most do out of fear they would be kidnapped and harmed. As soon as his dad would come home from work, you could cut the tension in the house like a thick chunk of cheese. Nobody dared speak or try to do anything without permission from their dad. He demanded quiet at all times. Intense routine and control helped my beloved father-in-law cope with the trauma he still carries.
That said, at this point, we were still deep in debt, and although we didn’t have a diagnosis for our son at the time, there were issues. Big issues.
He fought bedtime each night, acted out in tantrums that would last much longer than I expected, and there was a general belief that I just wasn’t good at this mom thing.
I couldn’t discipline him the right way, and nothing I tried worked. One time-out I had put him in took two hours to accomplish. He had hit my husband in his refusal to do something. He only needed to sit for 3 minutes, but he was not having any part of it. For 2 hours, he continuously got up, screamed, kicked, hit, punched, and all-out went into a frenzy, fighting his time-out. I did time-outs in Super Nanny style, where you stay quiet and keep putting them back until they stay put. It worked so well on tv. I knew I needed to stick it out, so I did, but not without incredible frustration from my husband. He begged me to give up as he tried to help. It was awful and exhausting for all of us.
I was at an all-time low as my relationship with my husband was strained. We were both stressed with two kids, one of which seemed to find every possible button to push, and as our communication with each other came to a halt (between working and being upset all the time), we reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t keep the apartment clean enough, and it took me another 2 hours to get our son to bed one night. I cracked. I was fighting the frayed wires of my nerves from 2 hours of repeatedly putting my son back into bed. Our eldest daughter was in bed next to him, patiently staying put.
I decided to take a deep breath and hug him because I needed to refocus my energy as he continued to get out of bed. As I leaned in to hug him, I am ashamed to confess a switch flipped; I attacked him instead of hugging him.
As I leaned toward him with arms open to hug, I suddenly found myself lunging at him, going in to bite him. It was as if some other energy had taken over my body, and although I caught myself and stopped immediately, I had scared the daylights out of my precious babies and myself.
I recoiled and screamed for my husband to come because I couldn’t believe I had gone to this place I didn’t know was there.
I love my kids, no matter what. I would destroy anyone who would harm them, yet here I was doing the very thing we tried to protect them from experiencing.
First thing in the morning, I called my midwives and was seen for an emergency appointment. I learned that what happened, although our daughter was almost two years old, was postpartum depression and that it can set in anytime in the first three years of the birth of any child!
Given my history of depression and suicidal intentions, they knew that my hormones were at the root of it.
Even though the midwives told me this was normal and I would be okay, it didn’t help my guilt about what I did. In beginning my medication that day, I knew I needed to be careful and set up a support team to reach out to if I needed help.
Soon after, I started attending a women’s bible study at the church down the street from my old high school. That was another shocker. I had never set foot here before but passed this church daily for 30 years. I tried for years to move as far away from there as possible, yet the most significant time of healing and transformation came right where I grew up.
After attending that first week, I began feeling better and encouraged, but I still hung onto that guilt from that night. The issues continued, of course, and I struggled through it but was much more careful.
Instead of continuing to allow myself to risk going after the kids, I started to take it out on myself, as I had in school. When the stress got overwhelming, I would lock myself in the bathroom or bedroom, beat myself up, pull my hair, punch my face, and bite myself.
It helped relieve the physical symptoms and made functioning lovingly around the kids and my husband easier.
The tension between my husband and me continued escalating, and I started thinking of leaving. The finances continued to stress us both, and as I tried homeschooling the kids, I felt overwhelmed, and the frequency of my episodes of anger aimed at myself increased. I started pressing steak knives into my arms, which soon led to minor cuts to help alleviate the inner pain. I didn’t want people to notice, so I wore long sleeves or cut in areas nobody would see.
One night, as my husband and I argued, I snapped. Screaming from so deep within that I would soon lose my voice; it was a guttural surge of being pushed past my limit of control over myself.
I collapsed on the floor, beating myself up and having an adult-sized, gigantic tantrum. I knew how stupid I was acting, which was humiliating, but I couldn’t stop. As my husband tried to calm me, I ran for the kitchen knives. Now I was sure I needed to die or be injured enough to spare my husband and save our children from me. I needed to be gone from their lives. He took the knives away from me and sat on the floor, holding me as I sobbed in a way I hadn’t before.
The following night, I was rehashing everything that had gotten me to that point. I concluded that even as a devout Christian, I needed to end it because I was causing horrific damage to these beautiful babies that were given as a gift to me. If I didn’t go away, I would damage them forever.
I was alone in our apartment, except for the kids, who had gone to bed and were long asleep. I stood in the kitchen before the block of knives, crying and asking God to forgive me that I couldn’t take anymore. I hated that this was happening and wanted it to stop.
It was as if someone suddenly took control of my right arm, picked up a steak knife, and started slicing up my left arm with deliberate and deep cutting movements. It was an out-of-body experience, and it was like I was watching a movie. I knew it was my arm, but at that moment, it wasn’t my arm. It was dark and looked different.
Deep in that scene, I understood what was happening. It was now that I had to decide, once and for all, whether I would allow myself to continue, turn this knife into my chest, or choose to live.
As I turned that knife toward myself, I felt my soul burst through and fight back.
I realized that the battle will always be ongoing and that suicidal thoughts may return to haunt me when things get rough, but I need to be here for these kids. I needed to fight harder for myself so that I could fight harder for them.
The scars from that have faded, but they are still there. I appreciate that scar because it reminds me to choose to live anytime I feel those emotions creep back in.
Awareness is the key. I prayed to always be aware of myself from a third-person perspective to see when I needed help again. It has been incredible.
As my husband and I healed our relationship, the next level of true healing came when we welcomed our youngest to our family. She was the gift that God sent to give us a new beginning.
All of the challenges that have come since with our oldest child’s diagnosis of autism, then Celiac Disease, and all of the fun stuff that comes along with parenting, I am now always able to identify the blessings and count them so when the more challenging days come, I can still see ahead enough to know we’ll get through.
Another reason for sharing this complicated story is because those strands of light that help me choose life every day still come, and I continue to identify them each day and pass them on in any way I can.
It helps me stay aware and maintain a perspective on things that I never experienced before.
I know challenges will continue and might knock me over, but I will get back up, coming back stronger than before.
As I approached 40, I remembered how many wished they could be 25 again or go back to high school and do things differently. I was surprised to discover that I felt the opposite.
At 40, I finally met the lost little girl who forgot who she was at age 8. I’m now 45 years old, and that little girl is someone who has been restored and healed, knowing the truth about her purposeful existence, created by a loving God and Father who had never been away from her side, not even for a moment.