I was minding my own business on this lonely back road between Richmond and Williamsburg at the beginning of the summer.
The radio was off.
The air conditioner was on.
I donned a pair of sunglasses and felt very worn out from fighting my PTSD symptoms while trying to hold the rest of my life together and still look somewhat normal.
Looking back now I realize that I did not appear “normal” to anyone. My brain was a fog of thoughts and memories flying around my head in a jumbled mess. My eyes looked sad, hollow and often had the “deer in the headlights” appearance. Don’t even get me started on how black the circles under my eyes had become since I only slept two hours a night.
I was not normal one bit.
Because my brain was in so much chaos, I had to drive very slowly and minimize all distractions. That is why I chose to drive on roads that were less traveled and kept the radio off.
A ninety minute drive took me almost three hours.
This trip was pivotal in my downward spiral. I desperately wanted to have my old self back. I tried to remember the past year, but couldn’t even recall the activities from the previous day.
It depressed and angered me. I felt that the only thing I ever had going for me, my intelligent brain, had failed me. I cried the whole trip. Fear that I would never be “normal” again gripped my soul. Everything was set and ready for Alyssa to graduate from high school and I was still falling apart. It just didn’t make sense anymore.
So there I was on a lonely road, crying, taking pictures, having flashbacks every minute, depressed, angry, alone and desperately trying to find a way to put my mind back together to end the pain, when a thought invaded my brain.
It was a simple thought.
Three words which offered a solid solution to ending the PTSD nightmare.
In a soft, but strong voice, my mind said…Just kill yourself.
I wasn’t shocked at the preposterous suggestion that my brain offered as the answer to my problems. It had fleetingly visited before with a few friends. There was the voice that said, “Take drugs! You’ve never done it before, but it will help!” and the other voice that said, “Drink lots of alcohol! You’ve never done it before, but it will help!” I found them to be equally stupid ideas and had promptly kicked them to the curb.
This time it was different. Instead of shooing the suicide thought away, I gave it room to take hold of the pain for a moment.
Yes, it worked!
When I entertained the idea of ending my life, there was a brief moment of relief from the pain! I had a semblance of control again. There was an action that I could do that would end my painful situation. Was it happiness and hope that suddenly shot through my body?
As I looked out of the side window, the trees flew by in a blur, but the flashback between me and the forest was crystal clear and ever so painful. The painful memories of that horrible day were always right before my eyes – torturing me.
I kept hearing the taunting whisper, “Just kill yourself.”
Everything I ever believed in was completely against the ridiculous idea, but it was the only thought that had stopped the pain in over a year. Yes, it was only a minute of relief, but a minute of painlessness let me breathe. So rather than force the thought to go away and dare it to ever return, I directed it to a comfy chair and asked it to please stay.
The horrific idea and I became friends. No one else understood my agony like the suicide idea. Some people pretended that my pain didn’t exist, while others demanded that I get over “it” like the process was as easy as opening a door and walking through the opening that led to the other side.
I had reached out.
I had shared my story.
I had shared my pain.
I said I needed help with doing “normal” things like laundry and meals. I needed to stop trying to hold it all together – work, being a mother, being a housekeeper, being a daughter.
I needed someone to step in and take control, but there wasn’t anyone that was capable of doing that for me. No one had the skills to help the “caregiver” in the family – the strong person who had been there to help everyone else climb over their hurdles over the years. No, I was very much alone and no one could grasp that I desperately needed help.
Well, almost alone. I did have the horrific suicide idea as my friend and it never left me and talked to me all the time. It even made my flashbacks pause for a few minutes if I let it monopolize my thoughts. It understood the nightmarish existence that had become my life and it promised a solution. A very permanent solution that would end my pain forever.
I listened to my demented friend too often, but I do not condemn myself nor do I make any apologies. It is truly a tragic existence when the only thing that can bring a person relief, comfort and a moment of peace, is the idea of ending one’s life.
Obviously, I finished my long trip back from Williamsburg that bright and sunny day. I also survived the following months because I am able to write about it now.
What I want you to remember and incorporate into your mind forever is that no one, and I mean absolutely no one, is exempt from difficulties in life. If you think, “Oh, nothing like this will ever happen to me,” you just opened yourself up to a huge vulnerability called denial. When a tragedy happens and someone you love and care for is desperately struggling with PTSD and tells you, “I feel like killing myself,” you need to believe them.
On the other hand, if you are the person who has let the horrific suicide idea rent a room in your brain, run for help. Don’t walk to someone that can help you. RUN as fast as you can to obtain help from a trained professional. Don’t let the horrific idea linger in your mind because it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and it will take you down the road from which there is no return.