Monday, 16 May 2011

Suicide and guilt

image from here

I have had a lot of memories stirring recently, when I sit down to read RRSAHM, Lori’s blog, they come back at me full force and I find I am never too far from tears. Suicide is fucked up. Unlike Lori, I was lucky, the person concerned was not my husband, but my friend and her heart is still beating today, badly broken – but beating.
When these memories started resurfacing, stuff that I had moved on from bubbled to the top, stuff I had blocked out. I then came to a realisation, a bad one. Where Lori is struggling with unnecessary guilt, being blamed by people she used to call friends for something that was absolutely not her fault. I realised the events of two years ago were indirectly but conclusively MY fault and I hadn’t been blamed when I should have been. The guilt cut me like a knife.
 My friend, she still thinks of me as a true friend, someone who sat by her in her darkest hour, someone who never gave up on her when many others did – she hasn’t made the connection yet, she’s probably too drugged up on prescription pain killers and those depression meds that turn you into a zombie. No, she hasn’t made the connection of how my own stupid teenage problems influenced her so much all those years ago, how I grabbed onto that need we both had for friendship and unintentionally changed her forever. I started a ball rolling, a big destructive ball that would almost squash her life and repeatedly mess with the lives of everyone around her. Carrying that guilt around hurts like hell.  Of course I will be there; I have to be there, since I fucking put her here in the first place.
I wrote the following two years ago, the night after it happened and long before I consciously realised the part I had played in it:
As I walk quickly down the corridor, the smell of disinfectant is overpowering and I am deeply aware of the fluorescent lights bearing down on me in a somewhat threatening manner.
I don’t want to be here. I had made a promise to myself just two days ago whilst clutching my baby girl tightly as we headed home after 4 days of seeing her attached to a NG tube and various monitors whilst words like ‘surgical consult’ had been thrown about somewhat carelessly, yes I had decided then that I would actively avoid the place for as long as possible.
I continue down the corridor passing the sterile metal food trolleys lined up next to a door patiently waiting their turn to be stocked. My heart beats a little faster as I turn right and venture up a vast stairwell, my every move echoing loudly up its cold concrete steps until I reach the top and another long corridor working my way through the maze to the main lobby.
I reach the information desk and give my friends name. I am directed to level 7. Holding my breath as the elevator reaches its destination, I ponder what to say for the 100th time, I don’t think there are any ‘right’ words for this situation, part of me wants to hug her and the other part wants to slap her silly. The elevator doors slide stiffly open and another maze of corridors is waiting for me, I weave my way through to her room and take a deep breath I walk in and peer through the curtain,
there she is slumped face down on the bed sleeping heavily, her eyes have shadows darker than I have ever seen. I mutter her name, no response, I go in and sit on the bed she stirs and looks up at me with a half smile, I opt for the hug over the slap and we make light banter for a few seconds, both of us seeming to be avoiding the obvious topic at hand.
Her mother then comes into the room and smiles to see me, her face pale and worn with worry and grief, I feel awful for her, I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to see her daughter like this, being a mother myself changes the perspective somewhat.
She had apparently taken several packets of a number of opiates just to make sure the job was done right. Anger spills out of her toward her mother for coming home early and calling the ambulance, just another half an hour – that’s all, then I could have had peace, she says bitterly. The detail of the planning was chilling.
I think the saddest part about this whole situation was that we all knew there was a problem, and there had been for years, we did what we could at the time, but it wasn’t enough.
She had tried to get help, she had tried quite hard to get help, but had been stonewalled every time one psychologist labelling her a hypochondriac attention seeker. Eventually somewhere along the way she gave up, what’s the point? Nobody will listen anyway. She sank so deep into depression that she became isolated and dissasosiative.
She says she is so tired, so very tired, she doesn’t want to suffer anymore. She can’t understand and wants to know the reason why we find this acceptable in a terminal cancer patient, yet we can’t seem to find it acceptable with her, she says it’s her body, her decision. She doesn’t want help anymore, she says it’s too late; she just wants to go home so that she can finish the job properly, take the pain away. Her attitude has become sarcastic and numb, she’s not sad anymore, she is way past that.
Depression is such an incredible problem society today, although as a community we are improving our understanding and acceptance of mental illnesses, I am terrified that someone could actively seek help for a period of years and be turned away, having simply given up. Another person failed by the system until suicide seems to them to be their only way out.
The doctors lacking a bed in the correct psychology department were planning to discharge her from the hospital, they actually gave her a card with an appointment scheduled to meet with a hospital psychologist in a week’s time. Luckily her mother put her foot down and for the time being she is still under observation, but I can’t believe that the system has cracks so deep that they would plan to send a suicidal women home to come back in a week for a “chat” with someone.
I don’t know what to do, what to say, in many ways it feels like it’s too late to help her, she has completely made peace with dying and nothing that has been said to encourage her otherwise has even rippled the surface. I just hope that someone can find her the help she needs to recover from this; it’s a long journey ahead one I hope she can be convinced to take.

Two years later and recovery is still slow, she still has potential to follow through with it. I freak out on her birthday, I freak out at Christmas, and now it’s been two years, I am freaking out again – She likes anniversaries, and would quite likely use one to send a message to people, the wrong people, It pains me to think such a message that should come to me could end up on the shoulders of her mother. I find that recently I have detached from her a lot either from subconscious guilt or self preservation, I’m not sure which, but it’s been 4 months since I last saw her and she doesn’t return my or anyone else’s phone calls or texts very often. I must try harder, but its draining, this guilt. This friendship, it takes a toll on my family too, the husband says to let sleeping dogs lie, let her come to me or find her own way, we have done all we can. Have we ever done all we can? Is it possible to make good for what I have done? I don’t think it is.


Melissa said...

I have no advice for you. I've been on both sides - trying to stay a step ahead of someone determined to end it, and then years later wanting to end it all myself.

I hope she is ok. I hope you are ok.

E. said...

Like Melissa, I have been on both sides.

Were things I did were triggered by things others said or did? Maybe, but did they cause me to take the actions or want to take those actions? No. That was me. That was my choice.

I'm not sure why you would be holding yourself responsible. Every person we meet changes us. A friendship has ups and downs. Would you be celebrating and praising yourself if your friend had choose to grow from whatever experiences you have shared?

I think the best thing to come out of Lori’s loss is that people are talking about suicide and sharing their experiences. I know I have.

Suzi said...

E and Melissa, I'm sorry that you have had to deal with both sides, it's an ugly fence to sit on. And thank you for your comments, E. is right, it's good to be talking about it. It's true that we all have choices and I don't hold blame to others for certain choices I shouldn't of made. By the same token for me all has turned out well and I see them more as detours in my path, her path is still so rocky until something good eventuates from it I am scared for her. Guilt and fear travel hand in hand. xx