Attempted Suicide(s)

journal_entryAbout six months before my sister died, a friend called me – somewhat out of the blue. We’re definitely friends, but we definitely don’t talk more than once every couple of years. He called to ask if I was okay…in a very concerned sort of way, not your run-of-the-mill-how-you-doing way.  I said I was fine and asked him what was up…and then, he told me that his mom (works at the hospital in our hometown) had called him when she heard about my sister.

I had no clue what he was talking about.  Then, he gets quiet and says: “Your sister attempted suicide a couple of days ago.”

And…

I laughed.  I laughed in disbelief.  I laughed in pure belief.  I laughed at how I was finding out through a distant friend days after it had happened.  I laughed at how awkward this must be for my friend.  And, I think I said something to the tune of: “Of course she did.”

He was taken aback by my response, as he should have been.

But this wasn’t the first time…or the last…

How many times total?  Only my mom probably knows.  She didn’t call me every time my sister got sick and had to go to the hospital…and she didn’t call me every time my sister attempted to kill herself.  There was a threshold that had to be passed before my phone rang.  Death had to be not just hovering around my sister but with his hands at her throat before my mom would let me know, because she didn’t want to put us (me or the rest of my family) through it…unless we really needed to be put through it.

And my sister’s suicide attempts were…halfhearted.  She had an addiction to pain meds (a topic for a future post) and she would take enough pills to kill a normal person but not enough to be sure that they would kill her.  So, my mom, again, didn’t want us to have to deal with the drama of it all, because she believed my sister really did not want to die or why wouldn’t she have downed the whole bottle?

If I sound cavalier and cruel in talking about this, it’s because I was.  The possibility of my sister dying, whether of her own accord or from her disease, had started to mean less to me.  Maybe it was some form of self-protection.  She would not make choices to lead to a healthier life and no one could convince her to change…so, in theory, I was over it.  She was going to die.  In reality, I was selfish and blind, numbed by the past to the present.

The last time she attempted suicide was three months after my friend had called.  My phone rang, again, but I missed the call (I was in the bathroom – peeing).

I had heard my phone, so I checked it – missed call from my sister.  I set down the phone, thinking that I’d call her back later, but then picked it right back up and called her. Because in those three months between the phone call from my friend and this phone call from my sister, something had changed.  I don’t know what, but I had stopped the self-protective selfish bullshit going on in my head and started to really really really be concerned.  Because I had realized one thing…

I didn’t want my sister to die.

It’s not even “realizing” really – it’s more like admitting.  Admitting to yourself that your selfish behavior is just an act and that deep down you are a mess because you are destined to lose something that you would really really really like to keep.  Your little sister.

I had started to admit that more and more (like in the journal entry pictured above).  And instead of treating my little sister like something I had already lost, I started treating her like something I thankfully still had.

So, I called her back.

She was crying.

She said something about nobody caring and how I didn’t even pick up the phone.  I told her I was peeing – that I called her right back. (Thank gawd that I had!)

And she kept apologizing and saying that she wasn’t going to come visit me (she was supposed to come to town in a couple of days).  That she was sorry – she just couldn’t make it.

I know we were on the phone for a while but I don’t really remember what I said – I don’t remember much more of what she said.  I just remember trying with all my might to make sure that she did not hang up the phone.  Of trying to convince her to stay with me…to stay with all of us…to stay.  Stay.  Stay.

Eventually, she hung up on me.  Not in an angry way.  In a sad, I-love-you-goodbye way.

I immediately called my mom and told her to go home.

She immediately called my dad because he could probably get there faster.

He got there in time and this turned into another “attempted” suicide.  Her last one.

She did end up coming to visit.  I’m so thankful that she did, because we had a really great time…and because, three months later she died…not from suicide but from the damn disease.

Now, it’s a year and-a-half after her death…and I’m still here – trying to live in a world that doesn’t include my little sister.

And trying to understand why I didn’t do more to keep her in it.

The Dress

sister_dressI am a bridesmaid.  For the first time.  I’m more of a boy’s girl than a girl’s girl.  Hence, I’ve never been in a wedding.  I’m sure all of you know this, but weddings are a butt-ton of work.  I sort of knew this, but now I really know this…and I’m only really involved in planning the pre-wedding events.

Anyway, wedding craziness is not the point of this post…but the bridesmaid dress I chose is.  I went dress shopping with the future Mrs. to try on dresses in the color scheme of the wedding (weddings have color schemes, if you did not know this).  In this particular dress store, the different styles are named…well, names.  Normal people names.

I try on a few but only one really looks good on me…it even goes with the cowboy boots I’m wearing (this is a very important qualification of any dress I own).  As I’m wearing it, staring in the mirror, my friend asks if I noticed the name of the dress.

I had not.

It’s my sister’s name.

Dress. Sold.

Fifty Shades of Guilt

 

sis and mom bw2I went back to my hometown a few weeks ago for a friend’s birthday and stayed at my mom’s fancy schmancy new condo.  The second night there, I got home kind of late, got all ready, and put myself to bed as us adults do.  Right as I was about to drift away to dreamland, I hear my mom come home (she seems to have more of a life than I do). About ten minutes later, I hear her clear out sobbing in the kitchen.  I mean body-heaving, gut-wrenching sounds are traveling through these obviously thin walls right into the spare bedroom.  She might as well have been crying in the corner.

And, I freak.

A normal human being would have immediately gotten out of bed to go console their mother.  I have long given up any claim of being normal.  I can however claim at least partial forgiveness, because my mom used to be the family rock.  She was the frickin’ “Great Stone Face” of our time – the woman could be in an argument with my father, wouldn’t have a clue. She could be making life/death decisions about my sister – you’d never have known.  The woman was a private fortress of emotional solitude.  I didn’t even hear my parents argue until right before they got a divorce (I was twenty).  Ever-so-slowly after that, though, my mom began to show her emotions little by little.  But, to hear her all out breaking down?

Like I said, I freaked.

After about ten minutes, I convinced myself that I should get up and go talk to her, as much as I may dread it.  Because, along with not being normal, I’m also super awkward.  I know I’m bound to not do the right thing…piece of evidence numero uno…I walk into the kitchen and say: Hey.  Soooooooo…sounds like you may be a little upset?  …in a tentative yet joking voice.  Luckily, the woman has known me for some time and she does look up, smile, and say: I didn’t think you could hear me.

We talk for over an hour – really I just lean against a kitchen cabinet and listen while she sits on a step stool in the corner and tells me about the 5,233,489 ways that she feels guilty.  Eskimo, snow. My mom, guilt.

(1) She feels guilty when she’s not sad.  She hasn’t been sad for a while, she said.  But, not being sad, makes her sad.  Feeling “okay” for a couple of weeks, makes her feel horrible.  And that night, she walked through the door and just was overwhelmed with guilt and then, sadness that her baby was gone.  That her sick kid who used to always be on the couch in the evenings wasn’t home when she walked through the door.  That she now comes home to an empty house.

(2) She feels guilty because for the last year of my sister’s life, my sister must have felt so devastatingly, unimaginably alone.  My mom was tired.  She was understandably tired of sacrificing her life to stay home and be best buddies with my sister, so she had started going out on the weekends to do normal life things.  I think it would have probably been different if my sister hadn’t been so damn difficult, but my sister was damn difficult.  And not only that, but my sister had been making bad choices…choices that don’t lead to the hope of a healthier life but toward a quicker death.  That’s not easy to watch… But in hindsight, it’s hard not to hate yourself for every moment you didn’t spend with her.

(3) She feels guilty for pushing my dad to be involved more with the doctor/medical side of my sister’s life in the last few years.  My mom had a job…my dad didn’t for some time.  So, my mom thought it made sense for my dad to go to the appointments, so she wouldn’t have to take off work.  …but my dad didn’t know the nitty-gritty of that world so my mom thinks that some crucial decisions were not made correctly……

(4) And on the flip side, my mom feels guilty for a bunch of decisions that she did make.  She even questioned whether she made the correct first choice…I guess there was a moment in the very beginning of all of the hospital nonsense when my mom asked the doctors to save my sister, instead of letting her go. My mom wonders if that was selfish….would it have been better to have let her go right then at the beginning than to have held on to her and watch her suffer for so many years?  My mom told a rather heartbreaking story of how she came to the realization that my sister really only lived for her.  That my sister only pushed through some of what she did because my mom asked her to…..

So, I stood there in the kitchen, leaning against the cabinet, feeling squirmy because on some level, I didn’t want to hear this.  Like mother, like daughter.  I have built my fortress of emotional solitude and leaving it, let alone going into someone else’s is well…kind of terrifying.  My mom just kept crying and telling me…telling me all of this and so much more. And, I understand in my own way.  I feel guilty, too…about similar things, about different things, but my mom’s guilt is unfathomable.  It is infinite and ever-expanding.  It is the mother effin’ universe of guilt.

That’s the last time I saw my mom…until tomorrow.  I invited her to visit for Mother’s Day, so she’s driving up after she gets off work for some quality mother/daughter time.  And as great as it is, as much fun as we’ll hopefully have, I know it’ll be a little painful.  Because, I’ll inevitably think about how I used to fight for time alone with my mom…used to ask and push for us to do things without my sister.  I’ll think about the times, that I now regret, when I got my way…when my sister stayed home…

…and I’ll feel guilty.

Mysterious ways…

I don’t believe in much in the way of religion and spiritualism.  I like the idea of it sometimes….I wish I had faith sometimes.  But, in the end, I think it’s more of a want to believe than an actual belief.

But then there are times when my lack of belief is called into question.  Times like a couple of days ago.

I’ve obviously been struggling with putting my dog to sleep… and the night of my last blog, I just hated myself.  It’s the closest thing I’ve had to an “out of body” experience – going through the motions of doing this, of putting him down, when deep down some little voice was yelling at me not to, not yet.  But, the little voice was little and, well, now it’s much larger, much louder…and I’ve realized that I was doing what was “right” for everyone other than myself.  I was being the “strong” one – the tough decision was somehow put on me and I did what I was expected to do and said what I was expected to say. But the truth is that I wasn’t ready.  So, yeah…been struggling…

But then, I received a message from one of my sister’s closest friends…here’s a shortened version:

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I reached out to a medium today, well it’s been planned for a couple months, hoping to connect with one of my relatives…but I had to share with you the very first thing she said.

She said that she saw a dog that just passed away.  Smaller but not as small as a chihuahua. Lighter in color, not black. Not a dog from 20 years ago but one who has passed recently.  He popped through to say he made it to the other side and: “They’re together”.

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When I read this, I broke down.  I don’t have strong beliefs in anything…but the pressure on my chest became a little lighter.  The idea that they are together now, that it is okay…helps.