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Contemplating My Past Suicide Attempts as My Mother Is Dying

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

Life is a mess right now. My mother is in a hospice receiving end of life care for the cancer that has been claiming her body and mind. Every hour I am given with her is precious. Her life is precious.

Life itself is generally viewed as valuable. But this is not always the case for those who have suicidal ideation, tendencies or who have made attempts to end their life. Often we cannot see why we should live any longer because of the thought spirals that takes over.

I sit with my mother every day and I wonder why whatever almighty force is out there has decided that her time is nearly done. I fight the merest hint of guilt that I have longed for my own end in the past. Mental illness is often a harbinger of shame and guilt. Add the compulsion to end your own life and you have a damaging mix of every negative feeling and emotion you can possibly experience.

I have largely made my peace with my previous suicide attempts. I understand now I was not in control of that tsunami of pain that drove me to believe death would bring a calm oblivion.

I am grateful I am still living. I am thankful I lived to become a wife to an amazing man, to spend more time with my family, to see my goddaughters grow and to become a writer.

I am aware now I was not in control of my thinking or my suicidal impulses. I don’t attribute personal blame for it. My mental wiring is a little faulty sometimes and unfortunately when severe depression grips, suicidal ideation takes a hold of me too.

I am not ashamed but I am confused when confronted with this life and death business. I can almost hear you reply, “Aren’t we all?” Yes, but when your mother is dying, you think about it even more.

It’s hard to see a previously strong, feisty, independent woman declining at a rapid rate. Life is ebbing away from her. She still has the essence of being my mother but the light that fired up her spirit is fading. She is dying a slow death. By the time you read this she may have already gone.

I cannot fathom how I can often be so blasé about death when it’s not affecting me, but now I find it occupies my mind every second of the day. Death casts a shadow over those who feel suicidal, too. I feel like death has been lingering around the edges and occasionally the center of my life for far too long now.

My brother died by suicide. I had a miscarriage earlier this year. My mother will not be with us much longer. Death has been my dubious companion. I realize now I have always been trying to make sense of it in order to function after bereavements. I now know I will never solve its puzzle.

Death has many guises.

Sometimes it feels like a seductress, spewing its deceiving sultry tones into the ear of the pained. It repeats a mantra that we will be better off giving in and letting go.

Death can also be exposed as a source of strife. Those closest to us die and we cannot contemplate how our lives can continue now that death has happened.

Then we have the slow death. It is a conflict. You wish it will come soon to spare your loved one any further discomfort but you are never ready to let go.

Dealing with suicidal ideation has also felt like a slow death for me. I have previously battled for weeks, even months, fighting against death that seems to want to come. I have watched my body and mind decline and wished I could be spared any more pain.

Then clarity comes that death is not inevitable for me just yet. I can live once I can find the support to help me to survive. I am thankful for the love of family and friends, along with medical support that has shown me that mental illness does not always equate with death by suicide.

My mother unfortunately has no such confirmation. I know she will die and there will be no saving her by love and medical care. We will uphold her and allow her to go as peacefully and painlessly as we can because of that love though.

My mental illness is being challenged all the time by this period in our lives but I know that with her death, mine is not inevitable. I will falter, I may even relapse, but I have to believe I have been at the point of wanting death before and made it through. I choose to believe this means I can make it again. Oh how I wish I could say that for the woman who gave me life. I continue to live because of her. I will keep going in tribute to her and know if I ever feel suicidal again I have not let her down.

I am my mother’s daughter. I have inner strength. Death is not claiming us both. Not today.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Obencem.

Originally published: July 27, 2017
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