Paper and Blood – A Personal Essay

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Image: dreamstime.com

Personal Essay — In my bedroom on a warm, summer day – listening to Pink Floyd – ‘The Final Cut’ – I laid in bed, bawling my eyes out while I wrote on pieces of loose leaf paper about how much my life sucked.  I had gotten the cassette tape from a boy who had no business being friends with someone my age. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he was a creepy lover of tween girls, but we stopped talking by summer’s end, so it didn’t matter.

Anyway, at thirteen, I didn’t really understand the concept of suicide. I just knew I hated my life, I was ugly and no one loved me.

Back to the pieces of loose leaf paper. I don’t remember verbatim what I wrote, but I still have vivid flashbacks of being in my childhood bedroom – painted sunflower yellow – while posters of heavy metal bands, Madonna, and a pennant for the 1980 Phillies crusted those walls like a prerequisite to an underage life crisis.  Sitting beside the stack of Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Pink Floyd cassette tapes were my trusty stuffed animals adorably named Donna and Leo.

The paper was atop whatever magazine I had that day… probably a music magazine as I kept replaying and writing the words down that boy said to me:

you’re ugly. I don’t like you. you’re too weird. I tricked you. 

I found a razor blade in my dad’s top dresser drawer at some point previously. The steel was now hot between my thumb and finger  — I had held it so long just staring at the words on the paper, it felt like a part of me. Those words had to be factual, after all. I mean, I was thirteen years old and didn’t fit in with anyone; hell, even my parents didn’t pay me any mind. Those words made sense; they made everything fit.
I waited until the title track to the cassette tape came on: The Final Cut.

This is absolutely one of the saddest songs I know. I played it over… and over… and over… until I was able to sing the song while I sobbed all over myself and the words on the paper. I took that razor blade and cut my right wrist… then my left.

They weren’t large, gaping wounds (those would come later in life) but more so little slits surely significant enough to bleed.  There I was sobbing and bleeding for what seemed hours (more like forty minutes) waiting for someone to come in my bedroom and tell me I was none of those things on the paper. I needed to hear someone tell me I was worthy and loved… even at thirteen years old.

At some point, the written pain on paper became suffocated in my blood; surely I would feel faint and start to die at any moment. I needed a do-over.

Nope.

I was carted off to my paternal grandmother’s – a seasoned woman who smoked long cigarettes and drank vodka and orange juice – where she gave me vitamin E pills to burst open and rub on my wrists.

I assumed (from watching after school specials I guess) that after a kid tries to die on purpose, that maybe we talk about it or take me somewhere to talk to someone…

Nope.

The truth was, teen suicide wasn’t a thing then. All I got for my first suicide attempt was bandaged wrists and some lousy vitamin E pills… oh, and all my Pink Floyd tapes were taken away, because yeah, it was the music’s fault.

Isn’t it always the music’s fault.

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Selfish Suicide – Part One

Suicide is selfish.  Truer words have never been spoken.  Okay, truer words have been spoken.  But on the topic of suicide, there is no other way to really describe it.  I can say that I have been truly selfish once in my life.

It was a hot day in the middle of July 1996.  A whole host of events had led up to that day.  I was upset; disgusted. I really felt there was no other option.  How could I go on?  What shot did I have at a decent life?  I felt hopeless and weak.

I stood above the sink with a bottle of prescription muscle relaxers. The tap flowed as I put my plastic cup under the cold water. With a pile of pills in my hand and tears streaming my artificially tanned cheeks, I begged for a sign that I didn’t need to do this; that it would all be okay.   The telephone didn’t ring.  My cat didn’t meow. There was just the steady sound of running water.

I took the pills and chugged from the plastic cup.  There.  It was done.  I didn’t have to suffer anymore.  As I walked crying into the other room it hit me like a bolt of lightning. My life; others lives flashed before my eyes.  What the fuck was I doing?

I ran to the kitchen to take it back.  I put my head over the sink and rammed my fingers down my throat.  The harder I tried to make myself throw up the weaker I became.  It was in that moment that I begged God to forgive my sins.  I stumbled into the living room and collapsed on the floor.  That was the last thing I remembered.

I woke up in the hospital days later with no recollection of what I had done.  My mother was by my bedside and I asked her where I was.  She told me I had suffered a stroke and that my oldest daughter had found me dead.  Rescue was called that day I collapsed on the floor and they had worked on me for roughly twenty minutes before getting a pulse.

That day was July 19, 1996.  My mom would call on the nineteenth of July every year for the next eight to remind me of the progress I had made since I fell apart.

The stress of being a young mother of four children with a dead beat husband would make anyone fall apart.  My family was masterful at the cover up.

At about year six, I started to remember pieces of things. Events that seemed almost dream like flooded my mind.  As I remembered them, they overlapped each other like a poorly dubbed cassette tape.  I would mention these thoughts, these pieces of a movie almost, to my mother.  She would side step my notions quite gracefully.

At year seven I had called my mother.  I was excited.  I had a dream.  A violent dream, but nonetheless, a dream.  Now, you might think, so what?  We all dream.  And I know that I had dreamed every night since that hot day in July, but when I awoke from my sleep every morning, I had nothing.  A glimpse of anything that had run through my subconscious mind during the night never resurfaced in my head.

That dream meant so much to me.  It meant normalcy.  To dream meant that I was going to be okay.

I wish I could say that my life and the lives of my children returned to normal after that night in July.  I wish I could pretend that a glass of water and a bottle of muscle relaxers coupled with a dark state of mind didn’t alter so many paths.

The lives of my children would never be the same after that day.  My life warped into what seemed a strip of bad scene selections from a sub-par movie.