The Why (The Day I Attempted Suicide, Part 2)

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

IF I were dying, THEN they would realize how much they love me–this was a fantasy I would play out in my mind often as I tried to fall asleep at night. My mind was a safe place where I would try to sort out all the feelings that were far bigger than I was at the time.  At four, one does one’s best to wrestle with complex issues, and this was part of my feeble attempt. It was the year I was first sexually violated and lost my innocence. Throw that into a whirlpool of flourishing familial dysfunction, and I would begin to understand pain and rejection for the very first time. Sometimes our greatest traumas come from what isn’t given.

Survive–we are hard coded to survive until it is pecked away by the brokenness. Surviving is not the same as thriving… So much can be robbed from us in moments, leaving behind decaying parts that long for redemption to breath new life.

17. He spent at least a year grooming me, testing to see just how broken I really was, before he attacked me. After so many sexual assaults through the years, THIS ONE had to be my fault, right? I should have known better. I should have been wiser.  And yet, wasn’t this story familiar somehow– the one that seemed to speak of my worthlessness again and again? I had even met Jesus, so how could these things happen still? I was tired of surviving. After I managed to get away, I sat mostly naked and sobbing on my bedroom floor.  I studied the pill bottle on my vanity. Gone were my childhood fantasies, left were rotting wounds. How could I go on? What was the point? So much pain. That first thought was nothing but a whisper…just take the pills

The seed had been planted before I was old enough to add, watered with every trauma life brought, and fertilized by my ignorance.  Suicide...maybe it was the only way the pain would ever stop. It became the new fantasy, a false promise that maybe it was the only way to end my pain after all.  So, with every incredibly dark and painful season this thought would echo through my mind like a sweet promise of freedom…

Lies are always powerful, but the truth holds greater power still.  I had yet to learn that lesson, though.

The day I attempted suicide, the birth control pills had pulled the proverbial trigger, but the gun had long ago been loaded.  Take away the synthetic hormones and my mood would indeed regulate, but it would not teach me what I desperately needed to learn. The trigger was always there, tempting me to just pull…

…when the infertility news arrived.

…when my twin daughters died.

…when I faced rejection more profound than I had ever dreamed possible before…

..the thought came like a drink of water that promised to extinguish my fire. No more pain.

What was wrong with me?  Who thinks these thoughts? Clearly only crazy people! The shame that enveloped me held my tongue until I was bone weary of the plague it had become.

The perspiration beaded on my brow and soaked through my shirt as I finally blurted out my secret to my therapist.

I struggle with thoughts of suicide, and I don’t understand what is wrong with me!” I cried.

The flood gates opened, the tears I had cried behind closed doors for years spilled forth, climaxing into an ugly, snotty sob of confession.

Amazingly, she NEVER said what I was so terrified was true–that I was indeed crazy.  (In fact, I asked her repeatedly just to be sure.) Instead, her words would shatter my shame, breathe life into my desert, and pave the way to greater freedom than I had ever previously known.  I would finally understand the why, I would begin to see the truth and slowly she would teach me to understand just what I could do.

Freedom. Finally.

 

The Picture

Maybe it was the infertility struggles, maybe it was naiveté, or maybe it was just a really good sugar high from too much cake, but there was a time when I held the lofty certainty that I could be the perfect parent.  I know what you are thinking, “perfect, really?” Well, no, I didn’t process my thoughts in my mid-twenties with that verbiage but let’s just be real, that was the burning desire– I was never one to be content with average performance.  So imagine my horror to find that I could indeed be the crappy parent I promised God I would never be.

I can still remember the moment my therapist said the words, her legs crossed as she pressed down the pleat of her pants, her top painted in warm inviting hues–really her very personage being akin to a warm, soft sweater on a cold, rainy day–safe and inviting– “What about being a good-enough parent?

I could feel the veins in my temple start to throb as the color rushed to my face and I found myself giving the armchair an undeserved death grip while I willed my fingers into its yellow flesh.  What the heck was she saying? Her calmness was disarming and infuriating. How dare she

Would that be ok?” she asked, and I found myself wanting to cuss at her and I really didn’t understand why.

NO! That would not be ok, why would that ever be ok– in a million years, no. Did she not understand my love and devotion to my children? Did she not understand that it was up to me to give them a perfect childhood? To make up for any brokenness that some of them had started life out with? To be Mr. Rogers, Martha-frickin-Stewart and Mother Teresa all wrapped into one? My kids deserved a mother that did it all perfectly and I just needed her to understand her dang job was to FIX ME. As the words rolled off my tongue and touched air for the very first time the light began to dawn, illuminating all the brokenness to my thoughts.

You are wanting to be a perfect mom, but is perfection truly possible?” she said, calmly shifting her hands in her lap as she grabbed her mug to take a sip of her tea.

Oh. Ohhhhhhhh. Dang it. Dang her.  How dare she? Why was I angry with her?  The depth of this depravity was not her doing but she was the one bold enough to point the stage light toward the steaming pile of crap.

Where did that leave me? What would this mean? If what she said was true then I don’t understand the mommy-hood picture I am aiming for anymore. 

The picture.  The picture of the perfect mum.  I knew immediately that this perfect picture hung in my head needed to burn.  It was all a lie. A mirage. It was also a means of torment. The yardstick by which I would measure myself every dang day and find myself failing.  But how could I not fail? I had set myself up for no other option.

Perfection isn’t possible.  The enormous pressure perfection burns into one’s shoulders actually breaks the barer. Yet, I ran after it like it was the great prize that determines my every worth and the entire fate of my children.

Snap.  There it is.  The why. If I do it all right then I will earn my motherhood honor badge and have avoided all the struggles and all the pain and all the problems that could befall my children, ever.  The picture in my head, haunting all my moments and reprimanding me like a brutal taskmaster every time I fell short. That impossible dang picture. The lie.

I sat in my therapist’s office, broken–not because of all the hard circumstances I was trudging through (like I thought)–but because of all the lies that lay buried beneath it all like a festering wound eating away at my spirit.  So, as the tears streamed down my blotchy red face I vowed to understand what good-enough parenting looked like and I finally let the fire burn the perfect picture away.

The freedom…

Good-enough parenting:  Where you work at getting it right a bit more than you jack it up, you deal with your crap and model that process for your kids, and fall heavily into grace in the midst of “I’m sorry’s.”  It is a messy place full of learning about love, compassion, and forgiveness. It keeps showing up, pressing in, holding onto peace and running after the truth that leads to freedom. And, knowing that when all else fails, there is always therapy.