ellie, i’m so sorry that you and your family had to deal with such a horrific loss, my family came very close to the same thing. my mother failed in her attempt, so i had the opportunity to talk to her about it, on many occasions. there’s no sense to it, at all, there’s just what happened. my dad and we 3 daughters could see but never truly understand the level of despair that led to her attempt.
in the 1970’s, my mother made a, thank god, failed attempt on her life. it definitely wasn’t a desperate cry for help, she’d desperately wanted to die (from talking together years later) she’d been suffering from extreme mental ill-health, being bipolar. she had been in our local hospital’s psych. ward as a voluntary patient for some time (i was a child of about 8, at the time, i’m not sure how long). after coming home she had fallen into a profound depression, which culminated in her taking all of her anti-depressants with most of a bottle of brandy. my mam was in the habit of wandering the house at night, so when my dad woke and she wasn’t in bed it wouldn’t have usually struck my dad as odd, except it just did. he could never explain why he’d felt something was really wrong, but he just ran down to find her barely alive. he’d phoned for an ambulance and woken my sister (14-15 years old) to look after me and get me to school(?!). my mam’s heart stopped several times and she was resuscitated. thankfully there were no lasting physical effects. the day after her attempt was the first time i ever heard my dad cry, he sobbed his heart out, that night. i suddenly found myself staying with my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks, they were relentlessly cheerful, i remember.
at the time, and for years, i hadn’t a clue what had happened. everything about home life had been ‘skewed’, for want of a different description, it stayed that way for years. we were lucky enough to have a fabulous dad. he just got on with life as best he could.
my mam was sectioned, staying in hospital for a few months, i later learned that she had had electroconvulsive therapy, which she told me about being terrified of, at the time. when she came home, she was really quite out of it. the next few years we all muddled along my. mam was on fairly heavy duty (very carefully controlled) tranquillisers, she saw her psychiatrist regularly too. i would say that it took about 5 years for her to start feeling/seeming like she was more herself and in control. this coincided with me becoming a teenager, i was the only one of 3 daughters (she’d had no real choice but give up our brother for adoption, when she was a teenager) who had time at home, after the worst of her mental ill health was over. we talked about her life many times.
she’d grown up being mentally and physically abused by her mother, which was at the core of her ill health and the basis of a tragically low sense of self worth. something i’ll carry with me till i die, is her telling me that by the time she’d first started school that she’d ‘known that she was ugly, stupid and worthless’ it took a while to type those last few sentences, then i had to cry for a bit. and again.
my mam was beautiful, incredibly bright and articulate, kind, so funny and worth the world to us. i remember her telling me how someone she knew had been surprised that she’d had a serious ‘breakdown’, my mam had told her ‘i broke my leg once, too’, which just sums up her humour and pragmatism. she always had to fight to stay emotionally ‘level’, throughout the remainder of her life, but there was so much love and laughter in that time, she saw all 4 of her adored grandchildren, born, too.
my mam told me that the point at which she attempted suicide, she felt an immense stillness, and believed in a desperate ‘certainty’ that suicide was the ‘right choice’. she later recognised that this was all part of her illness, it definitely wasn’t about logic. above all else, she loved us children and my dad, so to have been so incredibly desperate as to do this, with her 2 youngest children in the house, defies ANY attempt at logic.
my mother was an incredible woman, she’s always with us, in our hearts. we were lucky enough to enjoy many more years with her. the most important bit of this post is her words ‘i broke my leg once, too’, mental illnesses are no different to other kinds of illness, in that they can be treated and people can adapt, to learn to manage and live with their symptoms. god knows i would never be glib about mental ill health, there are many kinds, like my mam’s, that have to be fought with, but if a person gets past those times of desperation. then there can be joy and laughter again. the best thing is to seek help, talk (or type) and above all fight your way through.
sorry it’s a long post,