• Fri, May 4 2012

I Regret: My Suicide Attempt

"Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle..."

I do not regret much. I can count my regrets on one hand. I regret losing two close friends because of Swede, I regret reading his email and killing our trust in that one moment, I regret not having been on good terms with Christine when she died, and lastly, probably most of all, I regret my suicide attempt.

I have suffered from depression for most of my life. I do not deny this. I do not hide it (any longer), and if you were to come to my apartment and notice the bottles of anti-depressants in my bathroom, I’ll tell you why I’m on them without missing a beat. It’s as though I have it all rehearsed: “I have major depressive disorder and I realize I technically have nothing to be majorly depressed about, but try telling my brain that.” And it’s painfully true; I have nothing in my life to be depressed about, if we’re to break it down and do a bit of comparing and contrasting to others who are far worse off than I’ll ever be. Honestly, I’m very lucky.

I was raised in an upper-middle class family in southern New Hampshire. I have never been abused, nor do I have any dark skeletons in my past that might have produced any of this depression. My parents are still together and have been in love since they were 16 years old. Both them and my younger sister, Jennifer, have loved me and supported me in everything that has befallen me without questions or hesitation. My sister is my best friend. We are closer than most siblings and when we’re together, it’s she and I against the world. I am loved unconditionally.

My first thoughts of suicide crept into my brain somewhere around 12 or 13 years old. Of course, this isn’t surprising for that age, as my therapist-at-the-time pointed out. By then, I had been in and out of therapy since I was in second grade. Second graders aren’t supposed to be sad, or concern themselves with the end of the world, the earth being sucked into the sun and devoured at a million degrees, or cry without reason or provocation. I, however, did. It was decided back then that I was the emotional child, my sister the strong one. I was the one who was prone to breakdowns when I accidentally stepped on a caterpillar; I was prone to weeks of utter despair for which there seemed to be no reason. I was the sad one.

I struggled through high school with some days being worse than others. I kept my feelings mostly to myself and only rarely shared them with my parents when forced. I remember “ruining” a Thanksgiving my junior year in high school because I couldn’t get out of bed. I physically could not remove myself from my bed because an unknown fear was gripping me and holding me in place. I couldn’t find the words to explain this to my parents, so they dismissed it as me being a rebellious pain in the ass teenager. It was only when my father pulled me from under the sheets and noticed that I was literally shaking in fear–completely petrified without a single thing on which to blame it–did he let me stay in bed, at home, alone. They went to dinner without me. What it came down to (and what still is the issue with those who love me) is that lack of understanding. No matter how hard you try, if you’ve never struggled with depression, you can’t comprehend the level of sadness that comes out of nowhere. You can’t fathom how one might not want to wake up again.

By the time I reached college, I was managing my depression as best I could. It was just a staple of my day-to-day life; there was no point in trying to fight it or suppress it. All I could do was drift in it as though it were the ocean; when a storm started to approach, the waves started to get intense, I’d push my head upward just enough to breathe and stay afloat. It’s really difficult to do that when you can’t reach the bottom to help you back up.

It was also about this time that I was put on Paxil, which I stayed on for a few years, before it stopped working. I was then put on Effexor and eventually other anti-depressants, combinations of them, and different doses. When I moved to New York City in 2004, I was feeling steady and as at peace as I had felt in a long time–then the bottom fell out, because it has to every once in awhile.

I will not get into the details of it all, because it’s still pretty much a blur. I remember it in pieces like a night where you’ve had too much vodka–those flashes of memories like someone else is in charge of the photos of your life. It was a Sunday morning, I do remember that. It was my sister who called 911 after I had told her what I had done. This, according to Dr. E., was my “cry for help” moment:  I had swallowed the pills, I had slit my wrists and then I realized that maybe this was not what I wanted. When the doctor told me that after being dragged out of my apartment, kicking and screaming, swearing that I was just having a bad day, I told him he could go fuck himself. He was wrong; I knew what I wanted–and that was just to sleep. Have I mentioned my issues with authority?

Hospitals will not let you go when you tell them you want to sleep forever. You can make it childish and easy to comprehend, even bring Sleeping Beauty into your explanation as an ill attempt as reasoning, but you can’t win. You are given an option to “voluntarily” check yourself in, or let them do the volunteering for you. My roommate at the time, Thal, who was there with me, did the talking for me: “She’s confused. She’s going to voluntarily check herself in so she can check herself out and not be stuck here forever.” That was the day I was committed to Beth Israel–an experience I wrote about a couple years ago. But this isn’t about what I did that morning, or the time in the hospital, the other patients I witnessed, or the fact that I dared to think myself better than them. This particular piece is about how I regret that suicide attempt.

I am of the notion that everything that happens in your life is completely essential in making you the completely original individual that you are. I strongly feel that regrets are part of this process of not only becoming you, but being you. I was originally conflicted about writing as to whether or not I regretted my suicide attempt. Even when I spoke to my mother about it earlier she asked me point-blank: “But do you regret it?” I told her that I wasn’t completely sure. I also told her that maybe I regretted it so much that I was unable to be completely aware of my feelings on the matter. My mother, always the saint, helped me make sense of it all. Here we go:

I regret my suicide attempt.

I regret it because of what it did to my parents, the devastation it caused them, and that they had to feel for even one second of their lives that they were going to lose me. I regret that my mother went out and spent hundreds of dollars on books about loving those with depression in an attempt to understand, but she just couldn’t wrap her brain around it. I regret that my father, a man who had worked his entire life, spoiled my sister and I rotten, and made us never want for anything–especially love and support–sat across from me one afternoon in a psychiatric ward in New York City crying, and begging the doctors to release me to their custody. I regret that my attempt, and the less serious few that would follow, put my sister in therapy because she couldn’t emotionally, mentally or even physically deal with the concept that she could lose me to a demon that none of us could see. I regret the scars on my wrist that you can still notice in certain lighting, although my F. Scott Fitzgerald tattoo is there to hide the truth and remind me of my struggle. I regret the anguish I caused my closest friends, the relationships I jeopardized or lost because it was too “difficult” or “painful” or “scary” to be part of my life if there was a chance that they could lose me.

I regret that I could be so fucking selfish to try to take myself away from these people, this life and this world. And although I know, and even in that moment when I did what I did, in that darkest of spaces, I knew deep down that it was selfish, but the fucked up part is that when you feel like that, selfishness loses its meaning. You are so enraptured in your own misery, pain, despair, whatever fucking adjective you want to attach to it, that you are absolutely incapable of comprehending exactly what you’re doing. I know that. But I also know now, years later, that to have offed myself would have been the greatest mistake of my life. Sure, I’d be dead and in the ground and unable to feel regret, but since I’m still alive, so painfully alive that I have the tears in my eyes and the goosebumps along my spine from the open window to prove it, I can say now without a doubt that my suicide attempt is my biggest regret.

Look at me! Look at my life and all its gorgeous flaws! Look at the places I’ve been, the people I’ve loved and even those I’ve pissed off! Look at those who think I’m shit, those who love me with everything they have and those who couldn’t give a fuck one way or another! Look at my scars, these battle wounds of a war that isn’t yet over, but one that I’ve beat in the last few rounds! Look!

I can’t promise I won’t be there again, in that place that might push me to another attempt, but I can say at this very second, that to have left the party so early would have been a loss. Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be writing for The Gloss… and that in itself would be a tragedy, right?

To quote one of my favorite French writers, Colette: “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”

It’s so true… and I’m not even close to being done with it all just yet.

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  • Annie

    Wow, thank you for sharing this. I’ve got a file in my head of the best ways to kill myself from over the years. I’ve struggled with depression most of my life, but never really sought help until recently.

  • Brianna

    This brought tears to my eyes. And it would be a tragedy if you weren’t writing for The Gloss :)

  • Amy

    What a great piece. I, too, have struggled with depression for most of my life. I, too, had parents who didn’t and can’t understand the depths of unreasonable sadness I felt. I am constantly amazed that I’m not alone in this. Thank you!

  • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

    Thank you for writing this. My father committed suicide when I was young and no one ever talks about it. Articles that touch on depression and suicide are a step in the right direction towards making the topic less taboo. So thanks :)

  • Maggie

    Amanda, if I ever have the pleasure of meeting you in real life, I’m going to give you a huge hug. I’m sure strangers hugging you sounds super appealing, but girl you are the shit so how could I not? You’re a beautiful writer, and I think I’ve commented this before, but please keep being you and writing the way you do. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m glad you’re still here now :)

    • Amanda Chatel

      Thanks, Maggie!

      If I ever have the pleasure of meeting you, I will definitely hug you back on one condition: You best give me a heads up that you’re the “Hugging Maggie” so I’m not forced to do something drastic and scream out in pain about how I’m being smothered by emotions!

  • Kirsten

    I don’t regret my suicide attempt. My suicide attempt hurt me and everybody who knew, but it ended up forcing us to identify a problem and deal with it openly for the first time. Without it, I would not be where I am today, I would not have the relationships with my family and friends I have today, and I probably would have had a successful suicide at some later date.

    My suicide attempt was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I have never regretted it.

  • Krista

    This is so powerful. Nothing else can describe it better for me. This piece hits hard and leaves you awe-struck.

  • Sam Escobar

    I’m really glad you wrote this. There’s a certain stigma about depression, and mental illness overall, that can make it infinitely more devastating. I know that feeling of solidified dread that creeps up and destroys how you feel. It’s absolutely horrible and I am so sorry you’ve gone through it and still presently deal with it. The whole “cry for help” generalization that doctors give is one that I’ve found incredibly patronizing my whole life. A suicide attempt is so much more than a “cry”; it’s simply a quiet goodbye because you don’t feel you can be helped any longer.

    I seriously, absolutely appreciate you writing this because it is so devastating how many people believe that depression is just “being sad about stuff” and that people with depression need to just “get over it,” because it’s impossible for them to imagine a world where getting out of bed is absolutely impossible. This was really brave to write and, as always, was so well-written and articulated.

    <3

    • Lizzie

      It’s irritating when people react to the topic of depression with anger. In my class a few weeks ago we were reading a book in which someone committed suicide, and everyone was saying, “that’s so selfish of him! He should have thought of his loved ones!” There was no empathy.
      That said, I also think it’s icky how depression is commercialized and sold to teens in the form of “emo” styles. It trivializes real depression.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve had my depression under reasonable control for several years now but brought tears to my eyes reminding me of where I’ve been. I think one of the most difficult things I’ve had to come to grips with is the fact that people who love me so much can never really understand my depression. This reminds me that I am not alone in that, and not in that well-meaning but hollow-feeling “I’m here for you” from someone who has not experienced this. So again, thank you.

  • Sugar

    I really want to hate you (I hate everyone).. but if you keep writing stuff like this, I may.. have.. to .. love you. Damn human emotions!

    • Amanda Chatel

      I hate everyone too!
      But if you make another comment like that, I may have to love you too… this will then lead to baking cupcakes and sending them to you!

      Wow… that so rhymed.

  • Amanda Chatel

    Thank you to all of you for the wonderful comments and sharing your own experiences with depression and suicide. You’re all amazing and it confirms that The Gloss really does have one of the best audiences around!

  • Tania

    I shouldn’t have read this at work. It made me cry a little.

    My cousin killed himself when he was 20. And we always wonder if someone had found him in time if he’d have the same regret.

    I’m so glad for your family that you were found in time, and so glad that you’re aware and genuinely upset by the fact that your family was so distressed.

  • Fatima

    Thank you for writing this.

    I have a huge tattoo on my left arm, which I initially got because I wanted to hide my scars, too.

    I’m trying to be positive because I don’t ever want to fall as low as I did back then. I think the worst of it is over, thankfully.

    Thank you so much for writing this because I feel the same way you did.

  • len132

    Ever since I was a child, I’ve had the feeling that life is too much for me. I’ve always been the person who just feels things a little too much. I could never understand how other people could just walk through life like it isn’t sharp, jagged, and painfully bright. There were years when I didn’t think I was going to make it through.

    Especially since I was always the good child, my brother the problem. He smoked pot, I refused to even drink. He dropped out of school, I graduated in the top of my class… I was so busy being perfect that I never let anyone know what I was doing to myself. I also thought I was a cliche- the silly teenager who was trying to get attention through self-mutilation.

    I’ve been “clean” for years now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to fight it. When things go wrong, I think about it. And I still have times when I want to fall asleep forever. It always helps to hear other people’s stories. It helps to know that I’m not the only person- there are people who totally understand.

    I started reading the Gloss a couple months ago, and you have become one of my favorite writers. Thank you for writing so honestly, and being so brave.

    • ess

      “sharp, jagged, and painfully bright,” yes. I find that it’s the intensity of all of it – the good along with the awful – that is so hard to bear sometimes. The brightness can be blinding; all the love and the pain can feel like too much to take in. And it’s not like this for everyone?

      Wishing you (and everyone else on or reading this thread) continued strength…

  • Teresa

    You are so brave to share your experiences. You are also a gifted writer, honest, and articulate. I believe we are all here on this earth for a purpose, yours may be to shine a light on a taboo subject and help build understanding of it.

    @Lizzie, you are right. I truly believe people react with anger because it’s so much easier to be angry than it is to be hurt or afraid… that said, all emotions are valid, but not all actions are appropriate. Berating a depressed person is obviously in the latter category. I’m not defending so much as explaining it – I know I tend to turn to anger as my default emotion and I’m working hard to change that in myself. The angry people need love and understanding, too. :)

    May you all have a blessed day.

  • Nessy

    Real Talk? I’m bi-polar with depressive and psychotic tenancies. I want to thank you for writing this. Mental health is not something that needs to be stigmatized. It is a medical problem like asthma or hyperthyroidism, not a reflection of the person!
    I have been so close. You pull away from everyone and all you want to do is go to sleep. The thing is, I have a firm belief in Hell, so I thought I was trading in one for something far worse just to spare my son my damaging influence.

  • Tessa

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  • Immaturality

    Thank you for sharing your story!!! I committed suicide twice and have thought nothing of it until reading this! You’ve shed light into how it’s affected people around you! You’ve shed light into my truth. Thank you. I hope you are at a better stage in your life :)

  • Amanda Rocco

    Hello,

    I’m writing from the Dr. Oz Show – I would love to discuss an upcoming segment with you!

    Thanks,
    Amanda
    arocco@zoco.com

  • Em

    I stumbled across this article while searching for tattoo designs/quotes that would remind me of my story. My story is very much like yours. I am currently in college and attempted suicide this past semester, but am here now because of my loving friends who took me to the ER. I spent about a week in psychiatric care, and will never forget my first morning waking up there and the realization of what I had done not only to myself but to everyone who loved me.
    Thank you for sharing this. Tears streamed from my eyes as I read and related to your story. While we’re struggling we so often think we are alone. I’ve never met you, yet hearing that you have to go through the pain of mental illness and attempted taking your own life makes my heart break. Know that you are always loved, and just by sharing your story have touched many lives.

  • Cheekie

    Thanks for writing this, Amanda. My daughter suffers from depression since she was ten and your story relates a lot to hers. It’s hard to understand depression but we came a long way and we’ve been trying very hard to fight together; I am hopeful that one day I will see her happy to enjoy life. I admire her for keep trying. Keep being strong.