It’s a Birthday Message

I tried to kill myself when I was 12 – June 7, 1985.

It was the end of a bad year for me. I had transferred schools from a parochial school environment where I’d been for the previous 7 school years, to a public school that I actively hated. The students were bad, the teachers were unenthusiastic, and the friends I’d managed to make did not have my best interests in mind.

So after a year of skipping school and wearing makeup and that one time I kissed a girl and learning exactly how different I was from just about everyone, we’d rolled into summer with nothing but time and attitude. June 7 was a bad day that made so by poor choices and tween attitude and the kind of deeply selfish entitlement that only girls on the brink of puberty can pull of successfully.

And when it was over, I was done. I wasn’t depressed, I was angry. I wasn’t unbalanced, I was deliberate. I didn’t think the world would be better off if I wasn’t in it – I knew it would be worse. I wanted people to suffer. There isn’t a word for that kind of self-harm, other than selfish or vengeful. I’m a child of wrath, I knew there were people around me who cared, but they didn’t care enough so they could all just eff. right. off. Nobody liked me, everybody hated me, so I mixed up everything in my chemistry set that had a skull and crossbones on it, drank it and because at heart I am a completist, took a razor to both wrists.

When I woke up the next day I felt like the biggest (nauseous) failure in the world. Suicide was one more thing I couldn’t get right. Suicide does not bring families together and my relationship with my family is likely different because of it. I struggled for months afterwards. I sporadically attended counseling. I made up lies to explain the scars. I remember the last family reunion I attended was in 1990 and my dad insisted I wear sweatbands because he didn’t want anyone to know I was crazy. It was a sensible fashion choice, if indelicately stated.

I stopped lying about it maybe 20 years ago. It was who I was and I’d made peace with it. I don’t even see them anymore. I don’t hide them or make excuses. Now, if anyone even notices, they don’t bother to ask.

Or they don’t know how. That’s okay too. I’d tell them when I was 12 it was the last bad choice I’d made at the end of a day of bad choices. They were my first tattoos, and when I bother to think about them, they’re a reminder that some days I will make bad decisions that won’t do anything but make the people around me miserable and distant, and I should really make a point to do better.

A few people that know have asked me why I don’t yet have a semi-colon tattoo. It’s grammatically incorrect, for one. But the bigger reason is, I already have a permanent reminder of one bad day (in a life that will likely be full of really bad days). I’m not comfortable with a trend to “raise awareness” of an issue that you’d have to be a narcissist to be unaware of. I’m not your Enlightenment Sherpa. You want to do something? Support mental illness funding. Erase the stigma of different and other. Be less of a dick to people having a hard time. Better, be less of a dick.

Today I turn 43. I am 30 years from that angry child. Lots of great things have happened in my life, and I like to think I’m a pretty great thing happening in other people’s lives.  I’m a wife, a best friend, a sister, a niece, an aunt. I’m an author, a knitter, a chauffeur, an aficionado of most things creepy and horror, and I’ve got more friends than I thought I’d ever have.

So this mostly depressing post is really more life-affirming. 43 years down, and another lifetime to go.

I can do this.