Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Unringing the bell. Wednesday, October 27, 2010.
“Welcome to your life. There's no turning back.” – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears
Western civilization breaks history into two parts – BC, or Before Christ, and AD or CD, for after. As I was going through the family photos saved on my computer a few days ago, I realize that I now break my own personal history into two parts – before my suicide attempt and after.
I found myself starting at my face in birthday and Christmas and vacation photos taken before my major depressive episode that started in the fall of 2008, wondering if that person could have foreseen what was in store for her. Of course, I’ve been battling bipolar since 1980, and I’ve suffered a number of lows and at least two dysphoric manias. My smiling face in a lot of these old photos belies my true feelings.
But there is no comparison between the way I felt back then and the way I would come to feel from late 2008 through the summer of 2009. I was so sick that I had no frame of reference. I couldn’t believe I could ever climb out, because I had no experience with being in that deep of a chasm. It was like comparing a case of tuberculosis to a case of the sniffles.
And because I took action in a motel room that morning, unfortunately, my “before” and “after” affects others, not just me. I rung a giant bell, and I cannot unring it. Once you have attempted suicide – especially if your attempt was potentially lethal and not just what some would call “a cry for help” – you can’t forget it, and neither can your loved ones. The damage is done.
The son of my mother’s best friend hung himself a few years ago. His act shattered his family. We spoke of the family situation last night, briefly, when we had dinner with my mom. Suddenly the conversation ended and the subject changed. The suicide of a friend or family member is no longer something that can be comfortably discussed in my presence. I cannot unring the bell.
The very small selection of friends who know about my attempt communicate with me periodically, and they ask, “How are you?” I know what they mean. It’s a different question now than it was before. I cannot unring the bell.
Thank God, my liver is in good shape due to the 24-hour drip of N-acetylcysteine I was given to combat my acetaminophen overdose (one of the doctors actually referred to the clearing of my liver as “a miracle”). And the deafness caused by my aspirin overdose went away. But I wear bracelets to cover the permanent scars on my wrists. I cannot unring the bell.
Damn it. I wish I could unring this bell.