I developed a sense of normalcy regarding suicide. A common episode in my home was the one where my parents would fight violently for hours on end. The fights almost always included my mother’s blood and my father’s drunken threats to kill himself. After repeated exposure to the remark, it started to slowly lose its shock value. One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is the one that involves one of these regular episodes, and will forever haunt me.
My younger brother and I developed an unspoken system when an altercation would breakout. We would separate and chose a parent to console and coerce a submission in hopes of ending the altercation. We would alternate between parents if one of our methods was unsuccessful.
There was one night in particular where the fighting had been unbearable and began to creep into the fifth hour of ceaseless combat. My father had already hit my mother multiple times. She was in the kitchen bleeding and crying, accompanied by my six-year-old brother trying to stand guard. As per the system, I had gone with my dad into my mother’s bedroom. I was eight at the time and all I knew how to do in terms of ending these fights was to make myself vomit which, normally worked. That night had been different though. He was crying and speaking to me as if I was an adult and not his child. He started telling me that if my mother continued arguing, he “couldn’t do it anymore”. This was not an uncommon statement from him in these altercations.
In the kitchen, my mother was begging for one of the children to call the cops. My father then screamed across the house that if anyone called the cops he would be taken to jail and he would kill himself before they got to the house. Unfazed, my mother continued begging for us to call 911. I watched my crying father pull out his gun from under the bed. I became panic stricken. My father had never taken his threats this far before. He repeated to me that he was going to go through with it this time. Sobbing and chanting “make her stop”, he proceeded to hold the gun up to his head. “Kassidy, I can’t do it anymore.”. The last thing I remember about that night was the silver barrel of a revolver pressed to my father’s head by his own hand.
I no longer have an accurate recollection of the suicide negotiation between my father and myself. I have no memory of how or what happened that allowed for the discontinuance of this altercation. The last thing I remember about that night was the silver barrel of a revolver pressed to my father’s head by his own hand. Later, my lack of memory would be described to me from a therapist as a normal function of the brain when confronted with trauma.
The next morning was a school day. I woke up around nine thirty shortly after that my mother got us McDonalds for breakfast. This was the routine after any major blow out. There was no mention of school or the traumatic events that transpired the night before. There was mostly silence and trepidation in the days after this fight. We never spoke of this day again. I knew nothing about comforting or communicating and neither did my parents. I have never told my mother or brother about this incident. I have never had a discussion with my father about that night. For the following weeks after the incident, I would think about that moment whenever I left the house. At eight years old I was in fear of not only my mother’s life but his too.
Around the age of thirteen is when I first started experiencing extreme stress. Like many millennials, both of my parents had lost their jobs at the beginning of the recession. The only difference was that my parents did not lose their jobs because of the recession. They both had lost their jobs because of addiction and covered it up with the timely events of the recession. Unfortunately for me I was smart and found out the truth. (This was unknown to my brother and probably still remains that way.) My mother had no adult to talk to about the stressors in her life. She informed me of the impending foreclosures and the numerous debts owed. She would say terrible things about my father that no thirteen-year-old should ever be subjected to. The unsolicited information began to weigh on me. I had issues at school, I was never mentally present in class. My mind was occupied. I had no escape. This is around the time I first started thinking about killing myself.
Eventually, my parents found jobs. Their “hidden” addictions still continued along with the fighting. I was a freshman in high school when I first started thinking about different ways to kill myself. I wanted to escape the stress of my life so badly. I didn’t want to run away like normal kids. I had narrowed it down to overdosing on whatever I could find at the house. It was my escape plan that I kept in the back of my head if things got too bad. Having this option brought me a strange comfort that I would begin to frequently call in times of distress.
As the years passed the push for suicide awareness and prevention grew. Every year in class we had a day where we learned about how to spot someone who is thinking about suicide. We took home handouts with what warning signs to look out for. I realized that I had multiple risk factors and had inexpressibly exhibited almost every warning sign. I decided that I would never tell anyone of my secret escape plan because they would put me in the psych ward. I continued fantasizing the thought of killing myself. I dreamed about the relief of never having to experience any more painful emotions or stress. I kept up with my secret escape plan for many years and exploring different variables. I thought about guns, knives, driving into the side of a mountain, driving off the bride, diving off the bridge, and even sitting in the garage with the car running just like my great grandpa.
My mental state started to deteriorate and my emotions ran rampant. My engagement was failing, I had no friends, a strained relationship with my family, I had no goals, I really had no purpose in life. I had become so romanticized with the idea of driving myself into the mountain side that I had passed every day on my way home from work. Shortly after this I decided I needed help. I am now on medication and it has helped tremendously. I still think about suicide from time to time. I was familiar with the idea of suicide from a young age and never confronted it until now. The stigma the surrounds suicide makes it hard for me to talk to my peers. The dismay someone has when confronted with this information begins to take over. Their actions make it seem like I’ve turned in to an incapable time bomb. I want to talk to someone without them going in to panic mode when I bring up my unusual relationship with suicide. I want someone to be open minded with me and ask questions. I don’t want to be treated like an invalid. I do not want you to be responsible for worrying about me constantly. The awareness and prevention of suicide is so important and is finally getting the attention it deserves. I love seeing people posting that they available to talk to in difficult situations. For those of you lucky enough to be someone’s outlet for expressing these kinds of feelings, I want you to stay calm and ask questions and then assess the situation. We are not weak or feeble for thinking about suicide and we certainly do not want you to treat us or think of us differently when we confide in you. I hope I can convince at least one person to keep an open mind, remain calm, do not make any assumptions, and ask questions if someone comes to you with their thoughts of suicide. By changing how we react to others expressing suicidal thoughts, I believe more people will feel comfortable bringing it up with someone. Your reaction can save a life.