April 06, 2014

It Just Gets Worse

I grew up with a mother who constantly threatened to drown herself in the bathtub.

She always made it seem like taking one's own life was a viable option.

I first felt what I considered suicidal sometime in third grade, when my mother's mental health had deteriorated, coincidentally with my increased popularity and sociability at school. She lashed out at me and my sister more than ever, that same year having been diagnosed with hypoglycemia and blaming all of her bad behavior on low blood sugar. I took the name-calling and generalized verbal abuse personally, unable to blame chemistry for it. I begged my mother to tell me why she hated me, and I wanted to die if my own mother couldn't love me.

When I confessed my suicidal tendencies to my mother, she didn't believe me and laughed in my face. It was just the thing to snap me out of it, because I couldn't see the point of killing myself if no one would care if I did.

On and off since 1983 – for more than 30 years – I've wanted to die but haven't done anything about it. When I was 16, my mother's gynecologist put me on birth control to regulate my periods, but was concerned about its effect on my mental health. She quizzed me about my lack of will to live. "It's not the pills," I said. "It's my life. But don't worry, I'm not going to do anything about it." She then stressed that there was little difference between jumping in front of a car and just not looking before crossing the street, classifying my persistent apathy as to whether I lived or died as a problem. She reported it to my mother, who took the blame hard and castigated me for ruining her relationship with her own doctor. I never got help. I never found a way to want to live.

I got close to a plan to end my life (one that no one knew anything about) in early 2001, but when I met a cute Irish construction worker the night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and started sleeping with him (or, what I thought was "dating" him), that seemed like enough reason to live for the timebeing. Shortly thereafter, I won my first game show, which deterred me from ending it all just yet.

So I managed to hold onto this mortal coil long enough to live through 9/11 in New York, being laid off, getting fat (over and over again), multiple occurrences of drunken sexual assault, getting fired from a job after only three weeks, getting sexually harassed at a job for seven years, getting cheated on twice by the same guy who I foolishly went back to, getting two STDs, getting my heart broken inconsolably by a guy I wasted 10 years on, getting laid off from a job that moved me to LA, getting rejected over and over and over again, and getting drunk. I've witnessed myself get older, still single, barren. I've watched every man I've ever cared about get married to someone else, have babies, be happy without me. I've tortured myself by looking at their honeymoon photos, heartbreakingly happy for them that they're so happy now. 

Lucky me, I got to live through all of that.

The most serious I've ever been about ending it all by the power of my own hand was the night before my birthday last year, when I got stood up. It was the last straw. I couldn't bear anymore. But I'd consumed an entire bottle of wine at dinner in an attempt to console myself, so by the time I got home, I was too wasted to do anything about it and passed out.

My survival despite temptation doesn't take away from the desire for it all to end. I'm exhausted. I can't wait for it to be over. Every night, I go to bed hoping I don't wake up the next morning. When I inevitably do wake up, I rarely can find a good reason to actually get up.

I go to cemeteries all the time because I envy the dead. When I hear about some celebrity suicide, I don't feel sorry for them, I don't think "What a shame"; instead, I think to myself, "Good for them – they got out."

Maybe I have some Polyanna hope that things will get better – and an innate curiosity to see what happens next – but the evidence at hand just proves that things don't get better, they only get worse. The same bad things happen over and over and over again. You may learn from mistakes, but other people don't. And bad things become your comfort food, because you know how they work and their effect on you. You don't trust anything good because it couldn't possibly be what it seems. Nothing could possibly ever be actually good.

So where does that leave me? Every day is Groundhog Day. I know what's going to happen, and I can't stop it. I can only hope that the Universe intervenes, but it never does.

In the meantime, I just plod along, day after day, night after night, more and more tired, older and older as the years wear on...

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