And She Crashed

I don’t get tired of describing her….bright red hair, spunky, small hands, a bit eccentric – and so loving.  I can think back now and hear the sadness in her voice.  The sadness that would swallow her in the dark and tell her she was all alone.  The sadness that prompted her to tell me to “Never kill yourself – you’ll go to hell”.  The sadness that engulfed her some days so much that getting out of bed seemed impossible.  The sadness that eventually killed her – took her from me and left me with so many questions.  No, I didn’t see it then.  She would tell me things about some of the abuse she suffered from her husband and how she cried out for Jesus.  I witnessed the breakdown of her and her daughter over how the rest of my family treated them – like outsiders.  But I didn’t know then how very lost she was.  She did everything she could to lift me up.   She made me feel pretty and smart and loved.  Other than my parents she was the one that came to my Baptism and my first piano recital.   She would be the one to come pick me up in her bright blue Firebird and make me feel “cool” even if just for the amount of time I rode in her car.  She brought me the book “Makeup for Blondes” to help me learn how to apply makeup the right way (nix the makeup line.)  I still have that book.

The day it happened was surreal.  I was 12 years old – I hadn’t seen Sue in about 2 months.  I wasn’t sure at the time what was going on.  My family wasn’t very forthcoming with anything.  My Uncle Danny and cousin Suzanne came to the house to tell us that Sue shot herself.  My mom asked if she was ok.  They looked at us like we were crazy and said…”No..she’s dead!”.  I remember mom calling my dad – Sue’s brother.  She had written many suicide notes according to the police, lit the house on fire, put a towel under her bedroom door, played Christian music on her radio then took a gun and shot herself in the stomach.  I honestly don’t know if she died instantly.  I never saw the notes.  I never saw the letter that I knew she wrote to me.  All I know is that I lost a woman that I loved dearly.

The next thing I remember is the funeral.  I don’t remember the feelings before the funeral or any of the conversations until then – just the funeral.   We walked in and I can remember the smell of the lilies – to this day I can’t stand the smell.  She was laying in her casket…so still and so pretty.  Even in death she was stunning to me.  My dad went out on the funeral homes porch and cried.  I went out and tried to comfort him.  I told him that she was ok and was in Heaven.     It didn’t really comfort him – he just cried more.  I felt defeated.  My family sat in the back pews.  I didn’t really understand why then but found out later they didn’t want to sit next to my uncle or anywhere close to him.  Three months after Sue’s death he moved in with his new wife – to the same house where she took her life.  Very telling.

I don’t remember what was said at the funeral, or her being buried.  Just her in the casket.  For years she had threatened so many times to kill herself before – with aspirin or anything on hand.  My dad or someone else would go to the house, wait her out, and be there when she emerged from her bedroom promising that she didn’t really mean it.   But this time…the final time…she didn’t call anyone.  She just ended it.  My family blamed medications (she had just survived cancer).  I blame ignorance by others and society and depression.  I understand now that she didn’t really want to die…she just wanted it to end.  The hatred, the doubt, the sadness – all of it to end because she wasn’t living.

For a while I didn’t want to tell people that I named my first daughter after her.  Her full name was Lydia Sue Poole Smith.  I didn’t want people to think that it was wrong to name my daughter after a woman who killed herself.  It became Sue’s identity for a while – the woman who killed herself.  But now…my daughter Lydia is a radiant woman – just like Sue.  Sue’s identity was not how she ended her life but by the impact she made in her life.  I do not believe that those who take their own lives go to hell – honestly that is ridiculous (although growing up in the Bible Belt it was a question).  I know that she is finally okay.  I have stopped blaming myself for not calling her (yes even at 12 years old).  She was in so much pain – a pain that I too have felt but did not want to leave others with the same questions that she had left.

She was an amazing woman.  I only wish I could let her know now how much she impacted my life in such wonderful ways.  If she could have only seen that – but the sadness…that dark devil…wouldn’t let her see it.

Mental illness is real – we like to push it to the background and believe that if we are “strong enough” that we can beat it.  We can ignore it all we want – but all we are doing is allowing others to suffer.  Sue was a wonderful loving person – but she is dead now because she never could see it.  She had a veil of darkness that clouded her judgement.  A veil that could have been lifted with treatment and understanding.  I want to lift the veil – then we can ALL see the light.

I love you Sue….I always will…Sue2

 

Road to Crazy – Revving the Engine

I got up that night crying and praying.  I was so sick of thinking about the same thing over and over.  I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t make it stop.  I thought maybe I’m just weak, or crazy, or making a big deal out of

Me at 15...the storm was calming but still in the background
Me at 15…the storm was calming but still in the background

nothing.  At 14 years old I didn’t know who to really ask if it was normal – thinking about the same thought from morning till night.  When I thought of something going good…it would come.  “It” was its own entity.  Creeping in to steal any joy from the day.  I prayed – even hoping that my Aunt Sue could hear my dilemma from heaven (at least that is where I hoped she was).   I finally broke down and told my mom about it – well some of it.  I didn’t let her know how long or how often – just that it was bothering me.  She could only give me advice based on what I told her…”just think of something else and pray about it.”  Oh God if it had only been that easy!  The thought…for the past year…everyday…was DEATH.  I couldn’t escape it.  If I thought to myself…”Wow I did a really great job on _______”  the next thought that intruded was “But you are going to die one day so it really doesn’t matter.”  Yes all day, everyday.   I was so tired of it.

It hit me one day while talking to my boyfriend  about dying.  AIDS had really just started scaring the pants off people (no pun intended) and it made me think, really think about dying. From that day – us standing in the sun after church – the thought got “stuck”.  I kept waiting for it to fade…go away…something.  But no – it just built a little nest in the back of my good thoughts and I hated it.  This was far from counting to 8 when the refrigerator door shut.

Two years prior to that my Aunt Sue had died very suddenly.  I remember her vibrant, red hair.  Her wonderful smile and her petite hands.  She had fire in her belly and she would take me and walk with me as often as she could.  Sometimes confiding in me things she shouldn’t but I’m now glad she did.  I had no idea up to that point she had suffered from severe depression her entire life, threatening here and there to take her own life with aspirin.  When we got the news…then it was very clear that she had struggled alone with much of it.  She shot herself…in her home after lighting fire to the kitchen.  I was and am still devastated.   I will elaborate on this much more in depth later…but I feel this was a trigger for me to an already fragile mind because of self esteem, past family history, and current living conditions with my alcoholic father.  So…I had hoped she could give me wisdom…from wherever she was – she always did.

So…I dealt with it, I cried over it, and finally it really just faded away over the next few months.  Its like a storm had come and passed.  I didn’t speak of it anymore…but what a warning it was for events to come.  I was just happy it stopped so I didn’t think too much on it after that.   No one knew that they should think about it for me…

The engine had been primed and readied…

xoxo

me with glasses