My Daughter's Suicide Attempt
This is a special guest post by Marcia, client and coach of Cool Family Solutions
My daughter was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in January of 2015, when she was 14 years old. Eighteen months later, she attempted suicide. Around that time we were arguing frequently about her missing school. She was refusing counselling and only taking medicine when forced. Also, she was harming herself once a week and wishing to die every day.
My biggest fear was losing her. I didn’t sleep well at night and I had this urge to go and check on her many times during the day. She was living isolated in her bedroom, only coming around when she needed to eat or to use the washroom. I used these opportunities to talk to her, but asking how she was feeling, or something else only made her uncomfortable and angrier. If I insisted we talk, we ended up yelling at each other or saying something painful. I didn’t know how to approach her without making her mad. Everything I said made the situation worst.
She looked to her father to complain about me pushing her, and I looked to him to complain about her not doing anything or being aggressive to me. He became the messenger between us. I knew that I had put him in a bad position. He didn’t want to be against either of us, so he only listened and made the amends between us. I felt frustrated and guilty. My relationship with her was broken, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I was crying every day in despair, and the thought of losing her was driving me crazy.
That was my situation when I met Mona for the first time. After listening to my story, she said very clearly, ‘Do you want to change?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I need to know how.’ Mona continued, ‘Be prepared, because it’ll not be easy.’ Like she said, it wasn’t, but I was willing to try. After some sessions, I understood that if I wanted to have a better relationship with my daughter, I must learn how to communicate with her; however, I also had to take care of myself first and do a lot of LUV (Listen, Understand and Validation). Without it, I wouldn’t be successful. I gave it a try and started to see a slight change inside of me and in her. I shared with the group my little wins, but I was still afraid of losing her.
The day she attempted suicide was after our worst argument yet. She went to hide upstairs in her bedroom as she used to do. Because it was so bad, I called my husband and told him what happened and he decided to come home early to check on her.
Sometime later, I heard my daughter coming downstairs and caught her opening the front door. I stopped her and asked where she was going. ‘To school’, she said.
I looked her in the eyes and got some shivers. Something was wrong. ‘No, you are not’, I said, heading in her direction to stop her. ‘Yes, I am’, and she left before I could reach her. I saw her going to the bus stop through the window, but I didn’t react. I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. I asked myself, what did Mona say to do? ‘Trust your guts. If you sense that something is wrong, don’t let it go without checking if it’s real or not. Look for help if you are not able to do it’.
I called my husband. He was on his way, and he said, ‘Go to her’. But when I did, she already had caught the bus to the train station. I called my husband again and told him that had I missed her. He was close to the train station, so he rushed there. He reached her before she could get on the train.
When they arrived home, I had to ask her the tough questions to confirm her intentions. ‘Do you want to die? Do you have a plan? What is your plan?’ Yes, she wanted to die, and, yes, she had a plan. Her plan was to jump in front of the train. After she talked, my husband showed me the little suicide note that she was carrying. I read it.
‘I’m doing it because I think it’s the best for me. Don’t look for me. I’m only going to a better place for me. I shouldn’t have been born. I’m a mistake, and you know it. You say that I’m a perfect daughter, but you know that I’m not. You are probably suffering because of me, wasting money with counselling and everything. I only want to be happy, in a place where I can be good. Here, I’m only shit. Don’t look for me, don’t come to me’ – Amanda
I took a long breath, looked her in the eyes and talked, the calmest way I could in that moment.
‘Amanda, I’m not angry at you because you chose suicide, but I want you to know something. There are thousands of Amandas in the world, but the only one that matters to me is you. You are the only one I carried inside of me for 9 months. You are the only one I will miss forever. If you were gone, I would be dead too. Right here, inside me. There would be a hole in my heart that no one or anything would fill. I don’t care about school or anything else. I care about you. I want you to feel better. Doesn’t matter how much time it will take; months, years, forever. I don’t care. I love you. I really love you.’
When I finished, my daughter started to cry and said, ‘I don’t want to die, mom. I’m afraid to die. I only want to stop the pain.’ I hugged her and let her cry. When she was calmer, I said, ‘It’s ok. To die is not an option. We will find a way together, you, dad and me. We love you.’
That moment was our starting point. She shared what was making her feel this way, and we were there to listen, without judging or fixing, only trying to understand and validating her emotions. Being open to her, made her be open to us. It was a long process with a lot of ups and downs, steps forward and back. We had to change schools, psychiatrist and counselor. She had to do some intensive treatment and stay at the hospital for 2 weeks, because she was suicidal again. All these things happened, but we were together.
Today, 3 years later, she is doing well. She is still taking medication for her anxiety and depression, but has stopped self-harming and wishing to die. She wants to finish high school before her 20th birthday, and is also preparing to go to college. She wants to leave home and have her own place in the future, living by herself.
Now, she shares how she is feeling, the bad and good moments, also the concerns she is having. We don’t push her anymore to know what is happening, but if we ask, she knows that it is because we care. It is not to control her. When she looks for our opinion, we try to understand her point of view, without judging or fixing, and she tries to listen to us too, even when we don’t agree with her. If we disagree, it’s not about not loving her, but simply having different opinions. Agree to disagree.
She is building her confidence and accepting, little by little, that she doesn’t need to do everything right the first time, and mistakes and slip-ups are part of the learning process. A mistake is not a fail, but the discovery of what didn’t work for her.
She’s not ashamed of herself or what she did in her worst moments. She did it because it was the only way she knew how to deal with her situation. It was the same for us, so we all forgave ourselves and each other for what we did at that time. Mental illness is a disease, but it doesn’t define you as a person. We all understood this, but what made it easy for her and us is the belief that she can get better. Now, when she finds a friend that is suffering because of mental illness, she offers her support and lets them know that she cares, that he/she is not alone.
To finish, I don’t remember the day that my daughter attempted suicide as the worst day of my life, but the day I could have my daughter back again. It was the day she opened the shell she was living inside of for a long time and asked for help. It was when she could see and feel us there, for the first time, standing on her side, ready to help and support her. She felt accepted and loved, no matter what.
My daughter is here because of everything I learned from Mona and the support I received from her and the people in the sessions. Listening to their experience gave me the strength to keep going and the hope to not give up. It was a safe place to share and feel validated. They never said that I was wrong or right, but they helped me to see what I was doing and to understand that if I wanted something to change, I must to be open to think and do things differently. Thank you, Mona, and everyone for being patient and being there for me and my family.