On September 1st, 2018, my mother committed suicide with the service revolver left to her by her father.
She’d had an exceptionally difficult life, filled with abuse and trauma. She had struggled with mental illness and depression since childhood, and with a disease that caused her constant physical pain since her early thirties. She survived breast cancer in her fifties, and at the time of her death she believed it had returned, though she never sought a diagnosis.
I had understood for at least twenty-five years that it was a very real possibility that she might take her own life one day.
Our relationship was always complex and difficult. When I was a child we were practically symbiotic, but the older and more independent I got, the more we struggled. While I’ll never make any claims of being a perfect daughter, her mental illness made it difficult for me to allow myself to let my guard down with her, and that became an increasing barrier in the last years of her life.
She was a brilliant, talented person who could be vibrant, bitingly witty and highly charismatic. She was sharp and hilarious in her observations and assessments of people and the world. She was also deeply compassionate; if she sensed that someone was in pain she would do everything she could to offer aid and understanding, and sometimes her own intimate knowledge of pain, both mental and physical, allowed her to connect with people on a deeper level than anyone else ever had.
She could also be oblivious to social cues and norms; she lost friendships because she had difficulty understanding boundaries, and at times she would react to situations with such disproportionate aggression that it disturbed and sometimes frightened people around her. There were incidents when she accused friends and loved ones of slights and attacks that had never happened.
She was never officially diagnosed, but based on sessions she had with a counselor at a church she believed she had dissociative identity disorder, which fits with my experiences and observations through the years of our relationship.
I have so many tangled thoughts and feelings. At times it feels too huge to allow for anything else, and I have trouble not injecting “well, see, my mother shot herself” into casual conversations.
This is a place for me to work through some of it as best I can. I’m not entirely sure where this will go, probably everything from childhood memories to nagging thoughts about her death. I don’t expect to come to any astounding revelations. Some things won’t ever make sense.
I just need a place where I’m not expected to talk about anything else.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure about including a way to contact me, and I’m not promising I’ll answer. If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – I don’t have that kind of help to give.