Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Broken Little Girl Saved My Life That Day

The measure of a man, or woman in my case, comes down to one brief moment: the moment that would determine whether or not I would, or even could, swallow the pills I had counted out. To take them or not to take them was in my court, and even though I held the ball, I was quickly losing the game.

A remnant of a dream I once had when I was a little girl briefly fluttered through my disassociated mind. I was once a child with dreams and aspirations; I wasn’t always this hopeless woman who had lost faith in everything, including those in the helping profession. This is help? This was what they had to offer me? This is the treatment plan? A therapist who seemed to no longer care, one psychiatrist who diagnosed me with an ‘anxiety disorder’ and prescribed tranquilizers (for which, at this moment, I was grateful as I was about the take them all), another doctor who had no idea how to treat me, and changed my medication 10 times, causing unbearable side effects, but never able to find a combination of meds that ‘worked’ for me. Never finding a medication that would take away the intrusive memories, the thoughts, the nightmares, the voices inside my head that would not stop the nightly mantra of: “you’re bad”, “you don’t deserve help”, “you don’t even deserve to live”. I had evidence of the days when I felt competent, sane, and level-headed. And yet, here I was, forced with the choice of taking all of these pills, or continuing to live in the unbearable turmoil that had now become my life. Surely somewhere inside this girl, this woman with the heart of a child, was a person that craved so much more than this, deserved so much more than to find herself standing alone in an empty house with a bottle of wine and a combination of tranquilizers and sleeping pills neatly organized on the kitchen counter. And yet, in the chaos of my mind, the internal voices continued to try and convince me otherwise.

It had been a bad day, a really bad day, but then again, it had been a really bad year, and I had finally acknowledged that my reality now was too much for me to emotionally accept. After all, women are expected to stay strong in the midst of any crisis, even if they have to ‘fake’ it. I had become such a great actress, trained by many years of abuse, that I was an expert at wearing masks and pretending everything was wonderful in my life. The thoughts I didn’t want to have, I would gently push out of my mind, and become so busy that I didn’t have time to stop and think. But now things had changed and I had lost the power of pushing the thoughts out of my head; they had taken over and now I, the reasonable, sane, one had been pushed out. But I was not allowed to fall apart under the pressures of life when there are children to feed and bills to pay, laundry to do, a house that needed to be Martha Stewart clean, a husband who expected to be taken care of, and the never ending politics and pressure of my work environment.

And let me not forget to add sex, and having to live up to the expectation that every man alive believes every other man is getting it at least twice as much as they are, and well, they shouldn’t be expected to settle for a woman who had ‘let herself go’ and was no longer the same woman he married. And, of course we are expected to have our legs shaved, our hair stylish, our make-up perfect, and our body in comparable form to what society had become accustomed to, which is the air brushed women in beauty magazines. And don’t forget to smile ~ frowning and acting depressed shows lack of confidence and weakness; both very unattractive traits. Of course now I realize my mind was taking a road trip, and these expectations had nothing to do with my husband, but were the expectations of the condescending voice in my head that continued to tell me that I would never be the woman he, and everyone else, expected me to be.

How would this play out, how does one do this, what are the ‘rules’ for this game? If I take them all at once, I may just drop to the floor, so that didn’t seem like a viable option. Maybe taking a few at a time would work better….consensus from the group of voices now living inside of my mind? I picked up 5 pills and held them in my hand. They were small, white, pills ~ taking 5 at a time is definitely an option. My reason mind would make brief appearances and ask questions like, “How long after I take the 5 should I wait before taking 5 more?” And then as quickly as reason appeared it was pushed away. I was to far gone, I had no control over me and I no longer cared. At this point, nothing could penetrate the voices or convince me that I did have something to live for. Dear therapist and a few close friends knew that I was teetering on the edge of life and death, and told me many times, “What about your children?” I had really just become more of a burden to my husband and children, they would be better off without me.

I closed my eyes and I saw a small little girl, she was about 6 years old and she was wearing a tattered white dress. She was barefoot and her feet were dirty, her knees scraped. She had tears in her eyes, a look of worry and fear on her face. She pleaded with me, begged me not to do it, “Please don’t kill us, I fought so hard all those years just to stay alive, to survive, to become you. Please don’t do it. I want to live, please just let us live. You can do this; you can fight harder now, just like I did then.” I didn’t really care about my own life at this point, but this little girl was obviously in a state of panic, desperate to save me, although I had no idea why. I wasn’t feeling panicky, and I told her to calm down; there was no reason to panic. But although I felt calm and surreal, she was obviously afraid and in turmoil over my decision.

The rebelliousness and willfulness inside me grew weary and began to empathize with the little girl’s panic, my plight for calmness and silence defeated, I submitted to her request. I put the pills away, fell to the floor and sobbed for what seemed like hours.

Ironically, my lifetime of people pleasing and striving for perfection, and the overwhelming feelings of failure that had led me to this attempt to end my own life, were also the traits that saved my life. My need to please that little girl, to stop her from crying and meet HER needs because she was counting on me, saved my life.

But for many months after that day, the voices continued and my soul remained empty and void of meaning.

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