She finished cleaning up the last of the dinner dishes; scraping plates into the sink and wrapping the leftovers as she shook her head over what was left on the table. Why do kids go from eating everything in sight to picking at their food like supermodels during Fashion week? Her husband puttered about the house, unwinding from another busy day at work, and inquired about her head. In the last few weeks she'd complained of headaches...stress-related, most likely, as a result of being a stay-at-home mom of two active little boys, ages 6 and 2. She also hadn't been sleeping well, but what mom of little boys does? She finished cleaning the kitchen, then grabbed her car keys, giving a quick goodbye to her husband and children as she popped out to run some evening errands. Climbing behind the seat of her SUV she glanced in the rear view mirror to see a tired but beautiful face. Brushing her blond hair away from her eyes, she drove to the gas station where she fueled up and quickly called her mother to say hello and tell of the children's latest escapades. She then headed to a nearby RiteAid pharmacy where she purchased some trail mix, a bottle of Gatorade, and a package of over-the-counter sleeping pills, no doubt to help with her latest bout of insomnia. Returning to her car, she then shut off her cellphone and perhaps sat for a while...or perhaps not. Perhaps, at that moment, there was no further need for introspection. Pulling out of the RiteAid lot, she proceeded down the road -- a road she'd no doubt traveled countless times to soccer games, PTA meetings, pediatrician's appointments -- except, this time, she drove on. She drove past the schools and the shops and the homes. . .she drove to a wooded area, not far from a local park. She parked in a secluded area. And then, as her husband and two small children waited at home, she went to the trunk of her car, pulled out a rope, and hung herself.
Her name was Jennifer Huston. She was 37-years-old.
For the last week, the city of Portland, and -- I dare say -- the country as a whole has been wondering 'why?'. Why would a beautiful, loving, seemingly happy wife and mother choose to end her life? But for a small percentage of us. . .we understand. We nod our heads and say 'Of course. It's only logical'. Because we know. We know what it's like to be held in the clenching jaws of depression and feel that the only way out is. . .out. I know. I've been there. I've walked through the aisles of Target, eyeing the sleeping pills like a desperate lover; I've googled ways to hook a hose into my car to asphyxiate myself in the garage; I've driven over myriad bridges in the Portland metro area thinking 'Just a turn of my wheel...that's all it would take'. And it isn't just me. I know others.
*The corporate attorney who spent hours writing and rewriting her will while popping Ativan.
*The stay-at-home mother of three who cut herself silently in the school bathroom during PTA meetings; silently praying she'd hit an artery and bleed out.
*The ultrasound tech and triathlete who stockpiled her daughter's ADHD medication thinking 'Just in case...'
*The elementary school teacher who sat awake for hours with her son's Cub Scout manual, practicing noose tying and testing the tree limbs in the back yard for strength.
*The dear friend who woke up with a bottle in his hand and a pistol in his mouth, not giving a shit which one killed him first.
We no longer cared. Like Jennifer Huston, we all fell silently into depression's waiting arms and said 'F#$% It. . .I'm done'.
But then. . .we didn't.
For some of us, we found sobriety.
For some of us, we were found out in the nick of time and taken to a safe place by loved ones.
And for some of us. . .well, some of us. . .we just thought. . .'but maybe'. Maybe if we just wait one more minute, one more hour, one more day, we might just make it.
In A.A. we have a saying. . .*
*Well, actually, we have a shit-ton of sayings, but this one isn't so cheesy it makes you want to stab kittens.
. . .we say: "DON'T QUIT BEFORE THE MIRACLE". And that. . .that is the hardest thing of all to believe. . .that there is a miracle. Because oftentimes the miracle is disguised as something seemingly horrible like divorce or illness or job loss or a DUI or a bad haircut, or whatever. But that's just it. . .it's the "whatever" that makes you stop. It's the "pause and ponder" moment in your life where you reevaluate, regroup, and reassess where you're headed. But it's there. The miracle is there.
I wish the best for Jennifer's family, but most of all, I wish that Jennifer knew that I was with her at the end. I was there. My friend who hoarded her daughter's medication was there. The women at my A.A. meeting were there. My many friends who stood at the edge of the chasm were there. Because we all survived. We all stuck out for the miracle. And even though Jennifer did not find her miracle, and even though she probably felt hopeless and alone that day, she was not alone. We were there. We were holding her hand and saying "I get it. . .I hear you. . .please find peace". We may not have been able to save her, but I hope she felt our spirits guiding her home.
You are not alone.
You are never alone.
Don't say "F@#$ it", say "I choose to live".
Please, please, PLEASE, don't quit before the miracle.
PS: There is help. Please, if you are feeling like you're at the end of your rope, contact one of these agencies below. Or contact me. I'm here.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
1 (800) 237-8255
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: http://www.aa.org/
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/
|PARENTAL STRESS HOTLINE: 1||(800)-632-8188|
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE: 1 (800) 799-SAFE
S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends): 1 (800) DONT-CUT