I Was Afraid Of Losing My Kids If I Admitted I Was Suicidal

by Virginia Duan
Originally Published: 

[CW: suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, intrusive thoughts, self-harm ]

It has been 19 days since I wanted to kill myself.

It has been 19 days since I looked up ways to die painlessly, ways to die quickly, ways to die so as not to inconvenience and unduly traumatize whoever would find me.

It has been 19 days since I spent 3 days actively wanting to die by suicide after a fight with my husband about shelves.

It has been 19 days since the only reasons I could find to live were because it was the day after my third child’s eighth birthday and I didn’t want him to associate his birthday with my death for the rest of his life. Where I pushed off any sort of action until possibly April or May so all my children’s birthdays could have safely passed and that hopefully, by then, I would be better.

If I could just make it to April or May.

It has been 19 days since I texted my financial advisor (who is also my mother) to make sure my children were the primary beneficiaries to all my individual and retirement accounts. I would have hated to accidentally disinherit any of my four children. When my mother asked if everything was okay, I lied and said I wasn’t sure if I had remembered to add the youngest and she seemed appeased.

It has been 19 days since I pretended that I was fine — that everything was fine — and did not reach out to anyone, did not call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, did not call my therapist, did not tell my best friends, did not tell my husband — even though I knew all the signs of suicide.

It has been 19 days.

I was surprised.

I was surprised because I thought I was fine. The last time I had tried to kill myself, I was a teenager. And even then, I was too stupid to do it properly. I spent the night afraid, begging God not to let me die, doomed to spend my afterlife in hell where the sinners who dared take their own lives went.

I was surprised because it was entirely out of the blue, and I was not adequately prepared for how swiftly my brain betrayed me — how unyielding the spiral of intrusive thoughts hounded me — how there was no refuge to be found.

I was surprised because I was mostly happy with my life and relationships. I was not a bundle of fluttering red flags. I was not depressed. I was not whatever I thought a suicidal person looked like.

I was surprised because I had so much to live for — have so much to live for — and yet, it did not matter. I knew I was loved. I knew I was valued. I knew I was needed. And yet.

And yet.

I was surprised because all the reasons to remove myself from the realm of the living were so loud, so insistent, so much. They promised rest. They promised quiet. They promised oblivion.

I told no one.

I told no one because I didn’t want my friends and family to worry about me. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me or treat me as if I was broken. I didn’t want their pity or judgment or sadness.

I knew my friends. I knew their lives. I couldn’t bear to add another burden to them — though I knew they would be willing to bear it. I typed out so many texts saying that I wasn’t doing well, that I was contemplating major self-harm, that I was suicidal; I erased them all.

I didn’t tell my therapist because she’s a mandated reporter in California under the “duty to warn/protect” laws for mental health workers. I did not want it on the record in any capacity in case my husband filed for divorce and used my suicidal thoughts against me to take my children away.

I didn’t tell my husband because I was afraid he would say I was using the threat of suicide to manipulate him. To control him like my father did to my mother.

I was afraid.

I was afraid if I asked for help, they would take my children from me.

I was afraid that they — this amorphous “they,” an amalgam of my husband, my therapist, society at large, and whatever authorities of the State of California — would declare me unsuitable. Unstable. Unfit.

I was afraid they would weaponize my pathology. That whatever else I am would all be obliterated by this one salient descriptor: suicidal.

After all, is that not what we do to women — especially women of color? We are labeled crazy. Psycho. Insane.

We are invalidated. Institutionalized. Investigated.

There were so many reasons to stay silent.

I had thought myself inured.

I write so much about stigmas: whether about motherhood, sex, or mental health. How could I, who am shameless, possibly feel so much shame?

Was I really that broken or was I just honest? Was I really crazy or did society make me believe I was? Maybe I was? Maybe I was just a selfish bitch. Maybe if I died, that would be my legacy: selfish unto the end.

I thought of all my words on the internet and how my trolls would respond with glee. All those small, miserable fucks sending me the daily trickle of hate mail and comments — these detractors would say I threw God away, so of course I courted death.

I was a narcissist. Selfish. A monster. An attention seeking, man-hating, unwifely, unfeminine, angry cunt. I was an insect. I was everything that was wrong with America. I should go back to where I came from.

And of course, if I wanted to die — it was my own fault. Did I not know I just needed Jesus? That Jesus saves?

But Jesus didn’t save me

I am alive because I am petty (and lucky). I refused to allow people to use me and gaslight me after my death. To rewrite my story to hurt my children. And so, I pushed through out of spite (and perhaps love, too).

And for folks who spew drivel like Jesus used my pettiness and fury to save me — then he gets credit for every intrusive thought and trigger that sparks a death spiral, too.

But that’s an intellectual leap too far.

After all, it’s always the woman’s fault. It is always the cross for marginalized people to bear. Well, I’m no messiah — you can take your filthy cross back and choke on it.

Except, you’ll just use it against me.

If you find yourself considering self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. All calls are confidential, free, and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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