Warning: The following article contains acts of self-harm & sexual content. I am not a mental health professional or a doctor – some survivors should do these types of exercises under the supervision of a certified professional.
Writer’s block, to a writer, is the equivalent of sitting a hand-cuffed painter at their easel, handing them a paintbrush, and asking them to paint a scene. But writer’s block, to a writer like me, is like blindfolding a hand-cuffed painter halfway through a masterpiece that looks so real, you could lay in the grass. Today, I am stuck on the final revisions of an article, for which, I set the deadline of yesterday – way to go, bitch. Figuring out how one seemingly unrelated event branches to the reliving of another, is a huge part of my theory of “Relive & Release”. Soon, you will find in my published theory: if I write every piece of the memory that is pulling me from my desired focus and grant it the attention it’s begging for; I will maintain emotional control by allowing myself to relive every sensation of the event, process it by writing, and release it through publication. I’m sitting here trying to think of majestic Christmas mornings as a child, and I keep getting thrown back to the day I crashed my car. Why? What is triggering that?
This is where I apply my theory.
With this exercise, it should clear the blockage of creativity and allow me to get back to milk and cookies for Santa. In the weeks to come, I intend to publish the theory with my findings of this experiment and the research on myself as my first test subject.
Attitude Check: Dear Memory - For the first time, I allow you to revisit me without my pushing you away. I will send you away when you are finished. After that, I don’t need to remember you anymore. I can let you go.
Eyes shut, take me away, Memory.
It wasn’t the first or last time I tried to end my life, but I have flashbacks of that night – all the time. Spring 2006 through Autumn 2007, for me, was not your “run-of-the-mill" rough patch. That time was the start of a fourteen-year string of events – back-to-back… to back. I had terminated a pregnancy. In a snowy cemetery, I met my biological father and his entire family for the first time, at his burial. Two months after the broken news of his murder, I failed my first suicide attempt. I remember thinking, “Damn, can’t even do that right. I figured I just wouldn’t wake up after all those sleep meds. Nope.” Coincidentally, that was exactly two months before the fateful car ride. My cousin died in a horrific car accident during my stay at the crisis center, and I was discharged the day after they informed me, so I could attend his wake. I quit the job I loved, as a preschool teacher. Everything was falling apart. I was falling apart.
I remember it like it was last night. I’d just left the apartment of some guy I slept with. Vince? Vinny? Who knows? I went there with the intention to just “hang out”. When a man unexpectedly touches my body – a man I trust not to touch my body without invitation - for a reason I need to explore - my speech freezes, I squeeze my eyes shut, and I wait for it to be over. It got even worse after what happened in college the previous spring when I said, “no” – that scum bag shook my dad’s hand. So, I’d just lay there, wordless. No matter how far it went, if I wasn’t expecting the physical contact, I’d submit instantly. I’m every creep’s wet fucking dream.
In scenarios of sudden intimate contact with a person I would think, “I really don’t want to do this with this guy. But it’s not like they all stop when you say ‘no’ anyway. Might as well not make it worse. If I say “no” and he keeps going, then it’s scary. Then, I’d have to talk to a bunch of people, again. Easier to just close my eyes and wait. Usually doesn’t take long. It’s not ‘assault’ until I say ‘no’, and they do it anyway. This skips right over that shit. No one ever believes you anyway.” He didn’t even particularly do anything wrong – How could he know if I said no words? Laying there like a pile of Jell-O, no participation, and a turned head with eyes sealed-shut is apparently not a clear way to express disinterest or lack of enjoyment. But I’m no guy, what do I know?
I admit, I said nothing out loud. For a long time, only a few occasions had I ever really said “no”, and almost each of those times, it ended in a violation. So, I’d go to the next guy and the next, trying not to let the last one determine the actions of the new one. "Maybe this guy is different." I thought I was there to watch a movie and only watch a movie. Clearly, watching a movie wasn’t the basis of the invite. To my own fault and weakness, I could not express myself out loud. The permission to intimately touch my body was taken, and I didn’t know how he would respond to rejection if I spoke my thoughts, “I’m not ready.” - So, I didn’t say a word. It lasted for about three minutes on his sky-blue couch. ‘Cheech and Chong’ was on in the background, but I shifted from the back of my eyelids to the random spots on his ceiling.
I left as soon as it was over. On with the ‘walk-of-shame’, down the three-story, concrete stairwell. The route to my car started with the second floor, his floor. The walls were red brick, and the whole space was glowing a hue of green from the industrial, fluorescent lights on each level. The bottom of the steps dumped you right into the parking lot – no door, just straight from stairs to sidewalk.
I felt so dirty. I’ll never say “no”, I’m weak, I’m worthless. My Dad thinks I’m a whore. I’ll never not be a whore. Who would ever love someone like me? I’m damaged. I’m dirty. And now Joe can see the piece-of-shit his daughter turned out to be.
I sat in my car and cried. I didn’t want to be by myself. I wanted to die. I was in a bad way. I called to see if anyone was home at my aunt and uncle’s – anyone. They were the closest house to the apartment complex parking lot, from where I was calling. When my uncle answered, he sounded frustrated and tired, and he told me my aunt was actually with my mom at the craft store. Normally, I’d sense and respect the lack of enthusiasm for company and head home. I didn’t want to head home.
I drove the four miles and parked my car in front of their mailbox, like I always did for a visit. I walked in to see my uncle sitting at the head of the kitchen table, twirling his long, red ponytail with his right hand and a cigarette with the world’s longest ash, in his left. Their house was a local, safe place I could just sit, chain-smoke cigarettes, laugh, forget. My cousin wasn’t home, no women. It was just my sleepy uncle and me. I even tried to talk to him. I could feel a painful lump in my throat getting bigger and bigger, but I avoided the urge to unhinge and let it all out. I just wanted to laugh. Or be reminded that my being at that table was something someone might miss someday. He never really looked at my face – maybe if he’d only looked at my face. I wish I could have felt any arms hug me that night. I carried on with the usual, double-cheek-air-kiss-goodbye, said “I love you”, and walked back to my car. I knew what was about to happen. But I had to go think. I got into my little, purple, ‘96 Cavalier - complete with a bomb-ass sound system and head-unit, obviously. It was 2007.
I don’t think I even put music on. I loudly bellowed, praying the whole drive to the nearest place to park that I could think of – a ‘Mom & Pop” pizza shop, a half-mile away. I wanted to park and write to my family and my best friend before I did anything. I felt like I had to make them understand. My brown boho-style journal with a magnetic open-shut flap was tossed onto the passenger seat with a pen, of course.
In between sentences, I screamed out loud, “I’m so sorry! I tried! I’m so, so sorry!” In desperation to make them understand, I scribbled until I couldn’t anymore. I tried to use my elegant, cursive handwriting – I mean, it was the last thing I’d ever write – but it was coming out faster than I could think and looked like the illegible chicken scratch of a prescription. I don’t even think I wrote on the lines of the page. They were invisible - it was dark and I was hysterical. I was convinced, “God forgot about me. There is no way He would let all this happen to one human. Maybe I was supposed to die a long time ago, and He just forgot I’m still here.”
I must have spent a solid, ninety minutes in that small, crumbled parking lot; sobbing into and soaking the pages of my suicide note, begging for forgiveness, thinking of all that I would miss with my siblings. It was the most agonizing entry I’d ever written, and there have been a healthy handful. Tortured by love and guilt, but fueled by hopelessness, worthlessness, and untreated and misdiagnosed CPTSD or CTD, I tried to think of the “perfect” spot. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t much traffic, no houses, no pedestrians, so I just started driving.
I cruised fifteen miles-per-hour under the speed limit. It hit me. I thought of an area where it wouldn’t affect anyone else. I looked back at my previous decision to do it at home and regretted the idea of allowing someone in my family to find me. Across the street from the middle school – open field, no houses, hardly any cars this time of night, and a long strip of choices along the side of the road – that was the spot.
I picked up the speed until I approached the ditch in the road that everyone on the bus fought over the back seat for, so it could catapult us six feet into the air – I stopped in the middle of the road, at that ditch. “If I start acceleration before that, the dip could throw off the steering, and I could be left fucked up and carless or live paralyzed.”
These were the fucked-up thoughts going through my mind. Honestly with my dumb luck, if I died at 8pm, a fuckin’ leprechaun with a pot of gold and a wishbone would have jumped in my lap at 8:01.
As my car settled still, I glanced at my blue and white graduation tassel with its gold-plated “’05” swaying so slightly from my rear-view mirror, you could only tell by the little dance of the bottoms of the tassel’s strands. I spent a few seconds asking myself if I was jumping the gun. I was clammy with sweat and tears, yelling, and having an internal argument with myself - and I was losing. I closed my eyes again, “Nothing will ever change, I’ve been hoping for too long.”
I gripped the steering wheel with both hands, locked my elbows, stiffened my whole body, and stomped on the gas pedal. The smell of burning rubber filled my car. I aimed straight for the first pole, and at the last second, got cold feet. For only an instant, – probably what interrupted my speed enough to keep me here - I hesitated, I swerved, and got angry at myself for veering away.
I wailed at the top of my lungs, “Ahhhhhh - I’m so sorry!!” and I fucking floored it. The last time I looked down at the speedometer, it was in the thirties.
In my opinion, there is an indescribable peace that takes over your body when I psychologically accepted my abrupt, impending death. It must be the same as a person when they know the heart attack they’re having is killing them, just seconds before they die - definitely not a fun feeling to “refeel” as a mother with children who came after my spiritual acceptance of demise. With the great wonders of my Synesthesia – note the thick sarcasm - I remember it all in a way that has festered in me, among the many things that got me to that point, and all that I was in for on the following, long stretch of bumpy road.
At the time of impact, everything happened in a split-second, but it moved in slow motion.
I felt like an astronaut floating smoothly through the cabin of a space shuttle. I was weightless. My steering wheel felt like a soft, dry sponge, as my fists’ clench involuntarily loosened. I watched the headlights brighten the bottom of the brown, wooden pole. Every inch of the front end of the car took its own moment to wrap itself around the pole - like cookie dough on a rolling pin. My ass simultaneously ejected from my seat, obviously I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. My shoulders and arms levitated; fingers relaxed and open, like the delicate hands of a graceful ballerina. My whole body ironically attempted an instinctive, mid-air fetal position, but I was stopped by my knees slamming into the lower dash. My belly nailed the bottom of the steering wheel. When the top of my skull collided with the round, black bulb for my GPS, suctioned to the windshield, just to the left of the mirror; it felt like I was stabbed in the brain with a flaming sword.
I have no memory of losing and breaking my glasses or the windshield shattering. I was unconscious for – well, how does anyone know how long they were unconscious for?
The taste of a sour chemical on my tongue awakened me. I was later told that was a chemical from inside the deployed air bag. I was weak. I lifted my half-opened gaze to the graduation tassel that wasn’t dancing at all, so it must have been a minute that I was out. I grabbed my now-stubborn door handle and pulled with all my might – which wasn’t much. Between the taste of what I assumed was a toxin, the smoke or steam coming from the engine, and the certainty that there was a gaping cavern at the top of my head and that my car might explode – I had rung my bell hard enough to make me forget it wasn’t an accident - naturally, I assumed I was about to die and tried to flee. The door would only open about an inch; I was too weak to roll down the window and climb out. I remember feeling like I needed to allow myself to pass back out.
I woke up, collapsed into the door. The tips of two of my fingers were still propped up by the door handle, and my limp wrist was leaning on the door’s armrest. Even though it was June, the window felt cold on my forehead and cheek. God, I can still feel that window on my face like it’s there right now. A panicked woman was shouting at my driver’s side, but her voice was so distant, “You’re gonna be okay, the ambulance is on the way!” I couldn’t make the words come out, but I said it to myself, “I’m dying.”
I felt the cold metal of the medical scissors slide from belly button to collar. My favorite hoodie: plain, navy blue with yellow, velvet iron-on letters that read “FUCK YEAH!” – no other information on the shirt.
They sliced it right down the middle, from a pullover to a zipperless zip-up in three seconds. I vaguely remember hearing my mother’s shaking voice as they loaded me into the ambulance and can hear her pointing out the lack of skid marks in the road. I panicked inside my mind for my mother when I knew she was at the scene before I was even taken away, “No, Mommy! You’re not supposed to be here!”
My eyes opened and immediately closed from the offensive brightness of the monstrous white claw of overhead examination lights, all pointed at me, like a roast at the buffet. I heard my dad, and as I tried to turn my head to the soothing sound of his tone, I was stopped by my stabilized neck. Out of the corner of my eye, I was still able to see my dad looking at me. His arms were folded; one arm bent upward – attempting to cover his mouth with his hand, lips intentionally rigid, all in his own effort to keep himself from falling apart – an all-too familiar expression on him. Tears fell down my temples into the hard padding inside the neck brace, behind my ears.
This isn’t how this was supposed to go. They were supposed to get a call after I was plucked out of a tree somewhere. I was supposed to be in a box before they saw me.
I was sure my legs were broken, or I was paralyzed, and that the top of my skull was cracked, but no one could see past the blood or hair I assumed was in their way – I was sure they were missing something very important. Wrong again, just an extremely severe bruise that, even now, has a bald spot and a huge mound that makes me feel the need to warn every new hairdresser. I hide it well. I still get pounding headaches in “my scar”, almost fourteen years later.
Considering the haziness of the rest of the evening, I must have been coming in and out of consciousness. I’d wake up in a new position, in a different place, with new nurses, changed into a hospital gown, or suddenly uncaged from the restraint of the brace around my neck.
Within a few minutes, in the shuffled chaos of medical staff, it didn’t occur to them that my dad – and probably mother – were standing right in the room. Something must have changed about the lights at some point, and I could no longer see any of my his face - just a shadowy dad-shaped silhouette. A nurse tapped one of the doctors on the shoulder with a small, white rectangle in her other hand,
“Doctor, she’s pregnant.”
My mouth slowly opened in awe, I quickly whipped my head to the sight of my brokenhearted dad with his face pressed into his hands, weeping.
"The easy way out” is an insensitive misconception and the mantra of ignorance to the close-minded. The soul-tearing agony of coming to this decision is one of the hardest decisions I ever made in my life.
I have failed at a lot of things in my life.
But I am so grateful that I never got that one right. My story isn’t over, and neither is yours;
Are you okay today? Need a new friend to check in? Write me.