Susan glanced at her husband and softly spoke, “Oh, her life will never be the same again” as the room grew cold with emptiness. My mind throbbed while my eyes trapped me in tunnel vision bouncing from one focal point to the next. I froze in time. My mind pushed me out of my body and I felt weightless. The sounds of the ambulances blended with the voices around me into one muddled hum. My fingers sliding against the textured plaid pattern on the couch tethered me to reality. One thing invaded my mind: I just entered the greatest challenge of my life.
My mother and I moved to Wynnewood Pennsylvania when I turned six years old. Just the two of us in a comfortable home with lots of love and optimism. We always enjoyed our time together and rarely argued. I remember playing music and dancing around in the living room with her wearing wacky clothes we obtained from the archives of her closet. I can still taste the raw cookie dough I licked off of the spoon when we finished preparing her prized chocolate chip cookies. Dance parties and cookies slowly morphed into schoolwork and sports, but we still stuck together. I remember the evenings in middle school when my mom would assist me with studying for tests and doing homework after dinner. We would make up silly acronyms and songs to remember material together. She inspired me to join the volleyball team in seventh grade because she would play with her friends during summer beach trips. She would play volleyball with me in our backyard, helping me learn the correct techniques. She will continue as my role model today and I will always aspire to become a woman resembling her. She made me a cheery child. As middle school grew into high school, I naturally spent less time with my mother. I kept myself busy with honors classes, friends, art classes, and sports. I loved participating in the fun activities while still keeping up straight A’s in my classes. My success made my mother extremely proud. Her parenting made a picture-perfect girl. She would gloat about my success to her friends and our family. Sadly, the picture-perfect straight-A student slowly shattered.
I experienced my first depressive episode at the end of my sophomore year in high school. Before I knew it, my mental walls collapsed around me. Happiness I previously felt from my excellent grades, friends, and volleyball eventually faded. I began to isolate from my daily life in hopes to gain comfort in silence, but silence only suffocates the noise that connects us to reality. I became apathetic to my previously prized grades and my school absence record grew. Within the fog of depression slowly saturating my happiness, only one thing kept me afloat: my mother. She would accompany me on scenic hikes and stayed home with me when I struggled to extricate myself from my bed. Her support encouraged me to keep pushing forward in the world. Unfortunately, my mental health approached a new extent that she could not save me from. I fell into deeper depressions shortly followed by extreme euphoric episodes of mania. These problems continued into the summer of sophomore year and increased at the beginning of junior year. After multiple failed attempts at therapeutic strategies, coping methods, and even a visit to the hospital, my doctors and psychiatrists recommended medication for bipolar 2 disorder. Mental medications absolutely horrified my mother. She did not want me to react badly to medication, but she knew I desperately needed a solution. She knew that the wrong medicine for mental issues can turn a human with emotions into a robot on a low battery. The first medication I tried did not display any effects on my mood, so I switched. The second medication I tried finally changed the insane highs and lows into a normal balance with only one tolerable side effect: drowsiness. Unfortunately, my medication almost made me sleep through my moms first mental break.
On January 18th 2019 I took the new medication for the first time, causing me to fell asleep the second I touched the living room couch after school. I complained about feeling dizzy and tired during dinner due to the meds, which sent my mom into a panic. I tried to calm her, reassuring her that my symptoms matched the possible side effects my psychiatrist told us not to worry about. She never calmed down. I slept for hours on the couch, but woke up to a strange gurgling noise coming from the bathroom less than 5 feet from the couch I slept on. I glanced at the clock under the TV in my living room before I left the couch to investigate the feral sounds: 2:47 am. I turned to face the bathroom and I saw a puddle of thick dark red blood on the ground and my mother’s bare feet slightly trembling. I rushed into the tiny bathroom and became overwhelmed with the scene presented before me. Red blood splattered on the walls and coating the floor with a bloody knife in the sink. I saw my mother leaning over the toilet seat choking on her own blood with one long deep gash across her neck. She stared at me with pale panic painted on her face. My adrenaline instantly forced me on a mad hunt for my phone to call 911. The woman on the call told me to apply pressure to the wound so I frantically prepared a damp paper towel and held it firmly to my mother’s neck. In a very soft, muffled voice, she said “I’m so sorry you saw this,” I assured her that I remained unfazed of the blood and that she would recover. The ambulance arrived at the house and she survived her first suicide attempt.
After that night my mom spent weeks in physical and mental recovery. During her hospitalization, I could only visit her for one hour daily. I watched her try several medications that clouded her mind with odd emotions and unusual demeanors. She dazed off one night, and then erupted with energy and laughter the next. Eventually, her mental state evened out enough to be released from the hospital. Just two weeks without her unnerved me, so I felt an immense sense of relief to see her at home with me again. She told me that we need to fight harder and not give up, but the fight seemed near impossible. She discovered that her neck injuries impeded her daily life more than expected. She could not speak normally because part of her mouth never fully healed from the numbing medication during her surgery. She covered the scars on her neck with scarves and she could not breathe as well when she went on runs. I would arrive at home to her gazing at the black tv screen on the couch with no dinner prepared. I took up more responsibility around the house because of her fatigue, but her condition worsened rapidly. I cooked, cleaned, and cared for her as best as I could but in February, she fell into the dark mental hole that gnawed her mind into a prolonged state of silence. She would not say a single word. I remember her sitting on the couch staring at the coffee table as I asked her to drive me to volleyball practice. She would not answer. I would repeat questions to her until I became frustrated and demanded that she talked to me. She never did. I felt helpless, frustrated and exhausted trying to care for my mother with a deteriorating mental state.
One day at school I received a call from my mother’s psychiatrist. Apparently, she missed a few days of her outpatient therapy including that day so I instantly called my mom. No answer. After five more missed calls, I walked out of class and ran home to check on her. I discovered her sitting on the couch, staring at the same coffee table. When I asked her about therapy, she continued to stare, so I told her I refused to walk to school until I drove her to her psychiatrist. When we arrived, I met her psychiatrist and informed her of the odd behavior. She suggested more time in the hospital to ensure my mom receives intense care she needed. The protocol fell into place once again: cancel plans between the hours 6 pm-7 pm so I can spend the one limited hour with my mother. I presumed her hospitalization would feel easier the second time, but the extent of pain mimicked the previous instance, but she needed the constant monitoring of her food and medication intake. She slowly stepped out of the cloud of depression that consumed her mind. The second time she came home, hope flushed through my body. I still came home to her sleeping on the couch, but she went shopping for food and could participate in incoherent conversations. She began to resume her regular rhythm. She went to her outpatient therapy and went to work in the mornings which gave her a sense of accomplishment. Her healing helped me regain hope in the future; I fantasized the summer days that we would go outside and she would feel strong enough to play volleyball with me in the backyard. Sadly, those days never came.
In early May of 2019, I previously scheduled a volleyball tournament over the weekend in New Jersey, but with both my mom and I trying to regain regular rhythm, we did not book a hotel or pack for the trip. The Friday before the tournament, I advised that we stay home and not go to the tournament because we deserved a break. I also experienced a rough week mentally before then, so I ran low on energy and mental strength needed to perform at a high-intensity volleyball tournament. My mother told me she did not want me to disappoint the team and insisted that I go. I ultimately refused to go. At five o’clock in the morning, my mother woke me up, desperately trying to convince me to go to the tournament. “If you wake up now, we will arrive on time” she repeated to me. Again, I refused to go. I felt hurt and exhausted, my life fell apart in the past five months and I could not force any positive energy. She worried about me; I never refused a volleyball tournament before. She crawled into my bed and held me. We needed change, happiness, and most importantly: Help. After I fell asleep, she went into her room. I wasted the day in bed. I did not leave my bed to eat. I did not wake up to check on my mom. I just lied in bed for the entire day until 10:00 at night. I got up to go to the bathroom, and as I passed my mother’s bedroom door, I saw that the door appeared halfway shut, when the door normally remains open. I pushed the door open and flicked the light switch on and saw her body hanging from her closet door in the corner of the room. Her purple lips, white fingers, and lifeless body still haunt me today. At first glance, I knew she died, unlike the bathroom episode. I instantly drew myself to her, I refused to believe my gut telling me she died. I took the black belt that wrapped around my mother’s neck off of the closet door and left her sitting on the floor. I stepped backward and blinked a few times, fully soaking in the gravity of the scene presented before me. Purple lips. White fingers. Black belt. The pure panic took around 3 seconds to pulse through my blood. I ran out of the room, flew downstairs as each pound of my foot against the wood steps clashed with the elevated heartbeat sound in my chest. I ran as if a murderer chased me with a knife in hand. I arrive at my neighbor’s door, knocking frantically at their door until a smiling face of my neighbors Susan and Bill answer the door. The only words that I managed to regurgitate “She’s dead, please help me.” Bill and Susan called the police for me and I waited at their house until the police finished interrogating me and my dad came to drive me to his house for the night.
Experiencing major traumas broke my previous persona and shaped me into who I became today. For months I would wake frantically shaking and screaming in the middle of the night due to nightmares of bloody bathrooms and horrifying images of my mother’s dead body. Each time I walked into a room, my eyes bounced and scanned each door to make sure nothing hung from them. Overtime and learning coping mechanisms, the traumatic images of my mother that raced through my mind morphed into positive memories of her laughing with me. Although I wish my mom stayed with me, I choose to recognize the positive attributes I obtained since 2019. I learned that I can respond effectively to emergencies which I admire about myself. I also gained mental resilience to handle onerous personal struggles. The most important life lesson I acquired from my mother’s suicide is my motto “do it for mom”. When I confront a tough situation that pushes me out of my comfort zone and I want to quit, I tell myself “do it for mom” and I figure out a solution. Ultimately, I live my life for my mother because she wanted the best for me and always will. I love you, mom.