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The Long Slow Slide

Fear. I live in it. I breathe it in every day. I soak in it. I most likely swam in it in utero. It’s the weight I’m constantly struggling to alleviate; at least to shift. My mother died because of it. My dad and sibling currently struggle with it. It nearly killed me once, but I survived. Extended friends and relatives don’t understand it and do not believe I should be afraid. At least, they think I’m making it a focal point and shouldn’t.

I agree. I wish it weren’t so. I would love to ignore it. Maybe if I did not acknowledge the fear it would become smaller. Sometimes I’m successful. Mostly I’m not. What do I fear?

The long, slow, slide…to suicide.

Not my own, although there was a time, once, 17 years ago. My son saw it in my eyes. He called the police. They came and saw it in my eyes, too. They took me away in handcuffs to a place. Then another place. Then, eight days later, I was released.

I didn’t want to be released. I felt safe there. No fear there. There were other crazier people than me there. Because, make no mistake, I felt crazy. Crazy with worry. Crazy with failure. Crazy with…fear.

The thing I fear now has nothing to do with me personally. I’m healthy. A little overweight, but working on it. My kids are working on themselves and having their successes. I’m divorced and remarried, which I consider a success.

The warning signs of suicide are blatant sometimes, and sometimes they are not. It’s a L-O-N-G — S-L-O-W — S-L-I-D-E…and then it isn’t. And once you’ve been there (or even almost there) the signs become bright, big, bold and very much in your face.

My mother died during cancer treatment, but it was an open secret among her family that she was an alcoholic. Alcoholism can be considered a slow-motion suicide. We never spoke about it.

LIES! THAT IS A LIE! My sibling and I ALWAYS spoke about it — to each other, to our father, to our cousins…yes, we always spoke about it — but no one ever thought to do anything except talk, and talk, and talk, and make fun of blackouts — because an alcoholic person is so weak and such a joke!! Ha-Ha! Why doesn’t she quit? So smart and SO DUMB!

The truth is we never spoke about it outside of our family. And there were no sleep overs, or friends to come over. Too unpredictable. We could not risk the knowledge getting out. That was our fear. Her fear was that people would find out that she alone was the cause of everyone’s problems.

These irrational fears shaped our family. They prevented clear thinking; promoted shame; rooted us in place. The “what ifs” became a way to live in hiding.

Obviously, I am no longer in fear for her. That particular long, slow, slide is over. My fear now centers on what is left of my family. My sibling has threatened suicide outright. My dad has called police many, many times. It is remarkable he has decided to make noise to get help.

However, the police have told him, “We can’t make people go to the hospital if they don’t want to go”.

Since when? How can that be? When did that rule change? What happened to the Crisis Intervention Teams I’ve read about? The involuntary hold? Isn’t there a law? Did he decide to speak out too late? How much noise does an octogenarian have to make?

You know, I didn’t want to go, either. I didn’t ask to go. My son made a very courageous call. One call. And it was the very thing that kick-started me back to good mental health. I thought mental health treatment had come a far way from 17 years ago!

So, now, I live in fear of a phone call as well. You know the one.

I wonder: will it be a murder-suicide or just a suicide? Or just a murder? I don’t know. But the symptoms are there. Isolation, Desperation, Feeling Hopeless, Not seeing a future, Suicide ideation. They’re all there. Police have been called to no avail. I’m out of ideas.

So, I live in fear.

Suicide Prevention Hotline 800–273–8255

Life is both fragile and resilient. It's best to learn from it and forgive as needed to thrive.