Suicide is a subject that's not exactly a topic for the kitchen table. It's dark, scary, and taboo, leaving so many questions unanswered. If you had asked me years ago what I thought about suicide, my answer would have been simple: I thought it was the "easy way" out and a selfish move that left loved ones behind to try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives.
That was, until my own mother tried to kill herself.
My mother tried to commit suicide.
No matter how much I stare at that statement (and it stares right back at me), it's still so hard to process -- and something I don't bring up to anyone ... ever.
The truth of the matter is my mother tried to take her life 10 years ago, and yet, the memory is so sharp and searing that it still feels like it happened yesterday.
My mom has spent the last two decades battling a mental illness, oftentimes in silence, struggling on her own. And while there weren't any major signs (at least, not to my knowledge), the writing was on the wall when she decided to check out of life and disappear -- twice -- a decade ago.
I'll never forget the first time it happened. I was at work when I received a phone call from my mom's employer who was looking for her. Seeing her just a week before, I couldn't compute the woman who gave birth to me (and raised me) packing up and leaving -- without so much as a word to her then 22- and 12-year-old daughters.
Thankfully, my mother turned up at my apartment a couple weeks later, but not after telling me she tried to kill herself by drinking rat poison in her car.
"Why on earth would you do that?" I remember asking. "Do you not realize how much we love you?"
"Some things just aren't about you two," my mom answered.
(It would take many trips to the therapist and another disappearing act three years later -- with another suicide attempt -- before doctors finally diagnosed my mom as manic-depressive.)
Looking from the outside, all I could see was the worry and pain my mother's actions were causing our family. And yet, it never dawned on me to wonder what my mom was going through that would make her feel as though taking her own life was the best and only option she had.
My mother is one of the most loving and caring people I'll ever know, and we're very close, which made her suicide attempts hurt that much more. It pains me to ever think about losing her, or how incredibly helpless she felt in her darkest hours.
Since the incidents, my mom and I have spoken in depth about what she was feeling and why she didn't want to burden her family -- especially her daughters -- with her troubles.
While I'll never fully understand what she experienced from her perspective, my mother's suicide attempts were rude awakenings for me. I realized what a complicated issue it is, the inner turmoil it creates, and the social stigmas that go with it. More importantly, it is not an "easy way" out.
As thankful as I am to have my mother happy and healthy today (her grandbabies are definitely a plus), it breaks my heart to think of people who are hurting on a daily basis -- many of whom suffer in silence, or are too afraid or ashamed to ask for a lifeline.
Now that my mom has received the help and treatment she needed, I can only hope these things are enough to empower her each day, surrounding her with love and life.
And should she stumble (like all of us do), the woman I'm proud to call my mommy knows she has an army of loved ones who will not let her walk alone.
Because that's what life is about: not walking alone and lifting each other up.
I love you, Mom.
If you or someone you know has expressed suicidal thoughts, please let them know they are not alone. Text START to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.org.
Image via iStock.com/Tharakorn