September is Suicide Awareness Month. I am sharing my story to open up a space for dialogue, to help remove the stigma of sharing our experiences, and mostly, to let you know, if you are suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, you are not alone and that there is help available. I see you and I understand how alone you feel.

It has been 10 years since I contemplated ending my life. What follows is an account of my memory that day, in October 2010. I did not to follow through with committing suicide and I have dedicated my life to using my experience for good in the world. I received so much help, both personally and professionally, for several years after that day and my journey for wellbeing and mental health continues every day. I will be forever grateful to those who were there for me when I felt most alone. Links for suicide prevention can be found at the end of this piece. Much Love, Karla

Willow Branches In The Sunlight

It started like any other day, except it wasn’t. 

For the past year I had been suffering silently from depression. I would wake up each morning barely able to drag my ass out of bed – weary, muted and distant. My kids needed me, in hindsight I have them, and their dependence on me, to thank for saving my life.  

I made breakfast and lunches, packed backpacks and ushered them out the door like clockwork. I had created a well-oiled machine, very consistent with very little wiggle room for error. 

And then after forced smiles, goodbye kisses and ‘I love you’s’ I would close the door, take off my mask and go numb.  

I’d climb back in bed, curl up in the fetal position and wait. Wait til I was forced to put my mask on again.  

But as I said, this morning was different. I cannot recall if there was some sort of agitation that created the minute shift. Maybe we had had a disagreement before he left for work, or the pancakes didn’t turn out, or one of the kids needed to hand in money and a form for 9 am. It could have been any of these things or nothing.  

All I know is, instead of climbing back in bed after the door closed, I sat myself down on my living room couch knowing this was my last day.  

At first, I was active and calculating. I was formulating a plan, weighing the pros and cons, considering my options. There was a strange clarity and finally, a feeling of relief. I was strangely excited about being in motion.  

But as it became more apparent what I was about to do a stillness came over me. I replayed my life over and over in my head, rocking silently on my couch. Every once in awhile murmuring “I’m in trouble.”  

There was a slow movie going on in my head. I saw my childhood, my sister always with me, my mother’s angry face, my father’s drunken rage. I saw my failing marriage that now felt so isolating and cold. The bitter silence between us, the depth of my despair and sadness. I saw a life wasted, empty. 

I didn’t dare think about my kids. My beautiful babies. The weight of what I was doing to them too heavy to bear. The tears streamed endlessly down my cheeks, soaking my shirt, washing away my pain.  

“I’m in trouble.” 

My sorrow was so deep it cut me at my core. I felt useless, lost, expendable…No one needed my fucked-up ways in their life. I was no good. I was not enough. I was unlovable.  

I got up and walked into the kitchen.  

“I’m in trouble.” 

I took the bottle of unused Percocet from the kitchen cabinet. I was grateful we had filled the prescription even though he knew he wouldn’t take them after his knee surgery. I was glad for the ease with which my plan could be achieved. 

I poured the pills out into my hand and slowly counted them. There were 40. More than enough. Sobbing uncontrollably, I put them back in the bottle and shoved them in my jeans pocket. 

“I’m in trouble. I’m in trouble. I’m in trouble.”  

The walls of my home were closing in on me. I was feeling frantic and out of breath and I knew I needed to get out of my house. I didn’t want my children to find me.  

“I’m in trouble.” 

I went into each of their rooms holding their pillows over my face taking in their scent, soaking them with my tears, whispering “I love you,” hoping somehow, they would hear it, they would understand, they would forgive me.  

As I locked up the house, wiping snot and tears across my sleeve, I put my mask back on so no one could see me. My pain invisible to the outside world. This bottle, jamming into my hip inside my pocket, was my way out.  

I walked on the quiet streets, through our neighbourhood, not in a hurry but knowing where I was going. I would find a spot in the park, there was privacy, but it was enough traffic that I would be found. It seemed reasonable. It felt logical. 

“I’m in trouble.” 

I loved the park. It is a place of solace and peace for me. It was a good resting place. I was so tired and just needed to rest.  

“I’m in trouble.” 

A few blocks before I will arrive at the park’s gates, I am suddenly standing in the middle of a giant intersection. There are no cars, or people. I cannot recollect there being any sounds and the sunlight is shining so brightly it felt like it was blinding me. 

All I can remember next is the enormous willow tree standing before me, whose swaying, weeping branches halt me in my tracks. It seems to be dancing in the gentle breeze. The sun is dappled between the tiny leaves. I feel my heart racing. The tears are flowing freely. My face is hot and I am shaking. In my hand I feel the bottle. I am shaking it. The pills are clanking against the sides. Maybe it is time.  

“I’m in trouble.” “I’m in trouble.”  

And then stillness. Silence.  

By the grace of God, or some otherworldly Source, the tree whispers to me in the tiniest voice “Go home.”  

I look up into the sky and see such blueness. I feel moved to plead for guidance. I beg for a direction to go. I am at the mercy of my legs, my body, this tree…I just want to choose a direction.  

And then I am running! Running in the direction of home. I am exhausted but my legs will not stop. 13 blocks. I go up the driveway to the side door, open it up and drag myself inside. And there on my computer screen, as I shut the door, is a picture of my 4 beauties.  

I sit there in front of them. I am breathless, heavy, empty and praying for forgiveness. Gasping for air, allowing the pain in my heart to overflow. Unsure of what comes next. I am raw and exposed. 

And now it’s 3:30 and I know I must collect myself and get my shit together. I must tuck this all away. There is no time left to feel anything.  

I wash my face with warm water. Pull the pills out from my pocket and return them to the cabinet, looking at them for a few more seconds before I close the door.  

And then, I strap on my mask, open my door and walk away from not being here.  

Links for Suicide Prevention:

CANADIAN CRISIS CENTRES

SUICIDE HOTLINES USA

SUICIDE HOTLINES INTERNATIONAL

PREVENTING SUICIDE & HOW TO HELP