My Daughter Thought I Was Dead - by Juliette Roanoke - Trigger Warning
The figurative impression her scream left on me and its literal counterpart.
Yes, this article is particularly graphic. At first, I fervently wrote it into my favorite journal as the words entered my head and flowed to my fingers. Sometimes I know why I’m writing when I initiate a piece, a poem, a particularly specific article. Is it for a specific audience, just for me, maybe even for the trash can, if I’m lucky, money. This time, I just needed the catharsis I think. After completing it, I had this nagging feeling that I should share it. If it helps one person I’ll be 100% satisfied as it is the most vulnerable I, pictured above to further illustrate my vulnerability, have ever been in a public piece. I hope you read my words and gain something positive from it. I know I gained everything.
It was a screech I never knew could exist. How could that pitch even be compatible with my human ears? I was recovering from a hospital stay. I was recovering from a hospital stay initiated by my suicide attempt. I was recovering from a hospital stay, now at home with my daughter and boyfriend, but I was not ready for anything life had to throw at me — for instance, my low blood pressure.
I felt myself stand up too quickly. Everyone has done that, right? You get a touch of orthostatic hypotension and your light-headed self sits its butt right back down where it came from. You drink a glass of water. You move on. Well, in this instance it hit me a bit too hard, a bit too suddenly. This resulted in an actual loss of consciousness and a crumble to the floor. I would have come to, I would have recovered, but I did not do so in time to avoid my daughter having to see me laid out on the floor, unresponsive to her touch and voice.
Virginia knew I had been sick, she knew it was serious and that it had to do with both my mental and physical well being. Also, My girl is grown beyond her years, most definitely my fault due to putting her through experiences like this one. She even understands the notion of self-harm, as well as has dabbled in it herself. more on that in my recent story
She was forced to become an adult too soon, living with a single mom who worked extra shifts to pull it all off. Or maybe I’m reading too deeply into all of this, taking on too much mom guilt when I should be more forgiving, maybe blame it on genetics instead of the environment today. Or Perhaps it was just the classic name given to her, Virginia Eleanor. It was calling out to her — to be an old soul just as I was at her age. *wishful thinking*
This aside, she discovered me on my bedroom floor where I had fallen. She Later stated that she had followed “the body-hitting-the-floor noise.” I was out at first but began to wake after feeling her shake my weakened body.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!” she started but quickly changed her focus to “Kristofer! Kristofer something is wrong with mom, she’s dead! She’s dead! She won’t wake up!” — and she began to run to Kristofer.
If I had captured an audio recording of her sweet desperate cry I would share it with everyone and no one, alike. The thought of the shriek makes me cringe and I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this nine-year-old was certain her mother was dead. She was a young girl with a now dead single mother. That was her new existence. That was her new song, the saddest song I’ve ever heard.
What she didn’t realize is that I was waking up. My boyfriend came running as fast as he could navigate his long legs through our small little home. By the time he got there, I was trying to raise my head and reach out for her. I remember saying her name over and over, trying to show her I wasn’t dead.
“Virginia, Virginia! I’m ok! I promise I’m ok Virginia! Please baby, don’t be scared because I’m ok”
I was alright, albeit shaken. She was something far worse than shaken, something more like grated and melted.
She didn’t know it but Virginia had just preserved so many parts of me. I was still struggling with suicidal ideations and extreme hopelessness, but after hearing her, after hearing what her grief would actually sound like, all of that went out the window. I say she “preserved” my life for a reason. I don’t mean that she saved it in that moment. I don’t mean that having her had kept me from hurting myself in the past. What she did was far more powerful: she saved me from future me, the ugly version, the dark me. She allowed me to experience all my future moments and secured a life together for us.
The Scream. It was instantaneous and it was horrible and it was magical. I knew right away what I was going to do, and I will try to be as honest and vulnerable here as possible. Once she had calmed down and her hyperventilation had ceased, she could laugh a little. I could do no such thing. The combination of emotions I felt then don’t seem to add up under any other circumstances, not even now. I was so relieved to have her distress dissipate. That was number one at all times. I knew that the knowledge of my death is what caused her such panic and pain and I could never purposefully put her through that again. I’ve attempted suicide twice, but after this event, I can honestly say that expediting the end of my time with her will NEVER be an option ever again.
You may be wondering why I never had that rule before, after all, I wasn’t a new mom. She was nine years old, why hadn’t the thought of her pain stopped me before? Well, the answer is complex but truthfully I thought killing myself was actually better for her even if it caused temporary pain. What I know now is that it would more likely cause never-ending questions about the love and value her late mother had for her.
So that’s it for the figurative part of the story. What follows next is a graphic and probably seems counterintuitive to many. I was no longer suicidal but I had to mark that moment. I had to denote that feeling in real time.
The worst I could ever do is forget that cry; the cry that preserved my life. While yes, I had severed an artery or two, there had been no habitual or traditional “cutting” in my repertoire of self-deprecation tactics. My cut was only ever meant to be the last cut. Except for this time.
I shuffled through my belongings, searching for a blade. Some may call this self-harm but I still categorize it as self-preservation. You see, my heart was broken unlike anything before. I couldn’t stop the emotional nor the physical manifestation of chest pain that I felt. I needed to tattoo a promise to her on myself. I had a broken heart; I had to release the pain. I cut into my skin over my heart, a large, bloody, -X- avoiding only my breasts but getting as close as I could to my heart’s point of maximal impulse. This is where it needed to be, this symbolic representation of my devotion to her here on this earth. She will always receive the maximal impulse of my love.
I felt relief instantaneously, the pain of the cutting couldn’t possibly touch the pain I felt inside for hurting her so. Now, I have a scar that means the world, literally, to me. Please know that this does not mean I am a proponent of cutting or any other version of self harm.
There are exceptions to everything though, and for me this served as a tattoo does to most people. It is a symbolic form of something much deeper and often at least partially private. Is that tattoo there because you “really love butterflies” or have you had a more philosophical interaction with a butterfly that still affects you? More than likely for most people it is something more akin to “I watched a butterfly land on my grandmother’s coffin as it was lowered into the ground and they remind me of her beauty” of course, it could also just be that you think they are pretty, peer pressure, or a drunken evening for some.
I want to leave you with this thought:
Do not kill yourself
My personality wants to scream “don’t tell them what to do; be understanding and empathetic” I can’t though, I am going to beg though. You see, you never know what moment is just around the corner. Sure it feels like more and more and more of the same misery with no potential for escape, but as Louis Pasteur said,
“Chance only favors the prepared mind”
so take the time to look around and prepare yourself for different realities. Remind yourself that you experience exacerbations and that you, at the very least, won’t always be at the bottom of the deepest of seas. You have to come up for air sometimes. The brain is a persuasive thing. It has a knack for making you capable of rationalizing anything really, even how you being dead would do others a favor. It will not. So again,
Do not kill yourself ; keep your story going.
Special thanks to Kristofer Conklin for running really fast.