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Linda Gray Sexton

is a suicide attempt survivor.
this is her story

Linda Gray Sexton

is a suicide attempt survivor.

"I Survived a Suicide Attempt."

Linda Gray Sexton is a writer. She was raised in Newton, MA, and currently lives in Maryland. She was 64 years old when I interviewed her in Annapolis, MD, on November 6, 2017.

It’s almost hard to know where to start, because there are so many facets to it. I guess chronologically is one way to go. The writer in me says, “Oh, well, but what a boring way to go,” but I’ll start that way and we’ll see what happens.

I was born into the home of a really mentally ill woman who was also a very gifted artist. She was the poet, Anne Sexton. These days, a lot of people don’t know that much about poetry and don’t recognize her name, especially the younger generation of people because, except for college, they don’t read a lot of poetry. But she was really very well known. She won a Pulitzer in ’67. She’d kind of broken into what’s known as the confessional school of poetry, where people began to write about more than landscapes and started writing about raw things like mental illness, suicide, menstruation, love making, and all kinds of very real topics—especially ones for women. She started writing when I was about four, but by then, she had already had several nervous breakdowns and had tried suicide several times.

I was sent away to live with relatives who didn’t have room for another child, so I was kind of shuttled into a corner a lot of the time. There was a lot of physical violence in the family because the husband expressed himself that way, and the kids got the brunt of it. It was not a good place to go. It wasn’t safe. I started there when I was about two. I think that must have been her first suicide attempt, when I was about two. My younger sister had just been born, and she was sent to live with my father’s mother, who was a very, very loving woman who took great care of kids. She kind of got the good end of the stick and I got the bad end of the stick.

On the other hand, she stayed away for two whole years with my paternal grandmother. There was a good thing to that and a bad thing. She was away from my mother for the first two years of her life, which has obviously had a great impact on her. Yet she was with somebody loving and caring who knew what they were doing with a child, whereas after I was with my aunt’s family for a while, they sent me back home and my mother really wasn’t able to take care of me.

Once again, I ended up in a corner a lot of the time. My mother was physically abusive, so there was a lot of turmoil in that environment—a lot of rejection and physical abuse, which was obviously a really hard thing to grow up with. The worst thing, beyond all those things, was that my mother’s mental illness took her away from me. I didn’t have somebody stable who I knew would always be there, who would be my protector, keep me safe, and help me grow and learn the right lessons. That was not there.

That was kind of the beginning of a really long, troubled childhood where I adored my mother, but I really couldn’t have her. She just wasn’t available. She made numerous attempts at suicide throughout my entire childhood, until she finally killed herself when I was twenty-one.

When I was younger, I was terrified she would kill herself, and that I would be left alone. My dad tried really hard to be a good dad, but he too was physically violent. There was this interaction between my parents where they would get angry with each other, my mother would start goading him on, and eventually, he would hit her.

Over time, I came to see that it was a two-way street. He wasn’t just a wife beater—she would be very provocative and get very involved. She was very, very articulate. She knew how to push his buttons and she would get the response that, frankly, I think she was kind of halfway looking for. It was this really sick, bad situation that I kind of, at this point, blame both of them for. This was their way of communicating. It was what they knew how to do. Even though we don’t recognize that kind of behavior as at all satisfactory, for somebody who communicates that way, by fighting, that’s the way they do it. They don’t know a loving way to express themselves, so they express themselves through this provocative one, then the other, and then the other, until it builds into a fight. Sometimes, it was even a two-way fight with her hitting him. Anyway, that was sort of the background that I grew up in.

She would repeatedly be in a mental hospital and, at that point, my dad’s mom really started taking care of both my sister and me. That was a place I loved to go to, because I was taken care of. I was spoiled. I was given the foods that I liked, she liked to wash our hair, and she gave back rubs at night. All these little tender things which were missing out of my life as a child.

On the other hand, my mother could be a lot of fun. She had a good sense of humor. She was very loving and she could be very tender. She was not a cold mother at all. She was warm and embraceable and physical. We sort of had two things going on at once. I yearned to be with her more, and yet at the same time, being with her was like a loaded gun. You really didn’t know what you were going to get.

I grew up terrified that she was going to kill herself. It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop, to use an old cliché. It gives you a perspective on life that is really sad because the implication is that life is not worth living, that life is as fragile as just making a decision to end it. It’s not the natural conclusion you would see in a family where people expect to live to old age. There was always this shadow hanging over us. Was she going to make it? It teaches you a certain kind of philosophy, because you realize that every day is a day of your choosing. I never really thought about this before, but there’s no assumption that you will live to be an older person with the kind of health problems an older person has and all those things. It assumes that you will live this day if you feel like living this day. At that time, it seemed like a choice: you lived or you died, and that was really up to you. It didn’t have any outside influences.

Now, my mother’s family had a lot of mental illnesses in it. No one at that time had tried to kill themselves, but one of her closest relatives—someone she was very attached to—was hospitalized and then put away, because in those days, they actually put people away in an institution. That was a real blow to her. Her parents were not stable, either. She came from a background that was repeating, repeating, repeating.

I wrote a book when I was fifty about how suicide and mental illness are passed down, how they really are a legacy, and they’re not so much of a choice. A lot of it is visited upon you by heredity. What you choose to do with that is a choice, but the situation and the conditions themselves, very often, if you look back through generations, you see it popping up all over the place.

For her, that was there, but when I was little I didn’t understand that. Frankly, the medical establishment didn’t understand it, either. It was just assumed to be, like my grandmother thought, all bad behavior. My mother was just acting out and not being responsible, not being an adult, not living up to her role as a mother. Of course, it was the early ’60s, late ’50s, when I was little. There was nothing like feminism that said, “What is a woman’s role? Does it have to be just a wife and mother, or can it be other things? If it is just a wife and mother, what defines a good wife and mother? How do we know if you’re being successful or not?”

I think she grew up with the spectre of the mental illness of her family in the past. She came of age as a mother and as a woman in this tight little box that was defined by getting up with your kids, making breakfast, cleaning the house, having dinner ready when your husband comes home, and she didn’t fit into that box. She was a creative person, she was a mentally ill person, and none of it fit. I think feeling so ill [about] adapting to the roles that had been prescribed for her made her even crazier.

When you add all those things together, it’s a very messy picture. It was very hard to grow up in that kind of an atmosphere, despite people’s best efforts. Because again, there’s this duality that runs throughout everything.

On the one hand, the family was very supportive. Her mother sent in a housekeeper every week to do the cleaning, the laundry, and cook a little bit. They were very wealthy. My parents were not wealthy at all—they struggled—but her parents were very wealthy. Her mother’s interpretation of ways to help were practical ways, which did help because [my mother] was having a lot of trouble with day to day management. That was a good thing, but they were ashamed and embarrassed by her illness. Once again, very much of the day, very much of the time, the illness was seen as something she chose.

On the other side, my other grandmother took care of us. She came with the donuts in the afternoon, drove us to every after school activity, took me to dancing school. Girls didn’t play soccer then, but they went to dancing school. Then she took us on the weekends and anytime my mother wasn’t feeling well. She brought in a huge amount of stability that was emotional stability.

On the one hand there was the practical help. On the other hand there was the emotional assistance, which was also practical, because [my mother] couldn’t get out of bed a lot of days. There was this pushing out of all the roles, and everybody gathering around to take care of Anne, but really not so much with people taking care of Linda and Joy.

In many ways, we were very privileged, but in many ways we were also deprived, because we didn’t get the stability and we didn’t get the constant source of love that kept us safe. When I look back on my childhood, I think of it as a very dangerous time. It was not a safe time. I didn’t know what was going to happen day to day. I was very anxious, and there wasn’t room for any of our needs. It was all Mother’s needs. She took up all the air in the room.

As I got older, I became a caretaker of someone who was mentally ill. She depended on me to make her a martini every night, to do housework; later on, I would go with her to readings of her poetry. We traveled to Philly, we went to New York, we went different places where she had to do public appearances. I would manage the plane tickets. I mean, I was eleven years old. Kids then weren’t precocious as much as they are now, so, for an eleven year old to be managing the travel arrangements and the plane tickets, and making sure she didn’t get so drunk that she got on the plane, making sure she didn’t get so drunk she got to the stage… all those practical things that went along with what we would think of now with an author having a professional assistant taking them around from place to place—that was me.

I grew into this role of taking care of her, but I got more and more anxious as time went on. I began to also get really depressed. There wasn’t too much room for either my anxiety or my depression, and that made me more anxious and depressed. There was also all this blurring between us of, “She’s sick, so am I sick, too? Or am I sick because she’s sick?”

There weren’t good adult-child boundaries between us. She saw me as a best friend. I look back on that now and think that’s really bad. Your kids should be your kids. You can have best friends other places, but you need there to be boundaries in order to do good parenting, because a lot of the time, you have to say no. You have to say things to the child they don’t want to hear. You have to shepherd them along through painful twists and turns that life takes, along with celebrating the joys. You guide them with the wisdom that your years bring to you. If you get down on their level and act their age, then you’re not doing a good job of guiding them through.

Anyway, that was a problem. I sort of started to over-identify with her, so I became a friend. I sat with her and her friends and did adult things. I didn’t hang out so much with kids my age. I did some, but I also did this other thing which, in retrospect, I think wasn’t really good for me. You don’t need to feel on an intimate level with a whole bunch of adults. It’s good to have strong relationships as you’re growing up as a teenager with adults, but I don’t think it’s good to continually feel as if you are identifying with them every minute.

I got more and more depressed, more and more anxious. At sixteen, I started seeing a therapist. She was a very standard Freudian lady who did a lot of listening and nodding and smoking her cigarette. She felt that I was too attached to my mother, that my mother was too attached to me, and in inappropriate ways. But not much changed as a result of seeing her. It all just stayed the same. I think I needed stronger guidance and someone to intervene a little bit more.

Part of this story is that my mother became physically intimate with me which, again, was a lack of boundaries and a lot of inappropriate behavior. I didn’t know enough to say, “This isn’t okay.” I was still a little girl in a lot of ways. As mature as I was in some ways, I was really immature in others, and it’s very hard to tell a parent no, in any case. It’s doubly hard when the parent is fragile, mentally ill, susceptible to suicide attempts, and you don’t know what saying, “Don’t touch me, leave me alone,” [will do]. You’re putting up a barrier. And that was what we didn’t do—put up barriers between the two of us. That complicated everything.

I went away to college. It was great, because I got out from underneath this sort of suffocating cocoon. I’m making it sound really terrible, but there were also really good things. My mother could be a joyous woman, and I got to share in the joyful parts. There were a lot of things that were fun that I got to do by being more grown up than I actually was. But underneath it all was this growing depression, anxiety, and angst, which wasn’t getting addressed very well. I went to college and made some separation there, but that was the first time I thought about killing myself.

I had a boyfriend there who kind of rejected me at one point. I very ineffectually took some pills and hoped I wouldn’t wake up, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. There was no way I was going to die from what I did. But, to me, it’s kind of a first step in thinking to myself, “Well, I just don’t want to be here right now.”

Then, a long time went by, and I was really proud of the fact that I wasn’t like my mother, that I made this big break. She would call me and be furious that I wasn’t calling back. It was all typical teenager behavior, but to her it felt like a rejection, and that made it very difficult for her to live with it. She wanted things from me that I wouldn’t give her anymore, so we kind of were at war then. It was a very sad time for the relationship because I had to keep saying no to her.

She was in and out of mental institutions, and she would call and say, “Won’t you come and visit me?” I would say no, which was a really hard thing to do, but I felt like, if I went, I was getting sucked into it, and I couldn’t stand being sucked into it anymore. I wanted to be free of it. I wanted it to end.

So much time had gone by from the time I was a little girl and so frightened by the suicide attempts. They came, during my teenage years, to seem increasingly manipulative. She would brag about it afterwards. We always knew another one was coming. It was getting harder and harder to take her seriously, because there had been so many of them. She wasn’t succeeding. Yet, by then, surely she knew how. If she really wanted to succeed, why wasn’t she succeeding? It got really complicated. None of us really knew, and there still was no public awareness at that time that mental illness was inheritable, that it wasn’t so much of a choice, that it was visited upon you in a lot of ways.

Like I said at the beginning of our talking, you do have a choice about what you do with the ball of wax you’re given. Sometimes that can be a very overwhelming prospect and process, and you may not know how to deal with it at all in the beginning. In fact, most people don’t. They just know they feel the way they feel, other people don’t get it, and they’re all alone with it. What do you do?

We were getting really alienated from my mom. All of us. One afternoon, my phone rang, and it was a friend who was a doctor at the university health services. He said, “Hi, how are you? I would like to see you.”

I said, “I’m on my way out for a date with my boyfriend and we’re going to the movies. Could I see you on Monday?” It was a Friday afternoon.

He said, “No, I need you to come now.”

I hung up the phone and I knew, you know? I knew that something was just so terribly, terribly wrong, or he never would have said “now.” I remember running from my dorm up to the health services and just saying the whole way, “Don’t let it be Joy. Don’t let it be Nana. Don’t let it be Daddy.”

I got up there and he said, “Your mom killed herself this afternoon. I’m so sorry.”

The feeling was huge. It was one of relief. It was like, “This is over. We don’t have to go through this anymore.” It took me a long time to start to feel something different than that relief. It took me a long time to come to the place where I could say that, in a lot of ways, she tried her best. Her best wasn’t good enough, ultimately. Her best wasn’t good enough in terms of being a really good, stable mom, but I look back at it and I see that she tried really, really hard. Sometimes all you can ask is that the person try really hard. The end result isn’t always what you wish it would be or what the best could be, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters is that the person tries.

Things changed really sharply after she died, largely because of something she did before she died: she got ready. She stopped making vain attempts and started planning what she was going to do. Before her final attempt, she made out a will, and she got her affairs in order. She gave away little mementos to people or said, “Go to my desk. Anything you would like to take is yours.” She signed special copies of books for people. You get what I’m saying. She was making preparations.

One of the things she did when she made out her will was to ask me to be her literary executor, which I really didn’t really want to do, because a). it was going to be a huge amount of work, b). it was going to totally sidetrack my life, and c). it was going to be a huge responsibility for her life, and I was trying to get out from being responsible for her life. All that care-taking had finally ended—bitterly and at war—but it was over. I wanted to be able to go on with my own life, and I couldn’t. It was a huge job. It took me years just to get all her papers, memorabilia, correspondences, and everything placed. I finally found a library, archived the material, and we sold it. It all went somewhere else, and that was a huge relief. I’ve been her literary executor since she died, and almost every day I get another request from somebody for something.

Anyway, she asked me. I said, “Don’t you want Maxine Kumin”—another poet who was her best friend—“Don’t you want Maxine to do this?”

She said, “No, it’s better if it’s a family member, because then, if there are any issues within the family, you have sway because you’re one of the family members.” So I said okay.

Then, this whole part of my life began where I was like a mini Anne Sexton. People wanted me to come and speak about her. People wanted me to come and read her poetry. People wanted to do interviews. I felt Linda getting smaller and smaller, and Anne getting bigger and bigger. I even wore some of her clothes and her jewelry. It was a very mixed up, sick kind of time. I was really anxious through it all.

I was fortunate enough to be with a very stable guy who really helped me through a lot of it. As time went on, after I had my kids, I began to kind of re-establish my identity and say, “You know, this isn’t a good thing to be doing. If I really want to be a writer in my own right, then I have to stop fooling around with her writing, diddling around with writing poetry, and do what I’m really interested in,” which was fiction, at that time. [I had to] not be a mini Anne Sexton anymore.I began to break away from that, but that was really hard to do. I went through some very depressed periods where I drank too much. I kind of self-medicated to get away from it all.

On top of that, there was trying to get pregnant, not getting pregnant, and then finally getting pregnant. Now I was a mother, and I had had no role model for a good and stable mother. I didn’t know what a good mother was. I shouldn’t say a “good mother.” Everything in me goes, “No. No, Linda, don’t say ‘good mother,’” because in some ways, she was a good mother. It’s just that she wasn’t sufficient in so many ways, and I wanted to be different than that. I wanted to give my kids stability, safety, security, better boundaries, and all those things that I hadn’t had. At the same time, give them all the loving, warm aspects that my mom did have. I wanted them to have everything. I discovered, unfortunately, that you are a byproduct of your own upbringing, and you bring with you certain baggage. You bring with you certain gifts. It’s gifts and baggage, and you do the best you can. You try hard, just like my mother tried, and you try to manage.

It was really hard. I had a terrible postpartum depression. I didn’t know that, if your mother had a postpartum depression—I’ve forgotten the statistic—but you’re like eighty percent more likely to have a postpartum depression. It’s some astronomical figure. But nobody tells you that. Nobody even tells you what a postpartum depression is. I started feeling that way and I didn’t know what was wrong. The anxiety was really becoming a bad problem. When my second son was born, I got so anxious I had panic attacks all the time. I couldn’t breathe, I was sweating, my hands were clammy, my heart was pounding, and I just couldn’t get a hold of it. I kept saying, “You’re turning into Mom. You’re turning into Mom. Get a hold of this. Do something.” So I went back into therapy.

My mother was on many medications, none of which helped her. They had very few things to help with bipolar, and she wasn’t even diagnosed with bipolar, even though she was. They used thorazine, mainly, in those days, which was just sedating. She used to say it made her feel woozy, so she couldn’t write. With all that fuzziness in the head, she couldn’t do her writing, and that made her feel even crazier because it was the only thing that made her feel really good and stable.

I was so anxious I couldn’t write. I was working on a novel, and I was like hu-uh-uh-uh all the time. Finally, I started with a new therapist who said he wanted to put me on an anti-anxiety medication. I freaked because I didn’t want to be a person who was on medication like my mother had been on. Eventually, I gave in and took the medication. The anxiety went away, and then I really got to work in therapy. I worked my little fat tush off trying to get a hold of all this material, all the things I hadn’t remembered about the physical intimacy between me and Mother, because I had blocked all that out. I had no conscious recall of any of that. That all came up for me, and I had to deal with that. My kids were growing, and I was trying really hard to be a good mom, but it was really difficult. I wanted to spank them and I didn’t really think that was a good idea. I had been spanked, so my initial reaction was to spank. All these issues kept rising up, rising up, rising up.

Finally, I got to a point, when the kids were older, when Nicholas was thirteen and Alexander was fifteen, and I couldn’t take it anymore. A lot of time had gone by with me struggling with the depression, and they put me on Prozac. A lot of years had gone by with just trying. I’ve been in therapy for almost all of my sixty-four years, from sixteen to sixty-four, and I’ve always found it tremendously helpful. I’ve always worked really hard. I don’t just go in and tell a set of news-y stories, because I really believe in therapy as a way to help with depression, anxiety, bipolar, whatever. I personally find it very helpful, but you have to have a really good therapist, and they aren’t always so easy to find.

My kids got to become teenagers, and I started slowly just falling apart, little bit by little bit. For reasons I didn’t really understand, I got so depressed that all I could think about was killing myself. For the first time, I was really thinking about it a lot. My mother killed herself when she was forty-five, and I had just passed that marker in my own life. I had just turned forty-five, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

I wasn’t very good at [attempting]. I would have died, but I called somebody. My family saw that as me being very manipulative, because if I could call somebody, then it was “just a cry for help.” We all hear a lot of this “it’s just a cry for help” business. In some ways, it is a cry for help. It’s a way of saying, “I can’t cope anymore and I’m checking out.”

But I did call this other person. She got the police, the police came and got me, and I was checked in to the local hospital. I stayed there for two weeks. I was in the hospital where there were all these rules and regulations about what you could do and what you couldn’t do. I had gone in there out of my mind drunk and stoned. I woke up, I didn’t know where I was, I had all these sutures in my wrists, I didn’t have my glasses, and I was blind. I had no contact lenses and no glasses. I was feeling my way around. I couldn’t see anything.

I somehow found the nurses. I was still in my wet nightie. I found the nurses’ station and I said, “Where am I?”

She said, “You’re at Stanford University, on the psych ward.”

I said, “Well, how did I get here?”

She said, “Through the emergency room, in an ambulance.”

I had no memory of any of this because I was dead to the world when they found me.I had done this really terrible thing. My—now ex-husband, but my husband then—was gone. I was alone, but my kids were there. I had tried to do this with my kids in the house. The thing that I had always swore I would never let touch my kids, I had done while they were in the house asleep. I have a lot of guilt about that that probably will never go away. I mean, I’ve made my peace with it, but it’s still a killer.

They came to see me on the ward and I could barely look at them. I was really ashamed of what I had done. I was guilty about what I had done, and I hadn’t even succeeded, so I felt foolish and stupid.

Everybody sort of had this perspective, the way they had with my mom, that this was something I had elected to do out of weakness. You know, “Pull yourself up by your boot straps.” I know how calming that is. I mean, a lot of people have that element to their story.The ironic thing was that I understood this from the other side of the fence because I had lived with someone else who was trying to do this all that time, and I had once thought, “Pull yourself up by your boot straps.”

By the time my mother died, I was in a different place, and I kind of felt like she had a right to take her own life. I still feel that way. I feel like, if you’re in so much pain that reaching out to other people, taking your meds, seeing your therapist, trying to reach out to your friends and your family, and all of that is not working, you’re entitled. It’s up to you. You get to make that choice about whether you live or die. What I tell other people is: it should be a really hard choice. It should be something you fight against making, because you don’t have to go that way.

Those of us who are sitting here having survived, becoming intact, and going on to lead really fulfilled lives can say, “Hey, it doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to end this way. I know because I was there once and now I’m here. I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.” That’s substantially different than a doctor saying, “Lots of people get through this. You can too.” When you hear somebody else who was on the other side of the fence saying, “Yes, you can make it,” I found those kinds of stories and talking to people who had been in the same boat to be compelling and convincing.

But back then, I didn’t have anything like that. I had a family who was saying, “Why are you being spoiled? How can you do this to your kids?” I got a lot of guilt laid [on me]. I had enough guilt as it was, and it was like frosting a chocolate cake. It was about this thick by the time everybody was done with it all. That kind of launched me on this terrible path where all I thought about was killing myself. I just was totally undone.

By having made that one move, it was like I had stepped over a line, and I was no longer scared to follow that path. It was like I had opened a door. I didn’t want to do it again because I didn’t want to hurt my kids. I saw on their faces how terrible this was for them, but the self-destructive urge was still there.

There was nowhere for it to go, so I started cutting myself. Every time I cut, I felt better. It was like letting the poison out. It wasn’t so much saying, “I hate myself.” It was more saying, “I’m in control about whether or not I’m going to stick around here. It’s up to me. It’s my choice. It’s not anybody else’s choice. It’s my choice. I own this one.”

It’s a very warped way of thinking. To say you own your own life and you’re in a self-destructive place, then your answer is suicide. But if you say you own your own life and you’re in a good place, then you say, “I’m going to fight and I’m not going to give in to that.” So, I was trapped. I wasn’t ready to say, “I’m going to fight, stick it out, and get to a better place.”

I was too trapped in all those bad feelings of depression and anxiety, and then mania got added into the mix. I became very manic. I’d be running all around doing a bevy of shoe buying, to moving all the furniture around at five in the morning, to cycling in other directions, some of them very self-destructive and very hard to control.

I thought about suicide all the time, and I started planning. I started figuring out how I would do it. I did a lot of reading about the best way to kill yourself and how not to fail. I decided what I would do. I don’t need to go into the gory details. The point was I researched it, I figured it out, and I drove around looking for a place where I wouldn’t be found. I had a lot of pills, so I just started storing them up.

I was in the middle of being divorced, and I loved my husband. I didn’t want to be divorced, so it was killing me. We were separated, but he wasn’t willing to say that he was definitely going to go, so I was on this fence of, “Will he stay or will he go? Am I going to get through this? Does he love me anymore? Does anybody love me anymore?” I couldn’t talk to my friends or my family about any of this. It was all a taboo subject, so I felt totally alone with it.

The therapist I was seeing made me promise—we had a signed contract, written and signed—that I wouldn’t hurt myself in any way, including cutting. So, what did I do? I cut all the time and hid it from him, which went against everything I believe about therapy. As I said before, I worked hard in therapy. I was honest and I dug deep. And this was totally counterproductive, but it was what I did because I was desperate and I didn’t know what else to do. I was trying hard not to make another attempt, so I cut instead. At the same time, I was planning.

So, we had this contract, and the contract was that if I hurt myself in any way at all, he would terminate me. That was it. If you do it, boom, you’re out which, looking back, seems to be totally inhumane. If a person is desperate enough to try to kill themselves or to be cutting themselves, you don’t just say, “Oh, well. I’m not going to deal with you,” which is essentially what he was saying. He was saying, “I’m not going to deal with your problems,” and he was supposed to be on my side. So, I kept cutting.

My husband was gone. I was trying to take care of my kids. Finally, I had a rapid cycle with my mania where I went from being really high and excited, to two hours later, bang, down. That’s the whole trouble with mania. You feel so great, and then bang, you’re down on the other side. I was taking a lot of meds, but they weren’t helping. They were not in good balance. When I got to the ‘bang’ part of the equation, I took all my pills…I drove my car to the airport and parked in the airport parking garage on an end where there was nobody, where I knew they wouldn’t find me. I was totally serious. I wanted out.

I’d had this fight with my husband. I called him and said, “You have to take the kids now.” I wasn’t going to do it with them in the house, and I couldn’t leave them alone. He was furious. He came over and got them, and that was when I went to the airport, found a quiet space, and ate everything.

When I got really loopy from having eaten all that stuff and hadn’t passed out yet, I thought, “I haven’t said goodbye to the kids.” My judgment was really impaired because I was all woozy and on my way out. I called home and said, “I just wanted to say goodbye. I know this is a terrible thing I’m doing. I really love you and I want you to remember me a different way.” It was a terrible, terrible thing to do to them, to put them in that situation. I said goodbye, hung up, and I passed out.

What I didn’t realize was that the phone was one of those phones that you clicked into place on the dashboard. It was the very first days of cellular. It didn’t click into place, and it fell off the hook. My husband called the police.

Nicholas is just begging on the phone, “Please, Mom. Please tell us where you are. Tell us where you are,” and I wouldn’t.

The police said, “Keep her on the phone.”

Of course, I passed out and the phone fell to the floor, but someone had reported someone driving erratically outside the airport. The police drove into the loop that went around the parking structure and turned on their sirens. Then they listened on the other end of the phone, could hear their sirens, and they figured out that I was in the parking structure. Then they just went through the parking structure until they found me, but by the time they had found me I was almost gone.

I got incredibly lucky. They took me to the nearest hospital, pumped my stomach, filled me full of charcoal, and saved my life. But boy, I was angry as a hornet when I came to. I was furious.

My ex came to the hospital with the kids and I wouldn’t speak to them. I turned on my side away from them, and he said, “Linda, they need to know you’re alive.”

I said, “Well, I don’t want to be alive. Get them out of here.”

I stayed in the hospital. I committed myself for an extra two weeks beyond the two weeks. I stayed there for a month, and every day they would say to me, “Are you safe?”

I would say no, because all I thought about was getting out of there and killing myself.

I wanted to cut so badly, and they had taken everything away. One night, I had gotten underneath the bed and cut myself using the bed springs—that’s how desperate I was. Then, one night they left my watch on me and it had a prong on it, so I used the prong.

I was so desperate to die. I wanted to die in the biggest, deepest way there is.

They wouldn’t let me gountil I said I was safe, and something in me didn’t want to say that I was safe when I wasn’t safe. So I thought up this idea that I would say I was safe, because I could say I was safe for one day. The day they asked me, I said, “Yes, I could be safe for that one day.” I got out and I went home. All I thought about was killing myself again. I got together another stash and I drove around looking for a different place. I couldn’t find a good one. It’s hard to find a place.

My therapist terminated me and said he would try to help me find somebody else, but he came back and said, “Nobody wants to deal with a suicidal patient.”

I said, “But I need someone.”

He said, “Well, here’s a name,” and he gave me the name of someone. I went to meet her and I thought she was very cold, but I didn’t have any choice, right?

I needed somebody. I needed better medication, clearly, and I hadn’t found a place to kill myself again. I was kind of in the middle of everything. I wasn’t one place and I wasn’t yet in another place. I was sort of trapped in between.

I started seeing this woman and she started mixing my meds. I started getting better and I started once again working really hard. She said, “First of all, there is no contract. If you try to kill yourself, I will be here for you. If you cut yourself, I will be here for you. We will talk about these things, and there won’t be any limitation on talking about them, so you can be honest with me,” which was huge. We started trying different dosages of different drugs, and I got less manic. When I got less manic, I also got less depressed. It was like all these things started working in my favor.

I began to feel a little, tiny glimmer of hope that I wasn’t thinking about killing myself every minute anymore. I mean, a couple years went by. I’m kind of collapsing it time-wise, but things began to improve is really the way I should put it. It took a really long time. I was in a lot of pain for a long time. I started to trust her and I started to trust the idea that maybe I really could get well. What I wished I’d had was like a Suicide Anonymous where I could go, because my family still thought I was being a spoiled brat and not dealing with reality.

The meds were hard because, in the beginning, they were really sedating. Sedating was good, in a way, because it kept me from doing anything, but it was bad in another way, because I was having trouble talking and expressing myself. Working? No way. That’s the flip side of meds that aren’t quite right yet. But it did keep me from making any more attempts. I mean, a lot of the time I would just go to sleep rather than trying something. Even though it doesn’t seem productive to put people to sleep—and sleeping is a sign of depression so it’s easy to mix all this stuff up—some of the time, if I was feeling actively suicidal, it was a better alternative to go to bed and take a bath than it was to be sitting there cutting myself or swallowing a bunch of pills.

They have so much new information now about sleep and depression. Actually, there are genes for sleep and depression that are located in real close proximity. They’ve started doing studies. There are actually doctors who treat patients who are sleeping a lot as depressed because the genes are so closely linked. And again, that’s science. It’s not just somebody with a moody, blue period or something. We know so much more than we knew before.

Anyway, I slept a lot. I worked really hard in my therapy. We played around with the medications. I started getting better, and I stopped thinking about killing myself every day. It became kind of like a slow fade. There still were times where I would get really distraught. I still was dealing with a lot of depression. It wasn’t just like a magic wand, where suddenly everything got better.

I think I started writing Half in Love maybe three years into all of this, after my suicide attempts. It took me a long time to get back to a place where I could write about it. Then I would go down to my writing room, and I would write the same thing over and over again, in different words.I think I was trying to work it all out. The book is called Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, and it’s this story I’m telling today, but I wrote it because I wanted other people to know that someone else had gone through something similar. Not exactly the same, because the details are always different, but the story is all one story. Everybody’s story has this common thrust of feeling so bad about yourself and so low that you just want peace. To me, I wanted peace. I wanted it to stop. I just wanted to be in another place where I didn’t hurt anymore. Depression feels like a physical pain; it’s not just something in your head, it’s something in your body, too. I wanted to write about that.

Writing, for me, that’s the only thing I know of in terms of how to work things out. Apart from therapy, obviously. I started working on it, and I kept kind of writing the same things over and over because I was, as I said before, working though the idea that I had been that depressed and that I was slowly getting better. Really slowly. And that I was still alive.

What did it mean that I was still alive? Was it a good thing? Was it a bad thing? Would I fall back into the need for the peace that I saw on the other side of killing myself? Because I didn’t think of it as a bad place, I thought of it as a good place. I thought of it as somewhere where I wouldn’t hurt anymore. I no longer believed, at that time when I was suicidal, that staying alive wouldn’t hurt. It felt as if staying alive would always hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt anymore. All I wanted was for it to stop.

Then, as things began to get better, I began to believe that maybe there was some way I could stay alive and not have it hurt. I didn’t understand yet, but it was kind of like a little kid believing in a fairy land or Peter Pan or something like that. There was a glimmer on the horizon that maybe I could stay alive and be here for the good things and not have the bad things wringing me inside out all the time. Because that’s how I felt. I felt wrung out.

Little by little, things did start to get better. I finally did really believe. I was able to stop writing the same thing over and over, finish the book, and then, eventually, to go out and read aloud from the book, and talk to people about my story. I mean, I’ve gotten so much email from this book—people saying, “You’re telling my story. This is how I felt. The fact that you’re still alive gives me hope. I’m not alone. Someone else is out there feeling the same way I feel now, and if you got through it, maybe I can get through it, too.” The satisfaction that comes from having written something that affected and touched other people’s lives and helped them to hang on for a little while longer until they could get to a better place… that’s like magic. I’ve written a lot of things. I’ve written nine books in my career as a writer, and nothing has ever made me feel better than that. Better than a review, better than money—which I never make anyway—better than, just, anything. To know that you really reached people and helped is a really good feeling.

Now, I don’t really feel depressed anymore and I don’t feel manic. I don’t really get my nice high. I have to leave the high out of it. But I don’t have the low. The low was so painful and much more prevalent than the high anyway, because I really had bipolar depression, as opposed to being unipolar.I’m religious about taking my meds. I make sure they work. I don’t really have any side effects anymore. I have slightly shaky hands, but I’ll live with shaky hands for feeling good.

I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. I just picked up and moved from California here to Maryland, which is a huge shift I never would have been able to do before—to leave all the people, all the friends, people I know and love. I know how to get to the drug store. The things that give me anxiety—like trying to find my way to a new place—I’m having to do that over and over again here, and I’m able to do it. All the things that would have flattened me before, I’m managing.

I still see my therapist. We do a Skype thing. I have my sessions and she continues to prescribe for me, so I have my meds. I have a very supportive husband who’s very quiet and very stable—really, the opposite of me, because I’m kind of talkative and loud and noisy. We complement each other. I feel very grateful to be in the place I’m in today and to have such a great support system around me.

My sister lives here in Annapolis. One of the main reasons I moved was to be closer to her. She didn’t get at all what happened. She saw it as being self-indulgent. That was her word, actually—“self-indulgent”—when I tried to kill myself. I don’t think she understands, really. Even now, I don’t think she really gets it, which is hard, but I’ve elected just not to talk about that with her. There are so many other good things that I would be missing out on if I insisted about talking about that period of my life.

It’s sad to me that we can’t see eye to eye and share about that. I know, if I got really sick again, it would be really hard for her. Which is really scary to not know how supportive she would actually be able to be, but there’s so much strength now in the relationship. We have such a good time together that it’s become very joyful, and therefore, it’s worth it to me.I’m making a conscious decision not to talk about that stuff. She doesn’t want to talk about it.

On some level, I think she kind of can’t handle it. That’s okay, that’s where she is. There’s nothing that says I should be able to say, “C’mon. Let’s go, get over it.” That’s just as bad as my dad saying to me, “Why can’t you just pick yourself up by your boot straps?” It’s as if I said to her, “Well, why can’t you let go of Mother’s suicide?”

It’s not my place. It’s up to her to get to a place where she’s comfortable. She’s comfortable with the way her life is right now and not thinking about that part of things. I don’t have the right to make a judgment about that. She’s coping with it. She’s dealing with it. This is her way of dealing with it. If we can’t share that, is it such a tragedy? No, it isn’t.

I have other people I can talk to about it. I have a community of friends. I have a husband I can talk to about it. I have a therapist I can talk to about it. I don’t need to talk to everybody about it. I have hundreds of readers who are helped by the book who write to me. I kind of feel that part of me lives on through them—in terms of getting well, in terms of telling a story, being able to really have people listen and know that their story can be affected, know that they can have a different outcome. It doesn’t have to be suicide.

So, I let my sister be about this. I think that that’s also a sign of my growth, that I don’t have to shove my stuff on her. That I can say, “Your way of dealing with it is good for you. I don’t deal with it that way, but we don’t have to deal with everything in sync.” We get to share. We share a lot of the good things and the bad things, but she doesn’t like to read stuff that I write. I write a newsletter every other week that’s an essay where I kind of think about things in life. Sometimes I write about depression or about our childhood, sometimes I write about happy stuff. It just depends on what strikes me at the time, but she doesn’t want to read about that stuff. That’s okay, too. In the beginning, it was hard for me, but now I say to myself, “Let her live her life and find her joy where she can find it. I don’t have to beat her over the head with my story.” There are enough other people who want to hear it.

 

Des: I remember reading this line in your book about making a wound to match a wound. I know you were talking about your suicide attempt, specifically, when you wrote that line, but I feel like—with cutting, with all of it—that’s kind of what you’re trying to do.

Linda: They’re connected. The cutting is making a wound to match the wound on the inside. That’s a way of, instead of being numb, knowing that you’re there and hurting. It’s a way of balancing things. But you are right, and I’m not sure I even thought of it that way. I was making a wound of my life by making a suicide attempt that matched the wound that had come from so many years before, when my mother was making attempts and wounding me. Now I was wounding myself and making everything match up.

Des: I have a lot of similar experiences. That was something that I always told people: you’re trying to make something tangible, because then you’re not crazy if it’s tangible, right? A lot of people don’t understand the differences between self-injury and suicide, and when they cross over, it gets really weird. But I just love that line, and I thought it was really a perfect description of that experience, so I wanted to ask you about it.

Where do I want to go next? That idea of relief when you lose somebody to suicide, as a loss survivor, is controversial, I would say. I felt that feeling too, and a lot of people don’t like to hear that.

Linda: You’re talking about when I said I felt relieved when my mother died?

Des: Yeah, as a loss survivor. That feeling of relief. Talk about that, and if you’ve ever encountered any pushback from other loss survivors.

Linda: That’s interesting. I don’t know very many loss survivors.

Des: Really?

Linda: Is that right? No, that’s not right, but I’m blocking on it. Who else? I was just thinking of this. Well, I don’t know a lot of people, but I know of a lot of people, like friends who’ve lost people to suicide.

My mother’s sister killed herself also, some years after Mother killed herself, but I never was close to that aunt at all. I didn’t feel like I really knew her, so it was almost like an interesting fact. I didn’t have a whole lot of feelings about it.

When Mother died, nobody understood that you could feel relieved. Nobody. I mean, that didn’t even enter into the picture. Everybody thought I must be totally wracked by grief, and all I could feel was the relief. Like, “It’s over, it’s done. I don’t have to think about this anymore. I don’t have to worry about it or be hounded by it. The pain is over.”

In a way, the pain was over, because the pain was all that trying and sweating through, “Would she live or die?” Then, when she lived, having to go through the whole recovery process.Of course, she never really did recover. It was like a waiting period until she would try again. It was haunting.

I mean, as a kid, you need some kind of security, and there was no security. It was like balancing on the edge of a piece of glass. It was really, really hard. So, when we finally got to get down off that edge because the glass had shattered, then there was all the picking up of ourselves. There were wounds there too, without a doubt, but it was a huge relief. It wasn’t until many years later that I got past the relief and went back into a more standard kind of grieving.It took me a long time.

I really have a trilogy of memoirs. The first one was Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to my Mother Anne Sexton ,and that one is about coming to terms with forgiving her for the ways in which she wasn’t a good enough mom. Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide is my part of the story, legacywise. It’s about coming to terms with her death, which I never really did until I started trying to kill myself, and then I began to understand better what she’d gone through. Instead of thinking, “Why aren’t you picking yourself up by your boot straps?” I was thinking, “Oh, god. This is horrible pain. I get it now, Mom. I get it.” Yet, I had a different outcome to my story. I was able to work through it.

Now, I look back, she had no good medications. She had a therapist who slept with her and billed her for it, no less. For the time on the couch.

Des: Some ethical boundaries?

Linda: Yeah, exactly.Really bad. She had a lot of bad treatment. I was lucky I had a lot of good treatment. And we have medications now that they didn’t even begin to have back then. There’s just so much stuff, and in the hands of somebody skilled, it can make a huge difference.

A lot of people are kind of anti-medication. I’m pro-medication. I think because it worked so well for me and I’ve seen it work well for other people. I have a son who’s bipolar. I have a raft of people in my life who have psychiatric issues who take one thing or another. Nobody who’s been suicidal, but people who have been really, really depressed or really manic. Watching them struggle, then going and getting therapy in combination with the meds, and watching them get a lot better has made me kind of pro. But first of all, you have to take it, and bipolar people don’t like to take their meds because then they lose their high. That’s a hard thing to reconcile.

Des: It is.

Linda: But there’s nothing worse than the low. The low is just so bad. I couldn’t deal with the low anymore.

Back to your question… Yeah, the relief was huge. It just took me a long time. I kind of worked on it backwards. Relief usually comes for people later on. There’s the denial, the shock, the this, the that—those Kübler-Ross stages of grieving. I think they should write a new one for loss survivors. Your grief process isn’t the same at all as it is if someone’s died from a prolonged illness. It’s similar to someone dying from a prolonged illness, it’s just that it’s sudden.

Mental illness is such a prolonged illness, such a long road you travel down, and then you end in suicide. Bang, the end comes, and it’s precipitous. Whereas someone who’s ill with cancer may be ill for many years. You do a lot of saying goodbye, but there’s closure at the end because they don’t die overnight. This is more like a car crash. It’s an anticipated car crash. It’s like someone who was a really terrible driver who had accident after accident finally drove into a tree. That’s a terrible metaphor, but it’s kind of apt because you can see the person out of control, veering back and forth and getting worse and worse, and then suddenly…

Now, of course, there are people who don’t go through such a long period of time. I mean, there are teen suicides and all that that are much more sudden. That just wasn’t the case for me with my mom. It was a really prolonged process.

Des: I don’t want to harp on your mom, but I am interested in the relationship between loss survivors and attempt survivors, because I’ve had enough experiences talking to all the people who I talk to that I’ve found that loss survivors are often very angry at us for living, like, “Why did you live?” This relationship of having lost somebody and also having wanted to die so bad… they forget that we’re three-dimensional people who can have all of these experiences sometimes. I just want to explore that with you a little.

Linda: Well, what’s strange about it is, if you’re a loss survivor, especially if it’s a long period of time where the person is trying over and over, you know you’re angry in addition to being scared, especially as a child. Then they go and you’re relieved, but you’re still angry, because now they’re gone. You didn’t really want them to be gone, you just wanted them to stop doing what they were doing.

By the time my mother died, I wanted her to die, which is a horrible thing to say, but it’s the truth. I was done with it and I saw no way out, except for her to die. She was never going to get well. Of course, I didn’t know then what I know now, which is that we have so many different possibilities for people to get well that weren’t available then. It seemed like the only answer would be for her to die. All of us just wanted out.

I mean, there was one point where she had a friend who was a psychiatric social worker who was over one day, following another one of these very dramatic attempts. The social worker said, “You should be telling your mother how you feel about this.” I didn’t want to talk about it and she pushed and pushed. Finally, I just screamed, “I wish you’d succeeded.” My mother got down on the floor on her stomach and beat her hands and fists like a little kid having a tantrum, and then got up and ran out of the room. It was a horrible thing to have said; it was also the truth. She just kept pushing at me and I finally admitted what was true. I’m sure it hurt my mother very much. It’s one of those things where I wish I’d never been in that situation. It’s not that I regret having said that as much as I regret having been in that situation and been pushed in that way.

What a stupid person. I feel angry with her.

So, I think to myself, “Well, I see it from my own perspective as a loss survivor. Then I see it from my kids’ perspective of almost having lost me, and that’s a really scary thing for them.” That makes me feel guilty. I feel like it’s something I’ll never get over. I almost did to them what was done to me. I don’t want then to be loss survivors. They’re almost-survivors. I don’t want them to be full loss survivors.

It’s really hard to stand on both sides of the fence. It’s a weird position to be in. But that’s the reality of it for me.

Des: I feel like you’ve sort of answered this, maybe, but I do ask this of everybody, anyway: is suicide still an option for you?

Linda: Not right now. I won’t say it’s never an option because I’m scared. What if I backslide? What if I get depressed again? I know that that’s a route. Once you’ve examined that route, once you’ve driven down it—even if you took a detour at the end—that road is always there. You have to be ever vigilant that you’re not going to turn your blinker on and make that left hand turn. That’s what I think about that.

Des: It’s amazing. I thought when I started this project that the majority of people would say no. It’s not.

Linda: What do the majority of people say?

Des: Same answer as you. I’ve interviewed almost two hundred people. I ask that question because I feel like, when our stories were told before a few years ago, it was always, “You can recover and it’s better forever,” and I think that’s really unfair to us.

Linda: It is.

Des: I think these answers are more honest and they kind of teach us to be vigilant.

Linda: Vigilant.

Des: To know that we have to work.

Linda: I think you’re right. That’s exactly right. Vigilant, and we have to work. Because guess what? Being alive isn’t always great. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s horrible. Sometimes really bad things come around me.

I went through a period of depression maybe four years ago. My best friend died of melanoma. I got really down afterwards. I miss her a lot. Her dying process was truly terrible. It was a horrible way to die. As a young person, your body doesn’t let go easily, and it was really hard for me to go through that with her. I had to fight back from that for a little bit. Not that I was feeling suicidal. I wasn’t. But I was feeling down and it hurt.

I went to my shrink more often and worked a little harder. My little essay from my newsletter this past week was about burying the times you feel uncomfortable or in pain during life. Everybody feels those ways. You have to figure out a way to deal with it and live with it, because that’s part of everybody’s existence. In this day and age, we like for everything to go smoothly, be perfect, and not hurt. We don’t have much tolerance for any kind of pain. Whether it’s physical pain or psychic pain, whatever. We don’t have any tolerance for it. Because of that, we expect that people are going to solve our problems for us, or that we can take a pill and make it go away. That’s not how it goes. You just have to accept and live with it, and find some kind of serenity despite it.

Des: I’m interested in meaningful dates. I know that the age of forty-five was kind of a big deal. Talk about the intersection of your mom’s work, how important that date was as a loss survivor, and whether you feel like that affected your suicidality, specifically.

Linda: Well, forty-five was a huge turning point for me.

I actually was on tour for Searching for Mercy Street, and one of the interviewers, who was a total jerk to me, said, “Forty-five is going to be a big age for you. What are you going to do when you turn forty-five?”

I looked at him like, “What are you talking about?” and I came up with some bullshit answer.

He said, “I know what you should do.”

I said, “What?”

He said, “You should give a big party on your mother’s gravestone,” which was a really insensitive answer to his own question—plus, sick.

Anyway, I did not do that. But forty-five loomed in my mind because that was when she died. A month before her forty-fifth birthday, so for me, it was a huge turning point.

I wasn’t dealing with it, so it kind of caught up with me. Bang. I think it was just a huge date for me. I kind of couldn’t get past it in terms of how she wrote about raw issues, emotional issues, her illness, and all those things. I always saw that as a liberating factor for me. It meant that it was okay to write about this stuff, that it was important to write about it.

One of the things I meant to say earlier on, which doesn’t pertain exactly to this, but does link into it somewhat—she made it legitimate to write about those subjects. By doing so, she freed me to be able to write about similar things, to be open, and to allow other people in.

She said to me, “Never be a writer, Linda. I’ll follow you around like an old, gray ghost.” Of course, I ignored her and went on to be a writer. But she never said, “Don’t be a suicide.” I think about that a lot. Why tell me the one thing, but not tell me the other thing?

I wish she’d said that to me. I do. I say it to my kids.

Des: Maybe she didn’t really believe she would go that way.

Linda: Maybe she didn’t, but she was so determined by the end. Or maybe she didn’t want to give herself away. If she’d said that, then we would have all known and rescued her again. I mean, I don’t know. I’ll never really know why she didn’t say it. But I wish she had said it.

Des: I have one more question. I want to know what good things came from your experiences with loss and with your own attempt—with all of this suffering.

Linda: That’s a really interesting question. Nobody’s ever asked me that before. Everyone assumes that it’s all negative.

Des: It’s not. It can’t be.

Linda: I learned how to live a fuller life. I learned how to dig a little deeper and find pleasure where I thought there was no pleasure to be found, joy where I thought there was no joy to be found. I think it strengthened me as a wife, a mother, a friend. It really helped me to go on and find the best parts of myself, in the end. I had gone and nearly done this. It would have just destroyed my kids, so I think it enabled me to maybe love them even more, in a way, because I could really appreciate everything they were going through. I could just be different than what all that was. It taught me my potential. It taught me how I could grow to be a bigger, better hearted woman. A lot of different things like that. I can’t say I see it as some positive, wonderful thing that happened to me, but I do see that it has a positive aspect of having forced me to grow.

Des: How can we keep going if there is nothing good that comes out of this terror?

Linda: You’re absolutely right. And I sort of have it on both ends because, as a loss survivor and the trauma from that, how can you say something good comes out of that? Well, actually a lot of good came out of that, even though it was a very difficult traumatic experience. I lost somebody I really loved, but once again, it helped me to grow up, in a lot of ways. Had she remained alive, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. For better, for worse. I think for better, which is a really sad thing to say. It’s really sad to say that about your mom. I have fantasies about how, if she were alive and if she were stable, we would be friends as adults. She would teach me so much and I would teach her so much, but those are fantasies. Everybody has them, but they’re just fantasies.

 

Fel: I was thinking about what you said, when you asked why your mom didn’t say to you, “Don’t [be a] suicide?” I was thinking about how I don’t know that Des would think of it, either. I think it comes from a place of feeling—like you often say, Des—of feeling like no one else could possibly be feeling the way you’re feeling. Like, you couldn’t possibly be thinking of doing the same thing.That feeling of, “I’m the only one who could be going through this in this way.” To warn you would be to think that you could possibly.

Linda: That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But I would certainly say to anyone listening, don’t be a suicide. Don’t. Don’t let yourself down that way. In the end, you’re the one who pays. As much as everyone else pays, you pay the worst.

Linda’s story is sponsored by a grant from the hope & grace fund, a project of New Venture Fund in partnership with global women’s skincare brand, philosophy, inc. Thanks also to Crystal Wilson for providing the transcription to Linda’s interview, and to Sara Wilcox for editing.

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About Live Through This

Live Through This is a series of portraits and true stories of suicide attempt survivors. Its mission is to change public attitudes about suicide for the better; to reduce prejudice and discrimination against attempt survivors; to provide comfort to those experiencing suicidality by letting them know that they’re not alone and tomorrow is possible; to give insight to those who have trouble understanding suicidality, and catharsis to those who have lost a loved one; and to be used as a teaching tool for clinicians in training, or anyone else who might benefit from a deeper understanding of first-person experiences with suicide.

More Information

Tax-deductible donations are made possible by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization, which sponsors Live Through This. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Live Through This must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Please Stay

If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out to one of the resources below. Someone will reach back. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life.

Find Help

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and pressing Option 1, the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

If you don’t like talking on the phone, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741. If you’d like to talk to a peer, warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.

Live Through This is dedicated to the lives of so many friends and family members lost to suicide over the years. If you would like to add the name of a loved one to this list, please email me.

Live Through This is dedicated to the lives of so many friends and family members lost to suicide over the years. If you would like to add the name of a loved one to this list, please email me.