Need Help?

Meredith Montoya

is a suicide attempt survivor.
this is her story

Meredith Montoya

is a suicide attempt survivor.

"I Survived a Suicide Attempt."

Meredith Montoya is a stay-at-home mom. She was 36 years old when I interviewed her in Albuquerque, NM, on October 07, 2014.

I’ve always been incredibly anxious. I’ve always been depressive.

Meredith Montoya is a suicide attempt survivor.

My first memories were filled with anxiety. I don’t really have any memories of my childhood where I wasn’t feeling anxious. That, on top of a very chaotic home life. I believe my parents loved me very much. I don’t believe they enjoyed being parents.

As a matter of fact, my mom has told me as much. She said, “I loved you very much, but there was very little joy I found in being your mother. I didn’t enjoy tucking you in at night. I didn’t enjoy making sure you had lunches packed. I didn’t enjoy the tedious little bits,” which is completely opposite from how I am. I love taking care of my kids. Love it.

So, on top of having anxiety and depression, I also had a mother who was very involved in herself. She grew up in a very chaotic, abusive household as a child. Her mother was schizophrenic, and that really was an issue. She went to go live with her father, who got remarried. I think that my mother always felt very alone being the oldest child. I think when she ended up having me, and got to a place where she was married and had some money and freedom, she kind of started exploring what it was like to go out, like, “Let’s go party on the weekends.” My father worked nights and he was really into being angry at my mother. It was this horrible circle. My mom wanted to go do her own thing, here’s a kid that’s full of anxiety and depression, and the dad was too busy being angry at the mom who wanted to go off and do her own thing.

I was kind of lost in the mix growing up. It got to the point where, when I got older, I was definitely seeking out validation from other people, whether it be friends, boys, or drugs. It was always just me, because I was not getting any kind of reflection of who I was, as a child or as an individual, back from my parents. They were too busy doing their own thing. I turned to my peer group to start looking. When you’re vulnerable like that, you have a tendency to attract people who want to take advantage of that situation.

When I started getting into my teenage years, I would mask my anxiety and depression with drugs. I’d be around people who really reflected back to me the way I felt about myself and the way I had learned to feel about myself as a child, which was almost a person without a voice. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with anxiety and depression—it has a tendency to rob you of your individuality. When you’re anxious, it’s hard to talk to people. It’s hard just to go out and just be yourself. How can you be yourself when you’re anxious about everything? You’re anxious about going to sleep; you’re anxious about waking up. How the hell are you supposed to figure out who you are, and how are you supposed to do that when you’re a teenager? Or an adolescent? I was just going out, wanting to see the reflection of who I was in them, except I was with people who were just terrible. I was picking out the worst of the worst. Looking back on it now, I can see that I was wanting people to tell me I was terrible, because that’s all I’d ever known.

On top of this untreated depression, things got really bad in my house between my mother and father. My mom was very involved in grassroots Internet. We’re talking like, the most basic of chatrooms. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen. My mother would lock herself away for, like, twenty hours. Every day, she would go into her room, or into her office, lock the door, and chat, chat, chat to people. She was gone from me. My dad, working nights, hating my mother—gone to me. I was able to do whatever I wanted. I was completely unsupervised.

Having the issues I was having and being completely unsupervised was a disaster waiting to happen. Lots and lots of bad choices.

Having the issues I was having and being completely unsupervised was a disaster waiting to happen. Lots and lots of bad choices. At one point, my parents cared so little they even let my boyfriend come and live with me and sleep in my room with me. There was no hesitation. One day, he was just there because I wanted it and they didn’t have the energy as adults to tell me no. They were too busy doing their own thing.

He comes and he’s living with me. I’ll give you three guesses what happened. It wasn’t too long after that that I ended up getting pregnant. Very early. Which was a blessing, because if I would have continued doing what I was doing, living like an adult, as a child, I would have ended up dead. I’m absolutely convinced of it. I always say my first born son saved my life. He saved my life because I was able to get off drugs and stop partying.

I shucked all the bad, negative people out of my life. But, then, where does that leave you? I was completely alone, and didn’t really have Mommy. Daddy… oh my god, if he didn’t really like my mother—I was certainly reflecting a lot of my mother’s behaviors—well, he certainly didn’t like me anymore. I honestly believe that, at a certain point, when he looked at me, he just saw her. And treated me accordingly.

There was no one. There was not one friend; there was no one around. I had my baby, and it was me and my baby. Then the postpartum depression came, on top of the anxiety from birth. On top of the chaotic childhood. On top of living like an adult when you’re fifteen. All of that on top of it. Boom. Here it comes, some postpartum depression. I think that was really the catalyst that pushed everything to the boiling point. I had a lot of postpartum depression. A lot of depression in general, and I don’t believe they’re the same. It didn’t feel the same to me. The actual depression that I lived with my whole life didn’t feel like the postpartum; they felt like two separate things I was dealing with at once. But at the same time, I never felt like going and getting help was an option. My dad was already so embarrassed of me. I remember him calling me a “Ricki Lake piece of trash.”

Des: That’s creative.

Meredith: “You’re just a Ricki Lake piece of trash coming home pregnant. My brother’s daughters—your cousins—they’re in college, and this is whatIhave?”

Fast forward a little bit more, I meet the man who is now my husband. I am not doing well. I have tons of problems from my past. I have this baby. I did graduate high school… barely. I’m not doing well. I meet him and we’re both really young. I think I end up getting pregnant with our second child on our first date.

Des: Damn.

Meredith: I was lonely. I was so lonely.

Des: And fertile.

Meredith: I was so fertile and stupid and oh… god. All of it together. What a mess. So, there it goes—another chaotic rigmarole with him. And he’s not sure if he wants anything [to do with it]. I don’t blame him, in retrospect. He just met me. A guy wanted to go out and be an actor. And now there’s me. I already have one baby, and now I’m pregnant.

I’m like “Hey, my family hates me. C’mon, let’s go get married and live together!” It doesn’t sound appealing to me, either. But man, I hung on. He fought and fought and I hung on. That was a really hard time of my life.

That’s kind of the theme. It’s just this kind of loneliness. I don’t have any brothers and sisters. There’s just nobody. My parents didn’t care. Now I got these two kids. What the hell am I going to do? Both of my parents just kind of bailed off to do their own thing. My mom did eventually meet someone on the Internet and got married to them. Locking herself away eventually paid off for her, I guess. My dad just bailed. He bounced out. Just went away. Then there was this guy who didn’t really want to be around me.

Two kids, and a bunch of postpartum depression. Do I go get help? No, no, no. Do I get myself together? No. I get pregnant for a third time. Have my daughter. More chaos. I always say now, I didn’t ever feel like there was a time when there wasn’t something chaotic happening in my life. In retrospect, I go, “That was me.” I was making choices that were bringing this upon me. Lots of people have hard childhoods. Lots of people grow up bad. Lots of people have bad relationships. Lots of people have kids out of wedlock. But not everybody keeps doing it over and over and over. There are choices that people make. I was clearly making ones that were just driving myself to distraction.

That’s the rub with depression. That’s the rub with anxiety. Until you get to a certain point where enough is enough, it doesn’t drive itself to positivity.

That’s the rub with depression. That’s the rub with anxiety. Until you get to a certain point where enough is enough, it doesn’t drive itself to positivity. It never does. If you keep barreling down that road, you’re going to go to a really bad place. I think that’s how people get suicidal. It’s this freight train that just keeps going. There has to be an intervention. There has to be that breaking point where you make a decision.

And I had not gotten there yet. So, what’s the next obvious thing? Again, three kids, sitting in a bunch of crazy. Do you get help? No. You get pregnant again.

By that time, I had done a good job of putting on a real nice mask over everything. Here comes my fourth baby. After four kids, I had gotten to the absolute worst of my postpartum/regular depression/anxiety. It was getting to that real deep, clinical kind of [depression], like, “Hey, I’m just going to lay in bed all day because I’m just tired. It’s just because of the baby. I can’t clean the house today; I’ve got four kids.” Motivation dropped. Everything dropped. I was riding this high of this crazy anxiety, and I would just peter out.

On top of that, blame. All the misery I was feeling was someone else’s fault. It was my husband’s fault for not being in the relationship enough. It was my mother and father’s fault for what happened when I was a kid and letting me go off alone with no guidance and no support at all. It was the school’s fault for not supporting me. It was my friends’ faults for not sticking with me. Everything was at war. Everything was blame, and you can’t live like that. When you blame people, it makes it their responsibility to make you feel better, and they’re people too. They’ve got their own bullshit going on. They can’t care for another adult who is absolutely losing their mind.

I was very angry. I was very depressed. There was a pattern, which was get mad, then stay up all night yelling at my husband. [It wasn’t] fighting, it was really just me yelling at him and him enduring it. It would last all night. We would be exhausted. It was circular thinking. There was no resolution, ever. He would literally just sit with me and I would wear myself out and fall asleep. It started out with once, then once every two weeks, then once a week. Once every three days. Then it was every night.

One night, we had a huge fight all night. I can’t even remember what we fought about. I was completely gone. It was the end. It was that breaking point I’m talking about. It was that broken track on the freight train. Something was gonna happen, it was going to end one way or another. I woke up that morning totally upset. He had gone to work.

It’s hard for me to remember. I don’t know if anybody else has that experience. It’s all kind of this foggy, weird, mushy memory.

Des: Like you can only remember bits and pieces.

Meredith: Yeah. Exactly. That’s why my story is kind of broken up and incoherent because it’s all post-traumatic stress. It’s all little bits and pieces, as much as I can remember, and trying to edit it.

Anyway, he goes to work, and I’m left with the kids. He knows how bad it’s been. I don’t know why a functional person would leave me in charge of children at that point. I manage to get the kids up and off to school and then I start calling him.

I was like, “What are you doing? Are we done with this fight? Are you divorcing me?! You never said anything about divorcing me, but are you divorcing me?!”

He said, “No, I’m not divorcing you.”

It was just insanity. I’m badgering, and I’m calling, calling, calling. Eventually he goes, “You know what? I’m done.” People can only be pushed so far in your own craziness. He goes, “I’m done. If you have anything else to say to me, call my lawyer,” and that was it. Boom.

That was the point I was like, “I’ve managed to destroy everything. My childhood was shit; my teenage years were shit; my twenties were shit; now this is shit. There’s nothing I touch that I don’t trash and destroy.”

That was the point I was like, “I’ve managed to destroy everything. My childhood was shit; my teenage years were shit; my twenties were shit; now this is shit. There’s nothing I touch that I don’t trash and destroy.” I have children, and I honestly thought to myself, “I need to go away from them. I need to go away from my husband. I need to go away from my family. I need to go away. What does that mean? Well, I don’t have any money. What, am I gonna go hitchhike and prostitute across the country? No, that means going away forever.”

At that moment, I made the decision. I said, “I think I’m going to kill myself.” It felt relieving. It was all finally done. My personal chaos, my misery I was putting on everybody, was going to be done finally.

I think my mother-in-law called because my husband had called her to vent or to ask if she would check on me or something, and I said, “No, I’m fine. I think I’m going to go ahead and kill myself. I think I’m going to go ahead and do that.” I hung up on her. In my mind, she couldn’t get in a car fast enough to come over and stop me. She couldn’t do anything—at least, that’s what I was thinking.

I decide that maybe I should hang myself. I’m looking around my house, but there’s not really a quick option for that. I’m like, “Okay, I get migraines.” The doctors love giving me narcotics, and I hate narcotics, so I had big bottles of them just sitting around. I was like, “I’ll just take a bunch of narcotics. The romantic will just drift off to sleep, and they can deal with whatever.” I pound a bunch of narcotics, and I sit. I look around my house, and it’s trashed, because I’m depressed and I haven’t been cleaning.

Something clicked. It was the weirdest thought. It was like, “People are going to come in here and see how messy my house is. That’s really embarrassing.” And I was like, “Hmmm…”

You have that one thought and it throws off the process a little bit. I thought, “Okay, maybe I won’t kill myself, but boy, did I take a bunch of narcotics.” In my mind, I’m going, “It’s going to be like one of those ‘between the bridge and the water’ kind of moments you hear about when people jump and they survive. They say, halfway down, “Oh my god, I’ve made a terrible mistake.” That’s going to be me. I’m going to actually die. You’ve done it now, Meredith. It’s actually happening now. Are you ready for this?”

The next thing I know, I’m walking down my hall, because I thought, “Maybe I’ll go purge.”

I hear “Freeze.” I turn around and there’s police. They pull their guns on me. He says, “Freeze. Turn around.”

I must’ve been going into a narcotic whatever—getting stoned and high—because I didn’t hear them come in. They must’ve beat my door down. They come down, they’ve got their guns drawn on me, and they tell me to get on my knees. I get on my knees, and they tell me to get my hands over my head.

What happened was that my mother-in-law had called 911 saying that I was suicidal. Maybe they were afraid I was trying to do suicide by cop, and that’s why they came in with such force. I don’t know. They proceeded to handcuff me to a chair. They went all around the house. They kicked doors open. I’m really glad that they didn’t shoot my dogs, because I had big dogs at the time who were freaking out.

I’m starting to feel like I’m going to pass out because I’m full of drugs, and the cop kneels and says, “Well, you didn’t leave a note.”

I shake my head and he goes, “Well, tell me why you did it. Why did you do it? Why did you try to kill yourself? Why? Tell me why. Now.” I’m handcuffed to a chair and he’s trying to ask me why I tried to kill myself. I think he thought I was really going to die and he wanted something to tell my family. I don’t know.

Eventually, EMT comes in. They get me on a stretcher; they do the walk of shame out the front door, and they’re doing it too, asking me, “Could you tell us why you did it? Tell us why. Tell us why. Tell us why.”

How do you do that? I’m having a hard time even telling you a coherent story about my whole life right now, much less telling them why, in that moment, I did it. Plus, later, I thought, “I kind of feel like they were getting a kick out of it,” like maybe they were saying, “Here we go again. Want to place a bet? Want to see why, what could it be?”

I think I said, “I told my husband I wanted to kill myself or something and he told me to talk his lawyer.” They were all talking to each other. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital.

My husband was sitting next to me, and the veryfirst words out of my mouth were, “It’s not your fault.” Very first words out of my mouth.

I woke up a completely different person. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what the switch was in my brain. But when I woke up, I knew that anything that was going to happen in my life from that point on was going to be my choices, my decision, my responsibility. People’s reactions to me, things that they quote unquote “did to me” that I didn’t like—all of that was just reactions to my behaviors.

In that moment, I gained all of my power back. I gained it all back. I had gone through my whole entire childhood with no identity. With being no one. I was not my parents’ daughter; I was not anyone’s brother or sister. I had practically no family around me. I was just no one.

But when I came out of that, I said, “I belong to me. I am for me. I love my children, and I’m their mother, but I don’t belong to them either. I belong to me, they belong to themselves, they are individuals.”

The whole thing taught me that even when I was in the depth of it, I never treated my children the way I was treated when I was growing up. They never knew I was depressed. They didn’t even know that this happened. They don’t know. Period. This is literally one of the first times I’ve ever talked about it. I took a lot of pride in that and I built on that. I said, “I did that for someone else. Those were the good choices that I made, and there are so many more that I can make.”

It got me a little heady for a while. When you’re feeling empowered and people challenge you, it’s really easy to go, “Nope. Boom. You’re cut off. I’m full of personal power, and you go over there now because I’m not going to take any bullshit from anybody anymore.” So I kind of came in like, “Woosh,brr.” I was cleaning up my life and getting rid of people. I had to pull that down a notch too, and learn a balance.

It was no surprise to anybody that I was that low. Yet, there was no one there talking to me about it.

It was no surprise to anybody that I was that low. Yet, there was no one there talking to me about it. So, with what I know now, I want to give somebody [the chance] to know that things might not get better, but they can change.

Des: Talk more about the postpartum depression. What that feels like, what the difference is.

Meredith: The difference for me between my depression and my postpartum depression was that depression felt like who I was, and I was kind of used to the feeling. I won’t even go into it. People who are depressed know how it feels, and you can’t explain it to people that don’t have it, so I’m not going to bother. You all know what I’m talking about.

Postpartum depression felt like there was more of an edge to it. It felt more chemical than regular depression because it comes on so quickly. When the baby is inside you, you have one set of hormones. The baby comes out of you, you have a whole other set of hormones rush over you. It felt more raw. It felt more visceral. It felt hungrier. The depression itself felt hungrier. Like it was asking more from me because I now had a baby. You’re the sole caregiver… I mean, as a mother, you feel like you’re the sole caregiver of this little life, so your depression and your anxiety all of a sudden feel like there needs to be an action happening. But there’s no lion under the bed coming out to eat your baby. There’s no lion to kill; there’s no action to be had. There’s just anxiety and depression that’s out there. It’s in the ether somewhere. Fight-or-flight kind of response. You always feel like something has to be done. “There’s a problem and I have to fix it.” There’s no real problem and that can lead to despondency. You’re like, “What do I do now? There’s a problem I can’t fix. There’s a baby I love and I can’t help it the way it needs to be helped.”

For me, that was the difference between postpartum depression and regular depression. It doesn’t just go away in three months. It doesn’t go away in a year. It lingers.

After my attempt, I got on antidepressants and within ten days I felt better. It was a difference between almost dying and ten days to feel better. That’s craziness. I wish there would have been more resources for me. Besides, “Of course you’re depressed, you have this newborn baby.” Or the second time around, “Oh, of course you’re depressed, you have a newborn baby and a one year old.” “Well of course you’re depressed, you have three kids.” “Well, of course you’re anxious, you just had your fourth child.” As if it’s some sort of, “It’s just status quo for a woman to feel anxious after you have a baby. Of course you’re tired.”

There was nobody talking to me about that. Nobody. As a matter of fact, not even after my attempt [when I went in]—because I did get therapy eventually—not one person talked to me about postpartum depression. Not one person. It was all, “Yes, you’ve had a very rough childhood, we can understand anyone would be depressed. Here’s some antidepressants.” And now you feel better.

Postpartum depression is a doozy.

Des: Yes, I can’t even begin to imagine. What did people say to you after that? I’ve now interviewed a couple of moms who had postpartum depression, and their experience—or some of the people who have read their stories have been like, “Because you have kids, how could you? 

Meredith: Right. Absolutely.

Des: Did you have that experience?

Meredith: Oh, yeah. Well, one thing—and I don’t know if it’s anything you experienced—but when you do try to [die by] suicide, sometimes your experience doesn’t become your experience anymore. It’s about how it made other people feel. That was the big thing. It was never, “Oh, you did this thing.” It wasn’t, “Wow, you must have been hurting. Your chemistry must have been off. You really needed help. Wow. Well, come on, let’s get on this. Let me give you a hug and let’s get on this together.”

It was, “How could you? Shame on you! Look what you did to me.Look what you did to them.Look what you did to this person!” And I don’t have a good answer. Suicide is a kind of a one-person thing. It wasn’t me and, “Oh, all my kids are here, too. Let me take a poll and see who wants me to be around.” It’s not like that. It’s an act one person does, and it doesn’t involve other people. When I was in that moment, it was me, it was my regret, it was my guilt, it was my sadness.

If anything, when I thought about my children, I thought, “A dead mother is better than this mother, because this mother is fucking crazy.” I didn’t want them to have to go through what I went through. No. Unfortunately, that thought is counter-intuitive because who would have been right there along raising my kids? That’s the only thing I can tell people, and people don’t like that answer.

Des: I think that’s a good fucking answer.

Meredith: Yeah. Like I said it’s not about other people. That’s their experience with me, but it can’t be my experience. I can’t live or die for other people. I have to do it for myself.

 

Des: You’re keeping an eye out for [depression and anxiety in your kids], but they don’t know [about your experience]?

Meredith: There’s no point in me telling a ten year old. My youngest son isn’t going to be able to process this kind of heavy information. I can’t even process it. I’m trying to tell you my story and I’m getting confused by it, much less me being able to tell a ten year old. He’s not going to be able to process it.

Des: What about your oldest?

Meredith: My eighteen year old? Yes. We’ve definitely started talking about those issues. It’s my job now, like I said, not to blame, not to point fingers. It’s my job as a mother to frame it in a way that’s going to help him. It’s not about me going out and saying, “Look what happened,” or, “It’s a hard-knock life,” behind me, as I’m telling my story. It’s not about that. I have to frame it in a certain way, and I have to deliver it in a certain way, with honesty and love. We’ve started talking about it. His brother is only a year younger, and we’ve talked about it, too. But not to the extent that I’m talking to you.

Des: This is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Are they talking about the kids at their schools going through these sorts of things? Like how much does your ten year old know?

Meredith: He talks about bullies. I think he talks about sadness, maybe. Like, “This boy is a bully, and he’s been a bully since kindergarten.” We’ll talk about it, and we’ll come to a conclusion. He’ll say, “You know, it’s really sad. I think he is really sad.” It never really gets to the point of, “Well, maybe he’s depressed.” But we definitely are instilling empathy in him. As far as I can tell with my older kids, nobody is talking about it. Nobody. “Oh, how uncool! How uncool to be sad! How uncool to be depressed! That’s the sort of thing that people do to get attention. It’s not real.” Things haven’t changed that much since you and I have been in school, I’m sure. It’s human nature. 

Des: It’s just easier to torture your friends now, because you can do it anonymously.

Meredith: Oh yes, absolutely.

Des: It’s just one of the things I think about: how can we get this in the schools? How can we get people to talk about this? I’ve interviewed a hundred-something people now, and I’ve heard people saying they thought about killing themselves at seven years old. We’ve got to teach these kids something. It drives me nuts. Especially here, the suicide rate’s really high here. What’s going on?

Meredith: I don’t know. It was kind of heartbreaking when our friend killed himself. My husband got to break the news to our little community of friends or whatever, and he told me, “Only you and two other people had a reaction. I would expect when your friend kills themselves…” [That reaction] was sobbing and feeling so sad, and I remember saying, “We let him down as a group.” Because, you know, blame.

Other people’s reactions were like, “He was pretty messed up. Kind of saw that one coming.” It was this cavalier kind of, “Yeah, well, that’s what happens when people are messed up.” That was the term people liked to use. “He was messed up. He was doing messed up things, he was a messed up person, and, yeah, not surprised.” Like it’s an expected outcome that you all just sit back, you’re eating your chef’s salad one day, and you’re like, “Oh, yep. He did it. There you go. We all kind of expected it.” And you just shrug and watch Maury.

It was heartbreaking to me. Then people did the whole, “Well, let’s remember him. I like to remember him this way, when he was happy and he made everyone feel good.” I thought to myself, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Des: So, did you hand their asses to them?

Meredith: It’s very difficult. Like I said, how can you explain things to people who have never experienced it? It’s not fair to you, and it’s really not fair to them, to have that expectation. They just don’t know. It’s not stupidity, it’s ignorance.

Des: How do we change that though?

Meredith: I think doing what you’re doing is a good step. Putting a human face to a story. I’m sure there’ll be looky-loos. People just want to see what it’s like. “Let’s just go click on Meredith and see… oh!” I’m fully expecting that. But the more you talk about it, the more you put it out publicly, and the more you remove shame from the situation. What’s the one thing that keeps people from talking about anything? Whether it’s weight gain to plastic surgery, to… it’s the shame factor. You have to start stripping shame away.

I think if you’re talking about young people, that’s very difficult. Young people feel embarrassed about every aspect of their lives. My daughter was horrified because she had a blue stain on her tights, and had a total complete breakdown because someone might see a quarter-sized blue stain on her tights. Now magnify that. It’s not a blue stain, [it’s] “I want to kill myself.” I don’t know how to walk over that bridge. I don’t think anybody does yet, but I think we’re getting closer.

Des: I wanted to ask about your husband. How did he handle it?

Meredith: Well, my family, almost all the way through, did almost the exact same thing. You handle it by going, “Okay, you are crazy. I’ll deal with that. Okay, you tried to kill yourself, but you’re alive, so… it’s over?! Okay, well… it’s over now.” I remember, like a few days later, the new installment of the Star Trek movies came out. “Do you want to go see the movie now? Are you ready? Can we go?” I remember being like, “Yeah, I wanna talk. Can we talk about it?” “Nope, let’s just go. Let’s distract ourselves.” Then it faded away into nothingness. Except occasionally my mother is like, “If you ever kill yourself, this is what it’ll do to me.” I can’t blame her for that. That’s her process dealing with it, and her fear. But other than that, there is zero conversation about my suicide attempt. There’s zero conversation about my depression. There’s zero conversation that happens. That’s why I said it was my choice—I knew at that point I had to be me.

Des: So, what happens when this story comes out a year from now? Because it’s going to take a minute.

Meredith: Well, you know what? Like I said, I’m incredibly lucky at this point because I am no longer afraid of challenges. It’s my life too. I have a right to tell my story. It’s not all about making other people comfortable all the time. Sometimes you have to shake things up when you want to try to do something that’s right. People will have to deal with that. It is what it is. Nobody can deny what the past was. The past was what it was. Everybody involved, and everything I’ve talked about, happened. It happened. I almost died. This is a story I want to tell because I know there are so many more people like me. So many more. One, just two weeks ago, died. I mean, he was a friend. They’re all around us. It’s everywhere. If I can’t tell my story, and if I can’t be honest, and I can’t say, “People need to be open and strip away shame,” then how can I expect anyone else to be? You can’t.

Des: It’s true. Do you think that the medication saved you?

I think that the choice to get medicated saved me.

Meredith: I think that the choice to get medicated saved me. I do know that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, and once that was able to get under control, I was able to finally start harnessing other stuff. Harnessing guilt. Harnessing the anger. Go to therapy and you’re able to start working through it, but first thing was first for me. It’s not for everybody. For me, it was. I’ve actually been off antidepressants for a while. I’ve had tragedy in my life, I’ve had hard times, I’ve been broke, and I’ve been able to go through it all. I felt sad, but not depressed. In the end, my therapy and my choices worked out for me. Now that doesn’t mean that, in the future, if I feel like I have to go back on anything—in a New York minute. I mean, in a second I will go back on antidepressants. I have no shame. That’s how it felt for me.

Des: Yeah. Have you had any issues with the mental health system, with getting medication, getting the right medication?

Meredith: Yeah. Right off the bat—nobody’s fault—but my psychiatrist had a horrible stroke, so I was kind of left. You know what it’s like. You have to go find a new doctor, you have to make an appointment, and you have to tell the story, “but I have this medication, and I need refills.” That was nobody’s fault, but that was the first roadblock. I’ve done everything from, “This medication isn’t working for me. I need to come in and talk to my doctor about getting it changed.”

“Oh. Well, how’s a thousand years from now?”

“That doesn’t really work for me, can I talk to her nurse?” You have to start learning how to go around and find different solutions.

I just had an issue recently, right before I went off of my antidepressants, which was a plain miscommunication between my pharmacy and my doctor. Tried to call my pharmacy, to call in to get my prescriptions, and they said, “Oh, the doctor doesn’t even work there anymore.” Of course she did. Trying to deal with that took a couple of weeks, so I was off my medication for a couple of weeks.

Cost was a big one. I had one prescription was that was eighty-five dollars a month, and then it was gonna bump up to like a hundred-and-something, so you have to change [medications]. What if that was really working for you? Now you have to go on this little merry-go-round trying to find what’s going to work again because I can’t pay nearly a car payment for anti-depressants. Luckily, my most recent antidepressant was three bucks. That’s with insurance. That’s not even through Medicaid or something through UNMH or anything like that. That’s with insurance. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like [without insurance].

Des: If you were to get suicidal again, would you call the police, would you ask for help?

Meredith: You mean like, now I’ve gotten depressed and now I’m in the exact same position I was in? Yes, I think. Knowing what I know, and having seen the light, having seen the other side, hallelujah. I think when you’re in that situation where they say that you’re a danger to yourself, you kind of have to think of yourself almost as the serial killer in your head. If there was somebody out to get you, you would run screaming into the street and begging for help, right? That’s the way I kind of think of it. If I was going to hurt myself, I would probably run screaming into the street for help again. I would find any exit to get to safety.

Des: You would relive that experience with police?

Meredith: Or die?

Des: Okay, wait. Let me reframe. Who would you go to? Who should be the first to respond?

Meredith: I see what you’re saying.

Des: Yeah. To me, hearing that story, it sounded traumatizing.

Meredith: Yeah. Oh, yeah. And you know what’s really weird? Talk about who we are as egotistical beings. What I felt was embarrassed. “Oh my god, what if I meet these people out in public again? Oh god, this is embarrassing. Ugh…oh, here were go. God. What if they know my kid’s teacher? Argh. Here we go.” But if I was ever in that position again, I would not be angry if someone had to intercede to save me from myself at that point. I mean, I don’t agree with what happened at all. However, I don’t know what protocol is for them.

Des: There’s been a lot of talk about it, because police do traumatize people. I have a similar experience, and it’s kind of like, how can we change this? People who are suicidal don’t necessarily need to have guns pulled on them, it’s already pretty bad.

Meredith: What I told myself was the “suicide by cop” thing. If they came in and saw this person suicidal, automatically for them that means that they’re batshit insane and they can go off, and I don’t know, gun us all down at some point, so we better come out with guns a-blazing.

Des: That’s terrifying.

Meredith: That’s the only thing I can think. Other than that… Yeah, what an experience.

Des: You are a forgiving woman.

Meredith: Yeah, well. What are they gonna do? Might punish somebody?

Des: It’s just something that freaks me out. But some people have crisis teams to go with the police.

Meredith: Yeah, no. Not this time. 

Des: It would be good if we all did that, right?

Meredith: But that’s money, to have a crisis team right there at beck-and-call. No, you have to have your giant tank, and you have to have your military-grade gear… come on. Crisis team… psh… that’s soft science. Come on.

Des: Do you still have suicidal thoughts?

Meredith: No. I wouldn’t say [that]. Like I said, I get sad, and I get worried. Suicidal like that? Knowing the difference? I would say no.

However, when a recent, large celebrity [died by] suicide and everyone was talking about it, I told my husband, “It’s almost like people that have gone through this experience have a spiritual umbilical cord. We all are attached through this experience to one another. A level of knowing. I can look at you, and I don’t know your experience, but there’s some level of knowing. When you look back at me, it’s the same thing.” So, when it was on the TV, and it was soeverywhere, and all the gross details were coming out about it, I felt that feeling again. I knew that despondency. I knew that he had kids, too. [I knew] that feeling of, “I’m better off away than hurting people anymore,” or whatever his reasons were. I could feel that. It did bring back a little bit of that; it brought me down to that place. Not that I felt suicidal, but I remembered.

Same thing with our friend recently, too, you know what I mean? I cried because I imagined that moment and I knew what it felt like. When people are going, “Nope. Well, we knew.” But I knew how bad it was in that moment and my heart was so broken for him.

Des: You said you had kids. What did you think about him killing himself when he had kids?

Meredith: Robin Williams?

Des: Yeah. Did you have any friends or anyone who was like, “Oh, well he had kids?” What did you say to them?

Meredith: I’ve learned my lesson. Before, I’d be like, “Hey, let’s look at this. Let’s break this down.” They’re just like, “Well, I’ve been sad before.” As soon as they say things like that, you know you can’t. They’re not ready. They’re not in a place where they’re going to be ready to hear it. You’re not going to preach to them. They’re not going to have a hallelujah moment here in your testimony and run out and volunteer at a suicide hotline. It’s just not going to happen. Those are people that have a very specific way that they think. They were probably raised that way. In a ten minute conversation you’re not going to change it. That’s why doing this, you put a face to it, and say, “Hey, remember when you told me all that stuff? Well, guess what? I’m the girl that you love, and your kids love coming over to my house. I’ve been through a whole bunch of stuff, and I came out, so what do you have to say about that again?”

Des: Do-over?

Meredith: Yeah.

Des: What did you think about the coverage of the whole Robin Williams thing?

Meredith: It was gross. For sure. It was indulgent. I understand people want to know details. It’s kind of like not being able to look away from a wreck. Why do people do that? As a human, you want to see the humanity. Good and bad and the ugly. That’s the ugly humanity, and you want to see that. I think people wanted to know. They wanted to see his absolute rawest piece of humanity, down to how he did it, how long did it take? All that gross stuff. What time of day was it? They can frame it, imagine it in their mind. And he becomes very raw, emotional. I don’t know why, as people, we like to do that. Maybe we’re trying to learn something about ourselves in those moments. Definitely, the media didn’t do anyone any favors. We are all at risk of having all of our most intimate, personal details just smeared everywhere, outside of the context of how we frame it. 

Des: What kills me about it is, we are interested in knowing those details, but we don’t want to know why it hurt. Why it hurt so much that he went that far.

Meredith: Oh, but people think they know because he was [crazy], right? “He was unhinged. He was crazy. That’s why he was so brilliant, because he had this chaotic mind. You couldn’t have one without the other.” They start into that whole rigmarole. People think they already know, and that’s the problem. Thinking they can sum it all up with one word which is, “unstable,” or, “crazy.” “Unhinged.” “Not with it.” Whatever.

Des: By the time it was all done, by the time they got tired of talking about it, did you think that it was time for it to be done, or did they need to do more? How would you have changed it?

Meredith: Changed the conversation?

Des: Any of it. If you were in control of the media coverage, what would you have done?

Meredith: I don’t even know. I can barely make a grilled cheese sandwich, much less answer this question. I guess [I would] make it about resources. It was a good platform to start having a conversation about suicide and suicide prevention. I almost don’t like the term suicide prevention because it’s like, “Oh, there’s this one moment, and we’re going prevent that.” It’s not the twenty years of stuff behind it.

Yeah, I think they could have done more in that capacity, and then continued talking about it. It was the fad. Now it’s over and, “What’s Kim Kardashian wearing today?”

 

Des: Last question. And you did answer, but give me a little more meat. Is suicide still an option?

Meredith: I believe suicide is an option for everyone, because it’s a choice. Whether or not I’m going to take that choice, as of right now, I would say no. No. I told my husband, for the first time in my life, even with all the crap that we’ve been through, I said, “You know what? I really feel like things are going well. We’re getting through this, and we’re moving through the obstacles of our life, and we’re winning. We’re getting over the hump.” So as of right now—because I don’t have a crystal ball—no. No, suicide is not an option. Suicide is not an option right now, but it’s always a choice. It’s a human option. It’s not just me or you, because we’ve been through shit, and we have anxiety… it’s a human option. It’s a Robin Williams option. It’s your neighbor down the street option. Hell, it could be your mom or dad, or your kid. It’s a human option. And that’s what I think people don’t understand. “Oh, well, it’s not me.” Yeah, it is. You never know.

Meredith’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 Taryn Balchunas for providing the transcription to Meredith’s interview, and to Sara Wilcox for editing.

Want to support Live Through This?

Live Through This is made possible in part by donations from incredible humans like you. If the project moves you and you have even a single dollar to spare, please consider donating. Every dollar donated goes straight back into the project. These funds allow for gear, web real estate and hosting, travel associated with the project, professional fees, conference attendance, and more.

For more ways to support Live Through This, be sure to check out the store, join in on the #STAY campaign by sharing a picture of you in your Live Through This gear, and subscribe to our mailing list!

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.