Norma Jean Dunning
I first published this on May 7, 2016, but sometimes I need a reminder things will be okay, especially right now. So, before you read, here's a warning. I talk about how I almost ended my life. If you can't handle that right now, I understand and I hope you know I love you all.
“When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, you know you have healed.”
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life,”
-explains Project Semicolon’s website.
These two sentiments have had a great impact on me and on my life. As I write this, I know I haven’t completely healed because I still cry. I cry thinking about the fact that I could have missed out on so much. For some they know my struggle daily; for others, even friends, they see a girl happy and smiling, but when I’m alone at night that’s not the case. For me, my journey almost had an ending point. I thought it was time that I started sharing more about me. I’m not a taboo. I’m not sick. I’m not broken.
Each day, I read a story or hear a comment about someone making fun of suicide or saying that it’s a selfish thing for someone to do, but until you are that far down in your life you will never truly understand how someone can think that ending it all could be the only way. If it wasn’t for a family member who told the world about her “invisible illness” I would have kept putting this off. Saying I’ll do it someday. But you never know if someday will ever come, so here is my story.
My entire life changed in a split second; with one phone call. September 18, 2010 will always hold meaning to me. My dad passed away on that day.
I took on an extra shift at work that day and I didn’t have my phone with me. I didn’t know anything was amiss until I got off work at 8 pm. I was leaving the building after gathering my stuff and looking at my messages. I knew something was off because both my mom and sister had been trying to call me for hours. I called my mom immediately. She picked up and I got nervous. Just by the sound of her voice, I knew she had been crying. I asked her what was wrong and she told me. She said that my dad had died. She told me my dad had been dead for hours by the time I got the information.
I was calm through the phone call. I was calm for a minute after I got off the phone and then it hit me. I let out a cry or a scream. To this day I’m not sure which. Then I just went numb. I went into planning mode.
I turned around, went back upstairs, and found the manager on duty. I told her my dad was dead and that I wouldn’t be at work the following week and if she wouldn’t mind letting the higher ups know. She of course did. I then went into the office and looked at plane tickets; too expensive. I was going to have to drive. But should I drive? There was no other way I was going to have to. I did have a couple of offers for people to drive me the three and a half hours to home. But I wasn’t going to burden anyone else. This was my dilemma to figure out. So, with my mind made up I went back to my apartment packed a suitcase and drove home at 9 pm.
During the packing, I canceled my weekend plans and told my friends I would be gone dealing with funeral things and taking care of my mom.
As soon as I got my car packed up, I took off.
Three and a half hours later, I ended up in my mom’s driveway. I sat in my car for a few minutes trying to get the courage to face this next point of my life.
Over the next few days, it would be trips to the funeral home, trips to the bank, trips to my dad’s company. I never thought all of the things you have to do in the case of a death.
We also held a wake at our house for those who wanted to pay their respects. His brothers and sisters came into town. My half-sister and half-brother did as well. I did so much baking during those times. It was something. I was doing something. I had something else to focus on.
My mom was put on anxiety meds, my sister went back to work after all the family left, and I was left to keep things afloat.
During this time, I dodged phone calls. Any texts I received got the “I’m doing okay. Just handling things at home. I’ll let you know if I need anything” response. I just couldn’t handle anything more.
When I finally made my way back to Manhattan, I was set to make everything okay again.
Let me skip a few months. Let’s say I somehow made it through with decent grades. Now it’s the summer of 2011 and I found out my mom had decided to move. It hurt when I found out because I was not part of the conversation. The decision was made and I was the fool who didn’t see it. I had been in my own world in Manhattan. Pretending everything was okay. Thinking the visits I was able to provide my mom was enough and the texts and weekly phone calls. But, it wasn’t. Life back in Dodge had gotten worse and I never had a clue. Looking back, I understand the decision. However, at the time, I felt betrayed and I felt abandoned. So with the loss of a second parent (in my mind), back issues, pain medication, school, and work, my entire world began to crumble.
I started sleeping far into the day. Missing classes. I made sure to go to work, but I was barely focused to do much else. I started making some bad decisions.
On the drives home at midnight, I would plan where the best place to go off the road. I went out drinking when I shouldn’t have. I went to work hungover. On weekends, I began downing my pain pills 15, 20, 28 at a time. There’s much I don’t remember, but my arm showed marks of where I was cutting myself.
At work, I made up stories until I hit the point where I realized I was broken and there was no way I was getting back to my “normal” self all on my own. Luckily, for me when I hit that rock bottom, I had the support of a few good friends who made an effort to get me the help I needed.
I went back to my psychologist, with the push of my manager and friend.
I was able to sit down with the people at student life and get my professors involved on a recovery. This was not only for my health, but on my school work as well.
After months of work and friends making sure I stayed on track, I made it. I made it to graduation. I made it to starting my life again. I made it to where I am now.
I realized why I took everything so hard all at once and I began facing the dark with more insight and realizations that I don’t have to hold the entire world on my shoulders.
Luckily, I made it through and I still have to fight my demons daily, but I’m doing well.
I’m not telling you this story for any sort of sympathy, or as an excuse for my actions in life. I wanted to tell this story because sometimes we forget that everyone has a story and everyone has their own demons. We need to be kind to one another.