My Mum has tried to kill herself twice now, both times by over dosing. She last tried this two years ago, in the middle of my A-levels, because she'd found out that the man she was having an affair with had lied to her. I felt it was purely the act of someone throwing a temper tantrum having not got their own way.
But it wasn't always like that. Her first attempt was the result of years of torment and anguish about feelings over which she had no control - such is the nature of depression.
Anyway, I'm writing this to try and explain how it feels for those around suicide. Two friends told me a couple of years ago that I needed counselling because I'd dared say that I wished my mother had been successful the second time. Does that shock you, too? I can't imagine why it would - I can't think of anything more normal. Of course, I don't want to have only one parent, I can't comprehend a reality in which I can't phone her or couldn't visit her or in which everything we did or could do would be relegated to the past tense.
But then, at least it would be over. All those times I'd sit in my room and hold my breath as I held the door open a jar, trying to work out whether she was crying in her bedroom, or whether it was the wind coming down the chimmney, or one of the dogs yelping in the yard. If she was going through an especially bad patch you might have hours and nights like this. It would be passed midnight, but somebody was moving about downstairs. Would it be her? With pink dressing gown and purple slippers, shuffling around, her eyelids sticking together with tears and a damp tissue in one hand?
There was one awful night when my father, sister and I came downstairs to find her crying in the sitting room. But ths time she wasn't pathetic and tired, she was angry. She dared each of us to come near her and try and touch her - there was no maternal love there, she hated us and screamed at us like a cornered animal. She knew we all just wanted to control her (she said), because we weren't happy with how she was and wanted to change her. She was going to teach us a lesson. The police were called and she pointed at us and asked whether they saw what she had to put up with. Then they made her feel guilty and we had to tell her that we didn't blame her and we understood. I went to bed at two in the morning, my knees banging together, pulled to my chest. At seven thirty the following morning I had to get on the bus with my school back-pack and pretend that I'd had a normal evening - no I wasn't tired, I'd just found the homework trickier than normal. You can't talk to people about it, because mental illness scares people - even if you're not the one ill - the fact that you know or live with someone like that means you must be a bit funny too, or else why would they be like that?
Then, when she left and moved out - it still didn't really get any better, because if you couldn't get hold of her you'd wonder whether she'd gone out, or gone to bed with a bottle of Paracetamol. I remember spending one whole evening, driving around the countryside, looking for her car at her favourite walking spots and drawing pictures of what I might find when I got there.
I know that this all sounds desperately selfish, and it is really. It's just me wanting to find a way of moving on from it. And this is why I hate myself ... because I almost envy those whose loved ones have killed themselves. They don't sit up afraid of when it's going to happen again; they don't have to make decisions based on how long it will take them to rush home. They have something to tell people - because it's final - everyone can sympathise with those who have a dead relation. But when you're Mum has only tried to kill herself people will be sympathetic, but they'll always wonder whether YOU did something to make this wonderfully giving and cheerful woman try something so awful. 'What do you do when the front door closes that reduces your mother to that?' They'd never say that. They just think it.
And what do I say to her? The second time I refused to visit her in hospital, I was just so angry. You're pulled in two different directions, because you know what you really feel - but they're still alive and now are in a worse state then before, so you have to feel a certain way too. I wanted to hug her and make it all better, but knew I couldn't. When I was twelve and waiting for her to come home from hospital, the first time, I spent the whole day tidying the house. I somehow thought that if she came back to a tidy house and somewhere she wanted to live in then she might want to live. I wanted her to see that we still loved her. But then you also want to shout. Why did she want to shut her eyes and never open them to you again? Why did she lie and promise she'd never do it again? I remember the half term, February 2002, two weeks before she took all the Paracetamol and Prozac, washed down with all the left overs from our cocktail party. My sister and I went to the pub until late every night. We did no revsion and then rolled in with our friends, Chris and Lottie. We both agreed that we'd never been so happy. For the first time in our whole childhood we felt like normal children, misbehaving and living our lives without a care for the long distant memories of tears every evening. We thought she was better. Then, on February 27th, two days before my Dad's birthday, I passed my sister on the road home from school. 'Mummy's taken another over dose,' she said matter of factly, before driving on.
When will that happen again?
I just don't know.
I know someone who found her father hanging from the rafters. Do I really think that she'd choose not to swap places with me? Would she see the sense in my saying that I envy her - because she's been given something final to deal with ... whereas I'll never know when my ordeal is over? I hate myself for that. But I don't know how to get over it or deal with it, because it's always there - sometimes only just. But I always wonder 'when?'