It’s nauseating to believe that Robin Williams took his own life. His family is left with the questions: What was he struggling with? What lies did he believe? Why didn’t he reach out for help? Did he have any idea how this act would devastate those around him?
Ten years ago, I very nearly took my own life. I had a two year old daughter. I worked night shift. I had recently suffered my very first miscarriage. (With twins.) We’d moved into a new home. Then, during a trip to see my husband’s parents, I was falsely accused of child abuse.
See, my daughter had a horrible, horrible diaper rash. She had bleeding, oozing, silver-dollars-sized blisters on her buttocks. Every time I changed her, she would kick, thrash, scream, and fight to keep me from wiping her where it hurt so badly.
However, when my mother-in-law changed her, my daughter was calm.
I’d only been married for two years at this point. My in-laws barely knew me. We lived a thousand miles away, and only visited twice a year. What my in laws *did* know was that I came from a background of abuse and alcoholism. (I was not physically abused. However, my sibling was. I grew up in a home with violence, addiction, and domestic/spousal abuse.) Sure, I was saved, and sure, they thought well enough of me at the time of the marriage—but this is their *granddaughter*, bleeding, screaming, and upset. Surely something was wrong.
My mother-in-law pulled my husband aside and told him that she suspected me of child abuse. Why else would my daughter be so calm with grandma and so vicious with her own mom?
Looking back with ten years of perspective, I think my in-laws did the RIGHT THING with the information they had.
However, at the time, I was grieving the loss of my twins, reeling from finding out that my parents were addicted and mentally ill, struggling to cope with my daughter’s health problems, sleep-deprived from working the night shift, and caught up in the throes of the Christian Patriarchy Movement. (Which basically told me to submit to everything my husband said, or I wasn’t really saved.)
I didn’t want to live.
I honestly thought I *shouldn’t* live.
I thought my daughter would likely be better off without me.
Heck, my own mother was abusive. How could I be any better? How could I know the difference between abusive parenting and good parenting?
I had an insurance policy. She’d be okay.
Maybe she wouldn’t even remember me. Maybe that would be a good thing.
In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I reached out to some people on a message board I’d been actively involved in. I told some people I’d never met that I was accused of child abuse, and that I was considering suicide. My daughter deserved better.
The response was instantaneous and intense. “Call the suicide hotline NOW! Here’s the number!”
“Your in-laws are wrong on this–there could be plenty of other reasons for her condition.”
“If you want to kill yourself, GO AHEAD! Your kid will be JUST FINE as she grows up knowing that mommy offed herself because she screamed too loud during diaper changes. She’ll never wonder if it was her fault. She’ll never consider doing the same thing.” (This was from a pastor. Who knew me well.)
“Did you ever consider that, if you die, your in-laws will have a lot to do with how your child was raised? How much influence do you want them to have in your daughter’s life?”
Twenty-four responses kept me alive long enough to reach out to friends. To my husband. To a counselor.
The best part was talking to my daughter’s babysitter: “She screams like that with me too. She’s kicked me in the face during diaper changes. She gave me a bloody nose! I have to put one knee on each of her legs just to wipe her down. Do you think *I’m* abusing her?”
None of us knew that my daughter had an undiagnosed food allergy. We ran out of her favorite foods before we went on a trip–and her rash vanished. We re-introduced them one at a time, and sure enough, the rash consistently returned with one food group: citrus.
I almost killed myself over a citrus allergy?
What my in-laws *didn’t* know, what they *couldn’t* have known, was that I’d spent the last six months holding my daughter down for various invasive tests. Kidney reflux (a cathederization), Celiac disease (a blood draw), X-rays (a big scary machine hovering above you) and the bloody raw diaper changes 5+ times a day. My daughter couldn’t gain weight, couldn’t have a bowel movement without pain, and had big scary doctors working her up the wazoo trying to figure out why she’d dropped off the weight percentile charts. She was terrified of me for a good reason. Mommy holding me=pain. Grandma holding me=ice cream.
Later, my daughter was treated for chronic constipation, and we eliminated the citrus from her diet. Her bottom healed, she gained weight, she sees a GI occasionally, she lives a normal life, and I am no longer a child abuser in my in-laws’ mind.
I still have the two-page apology/support letter that my mother-in-law sent me. I sent her flowers in return.
That doesn’t change the fact that I almost killed myself over poop and citrus.
If I’d taken my own life that night, I never would have seen my daughter heal. I never would have gone on to have three other daughters. I never would have the restored (friendly) relationship that I now have with my mother-in-law.
I owe my life to Christ, and to the people who were on a message board in the middle of the night.
I’m just a parody Twitter account. I pretend that my words about spiritual abuse and gender roles in the church are coming through in Captain Janeway’s voice. For whatever reason, people listen. But in these few months, I’ve seen the power of connecting with Twitter–how people all over the world can share, in a moment, a similar experience or feeling or bit of news. I can even legally stalk my favorite celebrities. I can listen in as William Shatner or Patrick Stewart or Nathan Fillion fill us in on their daily lives.
But I found out about Robin Williams’ death because I follow Robert Picardo on Twitter.
In that moment, I wondered, “What if Robin Williams could have reached out to all of us? What if he’d had an online community, even an anonymous one, where he could have said, ‘I’m thinking about ending it all?’ Maybe, like me, he’d still be here.”
Maybe he would have been afraid to admit weakness. Maybe he would have disparaged himself as a washed-up actor. But at least he would have been a LIVING washed-up actor, who could go on to live another day, and maybe get better.
If Robert Downey Jr. can go from inmate to Iron Man, then surely things can get better for you.
Let me plea with you, as a survivor, as someone who did *not* follow through with her plan to end her life, please talk to someone. If you’re having these thoughts, please tell someone, immediately, even if it’s on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever social media network I haven’t heard of yet.
Let me tell you, life does get better. Life is a gift from God, and is worth living. If you are alive right now, there is a REASON for it, and I want to see that reason be fulfilled. Please reach out for help.