I don’t know where to begin. Common sense dictates I begin at the beginning, but there is no beginning. You just kind of pick up in the middle and go from there, so that’s what I shall do.
I am not sure of the exact date, but I am either approaching or have already passed the one year anniversary of one of the lowest days in my life. Ironic, considering that day was the day I decided I wanted to end mine. That’s right–around this time last year, was my stunt in the mental ward for attempted suicide. There are days when I am glad I did not go through with my plan. There are days where I desperately wish I had. Today, I am somewhere in the middle.
My plan was this: to drive my car at ridiculous speeds down a desolate stretch of highway and intentionally wreck, in the hopes that I will end it all. My original thought was to drive head-first into oncoming traffic, but when I thought about it more, I realized I would possibly end up killing an innocent person, which is also ironic. The thoughts of the depressed are odd. I want to kill myself, but not anyone else.
The morning I was at my lowest point, I left Lincoln and took an impromptu road trip up to South Dakota. As I was crossing the state line, there was a large bridge spanning over the Niobrara River, and I grasped the steering wheel and started veering towards the side, intent on crashing over the side, into the river that swept below me. If the impact of the crash as my car hit bottom didn’t end me, surely being strapped in my seatbelt and my car filling with water and drowning would. But as I crossed the rumble bars on the shoulder, I had a quick change of heart. I chickened out. My family has had their fair share of suicides, and I decided not to put them through another one.
Lucky for you.
I returned to Nebraska unscathed, and as luck would have it, I had a visit with my therapist the next day. She made the mistake of asking me how I was doing. I immediately burst into great, soul-shaking sobs, tears pouring down my chubby cheeks. I told her my plan. An hour later, I was sitting in the emergency room with my friend Kristina, a plastic hospital ID band around my right wrist, declaring me Erin Zulkoski, born July 4, 1981 and my O negative blood type, and no known medical allergies. It was surreal. I was asked to remove my street clothes in favor of ill-fitting scrub pants and top. I remember holding the side of the pants as I was walked to my temporary respite where I would spend three days. I was also asked to remove any “harmful” articles from my backpack, which oddly enough, included a broken bicycle chain, as this is where I had stashed it when I was out riding my bike and it snapped on me, forcing me to walk my bike home. I had forgotten I had put it in there. When the admitting nurse found it, she gave me a puzzled look, and rightly so. I had also just broken my foot a few weeks before and was asked to remove my walking cast. I spent three days hobbling around the ward.
I don’t really remember much from my stay there, except these few things:
1. The trash cans in the room were lined with paper grocery sacks to prevent anyone from trying to suffocate themselves with the plastic liners.
2. Assessment of your mental state upon admission determined if you were to be given plastic eating utensils or stainless steel.
3. I have pretty good blood pressure.
4. Next door to the “Affective Disorders” ward, which is where I was staying, was the pediatric unit. There was a little girl who would bang on the locked door between the units and scream for someone to help her. I will never forget this as long as I live.
5. Day Two, was pet therapy day. A nice man brought in his beautiful golden lab, and led him around the room for each person on the unit to spend time with. When it was my turn, I started crying. I missed my dog, I missed my bed, and I wanted out of there immediately.
My time in the hospital was terrifying. I shared a room with another girl, and I learned she was a frequent flyer to the ward. She spent my entire time there in our room in the fetal position on her bed, crying. She would have visitors, and I would politely leave the room and go sit in the commons area and watch Judge Judy until visiting hours were over and dinner was served.
I was put on a cocktail of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and was in a fog most of the time. I met with the psychiatrist assigned to me, and he was a spit-fire of a man, 5′ 5″ if he was lucky, and he had a very thick Spanish accent. He pronounced my name “Ell-een.” The first time he said my name, I looked behind me to see to whom he was talking, thinking a nurse was behind me, and he was addressing her, but I quickly figured out he was speaking to me and I struggled to understand his questions.
The days were spent in group therapy sessions. As childish as this seems, my favorite session was the one where we were instructed to color in coloring books. I’ve always loved to color, even then at age 29. There is something so soothing about it, and I realize why we were made to do it. Most of us were in the ward due to feeling like our lives were out of control–by being made to color a picture, we have ourselves control over something. We determined the outcome. We were in charge. So simple, yet effective.
By the end of day two, I was more calm and my senses had returned, and the realization of what I had tried to do settled upon me. I tried to fucking kill myself. What the fuck was I thinking? I realize I was in a very low, low place having just found out a few weeks before that my seven year marriage was no more, that the man I had pledged my life and love no longer wanted any part of either, but really? Kill yourself, Erin? Really? Like I said earlier–the thoughts of the depressed are odd.
I spent another day in the ward, another day in group therapy, this time, I had my full break-through. We were each given a piece of paper and asked to write something we wanted to be told. I wrote down these four words:
It’s not your fault.
We then had to pass our papers around the group, and each person was to look at whom the paper belonged, and read what was written. The first two people read my words, and I was fine. Then, as my paper traveled amongst the group, and more people looked me in the eyes and told me, “It’s not your fault, Erin,” I broke down again. Hearing perfect strangers read what I had written was profound. I blamed myself for what happened between Jason and I, and I blamed myself for the destruction of our marriage. I blamed myself for not being more patient with him, for wanting more from him and not receiving it, which in my mind, meant I wasn’t being a good enough wife to him, otherwise, he would have obliged me. But hearing these people say, “it’s not your fault” flipped a switch in my head–I may have been responsible for some things that went awry, I was not fully to blame. I still have this piece of paper, and look at it occasionally.
That night after dinner, and after speaking with the psychiatrist at our daily meeting, he determined I was to be released the next morning. I restrained myself from jumping across the table and kissing him full on the lips, and let me tell you, that was a terrific struggle.
I was sent home the next day, and things seemed…different. The world seemed different to me. Maybe I was looking at it through the eyes of a person who had tried to end it, and was seeing it as a new beginning, as cliché as that sounds. Regardless, things had changed.
Now, here I sit, a year later. The past year has been…interesting. I have my moments where I still wish I had gone through with killing myself. There are moments where I am eternally grateful for myself that I did not. Thankfully, I spend most of my time thankful for the latter.
I have grown over the course of twelve months–physically (thanks emotional eating!) and mentally. Thanks to meeting a wonderful man who encouraged me to write more, I have and have become better at it..ish. I’ve had some of my pieces published. I stared HeartOnSleeve Review with six incredible women. All of this dumbfounds me. What was once a every now and again hobby has turned into what I want to do with my life. I want to write. So, I do.
I still struggle with depression. I am having difficulty with loneliness right now. I know I am surrounded by amazing family and friends who love me despite my bone-headed mistakes, and I am undeserving of their love, but yet, you people give it to me anyway, and for this, there are no amount of words I can conjure up that will even come remotely close to how I feel about that.
So, I just live each day as well as I can. Some days are easier than others, but everyone has that feeling.
Some day, I will find someone to share my life with. I feel I must apologize to you now, sir. I’m a handful–and not the super awesome context of the phrase, either (big boobs). But I know that if this guy loves me, we’ll roll with the punches, and I look forward to meeting you. Or, if I have already met you, grow a pair and ask me out already. Jesus.
As always, thank you for reading, and in the words of the great Boudreau Freret,
I humbly remain,