I’ve known @kambabe on Twitter for most of the time I have been on Twitter which is nearly 4 years now. We chat online frequently and check in on each others blogs, we’ve often visited each other’s cities but we are yet to meet in real life.
I would like to share Karen Meyer’s story as my final installment to the series of related articles on this blog in the build up to International Suicide Survivors Day which is today.
In late 2000 my friend Karen tried to take her life by shooting herself. Eight years later her sister succeeded in her own suicide attempt by death by overdose.
Surviving and Living – by Karen Meyer
Who is Karen Meyer? Well, she is fun, she is girly and she is complex.
I was born and raised in the most beautiful city in the world Cape Town. I have never traveled but even if I did I would still think Cape Town is the most beautiful city ever. I was raised by my grandmother and her five children, one of them being my mother. My mom was 17 when she had me and not ready to be a mom yet. My uncle and aunts became my surrogate siblings until my mom married when I was 8 years old. I have a wonderful step dad and a half brother that is 10 years my junior. I fell pregnant (ok, I didn’t really fall, but you know what I mean…) at the ripe old age of 16. I got married and had 3 beautiful children. They are now 24, 21 and 19 years old. I have one son in-law and two granddaughters. At the age of 38 I divorced my husband of 22 years, shit happens. I met the love of my life at a tweet up and we live together. He also has 3 children form his previous marriage, so together we have 6 children. Christmas is fun!!!!
I am a preschool teacher, I have been teaching for 22 years, I love it, and it is more of a passion than a job. Since teachers in this country are one of the lowest paid jobs around, I recently took on a second job as a real estate agent, two weeks in and I love it so far.
What led me to suicide?
I used to have this need to please other people, and be liked by everyone.
This is not a very good trait when you are in a job of authority. I was in my fourth year of teaching at my first school when the principal died suddenly in a car accident. The governing body of the playschool appointed me as principal. A job which I enjoyed at first, but found out into my third year was not really for me. The pressure of trying to please parents, teachers (who were formally my colleagues and now my employees) and maintain a family were all too much for me.
There were cracks in my seemingly perfect marriage of 8 years, but I immersed myself in my job and tried not to face them. When your work life is a mess, but your home life is fine (or even vice versa) you can sort of handle it, but when both seem to be crumbling down around you, the mole hill of a problem seems like Mount Everest and the only way out (or so I thought at the time) was to not have to face it at all. And so I began entertaining thoughts of suicide.
Life before the suicide attempt
I always thought of myself as a fun loving happy person, an optimist, but lately I was feeling down a lot, pressure from real life and responsibilities were getting me down. Trying to maintain a home with 3 kids, a marriage which was not at all like a partnership, and a job where I was the boss and had pressure, all added to my feeling of being overwhelmed. I didn’t want to ask for help in running the school, because of my stupid pride. My mom was so proud of me and would tell all her friends about her daughter who was the principal of a school, and I didn’t want to let her down.
The reality was, I was not ready to carry the responsibility of running a school on my 24 year old shoulders. I couldn’t tell anyone that I had mounting debts, some of which I hid from my then husband.
There was little communication in my marriage, but everyone in our church community was so amazed that my teenage marriage was actually lasting, who was I to let them know otherwise. Keeping up appearances that everything was hunky dory when it wasn’t is what eventually broke me. I got depressed, started becoming moody, wanted to sleep all time and not go anywhere. My kids were teenagers now and with that came more problems. I would cry for no apparent reason, and didn’t know how to make the feeling of emptiness inside me go away. So I decided life was crap and if I ended it, I wouldn’t have to face any of its crappiness and pressures anymore. I started thinking about how I was going to do it, I planned it for months. I didn’t have any medication in my home that would be strong enough to end my life, I couldn’t actually bring myself to cut or harm myself, so my only option was my husbands gun. He was a policeman and I knew where the keys to the safe were, so access wasn’t a problem. It would be quick and hopefully painless.
After my suicide attempt I was put on a course of anti depressants for 2 years (originally meant to be for 6 months). I realized that nothing is ever that bad that I need to end my life. There is always a solution to every problem and if I can’t find it myself that I should ask for help. I think that was probably the biggest lesson I ever learnt. Ask for help, swallow your pride, and stop trying to please everyone.
I asked Karen what family and friends can do to help potential suicidees…
- Show them that you care, and will be there for them no matter what.
- Show them all the wonderful things they have to offer this world by living
- Show them unconditional love
- Be there pillar of strength and show them that it is okay not to be perfect, and that humility and asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
- Don’t put them on a pedestal, they will feel obliged to try and stay on it, even when they feel they can’t. This makes them show their ‘fake’ happy life, when actually things are not so perfect.
I then asked Karen what she had learnt as a result of having gone through this difficult process…
The biggest thing I learnt is that life is not lived alone, and if I can’t do it by myself I CAN and probably should ask for help. I learnt that for me, anti depressants made me numb inside, sure it helped me stop crying for no reason and helped me not feel sad. The real truth was, it helped me not feel at all. I know it works well for some people, but was not for me. I had to take major stock of my life and think about all the things that were making me so incredibly unhappy. Then I had to make a plan to remove those things, unfortunately one of them was my marriage. I also learned to address the little things, because when you don’t they just pile up until it seems like one huge problem. Resentments set in and before you know it your whole life is crashing down around you. If I could do it all again differently, I would not allow all the little problems to fester and I would have sought help before I became so overwhelmed.
Karen says she will never try taking her life again. She will search for other solutions to her problems and challenges. I hope so – I like having her around.
Many thanks to Karen for sharing your story with me & allowing me to publish it here.
Karen initially shared her experiences as described here on her own blog: kambabe.blogspot.com
A year earlier she had blogged about her sister’s suicide on her blog too.
Sadag runs South Africa’s only toll-free suicide crisis line – 0800 567 567 – open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. www.sadag.org
Also on this blog: Picking Up The Pieces (tips for survivors)
Please take care when commenting on this blogpost – no judgement of survivors, victims and my friends & family will be allowed. I simply won’t publish your comments. I’m sure you understand. Thank you. Melanie