Erin E. Clarke

"One evening, when I was 12 years old, my mother sat my brother and me down in the living room and told us that Dad was in the hospital.

She explained that he was sick and would be there for a while. I immediately began to cry--not because I had any idea of what was going on, but because I could feel the waves of fear and pain and sadness flowing out of my mom and crashing over us. I saw a woman trying to hold herself together while, inside, she was shattered. I wept for her.

I climbed onto her lap because she needed me, and we cried together. I don't know what my brother did.

Later, we were told that Dad was in the hospital because he'd attempted suicide.

We never really talked about it as a family--not because we didn't have every opportunity, but because none of us really wanted to.

What was there to say? After all, people don't talk about suicide.

My dad came home from the hospital at some point. I can't remember how long he was gone, or exactly when he came back.
I do remember that it wasn't really my dad who came home. This person was a shell; a dark, heavy, quiet, husk of a person who spent all day alone in his room. It was like he'd been eaten up inside and filled with lead. He stayed that way, more or less, for a long time. It took almost 10 years for my dad to really 'come home' from that re-inhabit his body comfortably, to be able to engage with us, and to be happy again.

He wasn't a bad father. He was a great father. He was just a great father trapped under an invisible rock for a very long time, and unfortunately, that meant my brother and I grew up without him.

I should have been happy that he came home at all, but I wasn't. Seventh graders aren't generally known for their wisdom and perspective.

My anger seethed at an abandonment I couldn't understand, my trust issues multiplied, and I defiantly repressed my grief and confusion for the entirety of my adolescence.

When I was 18, I found myself alone in an apartment in Memphis, Tennessee, drunk, unemployed, 540 miles from any support system, and none of my addictions were enough to escape whatever it was I was running from.

The smoking wasn't enough, the drinking wasn't enough, the cutting wasn't enough, the burns weren't enough. The darkness, confusion, the agony, and the isolation were overwhelming and I couldn't get away. I was sitting on my bathroom floor and thought about stabbing myself in the stomach. It seemed like a fine idea. Cathartic. That would be enough to make it stop.

In the moment that followed, something clicked in my brain, and I heard this voice tell me, quite calmly: 'If you don't go to a hospital right now, you're going to die.'

On some sort of strange autopilot, I got into my car, picked up my friend, and drove us to the emergency room. I spent nine days in a psychiatric hospital, hating pretty much every minute of it. When I was released, my parents came to help me pack up my things and took me back home with them.

Again, we never talked about it as a family. After all, people don't talk about suicide.

I am grateful for every moment of my life, for the voice I heard that day in Memphis, and the reflex that kicked in because of it. I would have missed so much.

This afternoon, I watched as my father played with my son--his grandson--on the floor of my house that I share with my husband. They were having a grand time. My dad and I both lived. We were lucky.

I am writing this for the ones who weren't so lucky, and for those who need help now.

It's about time we all started talking about suicide."