Qualification: Pain

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
?I wrote this because while it is lovely for people to praise you for your strength, I would much prefer someone draw comfort or hope from my survival.
Everyone has a story but the pain you are going through or the pain you have gone through in the past may very well be your highest qualification and a qualification the world desperately needs because you have no idea what it means to be in the depth of despair and have someone grab you by the arm and tell you ‘Its ok… I know.’

Submitted: April 13, 2013

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Submitted: April 13, 2013





I sometimes go back to that little house in Palm Beach in my mind. I can see the waxy shine on the leaves of the Peace Lilly that sits on the small wooden table in the living room and can smell the oil finish on the new chopping board and I can hear the gate tap, tap, tap against the latch in the wind.
It is a Monday and my son is sitting at his drums and trying to reach the pedal of the bass drum with his little toes and the blonde curls that hug his ears are blowing back because the door is open and the breeze is inviting itself in.?
I am standing back from the kitchen sink because my 7 month-pregnant belly is getting in my way and while I slowly wash the dishes I plan the suicide in my mind.
By Friday night I will be no more and the relief of that thought is so overwhelming that I smile and sigh and feel such a peace.

I had suggested that my husband take our son camping for the weekend and he took to the idea without hesitance, not picking up on my uncharacteristic excitement, not raising his eyebrows at my overzealousness, not discerning that something was very, very wrong.
I tell him he will have fun and that Asa will enjoy the trip and I decide I will commit the suicide late on Friday night as that way they will be far, far away and even if it were to rain and they returned early on the Saturday, it would be too late and I would be very, very gone.?
The baby in my stomach moves around and I don’t feel any regret or love or sadness or shame. The fact I am pregnant with my second son does not deter me from the plan any more than the fact I had just bought new shampoo. It was a shame, perhaps a waste, but nothing more.?
My world had disappeared long before this day and I had been breathing in and out and eating and sleeping but I wasn’t really there. The lights were on but no one was home.
?I needed something from the store so I put my son in his pram and we make our way up the street. The sun is very hot and I remember thinking that sunscreen isn’t important for me anymore because sunburn doesn’t matter when you have a few days left to live.?
The last thing I remember is squinting my eyes at the brightness of the sun reflecting off the shiny grill of a large approaching truck and then there is blackness.?
There is a flash of me in a medical kind of room on a chair. I have a tissue in my hand and I can feel a tear dripping off my chin and then it is black again.
Suddenly I am back in my house sitting on the lounge chair with my hands folded in my lap and I am watching the door, waiting for them to come. The knock finally comes and my husband looks at me, sees I am not getting up to answer and wrinkles his forehead at me, confused.?
At the door are two men with clip boards and name tags. Somberness stands beside them ready to invade the house with its heaviness.
The next hour is occupied by the mental health interventionists recounting the story of my breakdown to my husband while he sits, staring at me in disbelief. He shakes his head as they speak of the suicide, the mental illness and how it’s been years now and I never told a soul.
I must have given them this information but I don’t remember when. Maybe when I was in that office holding that tissue… wherever that was.?

The next few months are broken pieces of memory.
There are appointments with a man who wears a white coat and gives me the pills, which make me tired, and causes my jaw to clench up in the mornings and chatter uncontrollably at night. Arrangements for me to fly home to New Zealand to be with my mother are made immediately
So at 7 months pregnant, half way up Palm Beach Avenue, on the Gold Coast of Australia at about 11am on a Wednesday morning, after many years of battling a deep and unrelenting depression I had a nervous breakdown.

The factors that contributed to developing such a life threatening mental illness were a series of utterly unbearable circumstances and events and crimes, which I never spoke of. I carried the memories of them on my shoulders but the burden took its toll and it was my mind that paid the price for it.
I didn’t want to speak of any of it because I didn’t want anyone to ever think I wasn’t coping, that I wasn’t happy. I wanted people to think that I had it together, that I wasn’t a failure.
?I hated the circumstances that made me sick. I hated the memories of nights sitting in my car at the top of hills trying to muster the nerve to drive off the cliff because I couldn’t bear life anymore.
I wondered if things would ever get better, if there could possibly be a purpose in my suffering. But what good could possibly come from living through circumstances so painful that you no longer have any hope that anything will ever be any better and that the pain will never subside and you don’t want to live anymore. What good could possibly come from that?

Years later I am in the living room of the Psych ward where I am doing my clinical placement for my Nursing degree. I notice a new face come in through the doors. The woman seems small and not because she is short or slim but because she is shrinking into herself. Her arms are trembling and she looks lost and afraid. There is a cannula in her arm, which means she has been treated medically in another ward and is now being transferred to us.
I bet she took an overdose.?
After she scribbles her name on the bottom of the forms she is left alone and she drifts in to the living room and takes a seat beside me. After a few minutes I turn to her ‘Hello, my name is Vanessa, I am one of the nurses’
She looks at me and bursts into tears ‘I don’t know why I’m here, I took so many pills and I don’t know why. What’s wrong with me?’
She is shaking her head and I put my hand on her arm and I tell her ‘Its okay, I know, I know.’
And in that moment I realize that I do know. I recognize that frightened look on her face because I have seen the same one looking back at me in my own mirror. I understand the confusion of having someone tell you that you tried to take your own life and sitting there thinking ‘This isn’t me… is it? This isn’t the real me…’ and what that woman needed right in that moment was not someone who had been studying at university and would practice using the fancy new mental health terminology she had been memorizing for months, she needed someone to grab her by the arm and say “I know’

There are thousands of degrees to choose from at hundreds of universities. Degrees which will teach you how to write or how to build a business or degrees which will teach you how to protect someone’s legal rights and degrees like mine where you learn how to make people well but reader listen to me…there is no qualification quite like pain.

Experiencing deep and wrenching pain qualifies you in a way that no book or course or degree could ever hope to do because the memory of your pain and the way you may have beat at the walls with your fists at night with tears burning the makeup off your cheeks and demanding that God tell you what the meaning of this cruel and horrible circumstance in your life was, gives you a unique insight and compassion that enables you to take hold of someone who is falling apart beside you and say ‘I’ve been there’

Today I am no longer angry about the circumstances that led me to the breakdown that nearly cost me my life. I know now that every last shred of compassion and love that I have the ability to feel is because I have known brokenness.
I am glad it happened and if I could live my life again I would not change one thing, not even the worst of my suffering because it has become the best part of me. It is the only reason I know compassion and probably, love.

As a people we don’t typically speak of our pain. If we have suffered, or are suffering, we habitually keep it behind closed doors.
Even you as you read this may have friends that you have known for a good part of your life that have no idea you are sleeping in a separate bed to your wife, that the house is getting sold by the bank because you lost your job, that you had a miscarriage or that you were abused as a child… but if you keep it to yourself and pile it upon your shoulders never to speak of it again then it all happened for nothing. There is no fruit and that is when it really does become tragic.?
When we are facing something unbearable we want to speak to someone who has been there, who has been bruised the same way and has survived so that we can have hope, and yet no one talks about it and so the suffering believe they are suffering alone.

I feel deeply sorry that it took me having to sit in the middle of a Psych ward to realize that my pain and heartbreak is what makes me able to feel compassion and understanding for others who are weak and that it is a wonderful privilege.
I feel sorry for every person up until this point I may have been able to help had I just spoken about my own experience with depression, suicide, tears, disappointment and pain but didn’t because I wanted everyone to think I was coping just fine.
?I wrote this because while it is lovely for people to praise you for your strength, I would much prefer someone draw comfort or hope from my survival.

Everyone has a story but the pain you are going through or the pain you  have gone through in the past may very well be your highest qualification and a qualification the world desperately needs because you have no idea what it means to be in the depth of despair and have someone grab you by the arm and tell you ‘Its ok… I know.’


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