Two summers ago I came home from my first year at college. I rode the train from Chicago to New Orleans with my mother, while my father took the interstate with all of my belongings. The day we left, there was a palpable tension between my parents, mostly from my father. I thought that once I got back home and settled in, we would all be alright.
About three weeks passed, and nothing had changed. My mother was becoming more and more desperate to fix her marriage, not knowing that it was already too late. I remember there was this moment where my father and I were in the car, and he asked me, "Dana, would you still love me if I divorced your mother?"
A week later, at around six in the morning, my mother woke me up. "Your father is filing for divorce."
She had no emotion in her voice. No tears running down her cheeks, no tremble in her voice. She was numb, only able to process one second at a time.
That July, my parents were in the midst of their ugly divorce. My mother, who already suffered from severe chronic depression, was pushed deeper into the abyss than she ever had been. One night, she drove off in a fit of rage, leaving me, 19 at the time, alone and afraid. She turned off her phone, so I couldn’t reach her, or track her with location sharing. I was suddenly alone, feeling like I had just been thrown into a life that wasn't mine, a life so foreign to me that I couldn't even say for certain if I was living.
An hour later I called the police, choking on my sobs as I told them, “I think my mom has gone to commit suicide.”
The officer drove me to my grandfather’s house, where I stayed the rest of the night. God knows how, but they were able to track her down and stop her. When I saw her the next morning, all she could do was hug me.
It’s been 3 years since then. On the rare occasion that we bring this night up, it’s always centered around my mother, as it should be. However, there’s an ever-present feeling of strain, keeping another part of that night that only I know about hidden. It's as if I've blown too much air in a balloon, and it's about burst.
Laying in my grandfather’s guest bedroom, I couldn’t see a time past that present moment. It was as if there was no such thing as a future. My mind raced as I tried to figure out what I would do without my mother, what my life would be like, but I couldn’t see that far ahead. There was no life ahead of me anymore.
My mother isn’t the only one who tried to commit suicide that night. Thankfully, she’s also not the only one who failed. When I saw her again, a loose sweatshirt covered my cuts. After years of self-harm, you get good at hiding the physical evidence, ignoring the pain each movement causes. The only thing I really had to deal with were the blood-soaked sheets off of my grandfather’s bed. I had stuffed them deep into a garbage can, and covered it up. The only way to explain that much blood would have been to blame it on my period, but you don’t bleed from your arms with that, and the outline left behind made it clear that’s where it came from. So, I changed the sheets, and hid the evidence.
The mattress was still stained.