Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Once Upon A Time

I have a story to tell.  It's a story I have never told any other human being...ever.

It's a story about the time having trouble typing this sentence...decided to end my life.

I must tell you right off the top, I hereby give you permission to find this story amusing.  Looking back, I certainly do.  Years later I find the complete lunacy of the situation to be laughable.

Oh but now you are confused.  Let's back up.

I was all of nine years old.  That's right, nine.  (You can see how this has the potential to be amusing at the same time as it is troubling.  Also shocking.)

I was not a generally happy child.  Certainly like any kid I had my ups and downs.  However, I know now that I have been living with depression just about all of my life.  I recall vividly the feelings of despair.  The heaviness, the hopelessness that I know oh-so-well today, I recall feeling when I was very young.  It was a heavy burden that no one should ever have to bear... let alone a young child.

Of course at the time, depression wasn't something you talked about, or even mentioned.  The word "depression" didn't really exist. One did not admit to feeling such things, and if one did, one was quickly told to not be "silly".  And to "just get over it".  And all the other things that many of us know now are ridiculous.  I didn't even know at the time I had something with a name.  I just knew I was miserable, and hurting, and sad.

And....nine.  Did I mention I was nine?

Back to our tale.  It was a particularly bad day.  There may have been some family dust up, or some friend who unknowingly said the wrong thing.  Possibly both.  I can't recall correctly.  Either way, I was in my room, despondent.  Then the dark thoughts came.  The mere fact that suicidal thoughts can occur in the brain of a nine year old child underscores how serious this illness can be.

I lived in a small town at the time.  We had two TV channels, as cable hadn't gotten to us just yet.  I was not familiar with most of the rest of the world.  I didn't know the word suicide.  I didn't even know what it was.  All I knew was there were very dark thoughts and a vague idea that the pain and suffering might stop if I just ended my own life.

Isn't that just one of the most disturbing things ever?  I was nine, for cryin' out loud.

Here's where my memory gets crystal clear.  I had this bedside lamp.  It was a sailboat.  Expertly crafted with paper sails, strings for ropes, and fancy wood and brass work.  It really was quite the lamp.  Behind the sails was a 40 watt bulb that lit up the ship.  You could almost imagine the sun shining through the sails as the boat tacked into the wind and set off on some journey to a far off land.

I didn't know about suicide, but I did know from TV that they put bad people in something called the electric chair.  And...a lamp has electricity doesn't it?

Now remember please, that I have given implicit permission for you to find this amusing.  You may chuckle.

As you may have just figured out, my nine year old self unscrewed the 40 watt light bulb and carefully set it aside.  I put my index finger into the light socket.  And with my other hand, flicked on the switch.

It was at that moment that I discovered that 120 volts of electricity really really hurts.  This made no sense at all.  I wanted the pain to end, not to make more!  This whole thing wasn't working out as planned.

I don't recall what happened next.  Likely I just went back to being a nine year old.  Naturally, at the time, I had no idea of the magnitude of what had happened to me.  I went back to being a sad kid, but now somewhat mindful of light sockets.  It wasn't until years later when I realized there was a mental illness afoot, that I looked back on that episode with fresh perspective.  And, after the shock passed, I was able to almost laugh at the fact that I thought it would be a super idea to jam my finger into a light socket.

As an adult, I have had other very dark episodes, where the urge to act has been great.  I have managed to make it through them...although a couple of them, which I can clearly recall as if they were yesterday, were almost overwhelming.  It took one of those episodes for me to begin to ask for help.

Light sockets hurt.  Remember that always.


  1. A moving and indeed, as you say, shocking story. Shocking in that a nine year old can have such dark thoughts.
    However, it is good that you can see the humorous side of it. I was reminded of a film I once saw where someone kept trying to kill themselves and continually failed at it and the result was quite funny. Alfred Hitchcock, aswell, I remember, used to imbue some of his dark material about murder with black humour.
    So, I suppose even in the darkest times there is laughter to be had.
    I hope you found this cathartic and I think I'll take great care from now on when switching my plugs on and off!
    Keep up the good work.
    With Very Best Wishes,

  2. Thank you for sharing such a special of your story!
    And it is worrying, amusing and eye-opening.
    Worrying because many people think depression is an adult-only thing, amusing because I got a cartoony thought of a child getting a shock like they do in cartoons so you can see their skeleton, and eye-opening because it really does make you realise that this 'darkness' can affect anyone.

    You are really an inspiration!
    Thank you.


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