Jessica's Story

When I was growing up I was raised a very strict Adventist. It was actually my father who started that. Then Mom started going to church. We were not allowed to wear pants, no TV, went to private church schools; all of that. Every morning we would had breakfast at the table together and prayed. That is how our lives were for the first part of my life.

At some point my father started doing drugs. It got bad enough that my mother took us three kids and left him. We moved to LA. She tried hard, but just couldn’t afford the house down there and so we moved back in with my father. She simply had nowhere else to go. When we returned, his drug usage became heavy and constant.

I didn’t see all that was happening at the time – I was too young. But I do remember one time when he came home really drunk and got physical with my mom. Other than that, she managed to keep things pretty much “status quo” with us. Still praying together in the mornings and going on about our routines and days. I had no idea how bad things really were until that one particular day.

It was morning. I think he had tried to hurt her before we got up, but I’m not sure. All I know is that we didn’t have breakfast together and pray together – she hurried us up saying she was running late – she just threw food into a bag and got us out of there. I went to school. That never, ever happened; mornings were mornings. It was really weird.

After we left for school, he hung himself in the garage. My mom found him. I cannot imagine how that must have been. I remember being at school and the pastor came and pulled us out of class. That was very foreboding to me. I saw that mom was still in the car and she was sobbing. I looked at my sister and said, “Dad is dead. I know he is dead” – Finally I turned to mom and said “Is he dead?” and she said, “Yes, he’s dead”.

We went to the house and the whole world was there. Family, friends, church people. They were there for a week. They had the funeral and when everyone started to leave is when the heartache started to happen. I had no idea what was going on. I only knew my father was dead. The word “suicide” was in play, but at 12 years old I had absolutely no clue what that meant or the ramifications of it. Subsequently I would run around telling people that my dad died from suicide. I was 14 when I finally figured out what that meant.

As a teenager I was angry a lot. Dad wasn’t there. He opted to not be there. My mom was raising 3 teens at the same time without him and I was striking out anywhere I could; tattoos, piercings, drugs, you name it. At 17 I got pregnant and at 18 I had my son. That’s when it really, really hit me – he wasn’t there to see my son! He wasn’t there for anyone, not for me, not for my son. I think that is the hardest part. I was angry before, but dad not being there to see all these things with my son and my motherhood was horrible. It made me extremely angry at him, but ultimately it made me really, really sad.

Looking back I know more now. I remember he had lots of scars on his arms, he said my grandmother used to beat him with poles when he was a child. My uncle also hung himself and my grandmother actually made my dad cut him down out of the tree. Alot of things added up for him. My grandmother abused him. He struggled with opiates; was a huge addict. My grandmother definitely blames herself a lot, but when I tried to talk to her about it she gave it the “hush, hush” and it was all “put away”. Now we do talk about it, so it is getting better.

I believe that we all get depressed sometimes, and that is OK, but the thing is to ask for help. I believe that if he asked for help he might still be here.

I’ve gone into mental depression as well. I broke my arm, lost my job, clients and friends all on the same day. I hit very deep depression. My mom is a lifesaver. I had been on medication for a long time and then it was time to see a professional. He is now my mentor when it is dark, dreary, and rainy and I get depressed. I now recognize that is seasonal depression for me. But I am a survivor and I have decided to make something out of the tragedy I endured. This led me to get involved with suicide prevention. I got online and was just glued. I read everything I could and I felt good – like I could finally do something, make something good out of something bad. When I was on the website for AFSP I was very moved and I realized that everyone involved has either tried to commit suicide, knows someone who has, or is worried about someone who might. That is a very big deal for me. It took me out of being alone. It snowballed from there. I formed a committee and we have done a “walk”.

If I could say anything to someone who is struggling, it would be to tell them not to make a permanent decision because of something that very well might change tomorrow. Talk to someone. Talk to me! Nobody ever wants to talk about it! It’s important not to feel ashamed. I’m not ashamed. I still get depressed sometimes, but since I started to talk about it, I now know there is help.

And finally, I think we need to learn to really listen to one another. Not just pretend or interject our own insecurities and fears, but really listen to people. Everyone has something to say and everyone deserves someone who is willing to hear them.

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