Sandi's Story

 


When I was in High School, I became involved with an older boy who was in the military. When I told him I was going to have his baby he didn’t want anything to do with me. He was eventually deployed to Vietnam and I never heard from him again. My parents were upset and embarrassed that I was pregnant and that the man didn’t want to marry me. They didn’t know what to do with me. This was 1964. They decided to send me to an unwed mothers’ home in LA that was run by the Salvation Army. I was there for seven months, all alone. There were no facilities available to me to find out what my alternatives could be as a young girl, no information and no counseling whatsoever. By the time I had my baby, I felt completely worthless.


My parents believed there was no other option other than me giving my baby up for adoption. That was my “only option”. I had two counseling sessions at the L.A. County Bureau of Adoptions with my mother right on hand. The only information I received is that they would find good parents for my baby, I would give up all rights, the records would be sealed and I had to swear I would never search for her. Never. Ever.


For months it had been only my baby and me. Just us in that place. When I finally gave birth to my daughter, I was only able to see her once. She had been all I had, and then, she was taken away.


I went home and immediately decided I wanted to keep her. I fought with my parents, but they wouldn’t help me. I had no job, no support at home and the adoption woman kept calling me – over and over. They had two people with lots of money; a good family, etc, etc. I had nothing. Finally I said, “Yes. She’s better off without me,” and signed the papers. It made me physically and emotionally sick. I thought about her every morning and every evening. I thought about her all the time, every single day of my life. I still do.


I had gotten my High School Diploma from the unwed mothers’ home, so I got a job and then started dating someone. He had been married before and all he talked about was how much he loved his daughter. All I wanted was a “family”. Within three months we were married. I had 4 babies in 5 years. I had encouraged him to apply as a police officer and helped him study to get through the police academy. I hoped it would be a good marriage.


It wasn’t. It was a very violent and rocky relationship. I was passive and insecure and still felt that I was unworthy of anything, most of all love. During one of these violent altercations, his service weapon, a 357 magnum, went off and a bullet grazed my ear. After that incident he seldom came home. Once again, I was without emotional support of any kind and my self-confidence began to plummet. My third son was born with a congenital lung defect and was in the children’s hospital numerous times. By the time my forth son was only a few weeks old, my self-worth as a mother and a human being was completely destroyed. I was sure my family and everyone I had ever known would be better off without me.


In retrospect it may have been postpartum depression, but, again, we didn’t know much about that in those days. I went to the doctor for my six week checkup and he gave me a prescription for valium. I had never taken any kind of pills before and didn’t realize that it was a depressant. Subsequently, my depression accelerated. I had no money, not even to feed my kids. My husband had informed me that he didn’t love me anymore and was leaving. This was at Christmas time. A few nights later I felt I had nowhere to go, nowhere else to go. I swallowed the whole bottle of pills.


I woke up the next morning, much to my surprise and horror and found my husband asleep in the bed next to me. All I thought was, “OMG! Why did I wake up?” I went into the bathroom and slit my wrists. My husband caught me doing this and called emergency. They took me to the hospital and, somehow, they saved me.


I saw a psychiatrist a few times after that. My husband finally, actually, left, and slowly I got my strength back. I realized that my kids were much better with me than without me and that I was somebody that mattered.


My parents felt horribly guilty. They just didn’t know what to do back then. I tried to relieve them of that guilt, but I’m not sure I ever could. On my mother’s deathbed, she was still asking me for forgiveness. There was no reason for her to die that way, but nothing I could say would help appease that guilt.


The thing is that when you attempt suicide it is not just you that you are killing on some level, it is everyone around you. In its own way, suicide is a form of homicide. There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t take your own life, but when you are in that place, when you are soooo low, you simply cannot see them. You can’t see two minutes in front of you, never mind what is out there waiting for you. You may not believe that anyone will be affected if you take your own life, but they will. They will be affected for the rest of their lives.


I am so happy I did not succeed at killing myself. I would have left empty memories of horrid proportions for my children. I am glad I fought; I am glad I went through hard times, I’m glad I worked three jobs. I am thankful that I did not leave this earth and leave my children with a legacy of sadness and regret. I got depressed again, at times, sure. But I made it. After a few years I met and married the love my life. He is honest, gentle, loyal and loving to me and my children. Our children. Wonderful children, 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


Most importantly, I love myself.


13 years ago I was diagnosed with “Terminal Cancer”. I was told I had between three months to a year to live. I knew I must try to find my baby I had given up over thirty years ago despite promises to the court that I would not. I reached out to various organizations for help. My daughter found me two years later; something she had wanted to do all of her life. Her adoptive mother had passed away 25 years prior and her adoptive father passed away in 2001. So she was all alone. We finally met. I held her in my arms. I have met her husband, my grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We have a relationship. She has met her biological family! This would not have happened if I had succeeded in ending my life. What legacy would I have left my entire family with if I had?


In the last three years – each year – I have been diagnosed with “new” cancers. I’m not “fighting” cancer, I’m simply working on living my life and doing whatever I can to continue living that life at peace and not harming others. If my life ends, then so be it. But I won’t give up my life of my own accord, ever again. Every day holds something special if you let yourself be in a place to see it. It might not be huge, it might not be seen at first, but it is there. And tomorrow there will be something else. Ask me – I know.

 

 

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