If at First You Don’t Succeed, Please Don’t Try Again


A note to readers: I wrote this nearly two years ago. After reading Matt Haig’s book Reasons to Stay Alive, I decided that it was time to finally share this. If we want to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues, we have to be open to discussing them. I have experienced anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation. I now see a therapist, and my children were able to get the help they need.

Our stories may be different, but we are not alone.

“My first suicide attempt was after my youngest child screamed at me for 45 minutes straight, letting loose an avalanche of past trauma. I wondered if an attempt would get us the help we desperately needed. If I died, if I tried to, would someone finally take this seriously enough to step in and help?”

I sat in my car while the rain poured down outside and thought those words, first suicide attempt, ringing in my ears. It was more than a passing thought now. I couldn’t pretend anymore that it was only ever that. It was an active wish at times when I thought I couldn’t handle any more trauma.

I was already thinking in terms of how I would tell the story to explain such an extreme act. I was already looking for an explanation, trying to find a way to encapsulate my state of mind. Method, I would worry about later. I needed the story.

Maybe there’s still hope for me yet.

I love my life. I don’t want to die. But I wondered if an attempt would make someone, anyone, give me the help I need. Not for myself. For my children who are struggling and can’t be helped by me. Forty-five minutes of the same phrase repeated, screamed at me, my body being hurt by the small child’s unreasoning fury.

I just wanted quiet. My thoughts were two-fold. I could not help my child. Clearly. Forty-five-minute screaming fits were happening with greater frequency, and the institute that could evaluate my child wouldn’t see him for another six months. I was alone, and I could not help him.

He was alone, too, as I looked at his red, wet face and open mouth. He wouldn’t be comforted, and I did not have the skills to help him through this obsession. I already suspected autism, but I did not have the tools or techniques necessary to help him through his pain.

Additionally, there was a selfish part of me that realized that my child having this sort of problem would keep me from having the family that I wanted. I’d been married, and it was a miserable experience. I still wanted the happy family, and it wasn’t because of some societal idea. I’d grown out of those. Instead, I wanted to live with someone I love and to raise children together. I didn’t need it, but I wanted it.

And I looked at my screaming child, now throwing himself around the room, now running at me trying to hurt me, now crying harder and screaming louder, and thought: I will never have that. Who but their own mother would take this on?

So, I would be alone, as I’ve always felt I’ve been. My life would be stories that I would tell, but I would be the only witness. I was tired of not being held. I was tired of never being able to lean, if even for a moment. Tired of screaming into the void so quietly that no one could even hear me. Tired of the weight of the world falling on my shoulders and mine alone.

I couldn’t help them, and I couldn’t help myself.

I thought of the world I wanted to see, travel plans already set in motion. I thought of the partner I love deeply with my whole soul, the friends I don’t want to leave behind, my work. So much my work. The untold stories inside me that were rushing out, as if they, too, could sense that my time on the Earth was growing perilously close to expiring by the same hand that writes them.

I thought of my children and how much they love me, how devastating my exit would be for the rest of their lives. No one else could raise them like I can. No one else will love them like I do.

I don’t want to leave them either. I just couldn’t take another day of screaming — not with the echoes of far too much screaming in my past. They overlapped, and I was both the child and the woman, hands clapped over ears, desperate for it to stop. Please make it stop.

So, I thought of the good days and how bright my joy has always been. This dark, merely a natural contrast.

I thought of the timeline on help; it was coming. We were on a waiting list, and I was utilizing every resource available to me. I was doing everything I could — for myself, for my children — and I just needed to hold on.

I told myself that life was already far too short, and I had so much living left to do. I reminded myself of all the good that I’d lived already and the infinite possibilities that stretched before me if I just allowed myself to believe that the help would come and the darkness would pass, as it always had before.

I thought of all the things that I love, and I held on to them so tight because I know one thing to be true:

There would be no “first attempt”.

I’m far too good at finishing things.

The world needs you in it. You matter. You are loved. Hold on.

If you need help, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1–800–273–8255, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. Veterans can call 1–800–273–8255 and press 1, or text 838255.


Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, and The Good Men Project. She’s also the author of Left on Main, the first book in the Heart of Madison series. When she’s not writing for Medium and working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, running, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with her two wild and wonderful children.

Image courtesy of Keenan Constance.

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