Viewing entries in
youth and suicide


Teresa, Part Two - A Fresh Start

Teresa was still a young teenager when she bought a one-way ticket to Prescott.  Somewhere beneath the abuse and neglect, there was a kernel of recognition, even at her young age. She knew she had to leave. Despite the absence of a plan, she knew a change was essential to her survival.

It was a thirteen-hour bus ride. We had a layover from Idaho at Reno and I stayed in the station, waiting. I was still very calm and strong, and so far everything was okay. I had my money and my clothes—everything I needed. I was proud of myself.

Breaking free from the suicidal context reflects a desire to disconnect from the oppressiveness of the past and hope for a fresh beginning. It is a leap of faith motivated by the necessity for change. Although a person’s plan may not be clear at the beginning, many describe having an inner certainty—a “knowing”—that they are on the right course. Often, they pare down their possessions, simplify their lives, and try to discover just what happened to them and why. In making a fresh start, people report having a glimpse of a new world and a new possibility…where people are able to care, and have the courage to show it

At some point, this big and sleazy guy came over. He was trying to get me to go somewhere with him. I didn’t know what was going on then. I do now. There was this elderly couple. The man must’ve been in his seventies. He and his wife just came over next to me. He pulled out a knife and began cleaning his nails with it, kinda nonchalantly, suggesting to this guy that he might want to leave!

Then they took me to dinner. It was very comforting and nice. I felt even happy for a little bit there. We played cards and ate. I was happy ‘cause they noticed me, and I wasn’t being polite or “good.’’ I started thinking, “Maybe I should go with them!” I think that was the first time since kindergarten that I felt that about someone.

Teresa created a new life. Just off the bus, she saw a Help Wanted sign in a restaurant window, applied, and was offered the job that afternoon. The next day, she enrolled in school.  Teresa wanted a new start, and within a week, she was back in school, had joined the track team, and was taking courses at the local community college.


Dissolving the Suicidal Context

It is essential to dissolve the suicidal context in order to rebuild one’s life. This may take a variety of forms, but essentially, one must radically alter one’s relationship to the environment of despair in which the suicide attempt occurred. On the road back to life, people learn to choose alternatives to old routines and to the people associated with them.

Teresa’s trials weren’t over.  The long shadow of neglect and abuse in her family of origin would hover over her primary relationships, but these challenges would set the scene for her final victory over suicidal pain and despair.  (To be continued).

Look For - Teresa, Part Three – Claiming Her Life


Waking Up, Alive is now Available on Kindle



Teresa - It Was My Fault, Wasn't it? (Part One)


"Ninety-nine loaves of bread and a hundred and six pies. I’ll always remember that figure! I’d come home and there would be a note [from my mother] saying she needed some time for herself. She’d be gone for weeks, to some resort or someplace to recover. I’d skip school to take care of the restaurant and bake past midnight for the next morning’s customers.  I was twelve."


Teresa was still a young teen when she bought a one-way ticket to Prescott and fled home.  She had to leave. Her father was killed when she was three, and for many years, she was molested by her step-dad. Her mother divorced him, but everyone blamed Teresa for breaking up the family.

My older brother ran away. My younger brother got into drugs and was sent back to our stepfather. My mom became addicted to Valium and tranquilizers. I felt responsible and guilty for everything.

The losses a child endures are rendered more ruinous when compounded with parental neglect and exploitation. In the absence of someone to provide understanding and comfort, Teresa alone attempted to make some sense of what was happening to her. Yet she was still very much a child, and a child’s world is bound by limited insight. So she crafted a set of explanations for her troubles in which she was the central protagonist and the one to blame.

It was my fault. I shouldn’t have told my mother I was being molested. I’m responsible for the family falling apart. That’s what I told myself.

Our desire for a sense of order—for explanation amidst patently irrational and cruel circumstances is so powerful that children, as well as adults, will create reasonable explanations for unreasonable events.  Teresa found that there was only one adult who would understand her despair.  Unfortunately, he was no longer alive.

I used to fantasize constantly about him. We didn’t have pictures of my dad around after my mother remarried. One day I stole this picture of him from my grandmother’s house.  I used to talk out loud when no one was around. I remember telling him, “I don’t understand why you’re not here.” It was really painful. I also couldn’t understand why he didn’t come and save me.  I thought that for sure I’d see my dad if I died.

Just as children create magical friends in which to confide, Teresa imagined her dead father's ever-available ear. It provided comfort and at least a marginal experience of belonging to a family. But these fantasies provided only an illusory sense of connection, and the more she entertained the conversations with her father, the further they pulled her from the living. At fourteen, her losses were sizable, her disappointment great, and she was quickly losing faith that this world held any promise at all. Slowly but progressively, Teresa withdrew from life by entertaining the possibility of her death. She had constructed and nourished a lethal equation: that in death there is solace and connection; in life, there is only despair.

One day, when babysitting a neighbor’s infant, Teresa looked away, just as the baby fell from low counter top. Although the baby was fine, Teresa was badly shaken.  To compound matters, she glanced out the kitchen window to spy her mother having sex in their car, with the deliveryman. The surreality of having a private view of her mother’s sexual activities served to shatter all remaining hope. Immediately thereafter, Teresa attempted suicide.


Tomorrow - Teresa – Part Two:  Leaving home, and dissolving the family trance.


Waking Up, Alive is now Available on Kindle