Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Tale Never Before Told

I mentioned several times that I am one of the large percentage of Transfolks to consider suicide.

But there is a part of the story I've never told anyone.  Not in my drab world.  Nowhere.  Ever.  The only ones who know this story were directly involved.  And Therapists.  Come to think of it, I don't even think my current therapist knows the whole story.

22 1/2 years later, I'm going to write about it, as maybe someone somewhere will be helped by it.

Stranger things have happened.

Looking back.  Photo of me by Lady Ellen

Back in mid-September 1990, my fiancee (X) and I broke up as she cheated on me.  In early October, we got back together.  However, she'd already arranged a trip to Florida to see the "other guy."  He was a naval aviator stationed at Pensacola NAS.  She said she would go (as the tickets were non-refundable) and tell him she was staying with me. 

And when she returned, she hadn't done that.  So I ended it again.

On Halloween night, I called X from a party I was attending (thrown by a co-worker,) as she had asked me to do.  She knew all of my coworkers and was thinking of coming to the party.  Instead of giving her directions to the party (this was before cell phones were wide-spread, and GPS didn't exist for civilians) I got the dreaded "We need to talk."

As we weren't dating anymore, I didn't see why, but agreed.  We met at my parents' house the next night, November 1.  Yes, I was still living at home, as I couldn't find a job that paid enough for me to move out.

She told me she was in love with the Other Guy.  I was beyond angry.  I shouldn't have cared but I did.  I punched the wall, leaving a large hole... and my hand broken.  Boxer fracture.  Embarrassing, as I have training on how to throw a punch.

Oh.  By the way- that REALLY hurt.

She left.  I splinted my hand.  Back then I was still a paramedic.  I went down to the kitchen and sat at the table to write her a letter.  It was going to be a "goodbye" letter, which I was going to mail.  She would receive it after...

I couldn't write as the pain was so great.  I wrote a paragraph.  The cliched "By the time you read this, I'll be dead..."

I'd been planning my death for a while.  Since our original breakup, actually.  My method was to be rat poison poured into a bottle of Southern Comfort, and then I keep drinking the SoCo until....  Back then, SoCo is what I drank, and I drank a LOT of it.  I was going to do this in Valley Forge Park, where I wouldn't be found until it was far too late.  I knew many places I could hide there.

It's hard to put into words the Darkness I felt. It was almost like tunnel vision. All I could see ahead in my life was pain. Pain for myself and all those I knew. They'd thank me for getting myself out of their lives, then promptly forget about me. And I'd be out of Pain. Blessed sleep. Release.

It occupied my every waking moment and ruled by dreams by night. In that way, it was like my Gender Identity now. But in the fall of 1990, all I could think about was death.

The poison was in my car.  The bottle was in my room. 

My mom came home from work and saw me trying to write and my splinted hand.  She asked what happened.  I told her I broke my hand.  She took me to the emergency room.

The nurse asked me how I broke my hand.  I told her I punched a wall.  What I didn't realize in my mental state is that my mom read the note while we were speaking.  And she told the nurse.

I could see the nurses' station from where I sat waiting for the X-rays to come back.  I saw four blue-shirted ambulance workers walk into my view and sit at the station.  I knew the protocol.  I knew what it meant.

"You mother says you are suicidal," the nurse said in a quiet monotone.  "Is this true?"  I said it was.  And that had I not come to the emergency room, I'd already have done it.  (Never mind that with a broken right hand it would've been VERY difficult to shift the gears in my car, but I wasn't thinking clearly.)

The doctor entered the room with the X-rays in an envelope.  He turned to me and said "You have two choices.  You can go to the Paoli Psychiatric unit voluntarily or involuntarily."

I looked at the ambulance crew, who were doing their best not to look at me.  "I don't have a choice do I?" I said.

"Not really" the doctor said.

He handed the X-rays to one of the ambulance crew.  They'd set my hand at Paoli, he said.  I was securely strapped to a gurney and taken to the ambulance, then off into the night.  It was after 3 AM, Friday November 2.

Back then, Pennsylvania had laws concerning voluntary vs involuntary commitment to a mental hospital.  If you went voluntarily, the longest they could hold you was 72 hours before they would have to provide a reason to keep you to a court of law.  I thought the 72 was mandatory.  Involuntary meant you were there until a doctor cleared you for release and a court approved it.  That usually meant a long term stay.

I think the laws have since changed.

In any case, I was led to a room.  There was a man in there asleep already.  I was told quietly that the other bed was mine, and that I should get some sleep.  I cried until dawn.  I couldn't believe it had all come to this.  Me in a mental hospital.  Not dead, like I desperately needed to be.

Sometime after dawn I heard two people at the door.  They had come to wake me for breakfast, which was mandatory.  One said to the other that I was a "late night check in" so I could be allowed to sleep. 

They never correctly set my hand.  They assumed Phoenixville did it, and wouldn't believe me when I said they didn't.  It took many years for me to get the strength back in that hand, and I still feel pain there in wet weather. 

They ordered me to shower.  I'd been letting my appearance slide, which is common for suicidal people.  After the shower, I saw my first doctor.  Then a clinical therapist.  Then another.. and another... and they all asked me to go over the story again.  And again.

I poured my heart out to all the doctors and therapists and social workers there, to so many different ones, over and over, until I could get the whole story out without crying. 

I told them about the relationship failure.  About the abuse; mental, physical, and emotional, at the hands of my parents.  Everything... except about being Trans.  I had it buried so deeply that discussing it wasn't even a consideration.

I refused all medications. Why? Well... you're going to laugh. Back in 1987, I read a 3 part Spiderman story where he was committed to a mental hospital and kept so doped up he couldn't think. I didn't want that to happen to me. I wanted my wits about me. So- no drugs.

I called the restaurant where I worked and told them I wouldn't be at work that night, and why.  I asked them to keep it quiet. 

Saturday November 3 was a good friend's wedding.  I was asked to drive in it.  He was the first of my "high school friend group" to marry.  I received permission to call him on the 2nd and tell him I would not be attending.  I told him why.  Apparently, X called one of that group saying I was out of control, and he alerted others.  The Groom searched Valley Forge Park for my car, hoping to find me there.  (Everyone knew how much time I spent there back then.)  They were also all aware of my suicidal thoughts.  They didn't find me and feared me dead.

That night (the 2nd) my parents arrived to visit, and the doctor told them what I told him.  So they knew my opinion of their parenting skills.  I have no idea what the doctor concluded to them.

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day.  I stared out the four inch wide window (with wire reinforced glass) and thought about the wedding I was missing.  The doctors called X, and asked her to come to the hospital.  I couldn't leave until I confronted her. 

I spent the time either talking to staff or playing Hearts with other "guests."  My roommate had casts on both of his hands.  He was a Brit in his 60s, and had cut his wrists so deeply that he severed tendons  and even hit bone.  He didn't remember doing it, and had no idea how he did it.  He'd been there for over a month at that point.  I don't remember his name.

X arrived in the late afternoon.  We sat on my bed and she cried.  She told me that she called my mom the afternoon before, and that my mom bitched her out, blaming everything on her.  Not entirely accurate, but there it was.  She couldn't stay long, as she was going out that night.  On a date.

That's compassion for you.

Saturday night, a 15 year old boy was admitted.  His parents put him there "for no reason" he said.  I don't remember much about him except that he really was "out there."  I knew he would be in that ward for a while.

Sunday morning, my case was reviewed by a doctor, who said they had no reason to hold me there as I was "no longer a danger to myself."  I would be discharged that afternoon.

That morning I had to attend an "art therapy" session.  We were all told to draw a bridge.  I drew a suspension bridge, as I was always fascinated by them.  One of the session facilitators, a psych student in a local university, then proceeded to give all these reasons why I drew THAT bridge and this and that and circles and arrows on the back of each one explaining which each one was to be used as evidence against us.  Total Bullshit.  And I told him so- sometimes a drawing is just a drawing.  He didn't like that.   Kid is probably living in a mansion somewhere now with a private practice.  That's scary.

At 4:14pm that day, I walked through the unlocked doors of the ward with my parents and went home. Funny how I remember the exact time all these years later.  I had a cast on my arm.  I told co-workers that I fell down the stairs on an ambulance call.

My dad used this experience as a weapon against me for quite some time after that.  He would bring it up whenever he didn't agree with a course of action I'd chosen.

I didn't speak to X again for nearly eight years.  She married the "Other Guy" that May, before she graduated college.  They divorced a few years later.  She later married a lawyer and they live in a mansion on the Main Line.  2 daughters.  We are friendly now.  She occasionally visits me at my one job.

After being discharged, I went to a few therapy sessions with one of the doctors there.  All he wanted to do was talk football.  Totally useless, so I stopped.  I would return to therapy in the late 1990s for depression. 

And eventually, I discovered the reason behind all the Anger, the Pain, the Darkness.

And I'm headed on a long Journey towards the light.  My light.  My life as it should be.

I am a Woman.

Still Crazy after All These Years


  1. Broken hearts sure can take one to the deep end. I'm glad you survived the turmoil. ツ

  2. Wow - Sophie, there is nothing but love and hope in my heart and words for you. You have always struck me differently than many and I am glad I can call you a friend. You like many have been to hell and back over the issues that we secretly battle sharing your story as you have will hopefully free you from the past. Nothing to hide, nothing to cling to we move easier; more freely, without pretense and with a love of self that every human is born into. Best wishes always.

  3. Good thing you got help. Suicide is such a waste. I've thought of it because of love when I was younger. Then a year or two later you wonder what in the world you were thinking. i'm glad you're still around and hope the depression is not too bad. Best of luck.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing, Sophie. I know how difficult it is to bare your soul to the world. Pax vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo.....

  5. good luck Sophie from what i have heard it is not uncommon to have to deal with both depression (as my TS cousin has mentioned recently) as well s suicide. figuring out the source of the problem and coming to grips with being transgendered by accepting and discussing and eventually coming out is the verrrry basis for healing and being able to function in this world of ours. you are finally on the road to sort of healing in that you are begining to understand yourself
    until one sort of admits and understands ones' self it is verry hard to have much room left over to allow someone into our lives
    it is soooo verrry hard to live in a lie and keep our other self a secret it has become sooo much easier for me now that i don't have to sneak around my family's back. it is less exhausting. at 55 i am getting to old to play the high school girl routine requiring me to change and add or remove makeup going out and coming back. i just don't have the energy to spare anymore to do all that sneaking around.
    good luck with your journey and thank you for sharing.

  6. I'm glad your mom found you, Sophie. Thanks for sharing this and I do hope it will help others.


  7. Sophie...Thank you for sharing this with all of us and I'm so sorry to hear that you found yourself in that place but were able to find a way out of it. Keep your head up hun. Life is full of challenges but you can face each one of them.

    Hugs hun.

  8. Sophie, this is a very moving entry and I do beleive you will help others by sharing it. Perhaps writing about this incident and sharing it with the world will help finally bury this dark episode in your life and help you move forward with your true destiny, being the woman that you are.


  9. Thank you for sharing. You do your typical good job of pulling the ends together. It seems that there were plenty of varied stress issues that brought about the suicidal ideations. To what extent they were gender based, if any?
    You are good and should be commended for bringing in Paul Simon at the end and even better for finding a way to insert Alice's masacre.