On Educating Others

I’m sitting here at my work computer on my lunch break with my aching legs criss crossed on the swively chair and my head cocked to one side. My phone headset is floating atop my hair and I’ve been taking calls even through my lunch hour. I rarely step away. Today is an easy day: there’s not much going on, and it gives me time to think.

The night of my reverse-suicide attempt I got the courage to confront my American aunt. I lived with her and my uncle for a few months after I had first escaped my abuser four years ago. She has known me since I was born. She’s been in my life sporadically, on and off, over the years. When we lived in Europe I didn’t think of her at all; I was so focused on the environment around me.

I’ve been frustrated because I want to have a relationship with her and I would like her support. The thing is, she doesn’t know how to “handle” me because of my mental illness. I send her a text message every few months to let her know how I’m doing but she doesn’t and hasn’t ever reached out to me proactively, on her own accord, without prompting from me. And that hurts ever so slightly. I like to think of myself as an amenable person.

Here’s our recent text message conversation verbatim:

Me: I was going to kill myself tonight. My therapist listened to me and talked me out of killing myself. I feel like you could care less either way. You probably just don’t know how to deal with it. Suicidal people just want compassion and understanding, someone to listen and to respond. Your last comment to me was insulting. Don’t you think I’d join a volunteer group or partake in a hobby if I could?? That would make my life just that much more worth living. When you’re suicidal you don’t have any energy to devote toward those things. I had hoped for too much when I thought you might be willing to listen and respond. I didn’t even get a response from you for the first two messages when I said I was going to talk to the district attorney. Nothing. Silence. Maybe you didn’t know what to say? Maybe you could have told me just that. It would have been better than unsupportive silence. I feel like you could care less about me even though you and your husband paid for a whole year of my college over ten years ago. I knew that you cared then. You even made the effort to come visit me in Italy. What happened? Did I do something to disappoint you? Maybe the fact that I’ve been suicidal for five years scares you and you don’t want to deal with it. I’d rather know if that’s the case. Something is better than nothing. When I made my safety contract with my therapist in 2012, you were one of the people I was supposed to call if I felt I was going to harm myself. But I know I can’t count on you for that now. The last time we Skyped was a long time ago and you never care to reach out to me proactively yet you visit with your own children all the time. And you visit your youngest niece. If I called you feeling suicidal you would probably just tell me to go get a hobby. Not only does that kind of comment make me feel worse, it’s confusing. Why would someone say that to a suicidal person? All I’ve ever wanted is your support and I hereby must apologize again for having had any hopes or expectations. It’s not my fault that my ex-spouse raped me, sexually abused me, psychologically controlled me and damaged me for six years. I had an emotionally abusive mother and I was vulnerable to falling into that trap again. I had no idea when I met him that he would turn into a narcissistic abuser. Living in that marriage was torture and hell and I put on a brave face for everyone just like I did when I was a little child. Killing myself was the only logical solution out of that mess because I didn’t want to leave him, ever. I never thought of leaving. I think I stayed with you for a while when I first separated from him. Thank you for that. I don’t remember any of that. Apparently I acted or behaved in a way that would never make you want to have me stay with you ever again. I don’t know what I did. I don’t remember that period of my life. Sorry for existing. I thought you should know how I feel, what my thought process is, and that my suicidality is not gone. Tell me that you can’t handle it.

My Aunt: I’m sorry I don’t know how to respond. I found it emotionally draining trying to help you in the time after your separation and I felt you were trying to manipulate me. I did not feel it was good for me to keep helping. I really don’t understand not wanting to be happy so the things I recommend are things I do when I feel down. I’m sorry if they are insulting to you. It just shows that I’m not qualified to deal with your problems. It is good you have a therapist who can.

Me: Thank you for saying that and for responding. I still desire to have a relationship with you. I know you’ve never felt suicidal before but it has been such a big part of my life. I’m sorry that you thought I was being manipulative. I don’t remember any of it. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just acting on instinct. How I behaved with you gives you a good idea how I was with my ex-husband at the end. It wouldn’t have just changed that quickly. It wasn’t you, that’s how I would have been with every person around me. I can understand needing to protect yourself first over helping me. I wonder what you would have been like had it been your own daughter. I’m not your daughter so you don’t have that sort of social or moral connection or responsibility. I have come a long way and I have had lots of support from other people. Sharing with you that I was going to the DA was a leap of faith because I wanted to include you in my life. When my grandmother died I broke my safety contract with my therapist and cut my arm with scissors. I took pictures of the wounds and shared them around. I said something to you and I think you asked your son to call me because it was right after that when he called me that week.

My Aunt: I didn’t respond because I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t think it would be good for you.

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