NSPM Writing Submission - Emma D.
Submission by Emma D.
(Trigger warning: suicide)
Hello, my name is Emma Dufrene and I would like to share my experience with suicide. First and foremost, I want to thank Buddy Project for giving me the opportunity to do this and hopefully help someone out there in some way by sharing my story. Bear with me, my story is very sad (and long) but if you read until the end you will see that there is a good outcome to something so tragic. My story starts in 2009 when I was nine years old. I knew my Dad had problems, but as a nine-year-old you only know so much. A year or two prior he had a gastric bypass. He was three hundred and fifty pounds and had type-two diabetes. He was addicted to food. The gastric bypass helped him lose weight and helped with his addiction- to food at least.
While recovering in the hospital my Father became addicted to pain pills. Me of course being so young I had no idea what addiction was. I was naïve. One day I was coming home from my grandmother’s house. When I walked into my house my brother and I found my father unconscious in his recliner in the living room. Almost ten years later and I can still remember it as clear as day. We poured water on him and tried to wake him up- he didn’t wake up. We called 911 and my mother rushed home from her night shift at the hospital. I did not find out until years later that my father tried to kill himself by drinking anti-freeze that night. He failed. In late 2009, he went to rehab and it worked. He was sober and everything was “normal.” We lived an okay life up until 2011. My Dad was diagnosed with stage-four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We were all terrified and devastated. He started chemotherapy. He became so pale and sickly. He lost so much weight. He eventually went into remission. We were so relieved. He was too.
Sometime in 2011 my Dad started to use again. I think it was his way of coping with his cancer diagnoses. In 2012, he was diagnosed with the same type of cancer yet again. His survival rate was lower this time from what I remember. He was even sicker. They were even considering doing a stem cell transplant. He again did many rounds of chemotherapy. He spent so much time in the hospital. Although I was only twelve, I could tell this was taking a big toll on my dad’s mental health. I also knew that he was no longer sober. He went to AA and to group therapy. I thought he was doing better but really, I think he was just good at hiding it. My dad was an alcoholic and a drug-addict. In August of 2012, my grandparents took the entire family on a vacation to SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas. My Dad was not able to attend the trip because a few days before we left for the trip my Dad tried to kill himself by drinking anti-freeze for the second time. We went to SeaWorld without him.
I remember at SeaWorld getting a mug for my Dad because he liked to drink coffee. He loved it. He used it every day until it broke. Knowing the mug made him so happy and that he used it every day still makes me smile. He was such a sweet, smart man but he had so many demons. Flash forward to 2013 and my best friend at the time moved in with us because she had a terrible, abusive home life. Although our home life was not much better it was still a step up from where she lived. My Dad was approved for disability from the government for his cancer because he was no longer able to work. We somehow never had any money although my mom worked and he got social security. A family of five plus six animals were living off my mom’s salary only it seemed. The electricity would get turned off and we had barely any food. It was a horrible time.
I was thirteen at the time so I was older and I was used to living with my father who was almost always either drunk, high, or both. It put so much tension on the family that it was my brother and mother versus me. I wanted to kick him out because he was hurting us too much emotionally but they wanted him to stay. It was two against one so he always stayed. I loved him, but I had enough. Fights like these seemed to happen almost every week. It became our “normal.” One day in late 2013 I had one of my old friends over. We were having a sleepover. Later that night my mom found my dad in their bed out cold. He was barely breathing and would not answer when you talked to him. We somehow got him to my best friend’s room (remember, she was living with us) and laid him on her bed. We called 911 and they brought him to the nearest hospital. I was so used to finding him this way that it did not even phase me. What phased me is the fact that my friend who was sleeping over saw that. It was embarrassing and I felt so bad for her. Still, this did not ruin our friendship. She acted like it didn’t happen and I was happy about that.
We again found out that my dad tried to kill himself for the third time by drinking anti-freeze. They could save him but after drinking anti-freeze three times your body isn’t the same. They told him that by the time he was forty-five he was going to have to go on dialysis. His kidneys, liver, brain, everything was so damaged from the years of drug and alcohol abuse along with the three suicide attempts. He was a smart, kind man but he turned into someone we didn’t even know. He was a sports and Beatles fanatic and knew so many facts about both subjects but it got to the point where he barely remembered anything. He wasn’t dumb, but he just wasn’t the same man I once knew. The years of abuse by his parents, drugs, and alcohol had permanently changed him.
He had been arrested quite a few times for DUI’s but then he again got another one and was put into a program by the state where he had to go to mandatory meetings and group therapy to help get him get sober. He also had to do random drug screenings. He did the program but it did nothing. My dad was an addict and it seemed that nothing could help him. We couldn’t afford rehab again. He was out of control. In June of 2014 my brother and I were home alone when we heard a loud crash coming from outside. We at first thought it was an accident but it turns out my dad crashed into our garage and busted a gas line. We lived across the street from his parents who we were on bad terms with. They rushed across the street and pulled us from the house because it could explode because of the gas leak. It was one of the most horrific moments of my life. They shut the gas off and my mom rushed home from work. The reason my dad crashed into the garage was because he had a seizure from one of the pain pills he took. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was the beginning of the end.
As 2014 went on my dad kept up his same ways. I would find him passed out in the front yard at 5 a.m. Only two hours before my school bus would pass by my house where they would’ve seen him in the front yard. He was constantly messed up. My brother and I were constantly missing school but no one there besides my band director knew why. She understood me and she was always there to listen to me and let me cry instead of playing my flute. She was comforting and understanding. To this day she still has no idea how much she and what she did means to me. I will always hold her close to my heart. My life was only getting worse but, she was the only force of positivity I seemed to have.
Summer was over and school started up again. September flew by and things only seemed to get worse. We were still very poor and my dad was still the same. Although he really messed our lives up I will never forget us two going school shopping together. He got us coffee and we went to different stores to get me new khaki pants. It sounds pointless, but spending the day together when he wasn’t messed up was a huge thing for me and always will be. He had so many problems but deep down I know he loved his family dearly.
October came and we celebrated my Dad’s birthday by going to dinner. It was him, my mom, brother, and my mom’s parents. We had an amazing time. That night my dad and I took our last photo together. We didn’t know that. My dad’s parents didn’t acknowledge their own son’s birthday and this devastated my dad. He waited around all day for a text or a call but got nothing. This was my dad’s decline. That Saturday him, me, my mom, and brother saw Paul McCartney live in concert together. It was the last good thing we did together. The concert was amazing. At the end of the show my brother and mom went to use the restroom but my dad and I stayed because we knew Paul was going to come back on stage to play and encore. He did. He played the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers Medley.” That was my dad’s favorite. It made him so happy. It was a small moment the two of us shared and I will never forget it.
Within the next three days my dad got arrested again for another DUI while he was still in the state program. He was facing ten years in prison. He was going to lose his government benefits meaning we couldn’t move into our new house and were going to have to live with my mom’s parents. My mom and I drove to a bail bonds place at three a.m. to bail him out. I had to miss school that day. We were in the middle of moving because the house we were in was being foreclosed on so him getting arrested was the last thing we needed. We were all so angry at him. He didn’t seem to get why we were mad which made us angrier. We went to bed. The next day I woke up and went downstairs to find my dad in his recliner watching tv. I could tell something wasn’t right. He was not saying a word and he looked weird. I sat down on the couch and watched tv with him in silence for about two hours. I got up and went to go back upstairs. As I was, he was storming out of our front door and I could tell something was wrong. I told him, “bye, I love you.” That was the first time he didn’t say it back. I was upset so I went upstairs and hung out with my brother. We were in my room playing for about an hour until we heard him come back home and stomp up the stairs. He was stomping so loudly he almost knocked pictures off the wall. We heard him go into his and my mom’s room and slam the door.
A few hours had passed and it was time for my mom to wake up for work. When she awoke she found my father unresponsive in the bed next to her. We already knew he drank the anti-freeze again. We called 911 and we were not phased. We thought he was going to recover again like he always did. He didn’t. My dad passed away on October 15th, 2014 at the age of thirty-eight.
We held a beautiful funeral service for him. I remember everything so clearly. I even remember what I felt that day. I was confused, angry, devastated, and scared because I had to face his parents again for the first time in a long time. I hated them and still do. I remember not crying at his funeral to stay strong for my mom and brother. I remember seeing all the people there cry over him and express how much they were going to miss him. All his high school friends showed up. If only he knew how much he meant to so many people. If only he knew his worth. If only he knew that he was not alone.
Fast forward to three weeks later and my dog Holly passed away at the age of nine. I think stressed killed her. She was my dad’s companion and now he was no longer there. I believe that they are together now, at peace. Three months went by and my mom was fired from her job of ten years because they said she was not getting over my dad’s death quick enough. She was heartbroken and unstable. So was I. We were struggling financially again and my mom and I were having severe mental problems. At the end of 2015 we both started seeing a psychiatrist and he diagnosed both of us with bipolar disorder. We started on medicines and my mom became a functioning human being. It was the first time in her entire life that she was genuinely happy and felt like she should. I am still working on finding the right medicines for me but I am doing better than I was.
In early 2016 by mom finally got another job after being rejected so many times. We finally felt like things were looking up for us. While our home life became better I was still struggling with my bipolar disorder. I was constantly suicidal and I came close to killing myself many times. Music was my escape. It comforted me when nothing else did. My favorite band is 5 Seconds of Summer (also known as “5SOS”). They are one of the main reasons why I am here today. I saw them live for the first-time in September of last year and it was the first time I felt genuinely happy. I felt accepted for who I was and I felt safe. I love that band very much and if only they knew the impact they have had on me. After dropping out of high school in August of that year that band really made me feel comforted and less alone. On nights when I was so close to killing myself I would put on their music and it would calm me down.
It is now August of 2017 and my life is completely different than what is was three years ago. We have a nice house, my mom has an amazing job, and my brother has a scholarship to go to a private high school. We are very close. As for me, I am doing an at your own pace online high school diploma program. With my mental state, I am not able to handle real high school. This program is perfect for me. Things in my life have gotten so much better. I still struggle with my mental health a lot, but I am in therapy and I am trying to work towards being happy. It is truly a struggle but I am getting there. I am so grateful for every good thing that has happened so far in my life. Although I miss my dad every single day, I would never go back to what our life once was. We were all miserable. I do wish my dad could’ve gotten the help and the medicine he needed and that he saw his worth. But I try not to dwell on that because the “what if’s” in life just upset you. I am continuing to grieve and I always will to some extent. I just hope it gets better over time.
If you’ve stuck around and read this entire story, thank you. I want you to know that you are worth so much and people do love you even if you don’t see it. You deserve a happy life. Your life is worth too much to end it. If you are ever in a mental crisis please text “HOME” to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk to trained crisis counselors. If you are in a situation like I was right now please know that it does get better. It will get better. I didn’t believe it either but it is true. I wanted to end my life then but I am glad I didn’t because I wouldn’t get to experience the amazing things I do now. Life is worth living, but sometimes it’s hard to see it. You are loved and you are needed on this earth. That hopeless feeling you have will not last forever. Life has amazing things in store and you need to be here to see it. I promise.