I Saw The Purple Scars

“You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That’s an education in itself.”

~ Carol Burnett

A bit of a heads-up: I am going to tackle something here I’ve never tackled. I hope you choose to stay with me because I’d love your comments at the end. This is a conversation that needs to happen. Should you choose to stop, however, I understand. It’s delicate and not necessarily smooth reading. 

Let me ask you something. Have you felt despair so profoundly–have you found yourself at the bottom of the barrel–that you wanted to end your life? Did you get to the point where you started thinking, “What’s the point?” or “There is no way out.” Beyond that, have you tried to end your life? Have you hurt yourself instead? More than once?

September, being Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, is the perfect time to have this conversation. PLEASE join in at the end. (Or, National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, if you prefer. http://www.nami.org/  800-950-6264).


I’ll call her Rose. Only because I know her to be a beautiful person. We’ve known each other since birth, and it can’t get much better than that.

tylers rose_may and june 2016 (11)Two years ago, Rose tried to end her life. I’d had no idea she was in that frame of mind. No one had any idea. She’d been at my house four days earlier. We’d taken pictures. We smiled in those pictures. All of us. I felt ashamed later when retracing the timeline. How could I have missed her pain? How did I not know? What didn’t she want me to see?

A few years prior, Rose was diagnosed with a rare illness for which successful treatment had been limited. That and other conditions caused intermittent, severe pain. We thought it had been managed, or at least better managed through trials of various, strong medications; but, that wasn’t necessarily the case. In addition, other hardships had occurred, significant hardships and losses, and for her, life had become one struggle after another. While aware of the illness and the hardships, none of us understood the extent of her emotional pain.

Electronics caused headaches, so we’d settled into a nice chat-by-phone system where we’d call and talk, sometimes for hours. She openly discussed her suicide attempt, and blamed it on the medications, many of which caused suicidal thoughts. I used to marvel over her strength and sense of humor, told myself if anyone can overcome this, it would be Rose. After many a chat, she had actually inspired me.

We spoke regularly, until this past winter when she cut me off. I’d been fooled.

iPhone pix_Dec 2012-June 2014 314Letters were sent for months, until one seemed to contradict what she’d previously said on the phone. I called, hoping for clarification. I was met with extreme and very uncharacteristic anger, a woman who had become blunt and rude. I was stunned. And, it hurt.

One family member didn’t think much of it until it happened to her a few weeks later (but to a lesser degree). The seemingly unaware response from Rose’s sister was baffling. I didn’t know what to do. Something was terribly wrong. Rose HAD NEVER SPOKEN TO ME in this manner. What was going on?!!?

img_0362Then, things began to change. Nothing Rose said made sense. Scheduled friend and family events did not align with Rose’s announcements of upcoming, major life changes. Friends and family were clueless–one friend used the word “dumbfounded”–and it left us wondering what the hell was going on. No one was talking, and I’d been cut off.

Then it happened. I received a phone call that Rose had attempted to take her life, again. She appeared to mean business using two (or more) methods this time (instead of one as before). I can’t bring myself to ask, but I saw the scars.

There were several on each wrist. She didn’t try once, she’d slit herself several times. They looked deep. One scar on her left wrist looked like a Y, as if she thought she’d better do it again, to make sure. The scars were healing–the scabs were mostly gone–but they were red and purple. She had a purple, finger-width mark–scars I assume–on each wrist, close to each hand. What caused those I do not know. I don’t want to know.

It took my breath away. It made me dizzy. I wanted to vomit.

img_0350

I suppose the take away is this: never, ever let it go if your gut tells you something is wrong. That gut feeling is there for a reason; it’s meant for survival. With one prior attempt and uncharacteristic anger, I knew. I can’t say for sure what I knew, but I knew something. I also felt the beginnings of despair. I’d tried. I shared my concerns–I’d spoken up–but my concerns went no where.

As upsetting as this may be, if someone is bent on leaving this earth, I believe they will find a way. The rest of us can intervene, and intervene, and intervene, but if someone really wants out, they will get out. I’m not interested in blame; it has no place in this conversation. Still, I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had someone connected my thoughts with erratic behavior they may have seen. Rose hid her pain; she did a damn good job hiding her pain because she wanted no one to know. Others who’d been in better communication may have seen nothing and thought I was nuts. It’s a circular thought process.


Maybe this can be a shout out to families and friends. Maybe it’s a call for better communication. Maybe it’s a powerful reminder to listen to our gut and for ALL OF US to pay attention. When someone we know changes, when behaviors become erratic or irrational, we need to listen and act. It could save a life and help someone get the help they need.

img_0344I’m not sure that we have to fall down before we can learn to walk. But, it may well be true. I believe we benefit from knowing we can survive. If we believe there is hope we may try. We may not know how, but simply knowing it’s possible may be enough to help someone, just one person, take that first step to move beyond the pain. It’s the reason I’m sharing.


I talked with Rose this weekend. She is living in a new place, and she’s getting help. Her medications are managed, and she is getting much needed rest. She is talking about her experiences and spending time with family. She likes her counselor.

❤ ❤ There will sometimes be clouds. There is always sunshine. Just wait. ❤ ❤

img_0358
For you, sweet Rose

September, being Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, is the perfect time to have this conversation. 

http://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 800-950-6264

22 thoughts on “I Saw The Purple Scars

  • You have said many important things here. Trust your gut is key. The stomach has all the same wiring that the brain and heart have and more of it. They are proving that the gut responds first. Second, you are correct. if someone is determined, they will eventually succeed. Meds do cause suicidal thoughts. Robin Williams is proof of that. Chronic pain combined with multiple drugs will alter personalities. If I were in chronic pain, I too would want to be released from it. But sometimes there are lessons for many from the suffering. You have done a good thing here by bringing it into the light. These people are suffering and no one is hearing them. They speak out by hurting themselves. It’s their scream. I pray that “Rose” finds a way to cope. My heart goes out to her and those of you that care for her.

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    • Thank you, Marlene, for your astute comments. I’ve lost many close friends/family members over the past several years, most to cancer. The odd thing is, so has “Rose.” She was crushed by some of those losses–one, she’d told me, a few weeks before her last attempt “nearly put me over the edge”–so one would think she’d know the affect her actions would have on those who love her; yet, mental illness is sneaky and it can be strong/severe. It’s like high blood pressure and diabetes: you can’t see it.

      No blame. Not ever. But you are right, they are screaming their pain and most of us (maybe even some health professionals?) don’t necessarily recognize the signs soon enough. Or, maybe those signs are so well hidden even the professionals don’t see it.

      I hope that anyone reading these comments and this post will think about erratic behavior among those they/we know. That may make a world of difference. Thanks again. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am pretty sure much of the medication they are getting is doing more harm than good in many cases. I hope everyone pays attention too. Had to put my daughter on meds when her dad died. Lots of unfinished business. I thought her brother would go right behind him. It took them so by surprise. Life just keeps handing challenges. Glad you are there for “Rose” At least you are more aware.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Marlene, and I completely agree with your first sentence. This is exactly what harmed “Rose” in the beginning. Many doctors, uncertainty about correct diagnosis, too many meds, many that cause suicidal thoughts…and on and on. So sad. About those surprises you mentioned, it wasn’t until I studied mental health in my classes that I learned something very important about it. I always thought people who were mentally ill were born that way. This is so not true. Apparently, any number of stressful, life events can bring on mental instability (or worse) and at any time in life. That surprised me, but it makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t a horrific or shocking event bring on a drastic change? I feel for your children losing their father. I do hope they found a way to cope and that they are OK now. Were they young when this happened? No matter, it’s always hard to lose a parent. Always.

          Yes, here’s to better awareness all around. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • My daughter was in her senior year of high school, son in college part time. It changed them, drastically. We talk a LOT. I’ve been down the well myself many times. PTSD from childhood and then marriages. Lots of meds. I understand more than most realize. Now I take nothing and live a full and happy life. Lots of things had to change and I changed them. A traumatic life can create more empathy in a person once they come through it. I’m grateful for it. Learned so much. I’m hoping Rose gets there too.

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            • Marlene, thanks again for your very well-thought out comments; I can see they are very heartfelt. Sounds to me that your children are very lucky to have the mother they have. “We talk a LOT.” Some kids don’t ever get that, having parents just being there, just listening. It’s the best gift we can give them. Good for you that you take no meds. I don’t either (and usually refuse all unless absolutely necessary). Not saying there weren’t times I wouldn’t have benefited from it, but I always refuse (not always the best decision either). You found the power to change what needed to be changed. That is pretty powerful. I hope from here on out Rose will try much less drastic measures should she find herself without obvious options. ❤

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  • Such an important topic and conversation Karen. Sadly too many people have become far too good at hiding their fears, pain and anxiety these days. It’s almost become the norm to put on a “brave face”. But you’re right Karen, we have to trust our instincts when someone doesn’t seem right though it’s hard when people push you away and seem to not want help
    I hope that your friend really is okay and that anyone else who relates to this will reach out. Thanks for writing this Karen, it’s so important to be open and to know that others are there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Plus, there is the stigma of having a “mental disorder,” or “condition.” In my parents’ day, they would not consider seeing a therapist for help; that was admission of failure. They just dealt with it all. My friend is better, trying to find her way. I just hope that by sharing, if someone sees something that their gut tells them is not right, they will feel that it’s OK to speak up. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Miriam. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  • The stark sadness of your description of the loss of someone you loved, was softened by the beautiful photographs of roses, as though they showed your loved ones true spirit. We all needed to read this, to think about it, to remember it, and to take action when necessary. Thank you for writing it.

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  • A very important conversation !
    I am relieved that your friend is getting help . Your instincts were right , but you must know that sufferers become very skilled at hiding their pain , so it is in no way your fault or even your responsibility that she did manage to elude most everyone and attempt it again .
    Still , it is important to be aware when people drastically change their behaviour , sometimes we may help others we just really can’t because they won’t let us .
    A beautiful post and lovely lovely roses 🙂
    Turtle Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, my Turtle friend. It never occurs to us that those we love–people we’ve known and trusted for years–would lie to us. Not in a million years. It’s a very difficult situation. Yes, they are skilled because they have to be; it’s their real or perceived survival. We can only do so much, and it hurts our hearts; still, most of us are sorely uneducated about this. It’s difficult all the way around. Thank you so much for commenting. ❤

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    • It’s hard to say really how Rose is doing. She is ill and I hope getting the right help. People hide things when they want to, and this has been happening. I am wary, I feel scared, and after talking with her, uneasy. One step at a time. Thanks for reading and for your comment. 🙂

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        • Difficult for sure. How does one fully know what they are dealing with when people hide what they think and how they feel? Lying factors in and other issues. When it does not matter to them……Extremely difficult. Thinking of you in the upcoming days. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            • This is so true. Thank you for your comment about medication and behaviors. Sometimes I believe I need meds for the very same thing–anxiety (for me the attacks hit when I’m half awake in the wee hours of the morning)–but have never tried them. It’s been suggested, but I ALWAYS say no. I am not a pill taker and avoid all meds unless necessary. By the time I’m fully awake, the worst of it has passed, so I never push the idea of meds with any doctor. Hence, the cycle continues….It’s a tough one, that is for sure. ❤

              Liked by 1 person

            • I started when my heart rate was actually changing on its own and the doctor could hear it, an autonomic response. I would never have said I was anxious. Lol, now I can see I was, but not when I was in the middle of it. I take Effexor XR and have had good luck with it. Sending hugs xo

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            • You were experiencing anxiety but were unaware. Interesting. Wonder what the negative effects are among those who know but don’t have it treated. Hmmm…food for thought, here. Thank you. Hugs. 🙂

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