On Tuesday, September 30th 1997, my daughter Katja, took an overdose of anti-depressants and left this world sometime around 3 a.m.
She never saw the sun rise again, and she never will. To mourn her death, is to mourn her life which led her to believe that there was no hope. She was only 19. She never married, she never had children, she never saw the part of the world I, her mother, live in. She never will. She will never see her little sisters graduate from school, get married and have children. I will never see her get married and have children of her own, or show her beautiful Lake Michigan. I will never be able to explain my choices to her, I will never be able to make her see that she too had choices. I will never hear her say, "I love you, Mama" again. Never again will I hold her in my arms and hug her...never again...never...ever...
It has been two years since I first heard of her death via the telephone, across the Atlantic, 5,000 miles between me and the words that were unspeakable. It took me two years to go and see her final resting place, and to meet her friends face to face. What I learned, after all this time, was that in 19 years Katja never learned what this life is for.
Katja was a young woman, searching for the answers, always unsure of herself, looking for love but never finding it. She was only 19 but she thought that she should have found her true love by now. Yet her moodswings made it difficult to get close to her. She did not like what she saw in the mirror, but she was unable to change. Her illness kept her from seeing reality for what it was. She did not see the beautiful woman that was blossoming inside her, instead she saw an ugliness that was never real. Sadness overwhelmed her to the point that even the people closest to her could not pull her back from the darkness. The person Katja died long before her physical life ended, the agonizing pain of depression robbed her of life long before her body followed.
have been on both sides of depression, as a survivor of a loved one's suicide, and as someone who has attempted suicide several times in the years preceding Katja's death. I know how it feels, when you believe that you are without hope. When you stand at this abyss and it is swallowing you completely. The pain and agony that leads one to take ones life is something I am very familiar with.
Katja reached out for help, but never was understood by the people who could have helped her. She withdrew more and more and in the end was not even able to share her pain with her closest friends, though they were there to help every step of the way. She isolated herself more and more, a typical reaction when suffering depression.
Depression is an illness as any other, with the difference that it effects the brain. It keeps you from seeing reality for what it really is. It stops the light from shinning through and leaves you in total darkness, as if in a deep tunnel. Like looking at Medusa, it can freeze you in place, unable to turn your head and see other options. Words of comfort from others will not reach your soul, they are merely words. The despair is so deep, so consuming, that we cannot see that there is help available. We feel as though no one cares, no one will miss us when we are gone, no-one loves us. The tunnel is so narrow, that we cannot turn around and see the help that is right there, and we cannot see the hand that reaches out to us, trying to pull us back into the light.
When we are depressed we feel worthless and the pain is physical. It takes our breath away, punches us in the stomach, leaves us unable to move. A paralyzing fear takes control, not a fear of death, but of life. Death is welcoming us with open arms, it offers us peace of mind. death holds us hypnotized in its gaze.
It is just so easy to take this one last step towards peace. No more pain! Never again feeling the pain of rejection, of prayers being unanswered, of not being able to express our thoughts and feelings. Never again will we be misunderstood. Never again will we feel unloved, Death loves us. It is our only friend.
We do not think of the pain our death may cause others, often we even convince ourselves that we are doing the world, and our loved ones, a favor by leaving them behind. Little do we know in our despair that we are causing this incredible pain for our loved ones. I did not know that there could be such a disabling pain of grief. Katja's death ripped out my soul and exposed to the elements. Even the pain of depression never reach the level of pain the loss of my child caused me.
Katja battled demons no one could see, yet they were very real to her. She had battled them all her life. She was never able to see past them, see the promise of a brighter tomorrow. My demons these days are very real. They are marked by a grave in Korbach, Germany, a grave I have now finally had the chance to see with my own eyes, which also brought renewed pain. After two years I now know that Katja is really dead, there is a cross which bares her name, and loving friends caring for her grave.