Vital Signs

Not Afraid Of Death, But Not Allowed To Die

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by Michellenea Futrell


I’m almost forty now. In the last few years I’ve thought about these events every day. I constantly feel like someone who has partial amnesia—a part of me keeps nagging at me, but as hard as I try, I can’t remember everything. It’s time for me to come to a better understanding of what happened to me, why it happened, and what do I do with it. I was twelve years old when I attempted suicide. Life at home was anything but happy. It was Nov. 17th 1975. My father had shown me his high-blood-pressure medication just two days before. He kept the bottle on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet and had said to me that he needed to get it refilled the next day, and that by far it was the most dangerous thing in the house. If one of us were to take it accidentally, it could kill us.

Sure enough, the bottle was full. I remember it took me such a long time to swallow all the pills. I was never afraid, though; only sad that I believed at that time there was no other alternative.

I went to my room and climbed into bed, thinking I would just go to sleep and never wake up; my family would finally be happy. It didn’t end up being that simple. I woke to feeling that my chest and throat were being crushed. I couldn’t breathe or yell out for help. In a desperate attempt to get relief from what was happening to me, I ran to my mother’s bedside. She was a nurse, and I thought she would be able to stop it. I couldn’t tell her what I had done, or tell her what I needed. But I remember vividly fighting for her to breathe air into my mouth. It took her a moment to realize that I was in real trouble. I fought as long as I could, and by now everyone in the house was awake and I could hear them screaming. My mother and aunt were on top of me holding me down; my head started feeling dizzy and the pain started to ease. My body felt as though it was getting lighter, lifting off the floor. I remember thinking, “This must be how it feels when you are dying.” I stopped struggling, closed my eyes, and felt myself float away into unconsciousness.

It seemed like only a moment or two passed before I opened my eyes. It was pitch black. My first thought was of the absence of pain, and how relieved I was that it was gone. I couldn’t figure out where I was. I wondered if it were so dark in this place because no light existed, or if I was unable to see. So I brought my hand up in front of my face. I could see it there, completely intact, but without flesh. I quickly scanned my whole being and realized I was different, but very much whole, and I knew everything I had always known. Looking around me I realized I was not standing on anything; there was no

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