Recovering From a Suicide Attempt After Abortion Depression

Opinion   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 13, 2011   |   12:02PM   |   Washington, DC

I seemed to recover quite quickly from my suicide attempt that landed me in the ER. Seemed would be the key word in that sentence

The days and weeks following my abortion and my subsequent suicide attempt are a blurry mush in my memory. I know I went to my 3-week post-abortion follow-up appointment at the clinic (I only know this because I saw my chart years later, I have no recollection of this) and I know my body recovered from the painfully invasive physical assault that ended my baby’s life.  What is crystal clear in my mind, however, is that my abortion ended my relationship with my baby’s father. The remaining drops of my sanity evaporated when I moved back into my mother’s house.

I willingly attended psychotherapy sessions and obediently ingested psychotropic medication to try to slay the vicious guilt monster eating away at me, but the mild and temporary dulling of my senses would prove not to be enough.

My dress rehearsal as an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital came very quickly on the heels of my 3-week post-abortion follow-up appointment, but only lasted one night. I was first sent to an adult psychiatric unit of a local community hospital where I most certainly did not belong. God help those lost souls, but I was not psychotic and I was not 40 years old (like I am now) so it felt so very wrong and terrifying to be surrounded by folks talking to the curtains or shaking and rocking on a chair in the corner (yes, it seemed that bad to my already shell-shocked 17-year-old self. I needed the adults around me to be sane, stable, and in charge.) So they released me. I went back to my childhood room and wept non-stop for a few more days (weeks?) until the health insurance was straightened out and a spot opened up in an adolescent psychiatric unit down the street from my mother’s house.

The first night in a solitary “observation room” within eyesight of the nurses’ station was the worst. Hearing the other kids crying, screaming—or not hearing them—was tortuous. At first I put on an age-appropriate belligerent front, which was easy for me given my strong-willed personality and punk rock style of dress. But I knew I needed to be there, and I wanted to feel better, so after the first couple of days I stopped fighting and began to open up to treatment.

Being surrounded by other teens in pain offered immeasurable comfort and I found the daily group therapy sessions the most helpful for me. I adjusted to the routine of the psych unit, made friends (and found a boyfriend, later husband, still later ex-husband), and got stabilized on much-needed medication.

My most vivid memory of the hospital was this poem tacked to the wall in the Day Room:

Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters
a poem by Portia Nelson, published in her book
There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

The month I spent there saved my life. My abortion still haunted me—especially at night—but it did not monopolize my every waking thought. I still did not feel worthy of life, but I no longer wanted to shuffle off this mortal coil. My first time choosing life was for myself.

LifeNews Note: This is Part One of a series on post-abortion recovery. See part one at I Tried to Take My Life to Erase the Pain of My Abortion. Jewels Green is a post-abortive mother of three who worked in an abortion clinic before becoming pro-life. Watch for the next installment in this series of post-abortion pain and recovery, “Abortion Hurts, Part 2: The Psychiatric Hospital” coming soon. Green writes for the Live Action blog and this column is reprinted with permission.