Daddy’s suicide attempt

When I was four the second early shame trauma happened.

I was standing on my yellow stool washing the dishes.  It was one of my favorite things to do.  My Mom had gotten a set of plastic dishes, so that I could wash them unsupervised.  My Mom and little sister had gone over to our babysitter’s house.

My Dad was in the bathroom.

I was having a great time.

Then I heard my Dad’s voice.  I didn’t want to be disturbed from my task, so I kept on washing, hoping he wouldn’t call again.  But, of course, he did.  I turned off the water. He was definitely not talking to someone on the phone.  He was calling my name.

Reluctantly, I climbed down from the sink and walked over to the bathroom door.  I called to him.  In a raspy voice, he ordered me to come in.

I hesitated.  My tummy felt tight. Somehow, I felt it was vital that I did not open the door. Still, he called me again.

When I stepped into the bathroom there was steam billowing through the air.  It felt heavy.  Through the mist, I saw Daddy reclined in the tub. But there was something wrong.  There were red swirls in the water. His mouth was covered in tiny white bubbles. He was sunk down in the tub so that the water nearly came to his mouth.

It was scary.  My Dad’s cry battled with the panic inside me.  My Dad won.  I came closer to the tub. He told me that he was stuck and that I had to help him out of the tub.  That didn’t make any sense. He was very big, and I was so little.  I stood frozen. 

In that funny, raspy voice he commanded that I take his hand.  When I did, he told me to pull. So, I did.  Water splashed all over the floor. I pulled again.  He grabbed the side of the tub and gave a mighty push. 

Soon, he was lying on the bathroom floor, like some sort of grounded whale. Cuts on his wrists were still oozing blood, diluted by the bath water.

In that same strange voice, he told me to come and sit on his chest.  When I did my panties and dress got all wet.  Next, he ordered me to bounce on his chest.  He told me it was the only way to get him to breath. 

I did it, over and over, until my little legs were shaky.  He was depending on me.  Feeling both validated and afraid, I dared not stop.

The rest of the story I must guess at.  I remember my Mom coming back and taking me to my room.  I have a sense that there were flashing lights and lots of grownups talking.  My mother says he doesn’t remember it.  I know he was hospitalized for suicide attempts.

In the end, what really matters is how this incident affected me.  I felt so important.  I had saved my Daddy. But I also felt empty and confused.

Why had my Daddy done that?  Why would he want to leave me?  If he could do that to himself, what might he do to me? What would happen if I made him mad? If I made a mistake.

The only thing I could figure was that I must be perfect.  That mistakes could be fatal.

I was convinced that I was not only bad. I was flawed.  Why else would such a thing happen?

These early events did more than create a deep sense of shame and inadequacy.  They set me up to accept anything my Father did, no matter how bad it might make me feel.  Later it would turn into suicidal ideation.

No matter what my father did, I accepted the responsibility for it.  Because there was more to come.  A lot more. 

The fate of the puppies

When I was four years old our family dog had a litter of puppies.  They were these cute, snuggly fur balls.  It was so much fun to play with them. They stayed in our screened in porch off the kitchen.

One morning I woke up early.  I was eager to play with the puppies, so I put on my slippers and creeped across the cold linoleum floor.  Very carefully, very quietly, I opened the door to the screened in porch. Ever so quietly, I made my way over to the box where the mommy dog lay.  Lucy, my favorite puppy, was lying in the box next to her mother. 

I went to pet her, and she didn’t stir.  A sudden coldness grasped me.  I tried to pick her up.  She didn’t stir.  Her little eyes stayed closed. I put her down and made my way back to the kitchen. 

I didn’t know what to do.  I wasn’t really supposed to go out to the dogs by myself.  Still, I felt certain there was something terribly wrong. I was so scared I wanted to sink to the floor.  I wanted to disappear. 
I forced my little body to move. I half ran, half tiptoed my way to my parent’s room.

Mommy and Daddy were sleeping.  I went to Daddy’s side of the bed.  I tugged gently on his arm.  I half wished he wouldn’t get up.  Nevertheless, I tugged harder.  “Daddy”, I gave a loud whisper. Then again.

Daddy stirred. His eyes opened. It took a minute for him to focus on me. When he did, he looked annoyed.  I wished I could crawl back out and go back to my bed. Lucy needed me, though.  So, I stayed.

He asked me what was wrong. I tried to explain about Lucy not answering me, not feeling soft and fluffy.

Suddenly, he threw back the cover and grabbed his robe.  I struggled to keep up as he raced to the covered porch.  I stood in the doorway while he went out to investigate.  He told me to go back inside and help mommy make breakfast.

I heard the screen door open, shut, and open again.  I was crouched on the kitchen chair.  Daddy came back inside.  I saw him give my mother a look.  He put up his hands in an “I don’t know” gesture.

I very quietly asked him where the puppies where.  I wanted to know when I could play with Lucy.

He sighed and sat down on the kitchen table.  He explained to me that someone had left the screen door unlocked.  The puppies got out of the door.  They climbed through an open space under the porch.  There they found broken glass. The puppies ate the glass.  The glass cut them inside and they were dead.

He told me we were going to have to bury the puppies.  He got a large box and gently put the puppies in it.  Then he put on the lid.

He was going to take the puppies up to the forest behind our house and bury them.  I didn’t know what bury meant. I didn’t really understand dead.  I was sure I was the one who left the door open. Surely my parents weren’t that careless. It was my fault the puppies were going to be up in the forest, cold and alone.

Daddy put on his shoes and picked up the box.  He asked me to come with him, but I refused.  I climbed up on my yellow foot stool, the one I used to reach the sink, and watched him climb the hill behind our back yard. 
Suddenly, I wished I had gone with him.  I longed to race after him, to yell for him to wait.  Because I knew I was a bad person, a careless person.  Because I couldn’t even remember to close a door the puppies would be gone forever. They would be stuck in the wood, cold, lonely, and scared.

Now, frightening as that experience was, there is obviously as back story.  No child takes on that level of responsibility unbidden. So, what was life like for little Debby before the puppies died?  What made me vulnerable enough to wish I didn’t exist?

Well, one of the earliest memories I have was of being unsafe.  My mother took me for swimming lessons.  I was about 2 ½.  In the dressing room there was a huge window that showed the pool.  The only thing was, the water line was above the window. I saw other children diving and swimming under the water.

I was no dummy. I knew I couldn’t stay under the water without breathing. Of course, I could not have told my mother that. I just knew that I couldn’t go in that pool under any circumstances. 
I did what any smart kid would do.  I threw a huge tantum.  I didn’t believe that my mother could keep me safe. I did not trust her, somehow.

At another time, perhaps even before that, my mother left me alone in a shopping mall. It was time to go home, but I didn’t want to leave. So, I dragged my feet. I sat on the ground.  I refused to go.  I don’t know why my mother didn’t just pick me up. I do know she said something to the effect of get going or I’m going to leave you here.

She did.  Much to my surprise and dismay.  I saw her walk away. I don’t know if I could see the car. Apparently, she drove around the block, then came back for me. My life was definitely not safe.

I did mention that there were two major contributors to my sense that I shouldn’t be.  Stay tuned…..

Start at the beginning


I’m Debi. Shame has been my companion since I was very small. There were two incidents that really framed my early years. Both occurred when I was about 4.

But before I get into that, perhaps you would like to know what you are getting into, before you invest your precious time in my words.

My life has been pretty chaotic. The first 5 years involved repeated traumas. When I was 6, my parents separated. That was something odd, and it made me odd. Divorce was still relatively uncommon.

Like some other survivors of sexual abuse, I found an inappropriate man and let him make me his. Within a few years, we were active in alternative life styles. For those who don’t follow, that was a variety of atypical sexual activity. OK. I’ll say it. We started by looking for someone to have a threesome and ended in a cozy swingers group.

After my marriage ended I drifted through life. I tried desperately to find some meaning, some purpose. When I failed I landed myself in a psychiatric day program.

That was the start of a whole other life. I started to want to want to get better. From there to here is a whole other story. It has been almost 13 years. I have built a life for myself. A life with little drama. I have friends, and a part time job. I am on disability. I had to truly struggle to find acceptance of that. Things are good, now.

The thing is, I feel that there is something in my healing that could benefit others. I want to write about my journey. To offer a smidge of hope to others.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Hi. Thanks for dropping by. If you are looking for real life overcoming of childhood and adult trauma, welcome. My posts vary between exploration of the events that lead to extreme shame and concrete choices and behaviors to overcome and heal. The shame of early childhood betrayals caused me to, from a very young age, believe that I was other; I was wrong.
These feelings contributed to great pain. Most of my life I felt I shouldn’t exist. I longer, not just for death, but for an end of my existence.
Not a fun place to be. Around 40 I embarked on an often difficult journey of breaking down and building back up.
It has been, and is, a lot of work. So much pain to process. One of the biggest problems with shame is that it demands to be hidden. So, here I am, defying the secrets. Shouting them at the top of my lungs.
I would be honored if you would stick around. Where I have gotten to now is, I think, well worth the discomfort.
So, again, welcome.