Kaitlyn, If I could turn back time, where would I go first? Maybe I would go back to the last day I saw you when you came from seeing your boyfriend the week after Easter. After I asked you in the car on the way home from the airport, if you were happy, and you saying yes, with a big smile on your face, maybe once we got home I should have taken you aside and sat you down and asked you again if you were truly happy, even though I had no reason to continue such line of questioning, since you seemed so happy.
Maybe I could go back an hour before that, when we were sitting at the Chinese restaurant and I asked you if you were excited about starting clinicals the next day (well actually orientation to clinicals started first). You told me yes, you were excited but a little nervous too because you said, “Momma, what if I find out I’m not as smart as I think I am?” That answer to me made me think you knew you were smart but were just a little nervous and nothing to worry about. But I said “Of course you’re smart, or you wouldn’t be where you are now.” Maybe I should have paused at that and made you discuss more in depth with me how you felt. Maybe I missed an opportunity. Maybe you had something you were worried about and I let it pass by.
Maybe I could go back to the week before that, when you first came home for Easter. Maybe I should have ignored the fact that you acted so very happy, so very relieved that your board exam you just studied intensely for 6 weeks was over and you felt you did well on. (You did do well on it, but never got to find out). You acted so happy to see us, so happy to see your grandparents and family, happy to watch our favorite movies together, to talk, to shop and spend time with each other. Just ignore all that and know somehow, someway that a ticking time bomb was going on inside you and that you needed help. I had no clue. If someone seems happy, you assume they are, especially the daughter you had that was always happy, or so you thought.
What if I could go back a few weeks further during the time you were studying for your medical board exam for 6 weeks. Instead of going to see you during this time (we usually went to see you once a month if you couldn’t come home) I decided that It would throw you off your strict study schedule you had for yourself, didn’t want to disrupt that, and so I waited for you to come home for Easter. I didn’t want to mess up your schedule and so thought I was doing the best thing for you. I thought I was being unselfish to forgo seeing you and I wanted to see you so badly. So I went from the end of Dec. to the end of March without seeing you. I didn’t think for once that you may feel isolated and lonely and perhaps our visit would make a difference. I thought between studying, going to the gym, running and seeing friends sometimes you would not be isolated and lonely, but I should have realized how self-disciplined you were and I know you set a horrible schedule for yourself. I should have gone anyway.
What if I could go back a little further, and instead of asking you several times, “Are you sure you want to be a doctor? It is so hard to get in and so stressful when you get in, and stressful when you become one” and hearing you tell me each time, for sure that is what you wanted to do, maybe I should have really taken you down and talked with you even more in-depth about it. But you were always so sure…..at that time.
Maybe I could go back even further, when you were in high school and were really into art and a very good artist too. You toyed with the idea of going to art school. I told you to make sure you think really hard about that because it’s hard to make a living being an artist and since you were so gifted in math and science, maybe you should pursue something in that area, which you ultimately did. Oh my God, did I steer you the wrong way? Did I have more influence in what you wanted to do than I thought I did? Did this make you torn and not know what to do and ultimately decide on something you didn’t really want to do? Would being an artist be more satisfying to you soul and your creative abilities? Oh gosh, did I do something horrible to my child to mix you up, make you sad? Once you got started in med school, you told me it was what you were meant to do and you loved it.
Maybe I could go back even further in time, back when you were in high school and grade school and not act like you were the smartest thing on Earth when you won this and accomplished that, and bragged on you to everyone I know. Did that put too much pressure on you? It’s just that I was so proud of you.
Should I go back even further when you were a little girl when you told me “Momma, everyone expects me to be the best at everything and that bothers me.” I looked at you with that concerned look on your face, your furrowed up brow that would always wrinkle up when you were concerned or troubled with something. I took my fingers, as I always did, and smoothed out the furrows and told you “Kaitlyn, you do not always have to be the best at everything, just do your best and that will be good enough for us and should be good enough for you.” You smiled at that, seemed happy with it, and went on your merry way. Maybe I should have sat you down and talked with you more in depth about this. But I thought this helped you and you never acted like something like that ever bothered you again, but you continued to be the best at almost everything.
Perhaps I can hop back and forth in time at different times of your life, like when I beat you at Monopoly that one time (I could never beat you at anything else) when you were a little girl and you cried. I tried to tell you to be a good sport, that you will not always win at everything and there will always be someone better at something somewhere and that was ok. Maybe hop to other times when if you were wrong about something, it hurt you terribly. You didn’t think you were better than anyone else, but you really seemed to hurt inside when you were wrong. I tried to talk to you about this to, but it didn’t help. This didn’t come up often, because you were rarely wrong. Maybe I should have talked to you more about this, but I figured it was your competitive nature and sometimes intelligent people are like this, they are competitive and usually perfectionists.
Perhaps I could go back to the beginning of your life when you were a baby and you did everything so early, so well and you were wise beyond your years and you continued to be successful all your life, and instead of thinking that nothing could ever bother you, you could never be depressed or with problems, that you had everything, had it made, well on the way to a wonderful career, I did not for once sit back and think you were anything but as near perfect as anyone I’d ever seen. So strong, so opinionated, so stubborn, but oh so sweet. Maybe you were too scared to tear down all these pedestals we had set you upon to admit you had a problem. Maybe you were scared you would be less in your eyes. That would have never been true, but how did you know?
Let me keep flip flopping through time, when you started running so much and were so very careful about what you ate, about a year ago. I was concerned you were running too much and how in the world can you study and run marathons? You told me not to worry, running helped your stress, and it was good for you and it made you feel good, and you lost the weight you wanted to lose. (I didn’t think you needed to lose any). What if you were desperately trying to fill that empty hole inside your soul (I know about empty soul feeling) and you were desperately trying to fight your depression by gaining endorphins from your running? But I listened to what you said and how you acted and decided you knew what you were doing. Perhaps this had nothing to do with anything other than you just liked running.
But I can’t go back in time to try these things out, to change some of the things I said or didn’t say or do, and to see if it would have made a difference. But I sure would love to try…..if it was possible, but unfortunately, time goes back for no one.
Sometimes I think in horror “what if you TOLD me you were depressed and I didn’t hear you or didn’t take you seriously and have now blocked it out of my mind?? Oh God NO! I’ve racked my mind to try to remember anything like this and I can’t. I know I would have picked up on this.
What if all those times I called you and you sounded down and I asked you about it you would only say you were tired from running or studying or something. Maybe I should have pressed that issue.
Kaitlyn, the truth about it is, I never saw anything but happiness in you your whole life, except during the regular heartbreaks of growing up, like boyfriend breakups, etc. I never saw anyone who loved excelling and accomplishing things more than what you did. I never saw anyone more driven and self-motivated and you seemed to love every single minute of it.
You had good, sweet, smart friends all through school, so if you were ever lonely, I couldn’t see it. You always questioned things and never took things at face value, but you were never rude about anything you had doubts about.
Perhaps you started having problems when you went off to college and seeing as I didn’t get to see you as often, maybe I didn’t pick up on it and you never let on. You still continued to be your happy, driven, self. I saw nothing but happiness, and the same Kaitlyn we have always known and loved.
That last day I saw you on Sunday, when you went back to Winston-Salem, you were happy and smiling all the way to the car. I watched you as you drove out of sight, saying the prayer I always prayed when you left, “Lord, please keep her safe.” What if I could go back in time and before you got in that car tell you to stop! But that didn’t happen, I didn’t think I needed to stop you. Four days later you took your own life. In your letter to us you stated you had always been depressed but hid it from us to protect us. I would have rather you protected us from what you ultimately did. It’s just so hard to get from a daughter that is so very happy and always has been, and will be a doctor in 2 years to a dead daughter that committed suicide and said she had always been unhappy in the span of four days. It’s like someone took some type of machine and ripped my arms and legs from my body and I never saw it coming. Actually, I would rather have that happen to me than to have lost you.
I know there may be a few that said you lived your life on your terms, you made the best of your life and lived it to the fullest but you were sad, could not go on anymore, and so you made YOUR decision to leave your life, after all it was your life. But I think It’s so much more than that. You tried to handle your depression for so long, all by yourself, not telling anyone, not seeking treatment, keeping it all inside, trying to make yourself feel better by achieving and running and everything you did good for yourself and it just didn’t work or quit working as well, or quit working at all. By that time your thinking was not rational, as you did not make a rational choice. But knowing you, you thought it rational. Otherwise you would have to get treatment which may or may not work, medicine that may or may not work, and it may or may not hurt your medical career and you were not going to go through all that.
I don’t know, I just don’t know the truth to any of it. I never will. But as your mother, the person who would have happily given her own life a million times over just to help you and save you, the person who loved you bigger than the universe, the mother who you were her bright shining star, that was your kindred spirit, I do wish I had that time machine to at least go back knowing what was to come but being able to somehow prevent it.
But no time machine exists and I’m left with a hole in my soul. I have felt like I had an emptiness in my soul in my life, but oh nothing even remotely as big as this one is. I am still living in a total nightmare, still hoping to wake up and I don’t, still with the big gaping wound that opened up the moment the police called and told me “She’s deceased.” Those two words haunt me every day of my life. Every single day.
Sometimes I fantasize that on Mon or Tues before you took your life, I somehow sensed that you were in trouble somehow, and I left work, got to your apartment and waited for you to get home. You came and I asked what was wrong, that I could tell something was wrong. Then you opened up to me and we got you some help. But that didn’t happen.
So, this is all about time. Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? They say time heals all wounds. That’s a lie, I’ll never heal from this, no more than I could grow arms and legs back if I lost them. Time is on my side? How? One thing’s for sure, you can NOT go back in time……..
But I am obsessed with things if I cannot find out the right answer. I question, and I ponder, I research, I ask people things, I post things, I join groups for answers, I explore, I am totally obsessed and grief stricken at the loss of you Kaitlyn. I don’t know what’s going to become of me with this. I don’t know if I will keep trying and eventually give up because there are no answers, go totally insane and useless, grieve myself to death and the list goes on. Some say I can actually feel better eventually and kinda be happy one day. I’m having such a hard time believing this.
Kaitlyn, I am so sorry to be going through the torment of losing you, but I am one million times sorrier that you suffered in silence for so long and for whatever reason you could not tell me. We could have worked it out, made it all work out somehow, someway. I would have done anything. You would still be alive. I miss you and grieve over you with the intensity of a volcano erupting. The world as I knew it no longer exists for me.
Instead of you sitting on your couch with your computer studying in your apartment three and a half hours away, your white coat with your stethoscope in its pocket are hanging motionless in my spare room, Right next to your Campbell graduation gown which you stood happily in only 2 and a half years ago, with your future spread out before you. There’s your pocketbook and billfold still as you left it, with your scent still on them, balls of yarn which will never feel your hands again, paintings and drawings that you will never create more of, a houseful of you that is endless, pictures of you that will never age past 23, and a grave 3 miles away with your name and picture on it.
Time? Seems useless to me right now.
Kaitlyn, I miss you so much I can’t stand it. I love you