As part of our effort to profile more authors within the LGBT community, we present Stephanie Schroeder.
Stephanie has published erotic fiction, personal and political essays, profiles, interviews, reviews and features in various genres. She is currently a freelance Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine where she publishes features about art, fashion, music, culture, and politics as well as blog about relationships.
This excerpt is from her memoir Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide, to be published on September 10, 2012. The synopsis:
Twenty-five year old Stephanie Schroeder arrived in New York City in 1990 with edgy good looks, attitude to burn, and undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Her unflinching memoir chronicles her trajectory through the worlds of queer political activism, corporate America, intimate partner violence, unwilling parenthood, erotic discovery, 9/11…and three attempted suicides.
Repeatedly falling through the cracks of the U.S. healthcare system, Schroeder became her own advocate, found help, and began a healthier life. Readers will find both entertainment and inspiration in the rollercoaster twists and turns of this “beautiful wreck” of a memoir.
Get your copy of Beautfil Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide from Barnes & Noble. Excerpt below:
Ever since childhood I had thought of suicide as one of many logical options to end my pain. Because I wasn’t afraid to die, suicide had always seemed a realistic alternative to a whole host of difficulties. But that September of 2000, in utter despair, I considered it more seriously than I ever had before.
Why not kill myself? At the age of 36 I was living a life that felt horrific, a life that I had never wanted and in fact had actively tried to avoid: in a sexless monogamous relationship, battered by my partner, and trapped with a child dependent on both of us. Couples’ therapy was going nowhere and any sort of breakup seemed far away. I felt as if death wouldn’t be a shock because I had already died and was only shambling through the motions of living and relating to others, as if I were a robot or a zombie. In other words, I was seriously depressed. Like many people suffering from deep clinical depression, I could not envision any way that I would be able to crawl out.
Even suffering from depression and despair, I was still a journalist. As soon as I had chosen the precise date of my death, I started a journal describing my feelings, daily events, and my suicidal plans.
9/23/00, 7:57am - Sunday morning. don’t fret, I’m better off dead. Better dead than read. ha ha
9/23/00, 8:09am - Give my clothes to Carmen -- she’ll be even chicer than she already is -- and donate the rest.... Please give my journals to Joan Nestle for the Archives. I’ve also mailed some stuff to [name redacted] mostly printouts of our e-mail conversations w/my notes on them.
In prior years Lauren, Michael and I had spent summer weekends at Lauren’s musty, moldy, run-down house in the Catskills. Aside from being out in the sun (which was very unhealthy for me) there was nothing to do except work through a long list of chores that Lauren assigned me. This summer I had rebelled and obtained Lauren’s agreement that I would join her only every other weekend. So I chose a weekend when I was scheduled to stay in the city by myself while Lauren and Michael went to the Catskills with June, still Lauren’s best friend, and still our stoic, stocky redheaded next-door neighbor.
I carefully plotted every aspect of my death. I imagined that when the three of them arrived home on Sunday night, Lauren would pull up in front of our apartment building. When I did not answer the bell or come down to help unload the van, Lauren would stay with Michael and send June up to get me…
As it happened, June was a case manager working with homeless clients. She had in the past found clients dead in their apartments, three in the past few months. I figured June could handle whatever she found in the apartment and then warn Lauren, and that the two of them would be able to shield Michael from the horror.
With this plan in place, from what I planned would be my final Tuesday, through my planned final Saturday, I filled my journal with entries that I hoped would be found and read after my death. Although I now completely despised Lauren, I wrote a bunch of crap about loving her, knowing she would most likely read it. Then I wrote about growing apart from her, and added in a photo of Michael and me from Christmas the previous year. Articles about depression alternated with the movie schedule for my final Saturday:
I think I just need to keep writing, explaining – the thing I love/hate most, will hate to read this...I have picked up the laundry, will put it away, have cleaned the fan blades, but sorry, couldn’t change the lightbulb by myself.... I don’t know what else to write – you always hate reading my stuff, but please be gentle w/my memory even as I was harsh in life – you have been so patient, tolerant, kind & loving, sometimes – if not always – supportive. And I appreciate all that.
This was all complete bullshit, but I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. Lauren had always argued that mine was an “existential” depression. She kept trying to convince me that my depression was situational and I had control over it and I was just being stubborn not to snap out of it. So I pasted in several letters to the editor of the New York Times debating this question of existential depression.
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Next to one of the newspaper clippings I scribbled: My existential existence is debilitating with no possibility of rehabilitation. It is life- threatening and I cannot stop the cycling!
Next to another letter to the editor I wrote: I’ve explored, experienced and existentialized, but it’s always led to the gallows or those bottles of bright-colored pills. And I would rather exercise that final control than be buried alive by the status quo.
On a loose piece of paper tucked in the journal I later found the phone number of Gracie Square Hospital and some information about it. According to my notes, when I called they didn’t have a bed for a suicidal patient and I noted that my insurance didn’t cover Gracie Square anyway. I wasn’t about to call 911 and have my phone call traced.
I documented my final Saturday in great detail.
I ate brunch at the TIME Café in the West 80s, and then started off to see “Dancer in the Dark” near Lincoln Center but turned back because I decided the movie would be too depressing.
I ate Annie’s macaroni & cheese for dinner while watching an interview with Michael Caine on “The Actor’s Studio.”
When the program ended I took a whole bunch of pills, washed them down with a quart of beer, and went to lie down, hugging Gus, Michael’s stuffed bear.
It was 7:25 p.m. In my journal, I drew a clock with its hands pointing at 7:25 p.m.
I wrote simply, eerily: The clock stops now.
Five or six hours later, I opened my eyes again, groggy and extremely disoriented, but remembering exactly what I had done. I thought for a few minutes about whether I wanted to go back to sleep and let the pills finish the job or get up and take myself to the hospital.
I chose to live. I hadn’t actually wanted to die, but I was no longer willing to take Lauren’s abuse, and I hadn’t known what else to do. I felt as if I had had no other options.
But at this point, groggy and nauseous, I must still have had some life force left. Plus, I believe in some sort of Darwinian way that our natural human instinct is to take care of ourselves, and that we possess a will to survive even in the face of the worst types of adversity.
If I had not been chronically ill with depression, I would never have decided to try end my own life. Suicide is chosen in moments of irrationality. Unless you are chronically physically ill, with cancer, leukemia, ALS or something similar, and have chosen euthanasia over the pain of suffering until natural death, suicide is usually also a rash act. Ninety percent of suicides are carried out by people who are mentally ill.
I was very drowsy, but still got out of bed and went crashing through our apartment, knocking over bookshelves, boxes of toys, and many other things on my way to the shower. Under the warm water I tried to stand up by leaning against the tile wall, but kept slipping to the bottom of the bathtub. Then I put on fresh clothes: a periwinkle blue long sleeve tee, Levis jeans, and my favorite labia rose colored baseball cap. And of course my glasses.
Outside, I hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the nearest emergency room. He made only a few turns before we were at St. Luke’s, but at the front entrance. I told him to drop me there. I didn’t have any money with me, but the cabbie could see I was in very bad shape and comped the ride. I stumbled toward the brightly lit red Emergency sign.
The next thing I remember I was being peeled off the pavement by two men in white coats, my glasses and cap scattered on the ground. It seemed I had collapsed just shy of the emergency room entrance. “What happened to you?” they asked in unison.
“Failed suicide,” I replied, with some disappointment in my voice. They both rolled their eyes and dragged me inside. (I would later learn that many emergency room residents hate attempted suicides, believing we waste both staff time and bed space.)
The emergency room personnel immediately “pumped” my stomach and intubated me. I realized, after the tube was in, that I hadn’t given anyone Lauren’s contact information, so I pulled at the tube to try to take it out and speak. This was interpreted as continued suicidal action and so the staff marked me as high risk; I was restrained in my bed and assigned a one-on-one aide to stay with me on a suicide watch. The aide was nice and caring, she gave me a pen and paper where I wrote Lauren’s name and emergency cell phone number. I had no one else.