The Pact

by Marinka on February 27, 2010

When I was a high school junior, my best friend and I made a suicide pact.  We were going to kill ourselves right after finals, in the spring.    Despite our planning, I knew that I’d never go through with it (I was terrified of blood for one, and of dying, for two), but I talked a good game.

“It’s cool that we don’t have to study for the Calc final,” I told my friend and she agreed. We really had everything figured out.  This whole “life” business, as seen in high school, was totally for losers.  We didn’t need any of it.

Neither one of us went through with it but the experience shaped my teenage years.  What bothers me is that I cannot remember the why of it.  Why did we make the pact? Why did we flirt with such a horrifying thought?

The thing that  sticks out for me is that we were reading Moby Dick in English class and that even armed with Cliff Notes, I could not bear one more paragraph.  I know that we were in the middle of the whole college application thing, that our futures were as uncertain.  Although they would certainly include a liberal arts college in the Northeast.

But we were filled with teenage angst and flirting with lower adulthood, as seen on the ABC Afterschool Specials.

Surviving high school is no small feat.

I worry about the desperation of the teen age years, the isolation that creeps in, even as you’re surrounded by friends, the perforating away from your family.

My kids are growing up, my daughter is on the cusp of teenagehood. And I’m terrified.

I will never make her read Moby Dick.


PSA: I’ve rewritten this sentence many times.  “My husband has been touched by suicide.”  But touched is not right.  Touched is gentle and forgiving, and this was neither.  It is not my story to tell, and it happened many years before I met him, but I see its imprint, its stomping on the man that I love decades after the tragedy.

If you are in a crisis, or are worried about someone who is, please visit this link.  Help is available, free help.

One year ago ...

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Fifrildi February 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

When I was about 20 years old I bought Moby Dick, thinking it would have to be a great classic and a good read – after all American kids had been forced to read this thing for ages.

After 30-40 pages I thanked by parents for giving birth to me in the cold country of Norway and realised that it’s no wonder American kids don’t like to read in general. Moby Dick must have killed it in all but the most stubborn readers. Oh. And I never finished Moby Dick, I had the luxury of just putting it away.


Ann's Rants February 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

Suicide is a disastrous combo of the of severe depression, opportunity (ie. access to weapon), and circumstance-usually when all three of these things converge.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is NOT an act of anger or cry for attention, but a desperate measure to make the pain stop.

Thanks for your awesome psa.



K-Line February 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

Adolescents are so between worlds in every way. I see why you worry about your daughter, but I think we all express that transition in our own ways. I’m sure you’ve been the enlightened kind of mum who allows her to express herself so that she’ll make the shift as smoothly as is possible. My adolescence was filled with whack ideation and strange activity. All fostered by friends (friends I still have, if that says anything). And we all made it and we’re doing well and we look back on the mystery of that time with amused horror.


February 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

“Stomp” is the perfect description. Thanks for this.


Kirsten February 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Sobering. Thanks for writing this.


Holli February 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

That is definitely a serious pact! Only ones I ever made with friends was running away together (we got a few blocks), and blood sisters – we both pricked our fingertips and pressed them together.

But being a teenage girl in the Western world is a serious time.

This is definitely not looking good for Moby Dick!!


February 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I don’t really have any comments, other than good PSA. It’s a message people need to hear once in a while. Especially with things how they are now.


christy February 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s loss. It’s so incredibly tragic.


SoccerMOM February 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This subject is one that hits close to home. I myself as a teen attempted. Now that I am an adult and have two children of my own, I am all to aware of how hard H.S. can be. Worst yet how hard college can be. Lots of pressure to succeed out in the real world.


Maggie May February 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Dakota is 15 and in this last year I have had to work very very hard to wake up and remember what a vastly different planet those years are, how you feel, how terrifying it all is, how strange. I completely understand what you mean ‘ I will never make her read Moby Dick ‘ because that is a stand in for all the ways you will not push her to the brink. Finding that line between supportive nudging and pushing is so very hard and perhaps the most serious job I”ve had yet as a parent.


deb williams February 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm

yep. i have said this many times… i feel like a buzz kill to all the young mommybloggers. It doesn’t matter if your kids are breastfed or bottle fed when they are 17 and depressed. SO FAR, i have been lucky, in that my teens are muddling through pretty well. depression, drugs, suicide… they are everywhere. the pressure is enormous. it’s a whole different ballgame.


Marinka February 27, 2010 at 10:34 pm

The buzz kill, absolutely. I feel it very keenly.


Deborah February 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Very topical. I had an intense conversation with my 15 year old daughter yesterday in the car. Some of her friends are troubled, depressed even. Some of them are flirting with the dark side in poems and attitudes and behavior.

She is fairly resilient and even tempered. She gets up every day happy and ready to face the world, and she doesn’t understand it. She put a comment on a friends facebook page saying in effect…you are depressing, cheer up!
We had a talk about empathy, teenage angst and personal development.

It is profoundly true that teens live in a different world, and we need to support them until they make their way back to ours.


elenka February 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I see a big flaw in your teenage plan…why, why, why commit the crime AFTER taking finals??


February 27, 2010 at 9:22 pm

When I was nineteen, a friend of mine killed himself. Never, to this day, know why. It changes everything from that day forward. Those left behind loose thier innocence in a way.

When I was a teen, a ton of us ran away. We were full of angst…much of it real and we rand away. Did you know that fourteen year olds get stopped at the border of Mexico? That they make you call a parent to come and get you? Yeah, we didn’t either.

I think it’s amazing that we all make it out of high school. Somehow now, it doesn’t seem like any of it was that bad. Not compared to the adult world. If we only knew then.


Gretchen February 28, 2010 at 12:18 am

My best friend’s son just lost one of his best friends to suicide. 15 years old. Star student. Star athlete. Close to his family. Lots of friends. Completely inexplicable. It’s just one of the scariest things I’ve ever heard. And my husband’s family has been “touched” by suicide too. Never leaves him.


Kate February 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

It’s good to read a serious post every once in a while on your blog. High school was a hard time for me and a terrible time for many. It’s surprising so many of us made it through. Kids are so cruel and the teenage years are incredibly difficult. When the time comes, I’ll try hard to be supportive and not overbearing on my daughter… my mother was incredibly overbearing and overprotective, and while she meant the best, it made me miserable. Good luck getting through this stage.


tracey February 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm

It’s scary to think that we’re going to raise TEENAGERS…

My husband was “touched” by suicide as well. Not a story I can tell, either, but I know the scary, horrible feeling of falling off a cliff when I think about what could have been…


the mama bird diaries
February 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm

So scary. I can still remember this 15 year-old who killed himself when i was in high school. What was so bad at 15? Teenagers just can’t see beyond the present state of their lives.


Sophie March 1, 2010 at 1:24 am

Being a teenager sucks. I still remember. I hope your doughter remembers in her dark hours that you are there for her.


Maravonda March 1, 2010 at 6:13 am

One of my mother’s husbands shot himself in the head one night in bed beside her. He had been ill for a long while but could have gotten well, he just gave up trying, What made me angrier than anything else is that someone else could have used the kidney that was transplanted into his body and was NOT being rejected. Selfish man. Changed my mother’s life forever, she is NOT resilient. I have tried to feel compassion toward this man for 33 years now, and still feel that he was a selfish bastard. When my kids entered those angst filled years, I made them listen many times to : “No matter how much things suck today, a year from now it won’t mean diddly. There is no reason to ever seek a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And everything is temporary.” You are right. Once your life and family are “touched” by a suicide, the shadow of it is always near. But like I said before, Marinka…you are a good mom, and they are going to be just fine.


helene March 1, 2010 at 6:44 am

I’m not a mother, but I can relate to this. I was there once myself, wanting to jump off a cliff. And in the later years I’ve learned that it caused my parents great grief; that I couldn’t talk to them or let them help me until it was nearly too late. My Dad would come pick me up at work whenever he could and make sure they kept me close when they had the opportunity. It was their way of helping, and I am so grateful for that now. I’m not sure I’ve ever thanked them for doing it that way, but I will definitely tell them next time I see them. So keep doing what you think is right, the kids will appreciate it in time.


Crys March 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

Bravo, Marinka! This post is awesome! I have a daughter that is turning into a teenager before the end of the month. I worry about her as well, I’m hoping I can be the kind of mom that isn’t judgemental nad hateful. I want to be supportive and loving.


The gold digger March 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Maravonda – yes. Selfish. We cannot know someone else’s pain, but honestly? If you are going to do it, do it in the bathtub so it’s easier to clean up.

As far as Moby Dick – I was an English major and I just skipped class those two weeks. As far as I could tell, it was a damn encyclopedia on whales plus a rant against capitalism with a little bit of necrophelia thrown in.


Old School/New School Mom
March 1, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Marinka! I know exactly what you mean! I was so depressed in high school. Even though I went to an Arts H.S. here in the city. I worry that my son will go through that horrible teenage-based depression and there will be nothing that I can do for him. Look at me projecting into the future! He’s not even two!

But I completely understand how you feel. Adolescence is a challenging time for the kids and the parents. Both my parents were very supportive to me when I was in my teenage years, but a lot of the internal angst I had to deal with myself.

I guess all you can really do is be there for your kids. I’m sure you are a great mother and you will do what you can to support and help them through the tumult that is the teenage years. Or who knows? Maybe they will have an easier time than we did!


Allyson March 2, 2010 at 10:29 am

My oldest is 10. There are days that I look at him and I am so grateful for the innocence he still has. Because every day, I look out at a sea of teenage faces and I worry. About them and about my own. It’s easy to put teenagers in a neat little box labeled “angst” and wait to reopen it when they’re 25. But not many people, parents and teachers included, take the time to step back and really get to the source of the crazy complicated things that dominate their lives. If only every parent were so aware.


Mary @ Holy Mackerel
March 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I couldn’t get through that damn book either.

And I think high school does something with our brains, because I too wanted to commit suicide, but had no pact with anyone since I had no friends. Thank god I didn’t go through with it, because look at me now!


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