Leanne Klockeis a suicide attempt survivor.
"I survived a suicide attempt."
Leanne Klocke works in biotech and lives in Newport, RI. She was 28 when I interviewed her in Boston, MA on April 6, 2014.
The first time in my life I ever felt normal was in the hospital after [my attempt], because everyone had issues, and it was the first time that you could just be yourself, and someone was like, “Hey. I understand that. I get that.”
It’s like, “Oh, hey, when you drive your car home at night, you’re thinking about putting it into a tree? I’ve been there. I understand that. I’ve been right there with you.”
I actually remember someone did put it into a tree. It was just interesting that that was the first time I realized I’m not alone. It was one of the things that made me realize that, if I’m more open about it, maybe more people would be open. I hate being open, but it’s been something I’ve done, and through it, I’ve found more and more people like me and started to incorporate more people in my life who have similar issues—or at least understand and empathize better with issues—and push out the people who didn’t.
A huge issue I think most people go through is figuring out there are people who are willing to understand, “Hey, I can’t get out of bed and go out to the party tonight because it’s scary outside of the bed and the floor is lava,” and they’re like, “Oh, gotcha. That mode. I’ll check on you tomorrow and make sure you’re still kickin’.” It’s like, “Oh, cool. Alright. Pulling the cover over now.”
I think 2009, the summer of 2009, in Philly, was [my attempt]. From there, I took a chance and came up to Boston. I allowed people into my life. [My boyfriend] was actually a huge thing for me. He was someone who saw me at my worst. In 2010, I almost went downhill again. I hadn’t made any friends in Philly that were really accepting or willing to go out and do things, and I was about to crash again, and I had this guy just be my friend. He saw me at my worst, and I’m sure you understand when I say there’s a look people will give you when they see your arms cut up or burned or, you know, when you’re doing the things that you learned to do to cope. He was the person that just saw them and did not judge. He just sat down. He was so funny. He was across the room. He knew I didn’t want to be touched or anything, and just sat and waited. From that, I kind of started to pull myself out and realized, “I’ve got to start doing things for me. I’m miserable here.”
I took a chance on a job in Boston, and got out here. It was really those two years that were my worst, but also my best. That kind of started pushing me towards trying to get through, and it’s obviously not always easy…
It’s like the whole anxiety bubble, and… I was diagnosed bipolar when—I’ve had one suicide attempt, and I’ve also been institutionalized for suicide watch. That one was—I grew up in Michigan. Growing up, I’d see the ads and everything, whether it’s being bullied, or for anything, where people are like, “It gets better.” I’m like, “Holy crap, it really does.” I can remember, ‘cause I was not well-liked, and very much kind of the outcast—not the worst on the rung, but definitely not a popular kid or anything like that.
Fifteen years later, I can still remember girls wearing little stars on their hands that meant, “I really hate Leanne Klocke.” That was eighth grade. I honestly don’t know the reasons. I have an idea that, because I was so tomboyish, that they thought—‘cause this was a little podunk hick town—and it took years of reflecting back, but I honestly think they thought I was gay. At that point in life, I didn’t show any interest towards guys. I never got confirmation. All I got was, “She doesn’t act properly like a girl enough.” So, from that point of view, I just always have tried not to judge or anything, and just be accepting of people, ‘cause just going through that, it’s like, “What?” It took me years to reflect on it, and I’m like, “This isn’t a way to treat people.”
That was right around the time that I started to cut myself, and to burn myself, and I started to throw up, and bulimia, and so, a lot of these issues. I was such a sad kid, too, and I never knew it was wrong. I always thought I was just so different, and so odd, so, you know.
I love those ads, to see people going out and saying, “It can and will get better”—not necessarily perfect, but you’ll meet the people who are like you along the way. Looking back, that’s one of the things I really want people to know. No matter why they’re getting picked on, how different they are, it does get better. It’s still hard for me, some days, to get out of bed. I’m going through changes. I don’t deal with change well. I keep moving around, and it’s hard to start new jobs, to show up to work on time, to do it, but my life now, compared to five years ago, is so much better.
I hear all my friends going, “Oh my God, I don’t want to turn thirty.”
I’m like, “Yes! Thirty! That’s going to be my decade!” I’m gonna be like, “Hey, I realized stuff. I actually accept things don’t always hit right in my brain, but I’m so excited to get there.” To actually have an idea of retirement! Like, [the] idea of even New York, even if it is just a far fetched dream.
I never had plans growing up. I could never see—I even still have a hard time seeing thirty and forty—but to even realize that now I think of a future, as opposed to wondering why I’m still here. It’s interesting and hard.
It was like eighth grade where I started to go through a lot of my issues. In ninth grade, tenth grade, eleventh, I stopped giving a fuck and actually made more friends than I had the years before, but at that point I didn’t let anyone in ‘cause I didn’t trust anyone. I always had a barrier, and anytime anyone came close, I would cut them out. People had already hurt me way too much by then. Going away to college, that was my dream, just to get out of that town. Get out of that podunk town. There were a lot of good people, but I just had such a hard time in it. I think back, and I still have friends from that town, and I know they still live around or near there, and it’s like, it’s doing better, but there were just so many people who made it bad for me.
I went to college at Michigan State, and that was the first time I really got to see a lot of different personalities, ‘cause when you grow up in a small town, you see those people every day for freakin’ twelve years. You get stigmatized in first grade, and you’re the tomboy until you graduate. The goth girl in twelfth grade. This was like a fresh, clean slate, and I was so excited, but then still things weren’t right. I made new friends. Still didn’t let people in that much, but I was still not happy.
We had a dorm room I lived in my sophomore and junior year. It was twelve flights, and I used to just sit in the windows. I was on the eleventh floor, I think—eleventh and the tenth floors, depending on which hall and which year—and I remember sitting in the windows, just wishing I could just push out. And life was better, but there were still so many things I couldn’t put a finger on, and it was after I graduated college that, still, nothing fell into place.
I ended up, on October 31st, ironically, getting put into a mental institution for suicide watch.
They’re like, “You’re Bipolar NOS.”
I’m like, “What the hell does that mean?”
So, I go from twenty-two years of not knowing what’s wrong to, “Hey, you have this.” They put me into a religion-based mental institution. They didn’t force you to go to [the services], but it was very much a [religious institution], and I’ve turned out atheist. I’m a science major, not that that makes [any difference], but with everything that’s gone on in my life, I’m just like, “I don’t believe.” I was the only one with a college education, the youngest one there.
That was my first experience, and everyone’s like, “Well, you have your shit together. Why are you here?” So it was like, “Oh, great. I don’t even fit in here, where, you know… what?” Every time. I mean, literally, both times. Both places. So many card games. We just sat there and played cards for hours.
I remember just sitting there, and they’re like, “You seem like you’ve got your shit together. Why are you in here?”
I’m like, “I’m not allowed to be depressed because I’ve got a college education?”
That’s kind of what I came out of there [with], was that this diagnosis is wrong. I’m just messed up. I don’t have a meth [addiction] like some of the people who were there trying to get better for their kids and everything like that. I’ve got this degree, I’ve got a steady—two jobs at that point—two part-time jobs. So, instead of really trying to take on medications and stuff like that, I was like, “I don’t believe this.” I had an opportunity to apply to a job that was open in Philly and just run. I took that.
So, not taking care of it, not realizing there was actually an issue, ignoring the issue, made for what would be, in a year when I got laid off from my job, a very bad situation… In Philly, I’d found a psychiatrist and a psychologist. I didn’t like either of them. And that’s never a smart move.
Des: You have to date them.
Leanne: Yeah. The best psychiatrist I ever met was in the second [hospital], after the attempt. I forget his name. He was definitely Eastern European—very thick accent, awesome, straight to the point, blunt, which is perfect for me, ‘cause I need that person to just kick me in the ass, and be like, “Stop. Just stop.”
I’m like, “I really don’t like my psychiatrist.”
He’s like, “Well, then change them.”
I’m like, “What?”
Because, before that point, I’m like, “I have to just stick with this jerk. He’s not listening to me. He’s just prescribing everything.”
He’s like, “No. This is about you. You don’t like, you move on.”
I’m like, “Really?! Crap!”
That seems so logical now.
So I had that and then, when I got laid off, I got put on COBRA, but no one explained to me that with COBRA, you have to pay for the meds first, and then they reimburse you. I had been on Abilify for the mood stabilizer, and then a very generic Prozac, or something along those lines. Abilify, at that point, and probably still at this point, was like a $300 to $400 prescription. So I’m like, “Okay, I’ll just take the cheap one, and I can’t afford the expensive one right now.” With bipolar, only an antidepressant shoots you into manias.
So, I had the worst depression I had ever had at that point, in the spring of 2009. Somehow, I still made it to job interviews. The boyfriend that I had then, um, we were horrible. He didn’t deal with mental illness. He wasn’t a bad guy, like I’d like to think he was to make myself feel better, but he just didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t make it easier, and then we just hit heads so badly, which made everything worse for both of us.
He’d come over and I’d be laying in bed, and he was trying to get me to do the interviews, so he was doing what he thought was right. He’d walk in, not even really acknowledge the fact that I can’t get out of this bed, and he’d just iron the interview suit and be like, “You can do this. I was sad before in life. I got over it. Just be happy.”
It’s like, “It doesn’t work this way. I’ve tried. Do you think I want to lay here for nineteen hours and sleep?” Well, I kinda do some days, but…
It was just bad on my part, ‘cause I didn’t really research it and know what was gonna happen when I did shoot out. [I] continued to take the Prozac, got the job, shot into mania, which ended up with me cutting open my arm, ‘cause [I] got into an argument with my then significant other.
Every Sunday before church was a huge fight. Huge fight. And one of the things that is not talked about, and I even debated bringing it up because my family’s not very open about this, but I know for a fact that [there was interpersonal violence between my dad and my mom], and it was not talked about. You heard little snippets. My mom was very emotionally abusive, too. She’s worked on it, and she’s actually working on it now, which is hard for me to accept at this point. I’m actually closer with my dad, which is one of those things that really throws you off when you know that, even as a woman, my mom went through this hell. It’s hard for me because I got the brunt of her anger, which was emotional. And now she’s actually working on it.
That was one nice thing about all these realizations that I had [about my] mental health issues. I didn’t have the family that shunned me. I have the family that actually realized they have issues too, and so it pushed them to realize they needed to work on theirs, and that’s been really nice. My mom and I have had a very a very offstandish relationship since the attempt, and she has been trying so much harder now to even connect and have a relationship with me. It’s very odd how this worked out. It was hell growing up, but now it seems to be turning towards trying to get better, and everyone’s very on edge, ‘cause we’re not an open family. Even that I don’t think I’ve said very publicly. I’ve done the blog thing, said, “Hey, this is what I’ve gone through,” but I’ve always kept my childhood out of it. That was my parents, and it’s honestly one of those hard things. My brother’s someone who doesn’t talk. He’s very stoic, and that’s how our family mostly is. My mom’s very non-emotional. I was very emotional growing up, so I always kind of got shunned on that, and now people are trying to come more my way.
My dad’s actually been the most helpful, since he’s the one who’ll be like, “Hey, how are you doing?”
Even if I don’t answer, he’s like, “Alright, when you’re ready, you talk.”
Oddly, it’s kind of brought my family a little more together than [before]. I know that’s not everyone’s experience, so in that way I’m very lucky. I’m taking this second opportunity very slowly with my mom, but it’s kind of opened up their eyes so, in a way, that’s nice… Getting through it all and coming out the other side and still trying to trust people I have an issue with and opening up—it takes time, [but] it’s definitely getting better.
Told you. Thirties, man. I’m looking forward to that decade.
Des: Pretty good so far for me. It’s the new twenties or whatever.
Leanne: Screw the twenties.
Des: The twenties have got to suck.
Leanne: I know. You don’t have that awkward first five years [of your thirties] where you’re like, “What did I do that for? Ugh.”
Des: Yeah. “Why am I naked on the internet?”
Leanne: I very possibly could have been if anyone noticed. It’s like, “What did I do when I was manic? Did I really play strip poker and dance on the table?”
Des: It happened.
Leanne: It did. I got into an extremely irritable disposition afterwards, and then a huge fight. That was actually the night I cut open my arm. I’m lucky I didn’t hit any [major veins or arteries]. And instantly knowing, when I did that, exactly what would happen if they found out I self-inflicted.
That was actually one of the side things I forgot to say, is we had gotten in a fight, and he thought I was gonna hit him. And ‘cause I grew up in a very abusive family, I don’t take it out on people, I take it out on myself. So, my idea of showing him—drunken stupidity mixed with the [spur] of the moment—I’m like, “This is what I do,” and I just sliced it straight open.
I’m just like, “Hmm. Not invincible. Perhaps I should get stitches.” But in instant defense mode, because you don’t want to get put into a mental institution where they basically lock you up and it’s like a jail, essentially.
Just straight into, “I don’t know, was too drunk. Hahaha. Are you really tying those tight enough?” Just cracking jokes left and right with the guy so he would not put me into a mental institution. Month later, end up [in a] mental institution for my attempt but, at that point, I was fighting it. Should have let myself go, but c’est la vie.
But yeah, some of it—that’s a hard thing, looking back sometimes and realizing it actually happened—some of the ways you acted, some of the ways things happened. There was a quote in one of the A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones, books. One of the characters says, “If I look back, I’m lost.” I can’t take that as a philosophy and ignore the past, but there are points in time when I can’t think about it or else I’ll be like, “Whoa, I really did all that stuff. All that stuff really happened. I really have burned myself that many times. I’ve thrown up this many times. I’ve done all this stuff that many times.”
It’s hard to think about, so there’s a lot of times I’ll just block out the past, but can’t ever forget it, because it repeats. I could very well have it repeat and, yet again, be in that type of situation, which is really one of the reasons, for me, finding people who have understood it has been vital. I’d always get so defensive when I saw the judgment, and it would turn into a fight, or a thing. I have, now, a significant other who understands it, and I have one of my best friends. I met her through a friend. She had made an attempt, and it was after I was feeling better and better, and she needed help paying for rent and medical bills, so she did one of those GoFundMe things. I saw it through a friend and I ended up funding her a little bit, and then sent her a message: “Hey, I’ve been here. I’ve been exactly where you’re at. I was at that step. If you ever need to talk, I know you don’t know me, [but] send me an email, and I will never judge you.”
Through that, it’s been years later. We now send each other messages back and forth, and she even had one of the best the other day. She’ll have issues with anxiety. She was like, “Whenever I get too anxious, I yell, “Stop. Wait,” and then go, “It’s hammer time,” and it makes me feel a little bit better.”
So we go back and forth with little things like that, and it’s like, “That’s completely awesome! I’m gonna use that!”
Bringing more and more people in, it’s helped me. I try to help them, and that’s one of the things I’ve really learned is the best for me, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this. The more I realized there are people out there, the less alone [I felt] and the less hate I had for myself. There’s a lot of hate still there, and I have a lot of issues to still work on.
I had a hard time thinking I was a good candidate to come here, just because I wasn’t at the point where I’m like, “My life’s great.”
That’s why [my boyfriend] was good. He’s like, “This is gonna help you. This is gonna help other people.”
‘Cause [it] would be a lie to say there weren’t days that I still think about it, days that I can’t get out of bed, but it’s easier to realize now that there will be an upswing at some point. You just have to get through it. So, if the eating disorder flares up which, honestly, it has the last few weeks. I’ve had to move, we have a house listed. I’ve hit a real low in the last few weeks and months, and seasonal winter crap, and all these different changes, and so it’s just like, “Well, yeah, I may be throwing up, but I’m going to start doing better. It’ll come back around. I always manage to get control of it. Maybe I’ll get back to the gym. Maybe I’ll do this,” and just slow little steps, and it’s like, I found out through it, through him, I like weight lifting. It brings out a lot of anxiety and stuff, ‘cause you push it. I was so proud when I hit benching a hundred, and now I do reps at 105, and I’m just like, “This is something I can be proud of myself for,” and so it’s the little victories of allowing myself to finally be someone…
Des: Yeah, it’s always interesting for me to hear that there are people who feel like their story isn’t wild enough, or that they’re not a good candidate because they don’t feel like it’s super positive, because that’s what Live Through This is about. We have It Gets Better. That exists already. And yeah, it does get better, but I think it’s more honest to show people who are like, “Yeah, this shit sucks.”
Leanne: And it does, it still sucks.
Des: Like, “I still don’t want to be here. I’m trying.”
Leanne: Yep. There’s much more of a want these days. There’s some days that I’m just as bad as when [I attempted], but I’ve set it up more so that it’s easier to deal with it now, because instead of having those people who look at the food when I ate the entire plate and they’re like, “Wow, you ate a lot,” I now have the people that—yeah, I hate catty women. It’s like, you know I have an eating disorder, and you keep commenting on what I’m eating and how I’m eating it. I don’t need that.
Des: That’s not helpful.
Leanne: Now I have someone who’s like, “Hey, let’s eat healthier.” That’s a better option. So, you cut out a lot of the bad. There’s still bad in your life, but you have more good to take care of it, and that seems like an easy lesson you should be able to teach your 15 year old self back when you’re fifteen, and… no.
Des: Yeah. I did think about that recently ‘cause someone was putting together an anthology of letters from women to their 13 year old selves and asked me to write one, and I was like, what would I tell this child?
Leanne: Get to twenty-five. Then it’ll start sucking a little less.
Des: Yeah. That was tough. It was a tough time. That’s what the project is about even more these days. I just think it’s more honest to show that the struggle still exists.
Leanne: There are days I wish I did [die after my attempt]. And then there are more days than not that I’m glad I didn’t. And there are days where I have to ask for help, which is something I’ve learned to do. I’m a prideful person, and—
Des: It’s just hard.
Leanne: It is. It’s like, “Hey, I’m having a hard time taking a shower and brushing my teeth today.”
Des: Will you hold my paw?
Leanne: Yes. My animals are one of the things. I’ve had a cat. I had two cats when I had tried, but one of the things I always wanted in life was a dog. The year after, I got a dog, and I’ve had him for almost four years now. This dude, this little fifty-pound dog, spoons me. I’m the big spoon, he’s the little spoon. We sleep that way at night. Like, [my boyfriend] has no…he’s gone. It’s like, “You sleep on your side. This is my dog.”
For me, having these animals with the unconditional love, sometimes they give [me motivation], like, “Oh, I should let you out of bed. I should get out of bed, because if I don’t, you’re gonna make the floor a mess. So okay, I’ll at least get up and let you outside.” And it’s like, “Hey, I did something today. I made his life a little better ‘cause he didn’t have to freak out and poop on the floor.”
Des: Little victories.
Leanne: It’s a gigantic victory for him. He looks all sad when he does. He’s like, “Oh, I failed you, Mom,” and I’m like, “Oh, crap.”
Des: It’s funny, the way they know.
Leanne: Yeah, it is. I’ve had dogs. Actually, my German Shepherd growing up. We got her when I was in fifth grade, and she lived until I was in college. I remember coming home from school— latchkey kid, no one was home—so miserable and upset and crying, and this dog would actually jump up and hug me and lick my tears away, and I’m just like, “How did she just…?” She just knew. Then if I was crying too hard, she would go hide and be like, “I’m scared! You’re upset, something’s wrong.” I’d have to coax her out and then comfort her ‘cause she was so upset because I was upset.
Petey, my current dog, does a very similar thing. If I’m depressed, he’s cool with laying in bed all day just looking at me like, “The world sucks, Mom.” If I’m happy and going for a walk, he’s like, “The world’s the best thing ever, Mom!”
Like, “Sweet. You go on my roller coaster moods. I’m so sorry.”
Des: So what do you do on the bad days now?
Leanne: Hmm… Bad days lately, I’ve just kind of been staying in the house. I try to avoid going to the stores, ‘cause that’ll trigger, “Hey, you should buy ice cream and all this stuff and binge and then purge.” I’m more self-aware of it, but sometimes I still forget, and by forget I mean, for me, that’s my addiction. If it was like, “Hey, I want to go do meth right now,” I’m gonna go do [it], and I don’t have the willpower to fight it. So, for me, it’s like, “Hey, I’m gonna go to the store, or I’m gonna order this and eat it all and throw it up.” That’s my drug. So that pops up more. It used to make me feel better, and now it doesn’t, so I’ve been able to start realizing that.
And then I’ve taken the method of texting someone: “Hey, I just fought this off.”
They’ll be like, “Hey, you did good.”
And it’s like, “I did good! Little battle. Yay!”
So that, but there’s still a lot of lack of energy. Now that the sun’s coming out, and it’s not, you know, six feet of snow, I’ve been forcing myself when I’m lonely to go out to a coffee house and just read. Like, sit there and read for three hours if it needs to be. There are still some days that I just spend most of the day in bed ‘cause it’s hard to get out, but there’s always the upswing to look forward to…
Life has gotten better, but—especially being at a point where it can still suck—to realize you can get to a point where, yeah, it still sucks, but there are still reasons to go forward, even if your little victory for the day is, “Hey, I brushed my teeth, and they’re shiny.” I’ve had those days where I’m like, “Didn’t manage to shower, but the teeth? Fantastic.”
And it’s like, “You’re not the only one who’s having that hard time doing those things.” It took me ’til I was twenty-four, twenty-five, to realize, “You’re not the only one having that shit day.”
Being open has actually allowed more people who weren’t open to come into my life who have similar issues, and use me as, I guess, someone that they could actually talk to. That’s helped me too, because I realize, on my bad days, “Well, if I do it, who will this person have to talk to?” I think about it often with some of my friends who deal with it, and I’m like, “If I lose them, I lose one of my pillars that I rely on, and I’m hopefully that for them.”
So, if you’re able to open up and find the people who understand, [are] empathetic, or are right there with you, it helps you through it in so many different ways that I didn’t have when I was more closed off from people.. I guess what I hope is, just by being open, I can help people really realize there are shit days, and we’re all going through them, and we can help each other through them. I don’t know. That’s what I was hoping.
Thanks to Lucia Daniels, who volunteers at the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, a Live Through This partner organization, for providing the transcription for Leanne’s interview.