My Mother, 10 Years Gone Today

On this day, 25th June 2000, my mother Noeleen Quinn, 52 years old, sat down in front of a train at Sandymount Dart station, Dublin and ended her own life. It was a life that had become unbearable in the previous 2 years and was the last in a long string of suicide attempts in that time as she desperately tried to get off the planet and find peace. It was a life that had never really found true happiness and one which, at the end, no person could reasonably be expected to endure for too long and retain any kind of sanity.

My mother was a deep, thoughtful, intelligent, creative, artistic, well-travelled, nature-loving, strong-minded person with a quick wit and who didn’t take any shit from anyone. In many ways, the last person you would think who might commit suicide. In fact not long before she got depressed and while she and I were looking at a tv program about depression, she mentioned that she could never understand how anyone could kill themselves.

She had found some kind of normality in the years leading up to her final bout of depression, successfully gaining a Degree in English and the History of Art from UCD in 1998 as a mature student. A great achievment for an early school leaver especially as she was caring for my similarly mentally unwell grandmother during studies.

She graduated just months before a serious cancer scare which turned out to be the final straw that sucked the will to live from her. Despite successful surgery and getting the all clear, the post cancer treatment took its toll and she had a nervous breakdown. For the next 2 years she done everything she could to die, multiple drug overdoses, jumping in rivers, drinking and even burning. I also suspect based on marks I seen on her that during her stays at various different mental hospitals, she tried other common methods too.

I lived with my mother through these years, just the 2 of us in a 2 up 2 down in Dublin and I still don’t have words to describe how horrible it was to see a normally strong minded and strong willed person completely lose their mind and will to live. The pressure and stress in trying to keep my mother alive and deal with her attempts were the hardest thing I’ve ever or possibly will ever have to endure and I’m not sure how I made it through. It seemed that every time I woke up or came home there was some dreadful situation to deal with. I think the only thing that got me through that period and prevented me from becoming another sad suicide statistic myself was my ability to shut off mentally and pretend I was somewhere else.

They say that 2 of the hardest things to deal with in life are bereavement by suicide and the death of a child. My mother’s death was different. Strange as it sounds, the relief I felt when the guards came to the door on Sunday night June 25th 2000, was immense and still stays with me today. There comes a time when life becomes so hard that death seems like a better state and that’s how it was. Depression is a horrible living nightmare for all concerned and connected but none more so than for the person suffering it. You retain your intellect but are paralysed and weighed down by an unexplainable grief and apathy. The psychotic self-harming tendencies that can result from unsuccesfully treated and long term depression are very, very scary and nightmarish to deal with and I’ll never, ever forget what it was like to see my mother desperate to die and even begging me to kill her on occasions when she herself had failed. Killing yourself, as my mother found out is really not that easy.

I’d known long before she died that the mother I knew and loved and that raised me had gone for good and I was left with a hideous, evil creature, possessed by a devilish disease of the mind. It was obvious to me that after so many different treatments had failed to cure my mother and after any friends and family she had had been scared off, that it was only a matter of time before she died. She really had little to live for. The only shocking aspect was the manner in which it happened. She mirrored the death of my Aunt Helen, my mother’s closest sister who also took her life on a train track in the 70’s and I think, something which my mother never got over fully.

In the weeks and months that followed her death I had no option but to get on with my life. Bills had to be paid so I had to go out and get my first proper job and basically go out into the world and find/re-find myself. I had a little scare a year or 2 afterwards when I felt lonely and down and for a while I thought I was next in the family tradition to lose the plot but somehow, perhaps due to what I’d witnessed with my mother, I avoided that and managed my way eventually.

I am proud of my mother for what she achieved in life and perhaps controversially I am proud of her for being brave enough to end her own life. In some ways I see what she done as a kind of sacrifice for my benefit as well as her own. I knew that she knew how badly her behaviour was affecting me and how much I was at breaking point. Her death allowed me to live and I haven’t look back since. She of course was the biggest benefactor of her actions and in this case the so called selfishness of suicide was fully justified and allowable in my opinion.

I would like to take this opportunity ‘ma’, wherever you are, to thank you for all that you’ve done for me and for giving me the tools to succeed in life and to find the happiness you never did. I will keep you with me always and remember happier times and I will tell everyone who is interested, the many ways in which you were great. I will raise your beautiful grandchildren as you raised me, with an emphasis on learning, creativity, individuality, integrity, honesty, laughter and strength of character with a healthy dose of your cynicism thrown in too.

Your only Son and Child,

Leon (Nooney Moon)

Contact Aware for more info and support for Depression.

Some photos of my Mother, Noeleen:

15 Replies to “My Mother, 10 Years Gone Today”

  1. Hi Leon,
    That was a brave thing to write, I’m sure it was difficult but well done. Speaking about suicide still seems to be a taboo in this country even though its something that affects so many people. Its good to see people talking about the issue instead of choosing the easier option of ignoring and hiding from it.

  2. Thanks Eddie, it’s for those reasons precisely (taboo) that I chose to write this and also just to remember her. I’m sure it will make difficult reading for some.

    Can’t believe its been 10 years.

  3. Hi Leon, you have done so well and your mum would be so proud of you. It is really nice to see these pictures of Noeleen. Thinking of you today L xxx

  4. Very brave Leon, makes me very sad to read it, brought back some childhood memories, I was always remember her sense of humour.

  5. Wow, I had no idea that your mother had passed, or in such a manner.

    That was a very powerful blog; you got your message across very affectively. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I know your Mam is truly at peace now…and I hope you are too.

  6. Leon,
    It broke my heart to read it but i’m so glad I did. You’re so beautiful to share that part of your life with people, I hope it helps others touched by suicide to see another out look on it. xxx

  7. A well loved gutsy, artisitic, intelligent mother to a well loved, gutsy, artistic, intelligent son (by the looks of this piece) This is a beautiful tribute to your mum and a tribute to the way she raised you. It seems that despite huge adversity you are doing well, and really thats so important. Thank you for sharing this, it’s wonderful and a stunning, beautiful tribute to your mums life. x

  8. Leon

    Your mother was a wonderful person. Her suffering became too intense for her, and she could see no other way out. Suffering is a major mystery in this life but somehow it will benefit you because this is what she wanted, to love you, not to make you suffer, because of her. She is a major intercessor for you now. Well done for having the great courage to write about all of this. I hoped it helped you. It helped me enormously to read it. May she rest in eternal peace.

  9. Leon,

    You have a deep understanding of what depression is and you’re extremely accurate in your descriptive terms. I instantly got absorbed in your analysis and your portrayal to anyone reading this made it easy to understand, yet very detailed in an absolute, matter of fact, common sense way of explaining your wonderful mothers state of mind and pain.. I for one could relate to it like a blue print.

    On a personal level I was deeply moved reading this and choked with tears for both Noeleen and you. You have a great perspective, an open mind, a very mature and rational attitude of what its like to be in the blackest of black places, one can ever find themselves in, all without judgment. Of course you have had your low days. Clearly you have a survivors spirit and optimistic outlook. I believe you are someone others can gain from and learn to deal with anger or search for reasons having been effected by both depression and the all to often detrimental result of suicide.

    Your empathy for your mother generously out weighs your own feelings but from what I have read it seems to have also helped you come to terms with her decision. The relief you felt was a natural reward in itself a tool to keep you strong. I have no doubt the pain is there still.

    I for one am proud to be your friend and feel privileged you would share this sensitive and personal story. Man can conquer continents but we have yet to conquer the mind.

    Warmest thoughts and admiration


  10. As I am reading this I have just come off the phone with me brother in Cork, (I am in Dublin), and he is deciding whether to live or die. I have been through this so often with him and have been begging him to go to a doctor or hospital. I am resigned that I can do no more and I hope so much that he chooses life and gets better, but I also know that no person could bear the pain he is in. It hurts so much that I can do no more. Thank you for your story.

  11. WOW! Just going through an “episode” with my mam at the moment. She suffers from Bi-Polar and it just breaks my heart to see that you can only try to listen and have patience with this horrible disease. It is very hard to try to come to terms with not being able to help and for others to realise that too. Well done you – as a mother myself I know she would be so proud of you. Thank you so much for writing this as I know with me and I am sure with others it is nice to know your not alone.

  12. I never comment on blog posts but was moved to tears when I read this post this morning. It is beautifully written and so very brave of you to share such a personal story.

    Thank you for sharing Noeleen’s story.

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