Sue Wiygul Martin is the author of a just-published personal memoir, entitled Out of the Whirlpool: A Memoir of Remorse and Reconciliation, which she describes as “the story of a suicide attempt survivor and the rebuilding of a life.”
Out of the Whirlpool, which began as a series of blog posts, describes Sue’s suicide attempt at age 26, her subsequent blindness, and the long, hard road she follows to rebuild her life – and herself – as a blind person and blind rehabilitation professional.
Sue, who is a VisionAware Peer Advisor, has worked in the field of blind rehabilitation for over 20 years as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, a Low Vision Therapist, and an assistive technology specialist. Since 2007, Sue has been a Section 508 analyst with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
More about Out of the Whirlpool
From Sue’s introduction:
I attempted suicide with a gun when I was 26 years old. I am blind by my own hand. Although I surely didn’t intend it, my blindness is the result of an attempt to end my life. When I began writing about my experiences I tried, in every way, to avoid telling that one part of my story, that I am blind as the result of a suicide attempt. It just didn’t work. It was like denying that I have a right arm.
While I have become quite comfortable talking about the facts of my sight loss, I know that there are those for whom this topic will be uncomfortable. Please stay with me. This is a story about adjusting to change. It is about digging up courage from hidden places. It is about choosing life. But it is also a story about crippling depression. To appreciate the strength of the human spirit, to truly feel the triumph of choosing life over death, it is necessary to look depression squarely in the face.
Her Suicide Attempt
From Chapter 1: The Whirlpool:
… I looked at the clock. It was 11:30 in the morning. Then I sank back down into the very tiny place that had become my reality. I positioned the gun and paused. If I did this, there was no turning back. This was going to be final. There was nothing, nothing else, nothing that was big enough to get me out of the whirlpool of depression. I both wanted to do this and not do it. I held my breath. I squeezed my eyes shut.
I clenched my teeth. I pulled the trigger.
Choosing to Live
From Chapter 2: I Choose Life:
I lay unconscious, alone, and bleeding for eight hours. When I regained consciousness, I knew exactly where I was and what I had done. It was dark. Completely dark. I sat up and tried to think of what I should do next. The first order of business was to figure out why it was so dark. Sitting up, I felt my face. I was covered in blood, some of it dry and crusted and some still sticky. I widened my eyes. Nothing.
Thinking the blood had dried and was keeping my eyelids closed, I placed two fingers, one on the upper and one on the lower lids of my right eye. I pried my eyelids opened. Still nothing.
I reached to follow the same procedure with my left eye, but as soon as I touched it I drew my hand back. It was too painful.
Putting the question of the darkness aside for the moment, I pondered my situation. Deep inside me there was a spark of the survivor. What did one do when one was injured? I took the first step towards living again: I got to my feet and aimed for the kitchen. I knew that there was a phone just to the left of the refrigerator.
Returning to Life
My memories of the days in ICU are hazy. I had no way of knowing when it was day or night. There was no peace to be had because of the constant beeping of machines, voices of nurses and doctors, quiet conversations of those who kept vigil by my bedside. It seemed that someone was always there.
I was heavily sedated and that might have been the only thing that kept me from demanding to know why I couldn’t see. I kept telling myself that I was, after all, in a hospital and hospitals are where they cure people. They were probably just letting me get a little stronger before they did some surgery or other that would restore my sight…
What Readers Are Saying
Out of the Whirlpool is described by one reader as a “must-read for anyone in the vision field and perhaps especially for persons going through the vision loss and rehabilitation process”:
This book captures the essence of the rehabilitation process like nothing else I have seen. It makes you experience sight loss and the discovery of new skills as if it is happening to you. Sue’s honesty about her emotions, her warmth, clarity, and accuracy regarding the adjustment experience are striking.
A Kindle reviewer says this about Sue’s compelling journey:
I could not put this book down! On one hand, it is the best book ever written in the genre of blindness literature. At its most basic level, it tells the story of how someone goes about learning the skills it takes to live in the world as a person who is blind. It does that better than anyone has done it before. Beyond that, the book is a story for every person who has ever struggled, or who is struggling to know that in the face of the most difficult challenges there is hope.
Where You Can Purchase Out of the Whirlpool
- Buy the print or audio versions at the Out of the Whirlpool website
- Buy the Kindle edition at Amazon.com
- Read the first three chapters and excerpts from the book at the Out of the Whirlpool website
Where You Can Find Sue
- At the Out of the Whirlpool website
- On Facebook
- On Twitter @swmartin
- At Blind Living, her website with her husband Jim