Lucky comes later- on surviving suicide
This is not the post I intended to write. I had a separate post planned, something wonderfully nerdy and interesting and ED-related, but then I logged onto Facebook and Twitter tonight and was floored with the news that Robin Williams had committed suicide.
It immediately brought me back to when I attempted suicide, not long before I started this blog almost seven years ago. Hearing of other’s suicides stirs up a turbulent mix of shame and guilt. How could I have possibly thought this would have been the best option?
Then I remember that girl, the one who was so desperate and scared and trapped and hurt and I empathize with her. I force myself to sit on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor with her as she sobs. I watch, wordless, as she makes her final preparations. I watch her completely dissociate, watch her watching her, watching her.
Empathizing with the aftermath is harder. The awkward pauses in the conversation that you know YOU’VE caused, how no one will talk about it directly. “You need supervision in case you…you know…”
Yes. I know. Believe me, I know. I can’t stop thinking of how much I know. That, theoretically, I’m one of the lucky ones. That I probably should have died. One less-than-helpful nurse points that out on one of my many intake forms once I’m transferred from critical care to the psych unit. “That’s really dangerous. You could have died!” That was kind of the point, lady.
I tell her this because I realize I have nothing left to lose. She stares at me long and hard when I say it, rather wryly.
I don’t feel lucky then, and I won’t feel lucky for a good long time after. Lucky comes later.
Lucky comes when you have a family to support you, the money and insurance to pay for therapy, the ability to find medications that work. Lucky is the slow re-building of everything you lost. It’s applying to your dream school from the freaking psych ward because hey- nothing to lose.
Lucky doesn’t mean that you will never return to that dark place. You will. Time and time again, and you never know if this wave will pull you under. Instead, you learn how to swim, carry the damn life preserver and try to call for help. You know, all too well, that this storm won’t last forever. You will cling to life with the flimsiest of things- how the Harry Potter books end, the fact that you haven’t yet fed the cat today, that you promised a friend you would help them move next weekend. These won’t hold forever, and you know that, but you keep desperately trying to string them together, one after another, in a sequence of seemingly pointless moments. Then you figure out that you have started living life again without even realizing it. There’s no miracle moment, here, just the slow stringing together of small moments into a narrative called your biography.
I know there are other people like me, who have survived their own suicide attempts, and yet there is not much said about how we can move on from our own loss and trauma. If mental illness carries a stigma, the one hanging over suicide is even greater. I generally don’t like to talk about it. I’m ashamed and embarrassed. We talk of people who complete suicide as being ‘selfish’ that they couldn’t sense their loved one’s pain. Yet when those feelings of utter despair washed over me, all I could think about was the pain I was causing others. Maybe it was selfish of me, I don’t know, but it didn’t feel that way to me at the time. It felt like the only option I had left. I had tried everything else.
My experience didn’t leave me with any physical scars. There’s nothing I can point to and say, hey, this happened that night I… But mentally, it shattered me. It scared me. It still does. You don’t get over it. You don’t forget.
Hearing of another’s suicide is always tragic, whether I know them personally or not. There’s always a part of me that realizes that could have been me. There’s another part that knows the pain and anguish they were experiencing in their last moments all too well.
Then I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and remember that my story didn’t end there. It goes on, still.