To the Man Who Almost Jumped in Front of the Subway
I’m not sure I have words powerful enough or meaningful enough to explain what happened.
At the time, it was a normal day. I had just finished speaking at a local high school and was exhausted. As my speech came and went, I had amazing conversations with the students and the counselors. I found the subway with ease and was reflecting on the day when I had to transfer subway lines. I went down the escalator, looked up and connected eyes with a guy not much older than myself. He looked unassuming, dressed in all black and, frankly, he was kind of cute. Then, I saw how close he was standing to the edge of the platform.
The realization washed over me. He was going to jump.
I held eye contact with him for a while. He smiled at me and moved to the edge of the platform.
His smile was one of relief.
I knew that smile — I’d given it too many times before. It’s misleading; many assume it’s the smile of finally feeling better. But it was a knowing smile. He thought the train was going to take the pain away.
The next thing I knew, I heard the rumble of the approaching subway and my instincts took over. Without realizing it, I had ran to where he was, placed my arm over his chest and pushed him away from the train. All I can remember was his weight against my hand, not realizing someone was there. When the train was in the station, he looked at me. I don’t think I can place the expression, but the closest was probably confusion.
I felt the need to say something.
All I could manage was, “You shouldn’t stand that close to the train, it’ll knock you over.” He nodded and walked into the train. My legs were weak and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I sat in a seat with my brain just repeating: “Did that actually just happen?”
Then I looked up. He was standing there, looking at me again. I looked up with probably with a fake smile, usually reserved for family gatherings. He spoke.
“You know I was trying to jump, right?”
I nodded. Crap. What should I say?
I spit out, “I didn’t want to call you out on it.” Cue internal face palm.
He nodded and said, “Thanks.” I sat there looking up. Looking at this guy, trying to find any words to make this better. My mind was blank. The train stopped and he ran out. Feeling a sudden need to leave, I got off at a stop that wasn’t even close to mine. I stared at my phone, not even knowing who to call. How would they take it? I’ve lived through being suicidal. I’m trained in suicide prevention. Yet, I didn’t do anything I was taught.
I spoke to friends, but no one could understand why I wasn’t celebrating. I did what every person in mental health hopes to. I saved a life, didn’t I? Why on Earth did I feel like crap? They dismissed how I was feeling, and started ranting about what was happening in their lives.
It was the first time in a long time I felt like no one understood my feelings. I spent the next few days feeling heavy and confused. I couldn’t feel anything. I’m usually able to feel music, if nothing else. But it was just words. There was no song for this feeling. No poem. Just confusion as what the heck was happening. I forced smiles and laughter. I tried to act normal. None of it was real.
I reached out to the former program director at mindyourmind. She helped me realize that what I saw was not someone preparing to die, but in the act of dying. That my mind was torturing itself with images of what might have happened…and all the things I could have said. The police that should have been called. The help I should have gotten. Everything that should have happened.
She told me I should write. Write all the things I wish I had said.
So, after probably what is the longest introduction to anything ever, here it is:
“Dear the man in black,
I want to tell you how awesome life can be. But I know you don’t feel that right now. I want you to know I’ve been there. Felt like there was no hope and like change wasn’t possible. I thought I was too crazy, too broken, to be helped. I’ve felt like my problems were too much to bear and the world would be so much better without me. And some days I still feel like this.
I want you to know more than anything that help is out there. Good online and telephone crisis lines are life-saving resources. I want you to know there is something to stay here for. Whether it’s an overarching change you want to see in the world, or the fact that no one will feed your goldfish. People, as much as they suck sometimes, do care about you. I care about you. I want you to find a life that makes you happy. There are amazing groups of people out there who have felt just like you’re feeling right now. And they want to talk to you and support you through this.
I hope my one act made even a little bit of a difference. I hope you know people can care, notice and want to help. I hope you find more people like that in travels, if you don’t already have them. I want you to realize it isn’t you that’s broken — it’s the situation or the illness that drove you to this. Lastly, I sincerely hope the next time you smile, it’s because you realize how awesome you truly are. “
I wrote that in tears, but it does make me feel a little better. And I hope this journey through text can help someone else one day. I know now my training in suicide prevention, if anything, gave me the confidence to move. To intervene. But, please recognize how dangerous what I did was. Please always try and talk to someone if you think there might be a problem.
Every day that passes, I’m getting a little bit of me back. I’m coming to terms with what happened. I’m riding the subway again. I’ve started to feel again. I’ve felt true laughter and happiness again. I’ve had moments where I don’t think about it. The walls I put up when I’m scared are slowly coming down.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.