When I Found Myself Waiting for a Reply From My Friend Lost to Suicide
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741
On January 16, 2017, I released the video of my new spoken word poem “The Waiting Room.” I performed it for the first time, stripped back, intimate and ink fresh for Sofar Sounds, London.
It was a difficult and important one for me because two years to the day one of my best friends, Tanusha Paik, died by suicide. I have started to say “died by” because over time I have realized we are so ill-equipped to navigate this taboo topic and so, as a result, our vocabulary for it is archaic and to an extent, cruel.
If you think about it, the way we talk about mental health is almost indistinguishable from how we speak of crime. “He’s threatening to…” and “she’s committed…”
To put it simply, to be mentally unwell is an offense. People are treated as such.
And I’m not OK with it. But that’s really a post for another day.
I suppose it makes me angry because I know the power of communication can penetrate darkness. I know how many times the distant voice of a loved one just saying “I’m here” has thawed the ice around my trapped heart. Being able to talk openly and unashamedly about the fact that surviving in the world as it is feels near impossible and hearing other people whisper “I feel the same,” has saved my life.
Let’s get real. Not so long ago, I was contemplating suicide. It’s unpleasant and heartbreaking and I’m sorry for that, but it’s the truth and it’s really all I’ve got.
But, talking. Listening. Asking for help. It’s saved my life over and over and over and over again.
Mental health conditions exist. They get worse if untreated and sometimes, people die.
I lost my girl Tanusha. There is no day that goes by when I don’t wish she was here. That I don’t feel left behind. That I don’t ask “why?”
I’ve been writing on her Facebook wall for the past two years and I’ve never really thought about it until recently. This poem began from a post I wrote when I suddenly realized what I’d been waiting for, was a reply.
I’d been waiting for her to come back and live this life with me. Because we were supposed to be doing it together.
Fighting together. Trying together.
I’d been waiting to tell her I was angry she left. I was waiting to tell her I understood why she did. I was waiting for her to give me the chance to help her stay. I was waiting for her disbelief at the cleanliness of my new room and then to be immediately indifferent and curl up into a duvet burrito on my orthopedic mattress. I was waiting for the day I’d stop waiting.
Because surely that day would come?
And she’d be home.
What I’ve realized is my grief was particular. I wonder if anyone can relate? It wanted to freeze me in an “in between,” half in this life and half in the next. Until she would reply and then at least I would know wherever she was, she was OK, she was warm and she knew she was loved.
But I don’t think I can live like that anymore. Frozen.
Suicide obliterates its surroundings and for years, you’re scrabbling around on the ground, searching through the wreckage trying to salvage some meaning from all that pain. The trouble is some days I forget to wipe the dust from my eyes and see I’m still here.
Life is a beast and I really don’t get it. I’m pretty sure no one does.
But there’s color amidst the grey and I have to be here to see it because when I can, it feels like magic. Some days, when things hurt less, I believe I can feel that magic for the both of us.
Where there’s breath, there’s hope.
And I’m still breathing.
And I’m still writing.
So I’ll share if you do. Please, let’s talk.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Photo via contributor.