What I Found When I Returned to the Place I Wanted to Die


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Yesterday, it was 80 degrees and the world was golden by the river where my father and I took our dogs, so that our Labrador could enjoy a swim and our puppy could test out the water. The puppy was especially brave and waded up to her belly, and the Labrador swam until he couldn’t swim anymore, chasing sticks and the splashes of pebbles. They played with the other dogs, enjoying the cool water on a hot day, and the other owners cooed over the cuteness of our puppy. There was a huge black and yellow butterfly sat on a rock near the shore and, miraculously, none of the dogs touched it.

A hundred feet away was a hidden rock ledge that overlooks the river, near the place where the current starts to get stronger. I know the ledge well — on bad days, I used to sit there to stare at the water and try to breathe.

Eighteen months ago, I spent the afternoon before Christmas Eve on that ledge and every breath was a small victory. My life had been slowly but steadily spiraling out of control thanks to my bipolar disorder. The last 3 months had been a living hell as I rapid cycled between depression and hypomania with no chance to catch my breath. I’d struggled with social anxiety for as long as I can remember and dealt with self-harm since I was 12 years old, but I had never felt the way I did then. There wasn’t much keeping me alive besides the fact that I didn’t want to hurt my family so badly during Christmas time.

It’s been 18 months since that day — 18 months of therapy, medication, life changes and hard work. Every one of those 18 months has felt surreal, even though I have been stable for most of them and handling my anxiety better than ever before. My 18th birthday, my graduation from high school, having another Christmas… every moment, good and bad, still feels unexpected. The unexpectedness isn’t painful, though. It is beautiful. My 18th — and now my 19th! — birthday have felt like conquests. I was giddy at my graduation, not because I was finishing high school but because I was moving past another line I never thought I would be around to cross, into territory where anything could happen. I cried at the end of Christmas because of how good I felt when I had felt so bad just a year before.

When we drove past the ledge I sat on trying to keep myself from ending it all, with two wet dogs in the back of the car and the golden sunlight streaming through the trees with their thick summer leaves, I took a picture. I will need it, I know, because I will not be stable forever, and I will feel suicidal again at some point in my life. (After all, I plan to have a long life.) I will need to look back and remember how much things change, and how grateful I will be when my brain has calmed and I am still alive. I will always have to deal with my bipolar disorder and the depression that comes with it, but I know I will also always have golden afternoons by a river where I am thinking about how alive I am, instead of how close to death.

image of lake and rocky outcrop taken from car

Take a picture. Keep it with you. Because the warm, sunlit days come back.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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