The Night My Life Didn't End
The night my life didn’t end started like any other. I had spent the night with friends, laughing and joking. I was 16. I look back now and laugh at the fact I thought I was practically an adult. I thought I knew everything.
I had been struggling with self-harm and a whole host of mental health issues that were at the time nameless to me. I didn’t know what they were — I just knew it felt like monsters came for me in the dark. I knew it felt like drowning, like rage. I knew it made me want to die.
I had never made a serious attempt on my life before but rather lingered on the edge of it. Each of these instances had something in common: a sense of deep, agonizing despair.
This night was different. I left my friends to go home and walked to the bus alone. The street was eerily silent, and the air felt dense. A strange feeling settled down on me, slowly creeping over me, through me.
Nothing around me felt real; I felt like a ghost. The whole journey home, I couldn’t shake this feeling — if anything it grew stronger. This crushing sense of not belonging.
Absurd as it may sound, I grew confident that in fact, I had already died. Mentally, I was transitioning, but my body was holding me back, and this is where this disconcerting feeling originated from. I was stuck in limbo. I thought to be “free,” all I had to do was physically die. This didn’t seem scary because it felt like I had already died. I felt no fear, no sadness. I felt nothing except the absolute certainty that this was right. There were no tears, no hesitance, just calm assuredness.
The fear didn’t come until I got home. From the bus stop, I could see my bedroom, and the light was on. As a closet self-harmer, I was always terrified my parents would go into my room and discover anything that might give me away, and anyone in my room without me was a source of great anxiety. Seeing that light on began to break through my dark reverie, and I practically ran home, knowing something was amiss.
I was usually very thorough about hiding any “evidence” of my self-harming. I was always so careful, but this once, I wasn’t. In an unlikely twist, that same night, my parents had decided to lay new flooring down in my room, intending on it being finished for me coming home as a nice surprise. In doing so, they had moved the bed and found… enough. Enough to ask questions, enough to know what the answers would be. A sick, heavy dread ran through me. I knew the pretense was over. It felt like the world was crashing around me, and it felt very real now.
In that instant, everything was over.
Except here’s the thing; it wasn’t.
I was alive. What an unlikely set of circumstances that fell together to allow each of these unusual and unlikely things to occur together, to allow my parents to find out at the exact time I reached a point that even nearly 10 years on I consider a point of no return. My life had two paths that night. That night was a turning point.
I’d love to say life improved dramatically after that night, that there was an instant fix, but there wasn’t. But that’s OK.
The thing I had feared most — them finding out — wasn’t the end of anything. It was the beginning. It was the beginning of my recovery. It was the beginning of my life.
I frequently think about everything I would have missed if that night had taken another path — if just one thing had been different. If they hadn’t decided to lay the flooring, if I hadn’t gone home in the first place.
You see, when we think of suicide prevention, we often think of great gestures, meaningful gestures full of purpose, but sometimes, our random acts of kindness have consequences far beyond what we can imagine. Never underestimate the power your kindness, no matter how small or irrelevant you think it is or how small the impact you think it has on others.
I think of the things I would have missed if that night had gone differently. My life, myself, everything is so different now than what it was then or what I could ever have imagined it would be. I didn’t know, and I might never have found out. Meeting Chester Bennington, seeing my favorite bands live, going to university, meeting my fiance, buying our house, traveling together, planning our wedding — things that would never have existed if it wasn’t for a new floor.
Life isn’t perfect. I still battle with my mental illness, and admittedly, sometimes it still feels like I’ll “lose.” But on those days, I think of that night. I’m here despite the odds being against me that night, and that’s not for nothing.
My message to you if you are struggling too right now, there is life out there for you. There is life you can’t even imagine right now, and not being able to believe it or see it doesn’t make it less real. You have a future, like I had a future, like we have a future.
Life won’t always be easy, and there are no quick fixes; recovery isn’t linear, and it doesn’t need to be. Baby steps are still moving forward, and every small step gets you closer to that future. Don’t be afraid to reach out, to move towards recovery — don’t be afraid to believe in your future.
Getty image by ziggy1.