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A Necessary Lie About My Suicide Attempt

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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 741741.

We were supposed to celebrate big for her 21st birthday. We had planned it since we were teenagers. We were going to live it up in Vegas, her and I. We decided we’d have a quick three-day trip where we gambled, stayed out late drinking (legally) and slept until brunch time, where we’d sip on mimosas as we laid out by the pool. My parents bought our plane tickets and even planned on gifting us both with $100 on the stipulation that we had to spend it all in the casinos (no saving it). It was going to be a trip to remember… or not depending on how much alcohol we managed to consume.

I guess I should’ve seen the signs sooner. It started out innocently enough, her jesting about death and wanting to die. There are plenty of memes circulating on Twitter about “ending it all” over a minor inconvenience. I just assumed she was joking. I mean, we’re college students. We’re supposed to want to die, right? Exhaustion, stress over our finals (aka “dead week”) and our GPAs, wondering when — or if — we’ll be able to pay off our student loans, trying to balance our classes, work and a social life. Those are all things that might make you want your life to stop, but they’re things we’re all dealing with so I didn’t think much of it.

We’ve all thought, “Ugh, kill me. I have a seven page paper due tomorrow and I’ve yet to start it.” I know I have. In fact, I have said similar things like this on numerous occasions. Particularly when I have to stand up and introduce myself to the class and tell them a fun fact about myself. It’s dreadful and I think everyone wants to die during it. I should have picked up on her increasing infatuation with death. It was almost like it became a hobby of hers. She’d scour the internet looking up articles about the gruesome ways people had died. She discovered that some of her favorite authors, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, had all killed themselves. She described their deaths as “courageous” and “hardcore.” She said it took real guts to off yourself by placing your head in an oven, or filling your pockets with rocks so that you sunk to the bottom.

I knew she had been depressed, but I was unaware of the extent of it. I don’t blame myself for not knowing, though, because how could I? I’m not trained in how to treat depression. Plus, she hid it so well. I did recognize some of the signs of it and suggested she start seeing a doctor again. For a self-proclaimed avid “foodie” she wasn’t eating anywhere near as much as she used to. She began to take multiple naps throughout the weekdays even though sleeping occupied the majority of her Saturdays and Sundays. Making it to her 9:00 a.m. lecture was so rare that one time our professor actually said, “Thank you for gracing us with your presence this morning, your majesty,” when she walked in. She didn’t attend any more of his classes after that. She drank. A lot. Since she wasn’t 21 yet, she’d order cases of wine using her brother’s account. She went through at least one bottle per night, and on some nights she managed to finish two entire bottles on her own.

We were two friends who hardly fought, but she became so agitated and irritable in her final months that I debated moving out. I assumed we just weren’t compatible roommates. But after every fight, the next day she would break down into uncontrollable tears and apologize profusely for her behavior. She begged me not to leave and so I stuck it out. We used to go to the same gym together, too, but she stopped working out completely. She said it didn’t interest her anymore and that she no longer cared about staying active. There were other things she ceased to do as well. Reading became obsolete, watching any movie or TV show on Netflix became unbearable as she had to constantly switch to new ones because none of them could hold her attention long enough. Her anxiety started to become more severe leading her to cancel or bail on plans with our friends or her boyfriend, who she eventually broke up with after two years of dating.

Looking back on it, I could see what everything was leading towards. In the initial days of her death I blamed myself extensively. I was her roommate, I saw what her life had become. I had known her since the third grade. We grew up to be inseparable, so I should’ve done more to get her the help she deserved when I no longer recognized her. Maybe if I had informed her parents of her grades or of her actions they could’ve set her up with a psychologist. Why wasn’t I more attentive? I told myself I was selfish for continuing to go about my daily activities without checking on her. We shared everything together, but I wasn’t able to share in her pain until she was gone. She did that alone. I bawled my eyes out night after night wondering if she knew how much I loved her and how much she meant to me. She wasn’t just in my life, she enhanced it.

I feel as if I must admit something now.

All of the above is a lie. Well, it’s not entirely a lie. Parts of it are though. My best friend didn’t kill herself. I attempted to though, and had I died I imagine this would be what my best friend, Erin, would’ve written about me.

I wrote this in hopes that it would resonate with some. Maybe someone has friends or family members who have experienced a noticeably drastic change. Some of them may have the same symptoms I had, or maybe someone is dealing with those things themselves.

To those who struggle with suicidal ideation, I am living proof it is possible to come out on the other side. I emphasize how critical it is to know in the pits of one’s soul that no one is ever truly alone, even if the mind is arguing otherwise. I want those plagued by the thoughts to be aware of how suicide may affect those who love and care, but to also realize that it’s not anyone’s fault for what is brewing within.

To those who have people in their life struggling, be there for them though, listen to them, urge them to seek help (needing help isn’t always the same as wanting it) and please do not give up on them. And lastly, to those who have lost people due to suicide, don’t take blame.

Today I have a newfound gratitude in the smallest of things, like the vibrance of the green in the trees during the spring and summer, the interaction with random strangers I meet when traveling, the submergence I experience when diving headfirst into the stories of books, the way music feels as it plays throughout my body, the rush I receive as my hand flows freely through the open windows of my car and of the way a cool fall morning feels as I sit outside sipping my coffee. I remind my family that we are all worthy of receiving love and support from each other, and I tell my friends that our relationships filled with infectious, bellyaching laughter are something I will never take for granted again.

The pain that encompassed me was so profound and ominous that it became my greatest fear. I still worry that it may surface again someday. If it does I have faith in knowing it’ll be slightly more bearable. The difference is now I know I can beat it. I have and I will,  except that next time I will have help. I will have some idea of what to do, where to go and who to call. Since surviving my suicide attempt I have been able to share these resources with others and steered them in the right direction towards their own healing. Though I often wish I never had to experience the suicidal thoughts, in a weird way they helped me view the world as being more purposeful than I ever thought possible. I guess you could call it a silver lining.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Originally published: July 25, 2019
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