What Happened When My Friend Read the Note I Wrote Before My Near-Suicide Attempt
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
When people say suicide is devastating to the people left behind, I guess I never quite understood it. I understood grieving, like any loss. But wouldn’t they understand their loved one had been in unbearable pain, and was now at peace? Of course my view is slightly colored — as I’ve been suicidal myself.
I say “have been suicidal” very casually, but I don’t mean it that way. I’ve never been big on writing suicide notes. I was just going to take my life and hope people knew how I felt. But after some deep, emotional conversations with my best friend over the months, I decided at least he deserved one. So sitting on the floor of my little closet — with everything I needed to end my life, I grabbed a pen and paper. I wrote what came to my head — what came from my heart. Two pages of bad handwriting on notebook paper ripped out of a composition book.
As fate would have it, a quick run to the store after I wrote that note resulted in someone slamming into me and totaling my car. I was more upset that I couldn’t “complete my plan” than I was about the car. I was at peace with ending my life. It was a relief. I thought finally I had found a way out of the darkness and pain. My plan was ruined. Or at least put on pause until the next opportunity to be alone for enough time to complete it.
My best friend came over to my house a few days later. I don’t know if he asked, or if I told him, but somehow he found out I had written him a note. He asked to see it. Casually laying there on the couch, he read it. No sign of emotion, just reading along. He got to the end, and the world was suddenly in slow motion. As if he no longer had the strength to hold it, he dropped the paper to his lap. I remember it fluttering down for what seemed like forever. Then I shifted my eyes. He was sobbing hysterically, face covered with his hands, unable to catch his breath he was crying so hard. I held him as tight as I could. I rubbed his back. I told him it was OK, I was here. But he couldn’t stop. He would try to stop — but he couldn’t. He later told me it wasn’t “as if” I was gone — for him I was gone. When he read it, his entire being reacted as if I were actually gone. Even he was surprised by his reaction. For half an hour I held him, comforted him and reminded him everything was OK.
Once he finally caught his breath enough to speak, he explained it. He said that note made the pain of my loss truly, completely, real. Not “how it would feel if I were gone,” but “how it felt because I was gone.’ His mind, body and soul reacted with the full force of my death — even though I was right there hugging him. It was the most gut-wrenching thing to see. I’ve never really seen him cry, better yet, sob uncontrollably. Even once he caught his breath enough to speak he was still crying. He said there was a huge hole inside him when he read that note — a void that would never be filled. It was painful, it was honest, it was desperate, it was genuine. He couldn’t fathom coping with my suicide. Not my “death,” my suicide.
It was his next statement that really got me.
“And that was me reacting while you’re still here, holding me, comforting me. I wouldn’t have that. You would be gone and I would be curled up on the floor somewhere alone like that.”
Those words hit me hard. I had been sitting there comforting him about a pain I had inadvertently caused. If I did end my life — I wouldn’t be there to help him get through it. A strange paradox, but true nonetheless. I would not be there to ease the worst pain of my best friend’s life, because I would be the cause of it. It sticks with me to this day. The thought that he would be in such agony, and I wouldn’t be there to hold him and just be there for him. That can’t be right, because we are always there for each other!
I wish I could say, “Oh I’ll never end my own life after seeing his reaction,” but I won’t say that. Because the truth is I don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds. But he made me make a promise — if ever I find myself “on the closet floor” again, I will tell him and give him time to get there. In exchange, he promised he will drop anything to be there, and I never have to feel guilty about it. He promised to stay there in that closet holding me, listening to me, talking to me or just stroking my hair until I fell asleep. He promised if ever I was in the closet again, he would be in there with me. No matter when. No matter why. And for as long as I needed him to be.
“It’s you and me against the world” — that’s what he tells me. When it feels like the world is crashing down, I have at least one person who promises to be there while it does.
Seeing his reaction to that note gave me a new found perspective on losing someone to suicide. Someone you love and care about. To see the pain and torture it caused him was almost unbearable. I don’t ever want to be the cause of that.
So next time I find myself sitting in the closet, completely prepared to end my life, I know I have to make a quick phone call first — no matter how much I don’t want to. I know he will be there. I know he will do everything he can. I know he will never leave.
On the days when things seem to be spiraling out of control and I feel like I’m losing my mind, I remember what he always tells me — “I won’t let you fall.”
After watching him read that note, I believe him.
Getty Images photo via Nattakorn Maneerat