Tonight I had a brush with suicide. At around 9:00 pm, our neighbor knocked on our door and said she needed help. Her fiance had left, she hadn’t taken her Paxil in three weeks, and she wanted to slit her writs in the bathtub. She said she couldn’t reach her son on the phone and didn’t know what to do, but she just wanted to make the pain go away. She said she was afraid she would hurt herself. She kept apologizing for bothering us. We told her to stop apologizing, she was doing the right thing, it was not a bother, and we were going to help her. We got dressed and just as we were leaving the driveway of our complex, we ran into her son who was on his way to check up on her. We told him what was happening and he followed us to the hospital.
She cried and cried on the way over, talking about her lost love and how she can’t go back to her house, and how she doesn’t want to go on anymore and doesn’t know what to do.
My mom sat in the backseat with her while I drove us over. As I listened to her tell us her story, I fought back my own tears. I could literally feel her pain, as I recently suffered losses myself. I could feel her heartbreak and her loss and understood her desire to make it all go away.
I know how you feel, I thought. While I have never been on medication for a mental health diagnosis, I have reached some incredibly low points. Five weeks ago I stood on the Astoria pier alone, having left my then-boyfriend sleeping alone in our hotel room. I looked up at the Astoria-Megler bridge that spans the Columbia, joining Oregon and Washington together. It is a daunting bridge to look at, and I watched the cars drive north, disappearing into the night, leaving only the faintness of their tail lights as proof they ever existed.
I stood there, defeated. It was barely one week from my miscarriage, and the baby’s father had grown suddenly and incomprehensibly distant. I could feel the end of my relationship speeding towards me like an out of control freight train. I wanted to disappear into the night, just like the cars were, and leave all of this pain behind.
The next morning I found myself back in the same spot. Once again, I stared at the bridge. Once again, I had left him sleeping in the hotel room, but this time, he was my ex-boyfriend. The previous night, after my solo trip to the pier, he finally admitted he wanted to break up with me. I was grateful we got a hotel room with two beds, and after a few scant hours of sleep, and I watched the sky grow lighter through the crack in the draperies. As soon as I deemed it light enough, I threw on my clothes and walked back to the spot I was in the night before.
What is to stop me from climbing the bridge and jumping into the icy river?
I stared hard, feeling like I would almost do anything to make all of the pain and memories go away. The breakup. The miscarriage. The feeling that I was completely and utterly worthless. That clearly I had nothing to offer him now that there was not a baby, so he was free to find someone who was worthy of his time.
Looking up at that bridge, I have never felt so small and insignificant. So unworthy of love. So alone.
I just stared for an unknown period of time. The air was frosty and my breath was visible. I watched boats anchored out in the water. I watched the tourists walk hand in hand down the marina. And I watched the cars. Hundreds of cars, filled with people who have their own troubles. I knew that jumping off that bridge was not the answer. I knew that jumping off that bridge was something I would never do. But I won’t deny that as I stood there, I felt like there was nothing left for me. It was the lowest of the low. And perhaps if I didn’t have the most amazing family and friends waiting for me back in Portland, I might have seriously considered the worst.
But I knew, deep down, that even though it felt like I had just lost everything, I still had everything waiting for me in a small little duplex that overlooks a cranky farmer and his dahlia fields.
I wanted to tell all of this to my neighbor. That I understand the pain, I understand what it feels like to hurt so bad and all you want is it to go away. I wanted to tell her that I know it hurts because she still loves the man who left her, just like I still love the man who left me. I wanted to tell her that I don’t know how long it will take for her heart to heal, because I’m still working on mine, but I believe it’s possible.
Instead, I silently fought back the tears and took her to the ER.
She is getting the help she needs now. I am grateful we were there to help her, and she seems to have a loving son and friend who took over for us at the hospital. I hope she will be okay.
Mental health and suicide continue to be stigmatized in our country. People are judged for their thoughts and feelings. They are judged for taking medication for a chronic condition, as if it is any different because it’s above the neck and not below. Depression, anxiety, and similar mental health diseases are hard and painful and continue to be viewed in a negative light.
I will admit it right here, right now: I am depressed. I am in counseling. I don’t know if I will need medication. I hope not, because I don’t like being on medication of any kind, but that is a bridge I will cross if/when the time comes. And while I would never commit suicide, I understand why people do it. I understand feeling hopeless and unworthy, two of the worst emotions of the human condition.
We all have our demons that we carry with us, the “devil on our backs” as Florence and the Machine describes it so eloquently. Perhaps if we were kinder and gentler with ourselves and others, those demons would be a little easier to deal with. So educate yourself. Get informed. Be kinder. Think twice before you want to judge another human being because he is on an anti-depressant, or she is feeling like there is nothing left to live for. Life is hard enough without having anyone to rely on, so be someone that can be relied on. Be someone’s support. You never know when someone is going to need it.
Until next time ~ B