On June 25 of this year, I attempted suicide. I felt more alone than ever before in my life, and I felt that nobody cared if I lived or died. I wrote a short note expressing love for my mother and my brother, and I went to another room to end it. At that time, I was not in therapy, and I was on a small dosage of a daily antidepressant that no longer aided me. I did not have a meaningful support system of people who were near me geographically, not that the onus would have been on anyone but myself to stop myself. I was so alone and empty for a long period of time, and it seemed that nothing would ever feel good again. Death felt like my only relief. I was no longer afraid of doing it.
After a day and a half of silence from me, far away friends worried, and one of them drove a long distance with her children in her car with her, to break into my house and find me. She came into my bedroom and talked to me. She knows that my language of realness is, ironically, humor and sarcasm, and she kept it very real with me. I abhor that she had to find me and do this for me. To save my life. With her own babies nearby. But it was a relief to be speaking, little as I remember of what was discussed. Paramedics and police officers came and carried me downstairs and into an ambulance. Neighbors came. They watched. The ones at the back of the property saw flashing lights and came to see. A married couple across the street, an off-duty police officer and a nurse. I was taken to the hospital, where I spent the next week recovering in both medical and psych wards. In psych, I was surrounded by all types of people at the end of their ropes, people for whom rock bottom was only the beginning. I answered questions in groups and one on one. I took pills. I ate what I could make myself eat. The view from my window was a graveyard with a headstone facing me, front and center, with nothing on it but the name BRADLEY. Nurses shone a flashlight in the window every 15 minutes at night to make sure I was still breathing. I read Oscar Wilde, I read Stephen Hawking. I wrote in the margins of all my books with a pencil I had to conceal. They didn't allow shoelaces, much less sharp objects. It felt like prison, even when the nurses were being good to me. I wrote a lot of music, and I cried a lot in the bathroom so that the flashlight wouldn't see me.
My mother drove to where I was and spent a lot of time with me. She saved me again. In the hospital and after I was released, she was there, just being. She was just there, reading things and doing some work, making breakfast, watching me paint. She told me what I already knew, that if I succeeded at what I had attempted to do, I may as well have just taken her with me.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I am not writing this to say that I survived and then everything got better. Everything did not get better, and I don't foresee feeling "better" for quite some time yet. I was astounded by the coldness that was shown to me afterward. At the very least, I thought my survival would trigger some sort of warming and reassuring reaction of love. It, generally, did not. But what did change is: I no longer expect to find love in the places that I was desperately seeking it, and I have been able to begin to move on from some of those futile hunts. I started therapy, and sometimes it helps a lot, and sometimes it doesn't. I changed medication, and getting closer to the right dosage helps. I talk openly about my problems, my fears, my heartache, my experience, my shortcomings, my anger, my jealousy, my embarassment, my desperation, and my love.
I believe that the greatest tool to preventing suicide - your own or that of your loved one - is dropping the pretense of what is proper, civil, appropriate to discuss. Many of us, especially those of us who grew up different than those around us, have been trained to keep our business to ourselves, and to do what we can to not make others uncomfortable. "Suck it up." "Walk it off." "Be a man." "No one wants to hear that." "Act like a lady." "Shame on you." "Grow up."
My advice is: be real. And show love. Constantly. To yourself, and to the people who make you feel loved. Check in on loved ones in serious ways. Not just a text. Show up at their door if you know they are hurting. Tell them you came just to give them a hug, and that you'll stay if they want to watch a movie, or you'll leave if that's what they prefer. Make sure they're being honest with you about what they want, how they feel, and how they think they will behave when you leave. One of the greatest kindnesses that was shown to me since my stay at the hospital was recent. At 4am one day last week I received a text asking how I was, because a friend had seen that I was online and had texted him earlier some vague hints of depressive thoughts. I was honest and admitted I was not okay. He showed up at my door, let himself in with the spare keys I gave him, and got into bed with me. I cried and we talked, and I finally fell asleep. This is someone I've known less than a year. He recognized what was happening, and we communicated honestly with each other. I could have lied and said "I'm fine," and he could have said "let me know if you need anything," and that could have been that.
We are all in this together. We need each other. We are one big mass of connected souls trying so hard to separate ourselves from each other. When one of us hurts ourselves, we all suffer.
Be real. And show love.