“Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors.” –David Foster Wallace
It felt like my veins were hollow. In the course of a three hour phone conversation, it was if everything inside my body that made life worth living was gone — just vanished, like it finally got sick of me and moved on to someone else who wouldn’t constantly be this messed up.
After folding underneath the weight of gangly, ghostly legs, I remember thinking two things: 1. “This is finally it. I am done.” 2. “I am pretty sure I need to get some sort of vaccination after putting my face on top of this carpet.”
This is what I know a lot of people are waiting for: the blog where I explained what happened, answer the, “do you still talk?,” “do you still love each other?,” “was it distance or something else?,” “are you ever going to get back together?” questions, but that’s not this post, and if that’s the only reason why you’ve been skimming my blogs, you’re part of the problem.
Suicide is something that everybody seems to have opinions about after someone is dead, but when it’s right in front of them, they’re not so chatty.
In terms of the taboo topics, suicide is the freaking grand marshall of the parade, closely followed by abortion and for some unfathomable reason, LGBTQ rights, but that’s another post.
The world I always seem to hear after someone commits suicide is “selfish,” and to that, I say, “bullshit.”
I know that the people who are left behind when someone makes that decision are in some cases, irreparably broken. I know this. I have seen it and I understand it, but what many people don’t get is when someone is suicidal their brain has poisoned them to believe that A. The world is much better without them and/or B. They have barely survived this long and are terrified to leave this world and their loved ones, but the idea of just one more day of suffering ultimately appears to be the more terrible of the two.
People who kill themselves are absolutely afraid, and a lot of the times, only hang on as long as they do for the sake of those they leave behind.
You have probably figured out where this is going. Yup, I was Sarah Plath Gisriel last summer because for a whacky two-week whirlwind, I was suicidal.
It feels like a punch to my gut typing that because I know that no matter what I do, people will draw untrue conclusions or think of me as an attention-seeking basket-case, but let me tell you there was no attention to gain for four days straight when I climbed the stairs to a parking garage after doing traffic in the morning show and called the suicide hotline, begging for the pain to stop. Those people literally talked me off the ledge. (They’re wonderful, by the way, I will put their number at the end of this post.)
You don’t need to feel sorry for me, even though I know a lot of you gentle souls will, but you do need to shut up and at least try to understand what that might be like for someone whose brain works differently than yours.
If you’ve never felt like you wanted to die, even passively, I am genuinely happy for you and I hope you continue to live a fulfilling life — just understand that on average, 121 “selfish” people die every day who wish they could be like you. They were all once babbling babies who gummed cheerios in high chairs. They went through the awkward braces stage. They had their heartbroken and probably fell in love. But somewhere, somehow, they broke and just couldn’t fight anymore, and that’s not really for you or me to label as “selfish.”
I should acknowledge that I would define some suicide cases as selfish — I’m looking at you Adolf Hitler — but I am strictly talking about depression that leads to suicide. I am talking about people like Madison Holleran, who took her own life in January 2014.
She clearly was beautiful, but she was also brilliant and insanely athletic. She was recruited to run cross country for U-Penn (yup, an ivy league school) but she ended up quitting the team her second semester of school. On paper everything was going right for her, but papers, looks and material things don’t mean anything when you’re battling something that wants you to die.
Sometimes I wonder what she was thinking and I too have fallen into the trap of, “how could she of all people commit suicide?” like there’s some sort of “I am likely to commit suicide” haircut, but I always go back to the same conclusion: she was scared. She didn’t want to hurt her family, but she didn’t know how to stay here with us, either.
I keep a picture of Madison on my phone. I’m not even sure why I do, but it feels like she is safe with me.
So, just be nice to people. It’s not hard. Try to understand that life can be painful, so painful that it can feel like there isn’t anything left to life for, but maybe someone like you can help change that.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
Great article by Carrie Burns.
Adorable picture of my niece and nephew.