The following post contains subject matter that may be disturbing or upsetting to you or others. It discusses suicide and the aftermath. I have done my best to keep the focus on “what happens after” instead of on the act itself – I am in no way trying to glorify suicide. It was quite an emotional piece to write, and I hope you can read through it.
This is a fictional tale.. Any resemblance to any one individual, or family, or any story, living or deceased is coincidental and unintentional.
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I died today. To be honest, I’m not sure who is more surprised.
Is it the people who are now forced to live on without me? The ones who will be haunted by questions that will remain unanswered. The ones who listened to me countless times as I tried to make sense of the chaos in my head. The ones who cheered me on in my shaky steps towards recovery and wholeness. The ones who made time to encourage me on a regular basis, and slowly transitioned to being encouraged by me and the progress I’d made. Are they the ones completely blindsided and reeling?
Or is it me, who killed… me? Frankly, it caught me off guard too, as strange as it may sound. I don’t remember my thoughts in the minutes and moments before it happened. It’s sort of a vague blur. I’m not sure how much I’ve blocked out, but I definitely remember the shock I felt the instant after. I’m not sure I understand what happened.
I committed suicide, yes. That’s not quite what I mean, though. Did I really kill me? Was it really my own willful and conscious choice? Was I in complete and full control of all my faculties? Did the chemicals in my brain and battered emotions finally conspire in rebellion against the rest of me? And if that’s the case, aside from my brain and emotions, what else makes me really “me” and not someone else? Or is the rest of me still “me” too? It matters not at this point, because one part of me murdered the rest of me. A mutiny of sorts, I suppose. The victor scuttled the ship, but in doing so burned the only remaining lifeline. In the once-heated battle, I was simultaneously the victim and the villain.
I am not, and I never will be again, but I was.
My existence, my being, whatever it is that made me actually “me”, is now of the past tense. “I” am no longer. The only thing in my future is the funeral. Or Celebration of Life. Or whatever it’s going to be called by whoever plans it. Already I’m feeling uncomfortable twinges of remorse. Partly because I’m starting to see that now I really am hurting the people I wanted so desperately to not hurt anymore, and I regret I couldn’t see that before. And even though I may have been causing them some grief as they watched me struggle, it wasn’t pain that I assaulted them with. No, it was their heartache and pain for me, because I was struggling and hurting and they couldn’t change that. But now, nothing – absolutely nothing – can compare to what I’m putting them through. Sure, they loved me and hurt for me when I was hurting. I had fleeting glimpses of that, I suppose – but life (and now, death) tends to change one’s perspective rather quickly. The hurt they felt was because they loved me and didn’t want me to hurt any more, not because I was inflicting my pain directly on them. Now that I think about it, I’m sure that happened occasionally as well. I’m cringing to think of the massive inconvenience I’ve suddenly dropped into their collective laps. The heaviness of this paradox is nearly overwhelming: I thought I was an inconvenience to them when I was alive, but I wasn’t – inconvenience was something I’d attached to my identity, my very existence, and it was second nature to project that onto my circumstances and relationships. By taking my life, the massive upheaval, chaos and heartache I’ve triggered is exponentially beyond the frustrations I’m sure I inadvertently triggered when I was alive.
One moment, life is routine. The next, a phone call or a knock on the door, and suddenly there’s a void that hits like a freight train. And then trying to cope with handling all the endless details when someone passes away. And the countless questions. And the seemingly bottomless, endless waves of grief. Already I’m sorry. I wish that the clarity of mind I have now could have cut through the fog and the endless negative thought patterns that had overwhelmed me for so long. I wish it didn’t take me dying for me to see that there was so much to live for.
So much potential.
So much grace.
I can see now that it was there the whole time. It was maybe a hair’s breadth beyond my shaking fingertips, but it was there! But I couldn’t see it, and the few times I felt it brush my fingertips, I wrote it off as yet another delusion, another manifestation my mind was playing on my mind. I had become immune to hope, thinking it yet another bizarre sort of hallucination, a mental mirage. Not merely immune to it, but harshly allergic. I could no longer tolerate hope.
And even though I am no longer, it’s strange to think the only thing remaining in my future – as the physical embodiment of me – is something that I have absolutely no say in, no control over, and really don’t care about anyway. I never really did when I was alive either. My funeral. Celebration of Life.
It seems so shallow, so empty, so utterly pointless. A bunch of people gathered together, doing something that makes everyone uncomfortable, because I was battling something that made people uncomfortable, and took my own life as a result – which undoubtedly makes people really uncomfortable. An hour or so of an uncomfortable ritual, because death is already uncomfortable enough, to try to bring a single shred of comfort to those who loved me, knowing all the while that it’s merely a feeble, flickering candle against the deep, inky, sticky darkness of sorrow.
I was. I am no longer.
Maybe, hopefully, if you can hear my thoughts, my wishes, please be still. Take a breath in the middle of the chaos. Be still. Breathe. Listen to me, if you can – and I hope you can hear me or sense me. Don’t let planning the details of my last “formal” event, the last “thing” in my life – even though I’m dead – eat you up, or overwhelm you, or make you rip into another person and cut them down. You’re filled with grief, with anger at the unanswered questions. Sadness, mixed with frustration and disappointment at me – because I was so close, had worked so hard, but still didn’t (or maybe couldn’t) make it. Listen to me. I hope you can hear me.
Outbursts will happen. Details will be discussed. Emotions will swing from one extreme to the next. It’s okay. It’s normal. Just breathe.
Listen to me. I was. I am no longer. The casket you lay me in, or the urn you use to hold my remains, it’s just a box. It’s a ritual, and yes, it’s something to help bring some sense of closure and order amongst incredible chaos, heaviness and grief. But if I could plan it for me, I’d want it simple, low-key, casual. Something honest and real. Not minimizing or glorifying my struggles, but talking about them plainly – as I tried to do. No suits and ties, no “dress code” – come in whatever makes you the most comfortable. Dressing up to show respect to a dead body seems a little late don’t you think?
Keep it plain. Uncomplicated.
And for the “We have to do it this way because that’s traditional” or “We must have that because society dictates such” crap? FUCK IT! Society still doesn’t grasp how many preconceptions exist against mental illness. Part of those “rules” and judgments kept beating me down and hindering my progress. This is that last time you’re doing something for me – please honor the memory and kick back at some of those silly “because we have to” structures.
I might still be here if ‘they’ grasped how much my illness is negatively viewed and portrayed in movies, and TV, and everyday life. The fear, the terror of that hostility was always in the background. For the love of God, at least shake up the “rules” in my memory.
And even as I’m trying to put my thoughts into something that you might one day read, the tears and frustration and helplessness continue to cloud my mind.
I need a moment. Even though I’m finally “free” I’m still overwhelmed by how unfair it is. To me. To you. To the people I did manage to reach, yet I couldn’t save myself. It’s not fair!!! I hope you can hear me – or get this letter. I do have a few wishes, and I hope you can grant them for me.
If you choose a casket, a simple pine affair will do. Maybe a nice light blonde stain, but not that orange-yellow “antique” look, and please – nothing dark. I don’t want nor need satin sheets or silky pillows to bring comfort to what used to be me. My rest will finally be easier than yours, and you will need them far more than I. No flowers either, okay? My thumbs are closer to black than to green and it’s been that way all my life. I don’t need wilting flowers as yet another reminder of all the failures that seem so magnified in my mind. Use plastic ones if you must – at least I won’t have to worry about watering them. Maybe bring a permanent marker to the committal service, in case you wish to write your last thoughts on my burial box, but that’s about all. I didn’t have much “stuff” in life, and never really did. Now that it’s come to this, I don’t want much for a memorial either. To do something fancy or showy now would just be really weird. Besides, I trust I will remain in your heart much longer than my physical remains will stay in that glorified storage crate they’ll lay me in.
Although, if you will allow, I would prefer cremation. Use what you can from what healthy parts are left of me to improve someone else’s life, or maybe – hopefully – several people’s lives. I won’t be needing anything any more, and maybe part of me can live on in someone else. But the rest? It’s just a body, nothing more. I no longer need it, and you? You won’t see it after today anyway. After the interment, after the inevitable “light lunch” (go ahead and call it faspa if you like), and after all the mourners return home, it won’t really matter what was lowered into the ground, be it a fancy wooden casket, or a plain, biodegradable cardboard box. Please, keep it simple. Inexpensive. Make it me.
I was. I am no longer. And I’m trying to grasp that I will not do or be or try anything ever again. I will not need that new outfit I had put together in my mind, because I won’t need to go to the interview for the new job that was waiting for me. I won’t need to run miles to quiet my brain, but find I’d learned confidence and self-discipline along the way. I won’t need to keep tweaking my favorite chicken recipe that I never wrote down…and I realize now that I’m dead, it has died with me too. I won’t have to dress in layers upon layers for any more frigid winters, or bask in the blazing hot sun in the all-to-brief summer months. I won’t have to fight to balance “introvert” with being an actual social human being, and not relapsing into becoming a hermit (which definitely seemed appealing at times). I won’t need to attempt tell my mind to STOP, to fight for focus and breathing, to practice grounding and bladder control during those moments when my thoughts flipped by so fast I couldn’t tell one from the next. Sometimes, in those moments, I could almost hear an audible buzz as they swarmed around me. I won’t need to reach out to other people like me, hoping to shed some light and hope long enough for them to reconsider doing to themselves what I just did. Or quietly asking those same people for a bit light to help me find my way back. Some nights were spent grasping into the dark, hoping to grab someone’s hand long enough for them to settle down and take steps towards hope. Some nights, more than I could admit, I desperately wanted some hands to guide me, to support me too. I’ll miss conversations and jokes and sitting in silence over a coffee – just so I wouldn’t have to be alone. I won’t have to remember to call people for birthdays and after promotions and interviews and just talk about life.
I’ll also never again have to battle my mind. It’s at peace now, that’s for sure. I had completely forgotten how “normal” feels. But now that I’ve had a few moments – which somehow seem infinite yet minuscule in this weird “after life” perspective I’ve landed in – I struggle to say it’s a fair trade. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply welcome the peace. I have missed it very much, far more then you could grasp. But as the weight of this all has been slowly settling in, I’ve also realized something else.
I finally get it from all sides, and with way more depth than ever. It’s too late for me to tell you, or attempt to explain it all. I can’t tell you how precious oxygen is, when to you it’s just saturated in the scents of garbage or pollution or any number of things that irritated your nose today. I don’t have the vocabulary so that you’ll look up from your world of routines and schedules and the endless “sameness” that pulls on you. There is chaos, yes – and it can seem unnerving – but there are so many people who crave the very stability you subconsciously resent and kick against. I know appearing in your dreams won’t show you what I wish you could see. You were never one to believe in ghosts or spirits, I wish you did, or that you’d listen, because I’m trying to come up with a way for you to understand. Somehow I know I can’t and won’t ever be able to. I’m stuck with this one inescapable thought that’s been steadily growing louder and heavier in the deep recesses of my core:
It’s too late.
You can’t change things now..
The things you know now cannot translate into things the living could grasp.
Infinity overwhelms the finite like an ocean consumes a solitary drop.
You’ve crossed over now, and you can’t go back.
Because, you see – I was. I am no longer. Call it selfish, call it sad, call it a senseless tragedy. How could someone who fought so hard to just keep living abruptly give up in the end anyway? Call it hypocrisy if you want – because from a certain perspective, it somewhat is. It seems so few can actually understand what it’s like to live with a mind that desperately wants to destroy itself almost as much as it craves oxygen. The dichotomy of longing for death while craving life is not lost on me. It never was.
But there it is. I lived with an illness that made me want to kill me, and I ultimately succeeded as I failed. Or failed as I succeeded? I still don’t know this one thing; even though I was responsible for taking my own life, the answers to these nagging questions hang over me.
Was it really me that killed me? Did this illness twist me into a murderer, intent on killing me? Or was it merely the disease within me, killing me?
I am no longer
I desperately wish I could be
One last time
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For the record, I occasionally struggle with suicidal thoughts. Thankfully they’re not as overwhelming as they used to be, but they still happen. I was trying to write this as me, and what I imagine my own thoughts and perspectives could look like – if I had an opportunity to write one last post from the other side. I do understand how heavy and crushing it can seem, and I understand the hopelessness and feeling of futility that comes with so many of the various mental illnesses.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health concerns, or has mentioned suicide, please seek help. If you’re the one struggling, or if you’re the caregiver – mental illness can be brutal, and the more people and tools you make available, it can make it just a little bit easier.
And just to be perfectly clear; I have absolutely zero intention, plans, ideas, etc about committing suicide. I do experience thoughts about it – but I do my best to acknowledge them without grasping on to them. As Michael Landsberg would say (in reference to depression) “Let it sit on you, not in you”. Again, the idea of recognizing thoughts and patterns for what they are, without grasping onto them and/or internalizing them.