Friday, September 14, 2012

Suicide Prevention Week - from someone who's happy to have failed

Many people will tell you that I'm not a very serious person.

I hit my deadlines, I produce a lot of work, and I'm very professional. But on the whole (heh heh-- on the hole!), I can be very childish and silly. As in, wears ridiculous hats and owns every season of Family Guy, Futurama, and Robot Chicken silly.

But I'm going to be very serious now, because suicide is a serious topic. And because I used to be very, very serious. And very, very depressed.

I had some troubled times as a teen, which I've alluded to in past blog posts. I won't get into specifics, but let's just say that beneath the artistic Valedictorian exterior, there was a lot of pain. I started reading books that focused on heartbreak and hopelessness-- like The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening. I watched The Piano. I spent a lot of time sitting in my car, alone, crying and listening to depressing music and writing poetry.

And then I went to France when I was seventeen, the summer before my Senior year. It was an exchange trip, and I was to stay a month with a family in Toulouse. They were wonderful, warm, giving people, and they treated me like their fourth daughter. I had this weird mixture of homesickness and longing and hope and  hopelessness that all came to a head during a trip to the beach. My French family was settled under an umbrella, each person happily doing their own thing, and I looked out at the ocean and realized that I was the only one who wasn't happy, who wasn't capable of happiness.

I couldn't take it anymore, whatever it was.

So I walked out into the ocean. And kept walking. Then started swimming. Then kept swimming.

At 34, it's hard for me to remember what that version of me was thinking, was feeling. I remember noting that this was what Edna Pontellier did in The Awakening, that it was a soft, sweet, poetic way to leave a world that brought me mostly misery and anxiety. I swam farther and farther from shore, and my smooth strokes turned to tired dog paddling. And then I just gave up and sank.

I remember how peaceful it was underwater for just a moment, dark and bubbly and calm. And then I couldn't hold my breath any longer, and without my mind's buy-in or my heart's agreement, my body began to fight back. The world went from poignant serenity to thrashing terror, waves pounding, salt burning my eyes and nose and throat and lungs.

In a heartbeat, the world twisted. I wanted to live, even if it hurt like hell.

I was so far from shore; even now, I can see it, how far and hazy it was. The people playing in the shallow water were mere smudges, and no one knew where I was. I was exhausted, half-filled with water, my limbs numb. But I kept churning, my nose barely out of the water, inch by inch, until I was at that point where the waves stop trying to punish you and start trying to call you home. They washed me back onshore when I had nothing left, and I sprawled on the sand sobbing, surrounded by vacationers who had no idea that I'd just undergone the first major turning point of my life.

I dragged myself to the family umbrella, where Maman asked me how I was.

"Magnifique," was all I could say.

I was magnificent.

I was alive.

And I started to notice things. Small things. The air on my drying skin. The sun on my dark hair. The vibrant shade of red in the umbrella. The scent of suntan lotion rising from everyone's skin. I realized I was starving, had never been so starving, and that whatever I ate next would be the most wonderful thing I'd ever eaten. One day, I would watch Fight Club and hear Tyler Durden talk about how tomorrow would be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. And I would laugh, because I knew that feeling exactly.

That day, I asked the family to stop by a stationery store, and I bought a journal and a package of Sharpies. And I started a book called I LOVE in which I wrote I LOVE and described something small that made life worth living. I love the feel of grass under bare feet. I love the perfection of slipping under cool sheets. I love the taste of the fried haddock and rice I ate that night, sitting at a table on a boardwalk in Biarritz while the family asked me why I was so happy all of a sudden, almost like a different person.

I'd like to say that from that day on, everything was easy. But that was the summer before I was stalked and raped, my next major turning point as a person. But because I'd survived that day, I was able to survive being attacked. I knew I wanted to live and would do anything to stay alive. And I knew, after that, that things would get better, if I just kept living. So I started my second I LOVE journal, which is pictured up above.

My point is this: suicide is serious, and no matter how normal or successful or beautiful or smart or happy someone seems on the outside, that doesn't mean they haven't considered it. Or tried it.

I used to be ashamed. I used to try to forget that it happened, but I know now that it's part of what made me who I am. I'm an artist and a writer, and depression has always been a looming threat in my life, something that sneaks in no matter how well I guard myself. But I've never returned to that dark place, never considered wanting to end it all.

Whatever it is.

So maybe that's why I don't take anything seriously. I live in the moment, choosing to focus on the sweetness of the cupcake or the beauty of the music or the leaves crunching under my favorite boots. I don't look to the past and mull over what I might have had or what might have happened differently. I don't worry about the future. I just live, right now, in the best way that I can.

If you're depressed, if you're suicidal-- you're not alone. Please go here and find help. Tell someone. It doesn't have to be your mom or your dad or your significant other. It can be a volunteer on a phone hotline, or a stranger on tumblr. Find help, even if it's just to talk about it, to say it out loud and know that someone you've never met desperately wants you to live and thinks that you matter. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Asking for help, reaching out to another human being, is one of the bravest things on earth.

I once thought there was nothing worth living for, and I have never, never been so wrong.

You're not alone.



Pinafores and Pinwheels said...

So next time I see you I'm going to hugattack you for this post....just warning you.

Kristina L. Martin said...

Holding you in my mirror so much of my life it is frightening. {hug}

Anonymous said...

The last time I tried to kill myself, I lined at leaset 20 bottles of pills on one side of my bed. On the other side was my laptop with the suicide hotline website & number. I picked calling the hotline. However I got a bad volunteer who would not let me speak or just cray or tell me that I am loved. She told me to take a hot bath and go to bed and it will all be better in the morning (the funny think is that I am probably the only woman in the world who hates baths, so boring). Yeah, I was so devestated. It hurt so bad. I gave up, including taking the time to digest any of those pills. I think about suicide every day. Multiple suicide attempts. Time in the looney bin. I'm not going to do it, but I think about suicide every day. Maybe I need a journal & some colored Sharpies & try it your way...I'm always game for any help.

mom101 said...

Oh Delilah, I'm so glad you're here with us. What a difficult reminder that not everyone makes it back. I hope this reaches someone who needs it. Even if it's just one.

You're amazing.

Linda said...

*huggles* *huggles* *huggles*

delilah s. dawson said...

Steph, I'm so sorry that a lifeline failed you. I know I'm not trained in what to say, but I hope you can find some peace and never have to resort to that again. Think of all the good books you would miss...

*hugs*, honey. I like you, and you need to stick around.

And hugs to Pinafores and Kristina and Liz and Linda, too. You guys are good people, and I'm proud to call you friends.

Carol M. said...

Delilah, thanks for your bravery on sharing this.

Love and hugs. :)

Lexi H said...

Thank you for sharing this Delilah. I can't even comprehend what this feels like, but I do have someone close to me who struggles with this (and being raped). So I am very glad you share and pray it can reach people who need to hear it.

amber d* said...

This post got me teary eyed. It's one of those love/hate things which sounds weird even saying. I hate that you've gone through that in your life - that anyone goes through it - but I love your honesty in sharing your story. I've fought with depression a big part of my life, and it's stories like yours that remind me how thankful I am no longer being in that spot where I really didn't care if I saw another day. Sometimes I can still feel "it' coming on me, but now I know life is worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

Glad I can hide getting teary-eyed at work. Thank you for this. The hardest thing for me during my dark years was thinking You're the only one who feels this way... It helped enforce the little voice saying No one will miss you when you are gone.

Judith Smith said...

Great post. I went through the exact experience, though a much less effective attempt. But it had the same result -- I decided that I could either make a point of noticing the happy things in life, or I would die -- from accident, if nothing else. My pain comes from Asperger's, not depression. The therapeutic response to Asperger's is very different from depression, and is not well understood by many professionals. The pain, and the effect, however, can be much too similar. Thanks for posting this.

tkdsue said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story so honestly and reminding your readers that it is Suicide Prevention Week. I lost a son to suicide 3 years ago and am always thankful for people who are brave enough to speak/write openly about their own struggles. Kudos to you for helping stomp out the stigma associated with depression and suicide so that perhaps someone will seek help or reach out to someone who needs help. Really, thank you so much! I am happy you failed too!

Ellen said...

This was beautiful, Delilah. When I lived in London, I was suffering from a really bad relationship I couldn't seem to get out of, overloaded course schedule, and a very ill mother at home. I had stomach problems. The doctors gave me medicine to deal with the pain. They were tranquilizers. This only added to the problem. All the colours drained from my world. I cried during class. I kept thinking how simple it would be just to let go. To go to sleep and not have to deal with all this. No more struggle, no more numbness. I just had to take all the pills in the bottle and I could rest. Then, much like you, a little voice in my head began getting louder and louder. Telling me this was not what I wanted. It screamed at me to "wake up." Life could be hard, but it could also be beautiful. I flushed all the pills down the drain. That was my dark night. I have never been sorry I made that decision. So, yes, suicide is a serious topic. Any one thinking about it should be able to get help. I am glad we both failed.