I knew she was suicidal that night, but she had always taken herself to the hospital when she’d felt impulsive in the past. I was seventeen and didn’t know what to do to help her; I thought she’d be okay. I left her to go to my first job, serving ice cream. I left her alone. I was the last person to see her alive, except perhaps the train conductor, though he saw her too late.
Darlene’s funeral made me feel the full impact of her decision. Her friends and family stood around me in a speechless cloud of disbelief. The hole she had left in the lives of those who loved her was bigger than she’d ever imagined it could be. I felt this screaming pit of quicksand-like terror well up inside me. I saw how Darlene had not ended her pain, she had multiplied it and passed it on to everyone she’d ever met.
I’m not that different now, twelve years later. I still think about suicide a lot. I still struggle, still question my place in this world. Depression still has a firm grip on me, yet I keep going. I have faith in something better than this. I know that there is a chance that things can get better.
When someone commits suicide, they give up their chance of ever feeling better. Darlene never felt relief from her decision to end her life. She never will feel relief. If she’d stayed alive, she could have had decades upon decades of change. Moments of sunshine on her face. Hours of laughter. She loved music, but now she’ll never hear her favourite songs again.
If I could go back in time to tell her something to give her hope, I would tell her this:
None of us have our shit figured out. None of us are immune to pain. We are all on this planet, lost together. We are never as alone as we feel. We are all here together to help each other live. You would have felt the sun on your face. You would have enjoyed another cigarette. You might even have quit smoking, like you talked about. You would have had long talks on your balcony with me. You wouldn’t have been alone.
But Darlene is gone so I can’t ever tell her those things. I’ll tell you:
If you think the planet really would be better without you, then you wouldn’t have been born in the first place. I’m serious. You are here because you are meant to be. This world needs you, even if you can’t see it. We fucking need YOU.
Yes, life sucks sometimes, even a lot of the time, but it isn’t hopeless, I promise. Every single day things have the potential of getting better. They will get better. Pain hurts so much because the opposite, joy and love, are out there too.
When I get happy now, as rare as it is, I feel it deeper than most people. I feel it in its full intensity because I know what it’s like to be in excruciating pain. Joy is a gift. Even if I only get to experience it a handful of times in my life, I want to squeeze every drop from it. It is real.
The things that stress me out matter, but they aren’t everything. Yes, I’m broke. Yes, I’m in pain, but dammit, the sun is out today. I am breathing. I can run if I want to. I can hide under the covers and snuggle with my dog. I can eat fresh chocolate. I can laugh. I can cry. No emotion lasts forever.
Last night I read a new comment on my How to Survive the Impulse to Hurt Yourself post:
“Thank you so much for this. I Googled ‘Help me’ and this came up. I have been fighting with not hurting myself for so long and tonight I decided to give up. I couldn’t cry and wanted to hurt myself badly. Reading this though helped me let go. The tears came and I feel so much calmer. Thank you. You quite literally saved me tonight. Thank you.”
That beats a million days underground. In my choice to live I can help people. I can make their lives easier, and in turn, they make my life easier. Yesterday was a really hard day for me but man, that comment, it just made me feel so thankful to be alive.
Darlene, you have no idea what you’re missing. Your death taught me just how much I want to fucking live. I wish I could share it with you.