I have decided that, in order to swiftly move on with this blog, we’re all best served by me putting all updates from the last month of my life into one post. It’s long, and exhausting, and raw, and I’ve been compiling it for weeks. I hope you find meaning in it.
So, at the beginning of April, I tried to kill myself. You all know that by now. Normally, I’d be dormant at this point. I’d be cowering in the shame of what I did. I don’t want to do that, this time. I have valuable information to give, goddamnit! My information will be different one year out than it is one month out, but that is not to say that one-month-out-insight is not important.
I want to be careful in walking the line between explaining what happened and glorifying suicide. I’ll only include information that I believe would be helpful to you in understanding the warning signs in the people around you.
I wrote a smattering of notes to various people. These notes were mostly scattered around my room, if not digital, and would have been clear in their nature if found. I hadn’t showered for a little under week, and I normally shower daily. Every “next day” was the day I’d die, I thought, so what was the point in showering for that? I softened in demeanor, interacting quietly and gently with my family and friends, to a noticeable point. Really, though, I didn’t talk to my friends much. I had nearly forty unread texts from over two dozen people rotting in my Messages app. To one friend, one of my longtime dearest, I said I was doing well. I didn’t post anything on the blog, instead asking others to do it for me, to take what had become a burden off of my shoulders.
If I’m being completely transparent with you all, this blog had spiraled a bit. I’m still proud of everything that I’ve written, but its tone had shifted to be a more play-by-play of what I was feeling, with self-reflective undertones, rather than utter self-reflection on past experiences. As I’ll discuss, I’ve been in a traumatic spiral for weeks and months. Going forward, I hope to merge my real-time feelings with more poised insight. They needn’t be mutually exclusive.
I’ve hinted at some things that happened in the days leading up to my attempt on my life. Likely the biggest one is my social media spiral. Since December of 2017, I’ve been haunted by a group of girls from my old therapeutic school. There was a school suspension and an expulsion, as well as a trip to the police department, but they’ve persisted. In talking with my therapist in the past weeks, we’ve come to the conclusion that while I have done nothing to goad these girls, I have not had the ability to wave them away, or block them totally, because I’ve always fundamentally believed I am “bad,” and it follows that I seek validation of this self loathing in the judgement of others. This is why I’ve stayed in abusive relationships; they satisfied my need to find people who are not good for me, who will validate my tragic view of myself.
I would cycle through a routine of social media checks. First to Twitter, where one of the girls routinely posts about me. Then to Instagram, where the girls and my ex’s family would incessantly report my profiles, and where my ex’s new girlfriend and a friend of hers have made more than half a dozen fake accounts hoping to follow mine. I’d cry and shake each time, but until recently I never blocked them. Then to VCSO, the popular photo filtering/sharing app, to review their profiles and the things they’d screenshot. Next, to my own blog, to see if they’d left any earth-shattering comments (they often did, I’ve had to delete a lot). Finally, until a month or so ago, I’d consult with my friends from that school, to see if anyone had been talking about me. I both did and didn’t want to hear that they had. The part of me that wants to feel good and safe wanted to hear silence, but there was sick satisfaction in hearing that they were saying something awful. Needless to say, these were not positive friendships.
On the day that I tried to kill myself, one of the girls made an Instagram post that, while the picture was just a selfie, the caption was, according to a Twitter post, a hidden derogatory reference to me. She recruited dozens of people to comment on it, in affirmation. I watched as the comments poured in—from my ex’s new girlfriend, former friends, former classmates, and utter strangers. They were all people who I decided then and there (with good reason), hated me. I’ve talked before about how powerful consensus is for me. If enough people dislike me, I can’t rationalize my way out of it. It did not seem possible that I was somehow a good person who was just misunderstood by everybody. I was convinced that removing myself from their lives by suicide was the best option for everyone.
As I considered the high lethality of what I was about to try, I ran over my life as I saw it, until that moment. In those few seconds, I was only able to see invalidation, abuse, bullying, betrayal, fear, and hatred. I’d been sleeping for eighteen hours a day, but sleep was no respite, for trauma nightmares found me there. In them, I’m sexually assaulted, over and over, as I’m paralyzed and powerless. I ultimately felt as if the only solution was permanent, dreamless sleep. I wrote a pros and cons list in my Notes app. Here’s how it went.
Laid out that way, it seemed logical, like a mere numbers game. Consensus, remember? I made my decision.
I’m not going to review what happened after that, but I laid out/sent out my notes and did what I did. I was in the ER for two days before being transferred to the hospital’s adult psychiatric unit. I have the pleasure, now, of reviewing that unique place for you all. I took pages of notes on who I met and what I did, in order to share them now. Let’s begin!
I was in the ER overnight, and I didn’t manage to get much sleep. My father had gone home for the night to get some rest (he stayed by my bedside for every second he could and visited during every visiting hour period, shoutout to him!). I was next door to a very young boy—there’s little more tragic than the sight of young children in psychiatric facilities—who was requesting that he be allowed to call his mother before he was to have his blood drawn. The staff wanted to do it soon, because there is no adolescent unit at my local hospital and he’d need to be transferred with completed bloodwork. Polite as could be, he conveyed his reservations. I know I wasn’t nearly as serene when I was brought in, when I first had blood drawn. How could he stay so composed, at age twelve at the most? And where was his mother, if not there? What and who had brought him here, seemingly alone? I finally slept with EKG stickers dotting my body and the sweet boy’s mumblings wafting through the walls.
I grew antsy in the ER. I wanted to leave and find solace in my dear therapist. I knew she’d understand everything immediately, and I wanted to talk to her. The staff of the hospital told me that because of the seriousness of what I’d done and its generally high success rate, coupled with my knowledge of that success rate and insistence on attempting suicide with the understanding I’d likely die, the doctors concluded that they couldn’t let me go. I had to be admitted to the psychiatric unit, so once some more tests were done and a bed was cleared, I was wheeled in a mandatory transport chair that inched to creaking elevator after creaking elevator, up to the unit.
I know how to navigate psychiatric units. I’ve been to my fair share of them and I’m skilled at putting myself on autopilot and just getting through whatever is thrown at me there. So none of what I’m about to describe was terribly upsetting to me, but I will say that having my first experience on the unit be a fellow patient insisting to me that I cover my back (still draped with a hospital gown, gapping in one place) because Jesus was watching, and Jesus was all I would need—“not medication!”—was something of a first.
I was shown to my room, which I shared with a lovely, soft-spoken elderly woman. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a little under a year ago and her throat was covered in gauze. None of us asked her explicitly, but the general consensus was that she’d tried to slit it in a suicide attempt. She spoke, in therapy groups, of an insidious depression that had swallowed the life she’d happily lived for perhaps seventy years, give or take. I couldn’t reconcile that image with the woman I saw before me, the grandmother who padded around the unit in slippers and a tartan nightgown, a knitted, yellow flower hat to cover her balding head, and a tender manner. We’d wish each other goodnight and, as she fell asleep rather quickly, I’d read “Bad Blood,” “How Democracy Dies,” and “Unbelievable” to the light that she insisted I leave on, in order to see. Somehow, she slept under the blaring industrial lights.
On my first night, I was reading in bed—my roommate switching to a floral nightgown for sleeping—when we heard a blood curdling scream echo through the hallways. It was the Jesus touting woman, and she was having a meltdown. We heard a great whoosh—what we’d later learn was her knocking down a door—and she ran past our room, ripping up a book that she’d forcibly taken from the hands of a fellow patient, after hitting him with a pillow. The rest of the night, for hours and hours, we could hear her screaming in a room down the hall known as the isolation room (it had one bed and, if I saw correctly, restraints). She screamed two things: “Fuck you, motherfuckers, go to hell!” and “I want to be DEAD!” I’ll never forget the precise cadence with which she proclaimed those two things. Next to the children I’ve seen wandering units, this was the most harrowing moment I’ve ever experienced in hospitals. The woman was delusional and very confused, but she seemed to know that she was trapped in a life that likely would never be anyone’s definition of “normal,” that would likely entail a great deal of suffering, suffering in which she was already wrapped. One could hear it in the way her screams trailed off into sobs. Eventually I fell asleep, but she didn’t. Her voice was barely audible the next day.
In the morning, I met a woman who couldn’t have been much over five feet tall. Like most on the unit, she was dealing with a suicide attempt that was co-occurring with a terrible addiction. She talked constantly about her husband and twin babies who were awaiting her return, and she mothered them vicariously through the rest of us.
I encountered a man in his early to mid-twenties. He was looming, muscular, and good looking, sporting a NY Mets t-shirt, but he was weeping like a child would, hunched over and whimpering a bit. A group was crowded around him, listening to his mantra. I couldn’t hear it, but as I got to know him over the next few days, I came to understand that he was a depressed alcoholic who had gone to college to play jazz music. He was likely wonderfully talented but we’d never see it. We’d only see his wet eyes and hear his stories about an emotionally abusive brother who “hated” him and what he’d become, who didn’t understand what was happening to him. I heard him call himself a “waste of space.” Imagine.
“You know, you’re the prettiest girl on the unit,” a widely disliked woman with few, rotting teeth told me during a visit with my father. The woman would repeat the sentence over a dozen times, whenever she saw me. I would demur internally while thanking her externally, for there was a lovely looking girl around my age, a petite former dancer with a delicate braid down to her thighs, who was on the unit with a fascinating story.
The petite dancer believed that she was infected by parasites. At first, it seemed plausible. She seemed to know a lot about intestinal parasites. But over time it became clear to me, while I eavesdropped over breakfast with a book in my face and my ears wide open, that the staff did not believe her. I knew, then, what was happening.
See, I have OCD, too. I went through a phase where I was convinced that I had intestinal parasites. I’ve never told anyone but my dad and doctor about this, but I would beg my pediatrician for scans and tests. I knew that this woman was focusing all of her OCD energy into phantom bugs. If she just got the cure, she claimed, her body and soul would be “cleansed,” and all would be well, she would “get back to her old self.” No cure would come, and she was discharged the same day I was.
One night, all of us were locked in the TV lounge as the Jesus-touting woman was raging, again, this time with more suicidal wails than homicidal screams. The staff had moved all breakable and potentially harmful objects that had previously been in the hallway, into the staff area, so she couldn’t throw them or hurt someone. Security was called, and she banged on our door. It was a bit frightening, but we all had each other, and shared the reasons we were all there. Of the seven of us in that room, six had attempted suicide and come to the unit via the emergency room. Two overdoses, a gun, two slices, and my noose. One man hadn’t attempted suicide. He and I delighted in our shared love of Harry Potter, marveling at the mutual designation of “Ravenpuff” with which we’d each anointed ourselves.
In therapy group on my third day, we were asked to describe a place where we felt happy, a place we could revisit in our minds when things went south on the outside. I spoke of a basement in my ex’s house, a soft couch and Harry Potter playing on the TV, a place in which I’d felt happier than I ever had in my life (the relationship crashed but the sensation remains). My fellow Ravenpuff raised his hand, and I still remember exactly what he described. Everyone in that room probably does.
It was simple: his backyard. But he painted it hypnotically for us, as if it was a haven of escapism that any of us could access. He spoke of an “eight foot by twenty foot porch that surrounded a Black Walnut tree, with a grill on the right and steps down to an acre of grass in the middle, that was flanked by two planters, one bearing herbs and the other vegetables, and the acre itself was wrapped in bushes upon bushes of forsythia.” Typing this now, it sounds benign, but I promise that in that meeting room across from the nurses’ station, it was magical. It’s easy to find things to be magical while in the hospital.
I was discharged the next day, after pacing for half an hour (or half a century, depending on if you ask me or a clock) up and down the entrance to the ward as I awaited my father’s arrival. I got the names and numbers of a few patients, but I haven’t added them on any social media or texted them, nor have they added or texted me. It has mostly gone this way upon hospital discharge. There is a hidden place in my heart that few ever get to house, and it contains the people I’ve encountered throughout my journey.
So, there you have it. That’s what happened. In the weeks since, I’ve done a lot of work. We locked down my social media so I can’t go on checking loops (mainly Twitter and VSCO, with some Instagram) and I’ve gone on semi-permanent birth control to control the hormone change that arises in the days before my menstruation week (I made the attempt in the midst of that week, and they’re intertwined). I’m back on daily schedules and meal plans, as those things had previously been falling by the wayside. I bawled my eyes out in front of my therapist for the first time. An former abusive relationship has knocked the wind out of my old frequent weepiness, but when I’m most vulnerable, my eyes swell and voice is turbulent and wet. That’s when the heavy work’s done.
Most importantly, I’m thrilled to be alive. My mother reminds me that after I failed, I was wailing in regret, wishing I had succeeded and devastated to still be able to open my eyes. What’s different, this time? When I entered the hospital, after I’d accepted that I was still alive, everything looked new to me. A book was remarkable in its vastness, an anatomical poster aesthetically enrapturing, the stories and lives of my fellow patients were those of celebrities, the most interesting people on Earth.
I’ve felt this before, but I’d never tried to kill myself with such a high chance of success before. I “knew” I’d die. Now, I know I could never want to. I know that even after as high stakes of an attempt as I could ever muster, I want to live. There can be no such thing as unending suffering, and I wish I’d seen that before this unfortunate event. There was no need for the pain I put myself and others through. I’ve always been privy to the most nuanced, elegant, beautiful parts of life. I appreciate everything I had before my attempt and everything I stood to lose, and just how horrible a different outcome would have been.
If you’re feeling at risk, below is a number I urge you to call.