This will be one of about 79 million blogs written about suicide over the next few days. Maybe it’s the same as all the others, maybe it’s different. It is just an account of my own experiences.
My first real encounter with suicide was the weekend of my college graduation. The phone in my dorm room rang (this was before cell phones) and my brother’s friend was on the line, trying to track down my brother. “I don’t want to ruin your weekend,” he said, “but I need to tell your brother that D killed himself.” I didn’t know D very well myself, though he was roommates with my brother their freshman year of college (at least I think they were). I had crossed paths with him many times at swim meets and parties, and I knew his cousins, but he was older and gorgeous and I was much to unsure of myself to ever have a meaningful conversation with him. I knew he had suffered fairly serious depression when my brother lived with him, but from afar he still seemed like one of those guys that have it all going for him. I remember thinking it was sad and tragic, and despite having been on antidepressants myself by then, I didn’t understand how anyone could take their own life.
My second encounter happened several years later. My sister’s friend, B, killed himself. B was also the younger brother of one of my good friends in high school. I don’t remember how I found out, whether through my sister or perhaps my mother who could have heard through the neighborhood. I also don’t remember how I got my friend’s contact information, having lost touch with him through college (this was before facebook), but I remember being on the phone with him. We talked and we cried for hours. I wished so hard I could hug him through the distance; I was helpless to ease his pain. I remember being angry with his brother for doing this. I remember thinking he was selfish and should have known the enormity of the pain he was causing.
My third encounter was a little more personal. Behind the locked master bedroom door, behind the locked master bathroom door, on the floor of the master closet, curled in the fetal position, I sobbed. With an ache so deep, so encompassing that I could barely breathe; with my soul shattered, I cried in silent pain. I can’t do this. If only I had killed myself years ago, everybody would be over it by now. I don’t even remember what had set me off, but I remember wondering if there was anything in the bathroom that would do the trick. Luckily, I had enough of my rational self in tact to be terrified by the thoughts. And I knew in my heart my friend wasn’t “over” his brother’s death, that he never truly would be. When I had the energy, I picked myself up and went downstairs and told my husband that I needed help. It was, I think, the first time he truly realized how deep and dangerous depression could be. Within a week, I was back on Zoloft and had an appointment with a therapist on the schedule. It’s the lowest I have ever been, and I hope that when I’m 103, it is still my rock bottom.
My fourth encounter was about five years ago – the younger brother of my younger brother’s friend. We knew them all through swimming. In my mind’s eye, he was a gangly 10-year old with a wide smile and a Speedo that never quite fit right (they never do at that age). That’s how I still picture him, though he had grown into such a handsome, young man. I am facebook friends with him, and after they found him dead, so many of his friends posted the saddest, most loving posts you could ever read. I cried every time one showed up in my newsfeed. Oh, D, did you know how loved you were? Would it have made a difference? Would you have been able to see it? Were you so hurt and broken that you couldn’t have believed it, even if we showed you over and over? I wasn’t angry with him. How could I be? I had felt the despair, the heavy, inescapable darkness. I knew the temptation of letting it all go, and the allure of feeling nothing instead of pain. He had caused the same agony for his friends and family, but I couldn’t blame him. Something inside of him had broken, and only by luck did I find help before the same thing broke inside of me. I cried for his family, his friends, his life that could have been. But mostly I cried for him, knowing how deeply he must have hurt, how hopeless he must have felt, how heavy his burden must have been, and knowing that the anguish broke that last piece of him that could have saved him.
Depression doesn’t have to be fatal, but it certainly can be. If you can’t understand what it would take for someone to end their own life, consider yourself lucky. If you can understand it, I hope that you have found the help you need to keep that last little piece from breaking.