Until Next Time
Breathe; my tattoo will simply read. Typewriter font reminding me of something I forget to do anytime the trauma of my past shrouds me in darkness, or, better yet, when the fear of the future sets in like a tsunami. Sometimes thinking about the future when you’re a walking billboard for chronic suicidality is terrifying. Not that I want to be a walking billboard, but hey, if the shoe fits. Because, once upon a time, I was convinced that suicide was going to be the way I went out: swallowing a bottle of pills or driving into a tree at top speed seemed like good ideas.
A year and a half removed from my latest suicide attempt, I’m a lot more optimistic that I’ll probably die in my sleep from old age or from cancer or something a lot more socially acceptable than suicide. But the thought’s still there, in the back of my mind, mocking me on bad days. Trying not to make eye contact with my concoction of mental health pills is sometimes really hard.
I wrote a post yesterday in which I talked about trying to forgive myself for a suicide attempt ten years ago today. A suicide attempt in which I swallowed some pills, wrote a note, and hoped to God I’d fall asleep forever while watching the snowfall gently outside.
That marked the first and only time in my life I know God heard my prayer. Because, instead of answering my prayer, the big man himself whispered in my ear, “You’ll be ok,” which at the time, seemed like a loaded promise, a lot like saying the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy exists. How am I supposed to be ok?
It’s ten years later, and I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to be ok, teetering the line between moving forward and giving up. My therapist says that I have everything I need within me to survive, but it’s hard for me to see the light in the darkness. It’s like I’m too busy focusing on the waves to look for the lighthouse.
But I’m trying, I’m trying hard, as long as I don’t isolate or as long as I get out of my own head.
I’ve been to the psych ER twice in the last two-and-a-half years, which is a slow and agonizing death in and of itself. They take your phone, your shoes, your watch, and your freedom. The only sign that time is ticking away is the shift changes and the every-hour check-ins. Or, the occasional fellow patient who comes in screaming.
On a scale of 1–10, how bad is it? 7. Always a 7.
What medications are you on? Prozac. Effexor. Lamictal. Abilify. Hydroxyzine. Trazadone. Prazosin. And the voices in my head are still screaming at me.
Have you done any drugs? No, sometimes I’m surprised I haven’t.
What brought you to this point? Hell, what wasn’t brought me to this point?
I don’t know the answers to half the other questions. If I were in my right mind, I wouldn’t be in this situation. The first time, after spending 20 hours in an overpacked ER on a Monday night full of football (the Giants lost to the Lions, FYI), they let me go: a therapist appointment in hand. The second time, the day after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, they admitted me: a 48-hour hold. The good news? I forgot the Patriots won the Super Bowl last year.
The ward was completely un-suicide-able. No sharp corners. No sharp objects. Unbreakable glass. There are lots of graham crackers and ginger ale. No way you can hurt yourself though; not that I’d hurt myself lately, but I missed the control of being able to if I wanted.
Somewhere on the ground floor of this mental health tower, my therapist’s office sits dark: he’s on paternity leave. What I wouldn’t give to speak to him now. It’s funny how easy it is to rely on one person. My pastors come in and visit; then my work mom, followed shortly after by one of my best friends. It’s easy to forget how loved you are when you’re in the doldrums. The best people don’t let you forget.
The humdrum of the hospital continues around me, but somehow, I sleep.
There’s that moment when you’re holding a handful of pills and you wonder if this could be it. But then the rational, non-suicidal part of your cerebellum kicks in and reminds you that you only need two Prozac, not 50. And you watch yourself put them back. Maybe next time. Next time comes, and you do the same thing again.
It’s a lot like how life is: trying to make it from one moment to the next.
Ten years ago at this time, I swallowed a handful of pills. Tonight, my dog is snoring next to me. I moved out of my parents’ house a year ago — it’s hard to live for the future when you spend your nights sleeping in the room where you tried to die.
But tonight, I’m sleeping on my parents’ couch because home is safe and familiar. And sometimes, that’s what we need: to go back and find our roots. To be reminded of how loved we are. To be reminded that sometimes living is as simple as breathing.