Voices

What a difference a year makes

By the

February 15, 2001


One year ago, I was in a very different place. One year ago, I was nearly dead. One year ago, I was in the hospital trying to keep myself alive.

A black cloud, a feeling of impending doom had begun to take over my life several months earlier. And one year ago, it took over completely. The sensation consumed all of my thoughts and feelings day and night. I felt awful and lost all sense of being; instead, I was nothing. Gone were any ideas of self-worth; instead I was worthless. My will to live disappeared, and I could only focus on death.

I saw death as the only way to end my intense, constant suffering. Saying this to people didn’t hurt because in my mind the hurt that I felt far outweighed the hurt that I might cause others. Today I’m still surprised at how frankly I could talk about my own death. But the way I saw it, in my distorted perception of reality, I was trapped for the rest of my life in a dark tunnel, unable to see the light at its end. I didn’t think I could handle the hopelessness for so long, and I decided that I would rather give up living altogether than continue with the pain I felt.

It’s hard to be suicidal. It’s hard to wonder if while you’re shaving, you might just be overcome by the darkness. It’s hard to take two Tylenol for a headache without feeling as though a whole bunch more might make things better. I remember pressing the blade of my Swiss Army knife down on the skin of my wrist several times. Each time I hoped the pain in my head would be strong enough to break the flesh. The pain never was. Something wanted me to keep suffering. I never understood that part of depression-?how it could make me want to die so badly, yet never quite pushed me over the edge. I felt like someone was holding my hand after just shoving me off a cliff.

I wanted to die; I wanted the pain to end. I pictured things after my death. I imagined my funeral: I saw who was there, I heard what they said and I felt their surprise at what had happened to me, the one who seemed to have everything going for him. At one point in the hospital, I even suggested to my mom some good pictures to show at the funeral. At the time I thought I was doing her a favor; now, I can hardly believe I was capable of something so cruel.

I wrote a letter of apology. In it I said I was sorry for not being strong enough to handle the pain, I was sorry for not being able to continue trying and I was sorry that things couldn’t be different. I was so, so sorry. I assured my parents that they had done everything right and that what was happening to me was solely my fault, and I made sure to thank my friends for all of their help and concern. Overall, I tried to make sure people knew that I was making a decision that I had spent a lot of time thinking about-?and technically I had, even though my state of mind was completely askew. In any case, I never sent the letter, but I still have it. I look at it occasionally?to remember how I felt and to see how far I’ve come.

One year ago, while my friends went to class, while lovers celebrated Valentine’s Day and while it snowed outside, I was in the hospital where a nurse checked on me every 15 minutes to see if I was still alive, even when I was asleep. But sleep had become something foreign to me. Instead of resting at night, I dealt with the dark thoughts that flooded my head. Worry, pain, fear, sadness, uncertainty and inadequacy were my companions at night. They kept me occupied until the early hours of the morning and then left me exhausted for the next day. My first night in the hospital I apparently slept all night, according to the nurses, but in the morning I felt as though I had lain wide awake in bed for an hour. I was completely confused.

I cried constantly, sometimes because the pain was so much, sometimes because I was thinking of ending things for good, sometimes because I missed the life that I was used to and I never saw it coming back. What I didn’t realize then was that I could never have my old life back. I would never be the same person I was before.

I got better. It took nearly six months, but it finally happened; the darkness is completely gone. Looking back, I can’t tell if it all happened at once or gradually?it almost seems like both. And I don’t know why I got better when I did?I guess it was just my turn. But I do know that the memories of these thoughts and feelings will be with me forever. They have affected me more than I will ever understand. I can’t say that I would wish this pain on anyone else, but I will admit that what I have learned after going through it myself has been beneficial.

I can only hope that life continues to get better; if it does, I can’t wait to see where I will be this time next year.



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