TW seriously TRIGGER WARNING this post discusses my worst night when it came to suicidal depression. If you are suicidal or easily triggered, please do not read this post. Also, I have a whole slew of phone numbers, text lines, and websites on my resources. If you need one (or more) please use it.
I wrote this post for my storytelling group and shared it with them today. I’d meant to post this here in January for Mental Health Month but life, aka depression, got the best of me. I’m only ten-ish days late. And so, here it is. I hope this helps and makes at least one of you feel less alone…
I stood at the patio door and stared into the distance, my hands leaving sweaty prints on the glass. The space between the door and railing was empty and beyond that there was nothing but air between me and the ground seven stories down. Eight if you included the slope to the basement. Who knew however many feet down down to the pavement… or the dumpster if I aimed well enough. And if I hit the dumpster no one would have to do anything with me at all, they’d just take me away with the trash. That’s all I was, wasn’t I? And this would make me a bit less of a burden. No fuss, no funeral.
I couldn’t see the ground below but I knew it well enough. The dumpsters. The cracks travelling toward the sewer. The random tossing of what Colin and I figured was white paint. Whatever it was never washed away although we couldn’t figure out why anyone would throw paint there in the first place.
Colin. He was off at youth group, on the other side of a copse of trees, and wouldn’t be home for another hour. That’s why I’d picked now, I didn’t want him to be the one to find me. But… I pictured him coming home from group all cheerful and wanting to talk about what happened and discovering an empty apartment. He knew how I was feeling. What if he went to the balcony to check and found me anyway? Or found me as he came through the back door from his group? My family loved him but didn’t understand him. They’d take him in but would it be a good fit? ‘Maybe they’d do better,’ a small voice inside me whispered. ‘It’s not like you’re a particularly good Mom, maybe they’ll get him succeeding at school and making more friends. Maybe you’re holding him back’ the voice continued.
I thought about the dumpsters again and figured they were close enough… but they held mostly garbage bags, which were a lot softer than pavement.
I backed away carefully. Was it far enough of a drop considering the relative softness of the bags? I figured it was but what if it wasn’t? I didn’t want to end up a quadriplegic, unable to try again.
Was it or wasn’t it?
Meanwhile I pictured jumping over and over; the flight, the wind, and then nothing.
My feet inched another step back and another until I was in the corner of my room, as far away from my balcony door as I could and then I reached for my phone. I immediately went on Facebook and searched through my friend’s list for anyone who could help and M showed up right at the top of the list.
M is a mental health friend of mine who has paranoid schizophrenia. While I don’t think she’s struggled with depression, she knows too well the feeling of being out of control in her own mind and was more than willing to chat about inconsequential things until Colin got home. I have no idea what we talked about. I’m not sure I even knew while we were messaging, but she stayed online until Colin was safely inside the apartment and that was what mattered.
Then I told him what happened. And then he pulled my bookcase in front of the balcony door. And then he tucked me into bed and called me his pocket sized Mom. And I slowly drifted off to sleep with my biggest stuffy, scared but with no tears. I’d promised myself I’d never cry again a few months earlier.
The next morning I got up and carefully packed a bag full of safe items, plus a handful of quarters for the payphones on the fourth floor. Then I went to the hospital, by bus, to be involuntarily committed. They were pretty damn concerned about me, right to the point of parking me in front of the nursing station before I got to see the doctor and get that Form 42. Then they kept me in the back part of the ER until the psychiatrist arrived. And then I went upstairs where there’s nowhere comfortable to sit, nothing to do except colour with crayons, where talking to my Mom costs 50 cents (and if she calls the payphone someone has to come hollering down the hall for me), and there’s that all time favourite meal time task of buttering cold toast with a spoon. I stayed for a week, I’ve stayed for a week in all my five or six stays. And then I went home.
I ostensibly got better but I wasn’t really. I was simply auditing my life. I had one foot out the door and, if things went south, I was gone. I’d made a new plan and was all set. Life was going okay so far but I always felt like something awful was waiting around the corner. And I was ready.
Life came back in the weirdest of ways. Our local Pet Valu had two white kittens and I’d always wanted a white cat. I wasn’t worried about finances at the time, for obvious reasons, so decided now was the time. Colin couldn’t imagine the second kitten being left alone without her sister and begged for us to get her too. So we did. But the Humane Society only took cash and we didn’t have $200 between the two of us. So we ran around withdrawing money from my credit card and buying pack after pack of gum so we could get the maximum cash back at the grocery store. Then we finally had enough and took them home. Colin fussed over them but it was me who dealt with all the tiny details. I kitten proofed my balcony to the point where they couldn’t escape even if they took up pole vaulting, and supervised them outside playing every 5am.
Both kittens were tiny and still had an intense urge to nurse. Smudge on my stuffed lamb Rufus and Lara on our then 10 year old cat Blackie. I was the one who kept them in my room at night and woke to them sucking frantically. Who moved them to their food and water bowls and made sure they ate and drank. They gave me a focus and a sense of purpose. And then one night I woke suddenly just as Smudge, who was playing near my head, rolled off the side of my bed… and I somehow managed to reach out and grab her.
I was a bit shaken. That was a big drop for such a little kitten. But she was calm, staring peacefully into my eyes. She knew I was going to catch her. That I always was going to catch her. I was the centre of her world. And that’s when I realized I couldn’t kill myself. People could talk to each other and comfort each other but she’d never know. The centre of her world would simply disappear. And I couldn’t do that to her.
There are many reasons why people decide against suicide. As for me, I did it for a cat.