This is a talk of suicide, not attempts of my own but a talk of my journey. A story about the friend who left me too soon. We weren’t in love but we loved, and we accepted that love and accepted to let go on proper terms. We were friends, we were our own kind of special and I love it.
This is a conversation that is honest, raw, and emotional. The word alone cound trigger you or the thought could. I don’t know what you can tolerate, or accept, but please open your heart and eyes at your own tolerance.
You don’t forget when you’ve heard the worst news of your life. You don’t forget the details or the time of day, who you were talking to or even expecting to hear from someone. I remember 9/11 vividly. As I was in my fourth grade class room readying for lunch, we were let go early on account of the Sears Tower being evacuated, and the uncertainty of what other buildings were in danger.
When Joseph killed himself, I was dreading an early morning art class. The night before I lied in bed with a hand clutching my stomach and feeling a pain that I didn’t have a reason for. Nerves, I figured, but it was terribly painful no matter what it was. The next morning came, a conversation via text with a close friend of mine from home as she abruptly broke the news after already breaking the news of something else. Then a call. Eight in the morning as I lied in bed six thousand miles away from my own home and felt the pain bubble in my stomach again. Truth be told, I never felt a pain like that since.
Suicide is hard.
The pain of suicide is hard to forget because you can never heal. You never have someone to blame or punish, to point the finger at or even get an apology from. It is a pain without answer and without reason. It’s a lifelong resentment and wanting it to be a lie. It’s a knife to the stomach and a twist as you feel the shame and another twist for the guilt. It’s unavoidable, the guilt and shame. You question yourself. You wonder where you had failed them and why did it have to be you or them. You think of the last time you spoke and what you said or didn’t say. You wonder if they thought of you, even if not in those last moments, but just at all. You begin to spend time wondering what their last thoughts were, their final wishes, and even their final moments.
Then you realize you’re hopeless, and lost. Then you’re angry, with hands in tight fists as you cry and think of what made them give up, to quit, to leave you just before life had really begun. You even call them the c word …. a coward. You damn the dead, you curse their name and then … you take it all back.
Because that’s how you greive, in all steps, sometimss all at once and sometimes never in order.
It took months before I was no longer angry, before I was calm enough to look at his Facebook without so much grief. It took five years before I accepted it. It took me just as long to talk myself out of joining him. To not jump off the ledge and let fate decide what to do with me. Those thoughts were only brought to life because at some point in time I began to understood just why he’d call it quits.
Then I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I had borrowed the book from my then roommate and didn’t know what I had signed myself up for. The synopsis on the back wasn’t good enough either. It didn’t sum up what I had actually read, or would feel. It took me only two weeks to get through it, which means a lot as always since I’m a rather slow reader but also because I found myself woven into the tale. I found myself lying on the pages, exposed and vulnerable, and I couldn’t stop crying for weeks.
For those who haven’t read the book, or seen the movie, it’s a coming-of-age tale that takes place during the first year of high school for a young man named Charlie. Exiting eight grade, he lost a friend to a suicide and over the course of his first year, Charlie makes friends with two seniors who show him the world and also showing him the good parts of himself. It’s not until they’re readying to leave that he breaks. When he’s left alone in this horrifying new world without some kind of support and love, he finds himself broken again and afraid of this feeling that’ll never go away.
I haven’t read it since. I think it’s my own fear of reopening a can of my own mending feelings but at the same time, I have never been able to forget it all either. I just fear I won’t feel the same, that those feelings won’t measure up to what I had felt before and that the second time around it’ll lose it’s importance.
Then I read The Border of Paradise. The suicide isn’t the main focus, but it’s there, and in my face. What it helped me realize in some kind of way is how some people honestly feel that they just …. give up. It showed me that sometimes it’s inevitable even if you beg for it to never happen, and when it happens it’s always a hard pill to swallow. It’s hard to accept that sometimes some people will leave you simply because they just no longer wish to live. And it doesn’t make me feel better, but it makes me feel okay. It’s the closest to an answer I’ll ever get, and I accept it. It won’t take away the hurt, the anger, the pain, or other crying I find myself doing when I think of him, but it’s an answer I’m willing to accept. Of course I believe that everyone should fight, that life is worth the fight and there’s always so much more, but as a survivor all I can do is heal.
Sometimes I question how much I’ve healed. I question how much of myself can even heal after this kind of tragedy, but I’ve made way. I defend the depressed more, I stop those who call suicide victims cowards or other demeaning names. I bring awareness, I read about it, I do what I can to understand it. I don’t run away from it. I talk about it, I talk to it. I miss him. I talk to him. I lost him in a sense even before his death but I will forever have a piece of him to carry around in my soul. On my darkest days, when I question just how bad or how much I want out, he tells me no. And I listen.
October 2011, five months after his high school graduation, my best friend Joseph hung himself in the shed of his own home. In my time of need, of healing, disaster, and desperation … fiction saved my life.