Saturday, April 25, 2015


I have no plan or intent to kill myself I write, trying to make my handwriting as legible as possible. I am sitting in a tiny office across from a steel-gazed therapist signing my name to a safety contract that I am required to write as a result of "recent life choices."  I set down my pen and hand the therapist the piece of notebook paper with my carefully written reassurance that I will not attempt to off myself again in the immediate future.

What is going to keep you from acting on suicidal thoughts or urges again? she asks as takes the paper from my hands.

I pause as though I am thinking hard about her question, as though I have not carefully planned exactly what I am going to say, as though as I watch her jotting down my answers on her yellow legal pad she is not determining whether or not I will be shipped off to a psych ward.

"Well," I begin, "I have lots of things I am looking forward to in my future. I want to finish college and get a job and maybe travel some."

What I do not say: The pills that I did not take that night are still sitting on my kitchen table.

"I have plans with friends this week and next weekend I'm going to a wedding," I tell her. "I also have a lot of people in my life who care about me and will help to keep me safe."

What I do not say: The truth is, I don't know how to answer your question because I don't know what I'm going do when the thoughts come again or how I will react. I'm supposed to regret what I did, have had a come-to-Jesus moment with a realization that I actually do want to live. But nothing has changed: I am still a non-believer.

It's been a little over three weeks now since the earth and sky decided to switch places on me.

My memories of that night are a haze: pills in my hand and then down my throat / telling her what I'd done as began to lose consciousness / ambulances and IV's and doctors hovering around me.

I say: I did my research. It wasn't like I took enough to actually do any damage.
She says: I was there. You almost died.

In the moments immediately after I swallowed those pills time blurred into fast-forward - purge - drive - fall - ambulance stretcher - hospital bed - almost died. But in the days the days that have followed, waking up in the strange disorienting world on the other side of I just tried to kill myself, time has crept by in slow motion.

You could have died, she said and I wanted to shake my head no, argue that I am, in fact, invincible, that I would have woken up the next day as healthy as ever. But instead I say nothing, because whether I like it or not the facts stand in front of me, cold and angry and confrontational:
  1. I did not want to live.
  2. I tried to kill myself.
  3. I did not succeed.
  4. I am not, actually, invincible. 

I unlock the front door to my apartment and am greeted by the familiar smell of oil paint and turpentine and Febreeze that has been applied a little too generously. I drop my keys and wallet on the kitchen table and head towards the refrigerator, and in the few seconds from door to table to refrigerator I see it, sitting exactly where I left it, the quietly unassuming bowl of all of the pills that I did not take that night. I stop and stare at the pills, and the pills seem to stare back at me, and we stay like that for a few moments, considering each other / sizing each other up. 

I am halfway to the refrigerator when the thought comes on with sudden intensity: I could take them all now.

For a moment I actually consider it, as though it were a completely normal, rational suggestion. The pull is quick and strong and urgent / deep breath in / and then just as quickly as it came / in and out / it is gone.

I am shaking my head to clear the fog from my mind because no of course I cannot take pills today because I have to go to class tomorrow and going to class requires me to be alive.


I told her that I didn't actually want to die that night, and maybe I didn't, but the reality is that I knew exactly what I was doing: I was trying to kill The Monster who lives in my head, the the one who forces me to convulse before a toilet bowl altar each night and deny the growling in my belly each day. Eight and a half years and seven times in treatment and my bathroom still smells like vomit from my nightly ritual of paying penance with my fingers shoved down my throat. I realize that wanting to die might sound morbid, but if we're being gut-level honest here, can I really be blamed me for wanting an out? For swallowing a bottle of pills in the hope that I wouldn't have to wake up to this reality one more day?

These days I do feel like the word "shatter;" I am a woman fragmented by pain.

She told me once that when we do things that go against who we are at our core it causes a sense of dissonance inside of us. It seem like I've been in chaos for as long as I can remember. The dissonance in my bones has become unbearable. I wonder sometimes what it must be like to feel actual, real live happiness, to not live in a constant state of self-destruction, to not always set my myself on fire from within. I am shattered and bleeding and gasping for air, and I wonder what it is to have a body that is not simply a geography of war wounds from battling the Monster. I wonder what it is to feel whole.


"You're a fighter, Linds," she tells me. "You say you've given up, but you haven't. You're still here. You're still alive."

I may not agree with all of that, but she is right about the last part. I am still here. I am still alive. There is a line in Adrienne Rich's poem Planetarium that says, "I am bombarded, yet I stand." I have always read that as a statement of triumph or as a display of bravery or strength, but now I read it as a simple statement of fact. I think I like it better that way, because I don't feel particularly strong these days. I don't feel like an inspirational story about overcoming obstacles: I simply survive. I am bombarded, yet I survive and survive again. This is not a story of David beating Goliath, it is about me shivering in a hospital gown trying to figure out why I am not dead. Willpower and courage make for great motivational speeches, but when I'm lying on the floor trying to convince myself that living is an important thing and that eating is an important thing and not taking a razor blade to my wrist is an important thing, sometimes I am not strong and sometimes I do give up. Sometimes I say THAT'S IT, I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE AND I'M THROWING IN THE TOWEL. And sometimes I survive anyway, despite giving up.

I don't know how to stop feeling fragmented. I don't know how to kill the Monster in my head, I don't know how to stop wanting to hurt myself, and I don't even know how to want to live. Years of pain are packed so tightly into my malnourished, mistreated body that sometimes seems like every cell in my body aches. I don't know how to begin to heal wounds that deep.

 But what I do know is this: I survive. I am still here, for better or worse. I am still alive. I am bombarded, yet I stand; I am bombarded, yet I survive and survive again. I survive and I am not throwing a party or shouting it from the rooftops. I am not holding my head high in victory as I cross a finish line. I am weak and lethargic and curled up in a ball after another panic attack. I survive, choking down activated charcoal after an overdose and hooked up to IVs. I survive, crying because I am still unable to finish a meal. I am here, still in the dark and still in the midst of Monsters, but here, surviving.