“I am not my suicidality”

This post was written by my friend, Rakhi Agrawal. She is a brave, strong, woman and I feel that in light of recent events that have happened in my life, her story has touched me very deeply and I think it is worth telling. 

"I am not my suicidality."

“I am not my suicidality.”

http://www.whatibeproject.com/portfolio-item/i-am-not-my-suicidality/

Trigger warning: suicide.

“The seventh grade. I have wanted to die since the seventh grade. Sure, it sort of started off as an attention thing. “Oh, okay. You won’t include me in your plans. That’s fine. You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” But somewhere along the way, it became real. Very real. Perhaps it was the death threats at home. Or maybe my inability to keep any friend for any substantial amount of time. Maybe it was the hundreds of lunch periods I skipped just so I wouldn’t experience the overwhelming reality of how alone I truly was. Perhaps it was the countless nights where I drove around for hours on end until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, and finally found a dark corner to sleep in.

Whatever the reason, as I matured, so did my suicidality. It became something I kept as a deeper secret, and that I actively desired. And craved. And fantasized about. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to kill myself. I am suicidal on a daily basis. I know that probably sounds crazy to most, but I am. Every day I wake up knowing that if I ran into the perfect situation—a gun casually lying on the sidewalk, a runaway car with no driver or oncoming traffic, a burning building—a way that minimized my pain and didn’t cause harm to anyone else—I would choose to die in a heartbeat. Philosophically, I believe people should have the right to die if they want to—it’s your body, after all. Who am I to tell you that you must live if your pain is that high, your suffering that real.

I say this as someone who has lost a friend to suicide. As someone who knows people who have lost loved ones to suicide. As a person who very much would love anyone who wanted my love. As someone who works to help stop suicide.

But there’s this: every time I am on a subway platform by myself, I look at the incoming train and have to stop myself from jumping. Every time. Every time I’m on a plane, I wish and hope that the plane miraculously crash in such a way that would keep every part of the plane in tact, and every passenger alive and unharmed, except for myself. Every time I hear of someone suffering, I wish every cancer, disease, illness, and misfortune upon myself and away from everyone else.

There are days when I am more suicidal than usual—when most things in my life seem to be going wrong and I see no light at the end of the tunnel. On these days, when I am actively suicidal, I exhibit some tell-tale signs of what everyone else would see as depression—I want to rot away in bed, shut everyone out, quit every activity, job, and commitment that I may have, and crawl into a hole.

I have tried to kill myself. I’ve made a couple shitty, impulsive attempts. I’ve come so close to being kicked out of school for my suicidality that I could taste the pavement on the street. I’ve been hospitalized four times, all which have left me worse off than I had been before.

A former friend who visited me the last time I was hospitalized sent me an article on trauma. As someone who has dealt with her share of PTSD, I eagerly read it, searching for something that resonated and rang true with me. In this piece, they described two types of people needed to survive trauma: firefighters, who will come running in a crisis, who will battle the blaze with you until you are ostensibly safe, and builders who will be there in the long run, who will give you the steady care you need to reenter the world. I think this structure holds true in life more generally, too. And as far as I have found, crises come easy (firefighters abound), but builders are the rare ones. I’ve lost most of my friends because they couldn’t handle my honesty. My dark, gloomy, intense honesty.

I’ve been poor, I’ve been homeless. I’ve been raped, I’ve been beaten. I’ve lived out of a car, I’ve starved. I’ve been essentially orphaned, I’ve been abandoned. I’ve been wished dead, I’ve been told I’m going to rot in hell, that no one will ever love me, that I’ll be found in a dumpster on the street. But nothing ruins me more than being alone. When I look around and don’t see people—any people to call my own, who are consistently there, and will be there for some time to come—this is what intensifies and solidifies my desire to kill myself.

But even with all of this, I am so much more than my suicidality. I am not crazy. I’m not insane. I’m capable. On most days, I am functional. I am warm, I am positive. I am loving, I am not dark and gloomy. (And even if I was, why is that bad?) I am intense, but I’m also fun. I am capable of laughing. I do not need to be coddled or tiptoed around. I need as much support and love as the next person. But I am not my suicidality.”

Columbia’s 2014 Mental Health Awareness and Random Acts of Kindness Weeks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6H35s_kTmH8

Photo by Steve Rosenfield

 

2: A tribute to the last week of being a teenager

What are you supposed to feel when you discover that the person who has left you forever was the one who truly cared about you all this time? What are you supposed to feel when care, love and affection was right under your nose except now it has gone forever?

It feels like you will never be able to reconcile the fact that the one person who could have been everything was too weak to let you go. Blame destiny. Blame fate. If it was meant to happen, it should have happened. Blame yourself because you had to deny the affection, to gently, carefully reject a person because of reasons that you deemed were wise.

“Sorry, but I don’t think you’re actually attracted to me. You’re just projecting your feelings for someone else on me. You don’t know me well enough to like me. Our families would never be okay if we started dating each other. I don’t think you’re ready for a relationship. People shouldn’t be seeking relationships when they have to find inner stability first.”

I said these things. Some directly. Some indirectly. I thought my reasons were justified. I had other reasons of my own too. I was pursuing someone obviously incompatible and unavailable, because I was seeking some twisted form of internal validation. I too was lonely, and scared and investing all my effort into making this problematic liaison work. The scars of my first “relationship” will take a while to heal, and though it has been painful, it has been thoroughly enlightening.

In all those moments of pessimism, of pining away for what I obviously couldn’t have, of obvious, bone-chilling, exhausting despair, it never occurred to me that there was that one person who could, perhaps, meet all of those requirements willingly. Except now that person has died. He has left this world. He has left me with this overpowering eternal guilt that I didn’t know I had chosen to bear.

When his phone was retrieved after the incident, it had only five contacts stored on it. His mother, his father, his brother and me. I was the only person that was not family that he considered me close enough to him to think about me in his last moments.

I am left wondering. Even if I couldn’t have loved him, I would have devoted my emotion and strength to him. I would have been there for him if only he had reached out to me. If only he hadn’t ignored me. If he truly did care for me, why did he not consider reaching out? Even as a friend?

We had once gone on a date to a restaurant nearby. Just the two of us. Conversations. Him making fun of me. Me laughing along. Talking about things of all interest. He paid me a compliment, saying that I was a great conversationalist. He complained how I was under-dressed for the snowy weather and he joked that his birthday gift to me would be a pair of snow-boots.

It was my birthday yesterday.

There were no snow-boots.

 

1: A tribute to the last week of being a teenager

It’s going to be my twentieth birthday in two days. All the growing up I have had to do has happened within a span of seven days instead of 10 years.

24th of March, 2014 has till date been the worst Monday of my life. One of my dearest friends committed suicide.

I’m usually not one to support emotional writing, especially on my blog, because I feel that my opinions that I express here should be carefully thought out and balanced. But to possibly convey the depth of something as devastating as this is beyond words. For a long while I rambled on and on in my diary, trying to provide some form of expression to the sudden, mind-numbing grief that made time stop around me.

I discovered what true grief feels like. I discovered what it means to remember all the memories that were said and done, and more importantly, all the things that were left unsaid. There is this silent screaming that goes on inside, and the only thing you can do about it is wear a smile on top and pretend that everything is proceeding as normal. Only 7 of my friends know, because I don’t want anyone to pity me, or know the turmoil that I am going through.

More so, this is a suicide. There’s a large blame factor involved, although you cannot blame anyone. The sole authority who had to shoulder the blame has left us all on this earth to seek his happiness in a place far beyond us. I used to think that Death was the sort of happiness that is earned when you have survived life’s challenges. This restful, complete, full sleep untouched by any sort of sorrow or fear is a paradise that can only be earned. Except my friend has acquired it at a cost that is too expensive for us to bear.

I don’t think my wounds have healed enough that I can write a respectable eulogy to him. Or maybe keep writing eulogies to him forever.

I have discovered how strong I am. I never thought that I would have to go through this, but he has left me with no choice but to be strong on his behalf. His mother had called me earlier in the day asking of his whereabouts. I had spent the last month being upset with him because he simply refused to pick up my calls, talk to me or hang out with me. I have sent him several ignored texts and messages through ever possible communication media. When his parents called, and I was worried, I began to search for him all over campus, sure that I would find him physically. I waited. I searched. I wandered. Repeat.

He wasn’t anywhere. He was literally off the grid for four hours and nobody knew where he was. I excused his absences as perhaps a chance occurrence, maybe he wasn’t around when I had got to the venue. Maybe he went to buy a new phone and was distracted. Maybe networks were down. Maybe there were a million reasons that he couldn’t be there.

Turns out that there a million reasons he left us all. Except I cannot extrapolate what they are.

Later on in the evening, we were all informed of a demise on campus. I have never survived blind shock, but I know now that the only way I was functioning was on some sort of auto-pilot.

25th of March left me with the conflicted discovery of managing the waves of grief. First came the phase in which I felt nothing. I was empty and numb and filled with memories of him. The way he touched my hair. The arguments we had. The times when he, his younger brother and I were a trio. Our myriad adventures. Our myriad stories. The promises we made, and the promises that are left broken. He had promised to get me rain-boots on my birthday, and now he will never be able to celebrate my birthday.

Perhaps the waves of grief were compounded by the fact that this friend had once asked me out. He wanted me to be closer to him emotionally. My reasons for graciously declining were many: his mental instability (perhaps we was projecting another’s feelings onto me?), the fact that his mother and I were really close and this would have been a problem, the fact that he didn’t know me well enough to let me be so intimate with him.

I blamed myself for a while, unable to suppress the survivor’s guilt. I blamed myself for not being proactive enough. For not reaching out to him enough. For not being able to change his mind. I also carry the hidden layer of blame that maybe if I had agreed to the relationship, we both could have been in an infinitely happier place. More maybes. More what-ifs. More what-could-have-beens. I am not prepared to deal with the world at all.

I was conflicted about whether  should I tell his friends or not. Making a pathetic transient Facebook post is not something he would have liked, and it would only earn me the sympathy of many, not the respect of his memory. I am desperately searching for ways to remember him, to contain this flood of memories and feelings and emotions, to accept this pain because it is taking a lot out of me.

26th of March was the first time I went to a funeral. It was beautiful. And terrible. The family is beyond devastated. The younger brother is in denial. They broke down once again, when they saw me. I have to step up to fill in the shoes that he left behind. I have to be the surrogate older sibling. I have to be the replacement, if such a deplorable word be used, daughter to fill the gap in their hearts. I know I will never be able to take up such a responsibility completely, but I have to try.

This grief is so tiring. It is so exhausting. It remains like a heavy weight begging for expression, even when every single tear that could be cried has been wept, and every possible despair that could be felt has been felt. Why did he have to go? Why is this so hard? Why is there this never-ending capacity to feel pain and compassion?

As my professor said, “The human spirit cannot be denied to right to search for light, when it is in the darkness.”  He is in the light now. He is so eternally peaceful. He looked so rested in the box, and the world around his is destabilizing.

Everything that is now Sikh, or Punjabi or that remotely reminds me of him in any way has now become a source of attachment. Now that he has gone, I will do my best to respect the culture that he was raised in, so I can remember him in a fashion that feels right. There is no right for these things.

Afterwards, I was informed that when his phone was recovered, he had deleted all of his contacts except four of them. His father. His mother. His brother. Me. Even in his dying moments, he chose to think of me. I cannot even comprehend the depth of how much I touched him. His mother wept into my shoulder as she held me tight. “Take care of yourself. Children never know just how valuable they are to their parents. You are so special to us, you will never understand.”

The dry spell on my soul has lifted. I have to let this sorrow out.  I must depart abruptly now. I promise to come back later.

Second Chances

Today, I’m going to talk about two teenage girls who have been on very different ends of second chances. Before I begin, I must insert a disclaimer about how I don’t really know either of these people very intimately.

I received news from some friends back home that a student in my school who was in senior year of high school, committed suicide. Now, I didn’t know this girl, and I don’t really know what her problems were but I was rather rankled by all the sanctimonious comments on Facebook about how suicide is wrong. It’s hard enough as is to classify something as complex as the termination of your own life as “wrong” or “right”. More so, if you are the person who has to take the decision, surely you must have arrived at the conclusion after some thought.

She was 17 years old, talented, capable and most people were too blinded by their rosy glasses to find any fault with her life.But clearly, she did and that’s why she did what she had to do.  I am now going to do one of the most unfair things that I have done: attempt to understand her situation. 17 was one of the harder years of my life. I was under dual pressure from the academic standards of two very different countries, attempting to rein in my raging hormones, struggling to find some meaning, some light at the end of this endless vortex of intensity.

For the first time in my life, I scored a 10/50 in a school exam, knowing full well I would have to hand my report card in during college applications. I spent all my time wasting away in the hopeless desire that some entity who barely knew my existence should be obliged to return my passion. I was desperate for social recognition and searching for some sense of worth in the midst of all these rapid changes which were forced on me too fast and too harsh. My self-esteem was eroding and every time I would try to recombine the crumbs, a new onslaught of stress and pressure would reduce me to bits.

There are times when I was so wrapped in my own bubble of demons that I had contemplated what it would be like to not exist. I knew that there were people who would hurt themselves and show their scars proudly, in some pathetic embodiment of bearing all the angst in the world. There was a time when pessimism was cool, and unfortunately there are still people who thrive on cynicism and negativity. But I wasn’t one of them. It annoyed me to no end that these people sought public sympathy by displaying their wounds.

But like the girl who died, there are some wounds that we inflict on ourselves that cannot be seen. Some demons that we decide to grow inside our heads, whom we grow dangerously dependent on. We call them different names. They thrive on different external sources: that low grade, that rejection, that disappointment that our parents tried to hide and so on. I don’t know what hers was. I do know that life wronged her in some way. But, even then, even as she is gone, I am left with the incredibly stupid hope that maybe if she had given life that second chance, she could have still lived for the little things: sunshine, nature, love and a future.

The second person I’m going to talk about is Rebecca Black. No, I’m not trying to trivialize something as serious as suicide by talking about a pop star, but today I watched the video of her new song, Saturday, and I’m actually moved to talk about her.

Granted, Friday wasn’t a song that I liked, but every celebrity makes some awful faults from time to time.  I watched as the masses unleashed their seemingly infinite reserve of cruelty on her. I’m not trying to make a statement here by saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to have negative opinions, but I’m also saying that YouTube video comments appear to showcase a highly caustic section of our society.

But forget all that. Forget what happened two years ago, with an awful song and the notorious ridicule that followed that girl.

Today, I heard the song Saturday, because like the rest of the world, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Like the horrible biased creature I am, I walked in expecting to be disappointed, expecting something that would disgust me and then I could walk out with the satisfaction of shaking my head and saying, “Nah, I knew this girl had way too much time to waste.”

Here is what surprised me. The song wasn’t bad.

It wasn’t earth-shattering, ground-breaking, miracle-inducing awesome, but clearly Rebecca had matured as an artist and customized her work better to suit her target audience. I don’t know how much effort went into this and I dare not contemplate but when the video ended, and I actually pulled the seek back to re-listen to some of my favorite parts, I wondered what an enormous change it must be. Here she was, a teenager trying to make something of herself, changing one prejudiced person at a time.

What touched me about the song was that she actually mocked her own former work, Friday, in the piece. Hats off to the courage of the girl who can pick up the pieces and start again from some of the most unforgiving audiences in the world, accept that her previous work was not it and mold her creative efforts into making something more palatable. She is so brave that she is willing to try again, even though she knows what the risk of failure on such a large magnitude feels like. I didn’t have too many positive opinions about the video of the song, because as always, it appears that audiences seemed to like parties that are sexualized or alcoholic and so on. But the very fact that she had grown up enough to take charge of her responsibilities and try again actually makes me admire her somewhat.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I think it’s amazing that she did. I want everyone in the world, everyone who had formerly hated her, or her work or anything, to give this 16 year old a second chance.

Why do I feel so strongly moved to bestow my supposed power to grant her a second chance? I don’t even know her. I’m literally just one more data point in the YouTube count of views. But from one view to another, I very naively want life to be a little more forgiving to this girl than they were to the girl in my school. Because I know that there are times when we come to heavily depend on those second chances and that we never find them when their existence would mean everything.

I understand how illogical it is for me to compare the lives of these two teenagers. Rebecca Black is obviously a celebrity and even though people cringed at her for quite a while, she was still a very popular figure. Nobody probably knew this girl in my school, but then again she never had to face the same magnitude of ridicule that Rebecca did. They’re different people. They lead different lives, yes. So what?  Life was unfair to one of them, and the other is trying to fight the rising tide.

I also watched her own reaction video to Friday. The more the video progressed the more melancholy and awed I felt. This girl has the courage to belittle her own best efforts before an entire audience that made her bow to their nastiest of opinions. She is strong and her tenacity is admirable. There are some responses and claims which say that she did only to make herself more likeable or whatever. Yes, maybe she did. We all want to be liked and appreciated. Is it so wrong for her to ask for some redemption?

Clearly, she loves doing what she does so much that despite the fallout, she is willing to invest so much more of her time, money, emotion and energy into making another work. I don’t know what her driving forces are, and I (probably incorrectly) assume that she faces just as much pressure, if not more from within, than the deceased girl did.

I will end this on a note to my past self. The self that has passed from the same shadows that haunted the poor girl who died. The self who, much to her own surprise, emerged victorious enough to accept an admission to an Ivy League Institution. No matter what our reasons and decisions are, we have eventually reached the points we wanted to be. We all wanted a second chance. We all wanted to give second chances to those we could have, but we missed. Maybe the girl who died really did try, and for reasons that only she could have explained, this seemed to be the only way out. Maybe Rebecca will someday be the idol of many. I certainly know that if it wasn’t for second chances I wouldn’t be the person I am now.