Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicidal ideation.
If thoughts come with wings
and enter our minds from outside ourselves, conceived and born in a great nameless abyss that holds everything possible, good and bad, within it, that is how and from where my first thought of suicide, at age thirteen, came to me.
It wasn’t the result of an equation I’d set to solve: “How do I end the sorrow?” to which I’d found only one answer: “By ending your life.”
Nor had this thought been born of a collection of stories of pain that I had listened to, people seeking but not finding any other way to stop the hurt, in which I saw a profile that was a mirror of my head and heart.
The first time the thought of suicide came to me, it was a shock that struck with the force of lightening in a rainless, cloudless sky. I didn’t know where that thought had come from, but I knew I didn’t want it and shouldn’t have it. I kept it to myself, certain that I’d never think it again; that the same wings that had brought it to me
had carried it far away.
And for the moment so it seemed: as swiftly as it had come, it had gone.
But thoughts, though they may come to us with wings, sometimes root themselves like seeds.
The thought of suicide that came to me at thirteen came again and again, though never again did it come with wings. Now it came from within.
Origin stories have tremendous power, and the one I soon told myself about the genesis of my evermore frequent desire to end my life was that it was a destiny written at my birth: I was in despair from the beginning and I would remain that way until the end; until I took my end into my own hands. I thought death was the only way to end the pain of depression.
Of course, I was wrong. There is a way out of pain in life. I am living proof.
I write these words from Chiang Mai, Thailand, a place that once seemed not only far from me in miles, but also in my capacity to reach it; a dream that would never know the light of day. With the sun burning bright above me, I give to you what I would give to the me that I was if I could go back in time; the me that was bound by shame to silence; the me who looked at her past and present with the chilling conviction that her future would be its mirror; the me who exhaled hopelessness only to inhale the same toxin again and again.
I’d give that me a hand to hold to remind her that she’s not alone.
Actually, I’d give her many hands to hold.
I’d give her poetry and inspiration.
I’d give her lots of flowers because she loves flowers. In the worst moments of her depression, she believed she didn’t deserve them.
I’d give her the sun that she thinks will never shine for her or within her again.
I’d take her broken mirror away and give her a whole one so she can see how strong she truly is.
I’d give her a list of names of people who love her, the ones in her present and the ones that will come into her life in the future, people who are profoundly grateful that she fought for her life and won.
I’d give her the love that depression convinced her she was unworthy of having.
I’d give her the knowledge that depression is not who she is, but what she has, and she’s not going to have it forever.
I’d give her hope. I’d give her “I will”.
Actually, I’d give her many “I will’s”. And I’d draw tremendous blank spaces beside every one and tell her: “Fill each space up with a different dream.” When she was finished, I would say: “Read out loud what you have written, so you can hear your future being foretold with your own voice.”
She would read:
I will visit the lands I long to see.
I will write the books I want to write.
I will do work that helps others.
I will have exquisite people in my life.
I will get better.
“I will,” I would tell her. “Repeat it until, like your heartbeat, it accompanies you everywhere you go. Repeat it until it becomes “I did”.