You’re alone in the ocean, it’s night, you can’t see or hear anything except your own frantic breathing. It’s cold. You’ve been treading water for hours, maybe days or weeks and it feels like forever and you’re so fucking tired. Where is everybody? It doesn’t matter. Just a moment, just a short rest. Relief floods your mind and you want to cry. Maybe you do, a little. You slide under the surface and it seems OK.
On Facebook the next day, they call you selfish. They say you’re burning in hell. That it’s a waste. They look at your page for clues; it seems you had everything to live for. They say you took the easy way out. That you’re weak. A coward. They don’t know that none of these things were on your mind, or if they were you had no idea how to get back. You were just tired, and the blackness swallowed you.
* * * * *
I was close, six years ago. I called the hotline one afternoon, a phone number from a poster in the break room under the words, “Feeling overwhelmed?” I ended up in a dirty office with a bored counselor who looked like she might soon call the number herself. We didn’t hit it off, but she connected me with someone who did help. My doctor prescribed something that knocked down the peaks and filled in the valleys. It also dulled colors, muted sounds, and made everything taste bland, but I was alive. Then I was invited to do a lighting design. The creative gears weren’t turning, so I took myself off the medicine and started drinking instead. (Go ahead and judge.)
The brain is chemicals and electricity. Mysterious, wonderful, barely understood. We feed it pleasure, food, drink, music, attention, drugs, meditation, prayer, whatever is at hand. It’s astonishing the brain works as well as it does, so much of the time. But sometimes blue dresses look yellow, sometimes we have the same conversation over and over again, and sometimes the darkness encroaches.
* * * * *
Yesterday a young woman in our community took her life. I read all of those reactions online, and I remembered how it felt when I was in the water, in the darkness. It hasn’t been bad in years, but I remember. And I mourned her, deeply, numbly sad for someone I didn’t know. And for her family and friends, some of whom I do know. And here’s the thing: it’s never as dark, and we’re never as alone as we think we are.
Prayers, love and peace.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)