WHAT IT FEES LIKE: SUICIDE GIRL
'Had I known that someone was out there, willing to listen to me, to reason with me, would it have made a difference? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no'
Text by Maritina Morell
What it feels like: Suicide Girl
Have you seen those chain profile statuses on Facebook? Those status updates on Facebook saying, "Could at least one friend, please copy and repost or share? I'm trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening." It’s followed by the hashtag #suicideawareness.
Each post, no matter how well-meaning, sets my teeth on edge. They seem pithy. And in my mind, pitiful. Had I known that someone was out there, willing to listen to me, to reason with me, would it have made a difference? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no.
I push my mother against the wall angrily; viciously. She is keeping the apartment keys away from me. It is at this moment when whatever ties me to this earth snaps. As I hold the keys that I prise out of my mother’s hand in mine, I stare at her pained, panicked face and decide that none of this is worth it. There is no point in my existence for all it does is cause pain to me, pain to others. I don’t need this; I don’t want this. I am tired of fighting my family, fighting my friends, and most especially, fighting the voices in my head. I listen to the voices.
I run down the apartment’s fire escape in bare feet, nearly 20 floors down to the little studio where I live. I barely break a sweat. I grab a bottle of sleeping pills from my dresser, strap on my sandals, and head to a tea café in the mall across the street. If I am going to kill myself, I intend it to be as dignified as it could be.
Someone once said to me that a person is serious about killing herself when she jumps because it is final and absolute. I bristled at the comment but did not retort. What was the point of replying to such a flippantly callous remark? Pills are an imperfect method of offing myself but the act isn’t any less desperate than hanging or jumping or slashing. Simply put, I didn’t want to make a mess. Pity the poor worker who will have to wash me off the pavement. Or the horror in finding my bloated tongue hanging out of my mouth as I hung from the ceiling.
I was raised on fairy tales where sleep could lead to death with a bite of an apple or a prick from a spindle. It is so elegant in its simplicity and terribly effective as long as you can keep your would-be saviors at bay.
I sit in the café sipping tea for some time, swallowing one blue pill after another, pouring myself another drink from the teapot whenever my cup runs out. I don’t know how I manage to pay or for that matter, how I manage to make it back across the street and into my apartment. I have taken nearly a bottle of pills. I feel my stomach slosh from the pot of tea I drank and envision those little pills dissolving in a sea of tea. All that was in my head is how nice it would be to lie down on my bed and never again wake up. It is relief. It is bliss.
The hot sun streaming through my apartment window annoys me. If I am to sleep, I want it to be dark as midnight. If this sleep is to be my last, I want it to be done just the way I like it.
I am trying to throw a bed sheet over the windowpane when my doorbell rings. Through the peephole, I see my boyfriend on the other side of the door, dressed in a barong. I dimly remember that he had a meeting that morning. I yank the door open. Damn it. This is an unforeseen complication in my plan. I don’t remember what I say but I am irritated at his arrival. I somehow get him to help me cover the windows with the sheet. He looks perplexed but does as I direct.
Back in high school, around my sophomore year, we were given psychology tests by the guidance counselor’s office. It was your standard fare of teenage Q&A, designed much like the personality quizzes we took in teen magazines. The very last section of the test was an essay. The question asked us to reveal something we had never told anyone before. The filters inside my mind decided to click off and I wrote exactly what was in my head. I wrote about how I thought of killing myself. I wrote about how I knew exactly how to do it. I wrote it down because it was true. I wrote it down in school because I was daring the institution to react, to spring into action, to save me.
The maid is in my apartment. I can’t see her face, but I hear her voice. I had left my cellphone in the café and apparently asked her to retrieve it for me. I wonder why I had asked her to do that since very soon, I would not need that phone.
My mother is in my apartment, talking to my boyfriend and the maid. I hear the maid say that the waiter in the café told her that my lips were blue by the time I left. Blue lips? How dreadful. I am fading in and out.
“Hey! I know your father! We’re related!” An old editor, who worked in the same newspaper as I did, once yelled out in the art room. I smiled and cocked my head, saying that it was quite a coincidence. I had not seen nor spoken to my father in over 12 years. He didn’t matter in my life at all. I had a grandfather who raised me, a stepfather who mentored me. The absence of my father was hardly felt and his non-presence in my life, symbolized by me still carrying his last name, was an irksome detail that I changed as soon as I hit 21. When I got home later that day, I reached into my cabinet and started popping sleeping pill after sleeping pill. When I woke up in the hospital, I confessed to my doctor that I had no idea why I did it. Were suicide attempts now my twisted way of avoiding my demons?
These were the suicide attempts I feared most because I never see them coming. Most times, there is a buildup, there is a reason that is easy for me to identify. But once in a while, life deals me a curveball which seems to completely destroy my mind, and I enter a blackout-like state where I am no longer me but a creature of pure id. It is a terrifying feeling to wake up after such a blackout. My body feels strange, as if a monster had been occupying it – something angry that threw a raging party in my brain. Now I must reoccupy the shell that is me and clean up the mess that the monster left. I feel like the janitor who has to clean the puke off the floor after a college kegger.
My boyfriend tries to lift me up in his arms and take me to the elevator. He can’t lift me very well so my stepfather takes over. When did my stepfather get here? He scoops me up in one swift movement and carries me into the elevator. I can feel his frustration. I believe it is because my boyfriend is too weak to carry one-hundred-pound me. I am amused. I think I try to tell them how amused I am while I am cradled in someone’s lap in the backseat of the car but all that comes out of my mouth is a gurgle of unidentifiable words. I may have asked for a hamburger instead. Is this the way I end? They laugh and tell me to shut up.
I am in the hospital. Lying in the narrow emergency room bed, I can make out my mother and her sister seated in a row of white, plastic chairs in front of me. Their heads are bowed towards each other, talking in urgent, low tones. What wakes me is a cold waterfall of water bathing my feet. Alcohol, I smell. My feet are black from my twenty-floor barefoot descent into madness and my stepfather can’t stand it. Is he washing away my sins with a giant bottle of Green Cross alcohol?
The biggest problem for me was the assurance that such a desperate act guaranteed you a place in hell. Being born and raised Catholic, force-fed all the doctrines, beliefs, and rituals since before I could talk, Hell was never an abstract concept for me. Hell is real and I am going to end up roasting in its fire.
Man’s main purpose in life is to live. It is that simple. We may tack on meaning and agenda to our existence but in the end, we are here simply to be. It is no thin line to cross between living and dying. It is a thick, brick wall that one must blast through. Suicide takes guts. It requires a determination and a perverted sense of bravery that is rarely found. Each time I said goodbye, I left my love, I left my cares. In that moment, after the ingestion of pills but before actually passing out, I actually feel relief – mingled with flashes of fear. It’s the fear of what awaits me on the other side. Is there even another side? But I would rather face that unknown than keep on keeping on. Even the mundane aspects of life take on a sort of futility. Suicide is an attempt to embrace a mind-numbing blackness that is preferable to the tumult of my life.
I am throwing up and an orderly is telling me that is good. Keep throwing up. Get it out of my system. My throat is raw and painful. “There is nothing good about throwing up,” I think as I pass out again.
I wake in a hospital room, the fluorescent lighting above is casting a sickly green pallor over the walls. A nurse is hovering over me. Or is it a family member? Who knows? I am alive, that’s the important bit. I am alive and there is nothing I can do about it. I am not grateful to be alive. One must want to live in order to feel grateful. I have failed so I have to accept the consequences and go on, I decide. What else can I do?
My psychiatrist appears. He is a kindly man with a fatherly manner towards me. I remember telling him that I have to move on because I tried and I failed. I feel nothing. I feel no guilt, no remorse. All I feel is emptiness and resignation. I have to live because they found me in time.
I feel like a failure.
Attempting to kill myself would happen again. And again. And again. It happened maybe two times a year. They were never planned and there would be times I wouldn’t even remember trying to kill myself at all. I would just wake up in the hospital, discombobulated, dry, and desperate.
My suicide attempts always happened around my birthday. It wasn’t something I realized till many years later and when it hit me, I felt angry with myself. It was such a cliché.
Even my disorders were unoriginal.
I can’t help but compare myself to the few people I know who suffer from bipolar disorder. Each time I do, I notice that I am nothing like them and they are nothing like me. Why am I suicidal but they aren’t?
The psychiatrist who interviewed me for my annulment case announced over coffee that he thinks I am not really bipolar. “From your history, maybe at most you’re rapid cycling…and that fades over the years. You haven’t tried to commit suicide recently, right?” he says with the full-blown authority of someone who has studied my case for all of 3 months. “How dare he tell me what I am,” I think to myself. I feel insulted. I am protective of my disorders. They are a part of me and in a twisted sense, they define me much more clearly than anything else. When I wake from my last suicide, I think of this doctor again and a sense of vindication washes over me. “I know me better than you do,” I smile to myself.
When someone tries to kill herself over and over again, the people who are around to witness the chaos start to think of it as almost insignificant. It was bothersome and it no longer had the same impact. Unfortunately, it had the same effect on me each and every time. “You know how hard it is to live with someone who’s trying to commit suicide all the time? It’s really fucking hard.” Detmar Blow once said of his suicidal ex-wife, the fashion muse, Isabella, in an interview. “You should see how it feels to be the one doing the killing,” I thought to myself as I continued to read.
I honestly can’t remember how many times I’ve tried to kill myself. More than 5? Definitely. More than 10? Maybe. More than 12? God, I hope not. I’m beginning to believe that something out there isn’t letting me die. I’m a reasonably intelligent adult, entirely capable of offing myself in a neat and timely manner. Yet, I am still here. I still live. I still exist. I have to believe that there is a reason for my continued existence. Everyone needs a something to keep themselves connected to life. Most times, for most people, that link is strong, it is thick: made up of fibers of emotion, of love, of loss, of responsibility. In my case, I feel tethered only by a few strands, like the moorings of a dirigible, trying so desperately to take flight.
There is a tube up my nose. They are using the tube to fill my stomach with carbon to counter the effect of the drugs that I’ve ingested. Sometime that evening, the tube gets congested and they remove and then reinsert it. It is uncomfortable. I lie perfectly still with my eyes closed, letting each breath pass through my lips like a soundless whistle as they work it back in my nose. “This is one of the consequences,” I say to myself. I must endure it. It’s really not that painful. No point in complaining. Dorothy Parker’s words are mocking me in my head: You might as well live.
Though suicide became a regular course of action, for the life of me (pun intended), I cannot understand why. What I went through cannot be fully understood by anyone but me and I dislike comparing my situation to that of others. To compare it to someone else’s experience is to dilute the vileness. It is engraved in my bones. It is a part of my past that I cannot deny nor ignore.
To forget is to leave the door open for ghosts to return and haunt me. I can still hear the voices inside my head; the thin din of cajoles and taunts that make up the static in my brain. The details of my suicides are always hazy in my mind, like hastily drawn vignettes trying to illustrate what cannot be put into words. I remember things in flashes that show very little scenery, except the scene of the self. I force myself to remember what I wish I could forget. I must always remember.
It may sound odd, but there are times when I look inside myself to see if that razor-sharp edge I walk on between life and death is still with me. When I’m not on that edge, I actually miss it. I miss my monsters. I used to take comfort in the fact that the edge was easy enough for me to reach. These monsters feel like Titans, roaring in the dark recesses of my brain, cajoling, wanting me to return to them. It is so tempting to return to my monsters.
I don’t think I can kill myself anymore even if there are days when I wish I could – I lack the strength. They say it is the healthy part of my mind that is keeping me from going through with it, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Quite the opposite, really. It feels like I have lost the courage to go through with another attempt. To prepare yourself for death is not easy, anyone can tell you that. It is even harder to do so when you know that your death is by your own hand.
The hardest part were never the suicides (those were means to an end) but the waking up afterwards. The worst feeling in the world is when I regain consciousness and realize that I’m not dead. And since I’m not dead, I have to deal with the mess that is my life, made even more complicated because of the failed attempt. The irony of this all is never lost on me. Failure, in my case, doesn’t mean a cry for help: it means I fucked up the planning.
I had this terrible dream when I was a child. I was probably only 5 – at most – when I had this nightmare, but it has stayed with me all this time. I was with my grandparents walking along a pier. I could smell the ocean, its waves crashing on the beach nearby. Suddenly, I am hovering above the boardwalk, one foot first, then the other. I began to float away, up into the cloudless sky. At first I panicked, I tried to call out to my grandparents but I was just too far away from them to hear me. I keep floating, as if the wind is pushing me away and into the blue. I don’t think the dream is very unusual. I think many kids have dreams of floating away or being lost in a forest, looking for their parents. But I embraced the void instead of fighting to return to my grandparents. What 5-year-old thinks of that, even if it was in a dream? Were the demons always in me, even when I was too young to recognize what they were?
I have the same question everyone who learns about my suicides ask: Why? I spend a lot of time and energy trying to comprehend my disorder in the hopes that the knowledge gained will keep me around longer. But my labyrinthine mind doesn’t give up its secrets easily and just when I think I’ve got something figured out, the Titans roar and cut my threads again, leaving me lost in the maze.
My brain, I like to tell people, is like Swiss cheese when I try to remember. There are so many gaps, so many unrecovered bits that I recall only when I least need them to resurface. Charitably, I think it is a protective kind of hindsight that keeps me from recalling, from understanding why I kept trying to end it all, over and over again. If I remember why it made sense back then, would the urge return? Is it like being an alcoholic or a drug addict? Is falling off the wagon is a concern that must be carried all throughout my life? I still don’t know the answer. All I know is that I don’t want to die today. – Rappler.com
The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation has a depression and suicide prevention hotline to help those secretly suffering from depression. The numbers to call are 804-4673 and 0917-558-4673. Globe and TM subscribers may call the toll-free number 2919. More information is available on its website. It’s also on Twitter @NGFoundationPH and Facebook.