I do not regret much. I can count my regrets on one hand. I regret losing two close friends because of Swede, I regret reading his email and killing our trust in that one moment, I regret not having been on good terms with Christine when she died, and lastly, probably most of all, I regret my suicide attempt.
I have suffered from depression for most of my life. I do not deny this. I do not hide it (any longer), and if you were to come to my apartment and notice the bottles of anti-depressants in my bathroom, I’ll tell you why I’m on them without missing a beat. It’s as though I have it all rehearsed: “I have major depressive disorder and I realize I technically have nothing to be majorly depressed about, but try telling my brain that.” And it’s painfully true; I have nothing in my life to be depressed about, if we’re to break it down and do a bit of comparing and contrasting to others who are far worse off than I’ll ever be. Honestly, I’m very lucky.
I was raised in an upper-middle class family in southern New Hampshire. I have never been abused, nor do I have any dark skeletons in my past that might have produced any of this depression. My parents are still together and have been in love since they were 16 years old. Both them and my younger sister, Jennifer, have loved me and supported me in everything that has befallen me without questions or hesitation. My sister is my best friend. We are closer than most siblings and when we’re together, it’s she and I against the world. I am loved unconditionally.
My first thoughts of suicide crept into my brain somewhere around 12 or 13 years old. Of course, this isn’t surprising for that age, as my therapist-at-the-time pointed out. By then, I had been in and out of therapy since I was in second grade. Second graders aren’t supposed to be sad, or concern themselves with the end of the world, the earth being sucked into the sun and devoured at a million degrees, or cry without reason or provocation. I, however, did. It was decided back then that I was the emotional child, my sister the strong one. I was the one who was prone to breakdowns when I accidentally stepped on a caterpillar; I was prone to weeks of utter despair for which there seemed to be no reason. I was the sad one.
I struggled through high school with some days being worse than others. I kept my feelings mostly to myself and only rarely shared them with my parents when forced. I remember “ruining” a Thanksgiving my junior year in high school because I couldn’t get out of bed. I physically could not remove myself from my bed because an unknown fear was gripping me and holding me in place. I couldn’t find the words to explain this to my parents, so they dismissed it as me being a rebellious pain in the ass teenager. It was only when my father pulled me from under the sheets and noticed that I was literally shaking in fear–completely petrified without a single thing on which to blame it–did he let me stay in bed, at home, alone. They went to dinner without me. What it came down to (and what still is the issue with those who love me) is that lack of understanding. No matter how hard you try, if you’ve never struggled with depression, you can’t comprehend the level of sadness that comes out of nowhere. You can’t fathom how one might not want to wake up again.
By the time I reached college, I was managing my depression as best I could. It was just a staple of my day-to-day life; there was no point in trying to fight it or suppress it. All I could do was drift in it as though it were the ocean; when a storm started to approach, the waves started to get intense, I’d push my head upward just enough to breathe and stay afloat. It’s really difficult to do that when you can’t reach the bottom to help you back up.
It was also about this time that I was put on Paxil, which I stayed on for a few years, before it stopped working. I was then put on Effexor and eventually other anti-depressants, combinations of them, and different doses. When I moved to New York City in 2004, I was feeling steady and as at peace as I had felt in a long time–then the bottom fell out, because it has to every once in awhile.
I will not get into the details of it all, because it’s still pretty much a blur. I remember it in pieces like a night where you’ve had too much vodka–those flashes of memories like someone else is in charge of the photos of your life. It was a Sunday morning, I do remember that. It was my sister who called 911 after I had told her what I had done. This, according to Dr. E., was my “cry for help” moment: I had swallowed the pills, I had slit my wrists and then I realized that maybe this was not what I wanted. When the doctor told me that after being dragged out of my apartment, kicking and screaming, swearing that I was just having a bad day, I told him he could go fuck himself. He was wrong; I knew what I wanted–and that was just to sleep. Have I mentioned my issues with authority?
Hospitals will not let you go when you tell them you want to sleep forever. You can make it childish and easy to comprehend, even bring Sleeping Beauty into your explanation as an ill attempt as reasoning, but you can’t win. You are given an option to “voluntarily” check yourself in, or let them do the volunteering for you. My roommate at the time, Thal, who was there with me, did the talking for me: “She’s confused. She’s going to voluntarily check herself in so she can check herself out and not be stuck here forever.” That was the day I was committed to Beth Israel–an experience I wrote about a couple years ago. But this isn’t about what I did that morning, or the time in the hospital, the other patients I witnessed, or the fact that I dared to think myself better than them. This particular piece is about how I regret that suicide attempt.
I am of the notion that everything that happens in your life is completely essential in making you the completely original individual that you are. I strongly feel that regrets are part of this process of not only becoming you, but being you. I was originally conflicted about writing as to whether or not I regretted my suicide attempt. Even when I spoke to my mother about it earlier she asked me point-blank: “But do you regret it?” I told her that I wasn’t completely sure. I also told her that maybe I regretted it so much that I was unable to be completely aware of my feelings on the matter. My mother, always the saint, helped me make sense of it all. Here we go:
I regret my suicide attempt.
I regret it because of what it did to my parents, the devastation it caused them, and that they had to feel for even one second of their lives that they were going to lose me. I regret that my mother went out and spent hundreds of dollars on books about loving those with depression in an attempt to understand, but she just couldn’t wrap her brain around it. I regret that my father, a man who had worked his entire life, spoiled my sister and I rotten, and made us never want for anything–especially love and support–sat across from me one afternoon in a psychiatric ward in New York City crying, and begging the doctors to release me to their custody. I regret that my attempt, and the less serious few that would follow, put my sister in therapy because she couldn’t emotionally, mentally or even physically deal with the concept that she could lose me to a demon that none of us could see. I regret the scars on my wrist that you can still notice in certain lighting, although my F. Scott Fitzgerald tattoo is there to hide the truth and remind me of my struggle. I regret the anguish I caused my closest friends, the relationships I jeopardized or lost because it was too “difficult” or “painful” or “scary” to be part of my life if there was a chance that they could lose me.
I regret that I could be so fucking selfish to try to take myself away from these people, this life and this world. And although I know, and even in that moment when I did what I did, in that darkest of spaces, I knew deep down that it was selfish, but the fucked up part is that when you feel like that, selfishness loses its meaning. You are so enraptured in your own misery, pain, despair, whatever fucking adjective you want to attach to it, that you are absolutely incapable of comprehending exactly what you’re doing. I know that. But I also know now, years later, that to have offed myself would have been the greatest mistake of my life. Sure, I’d be dead and in the ground and unable to feel regret, but since I’m still alive, so painfully alive that I have the tears in my eyes and the goosebumps along my spine from the open window to prove it, I can say now without a doubt that my suicide attempt is my biggest regret.
Look at me! Look at my life and all its gorgeous flaws! Look at the places I’ve been, the people I’ve loved and even those I’ve pissed off! Look at those who think I’m shit, those who love me with everything they have and those who couldn’t give a fuck one way or another! Look at my scars, these battle wounds of a war that isn’t yet over, but one that I’ve beat in the last few rounds! Look!
I can’t promise I won’t be there again, in that place that might push me to another attempt, but I can say at this very second, that to have left the party so early would have been a loss. Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be writing for The Gloss… and that in itself would be a tragedy, right?
To quote one of my favorite French writers, Colette: “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”
It’s so true… and I’m not even close to being done with it all just yet.