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To Take A Life

When XOJane published a piece applauding the death of a mentally ill individual, many of us were outraged. Here's some of my story.

Content note: suicide, suicidal ideations, self-harm

When I first sat to write this piece a month ago, I drew at a blank. What has prompted me now is two things: one, that May is know as “Mental Health Awareness Month”—although why that’s not every month is beyond me—and two, an article that has caused outrage across the internet and especially in many of the writing groups of which I’m a part. I’m not going to say anything more about this piece, except that it allowed me to write something I’ve been trying to for years.

Just over four years ago, I tried to kill myself.

When I sat in my dorm room on April 20, 2012, I had been on antidepressants for a year. I was in group therapy for my eating disorder, which included an individual therapy component as well, and saw a psychiatrist on a weekly basis—so some form of therapy three times a week.

What is hardest for me to write, as I think about that day, is the feeling that I didn’t do a good enough job—not because I (obviously) didn’t succeed, but because I was stopped just as I was starting, rather than rushed to the hospital. I was never hospitalized. In fact, the therapist I was seeing at the time didn’t seem alarmed at all, even though I was haunted with suicidal ideations all summer.

I gaslight myself as I remember details. There are little pockets of memory that could have made the scene feel more real, more alive. I could have made more lasting marks on myself, things that I could show to prove that it really happened. When I told my parents just a few months ago, I saw the look of disbelief, the same one that was on their faces when I admitted that I had an eating disorder. Maybe if I had a doctor’s note, or if my scars hadn’t faded—

The person that found me in time saved my life without knowing it. She took me downstairs to sit with her and others, then walked me over to the class I was planning on missing. It was PhD level course, where I sat and clicked on lines that were meant to simulate neurons.

It was a Friday. The faculty that lived in my dorm held weekly teas. I went to visit, and, laughing it off, told one of them what had happened. The look on her face—naked pain—sometimes flickers into my memories.

I called my boss to cancel my shift, and told him I might check myself into the hospital.

The graduate students who acted somewhat like parents for my house were two floors up. I think I went by myself. I knocked on the door. One of them was home, with the new baby. I told him what happened. I curled up on the couch, and slept.

Sometimes, I see glimpses of that Naseem in the mirror, or on the bed, or in the shower. She’s still trying to be a girl, trying to be a scientist, trying to please a man who could never love her. That Naseem still has the scars on her skin, the ones that haven’t faded away.

I love her, but I don’t pity her. I don’t tell her it will get better. I won’t explain how she’ll struggle to climb out, before being slammed back down. I won’t spare her the pain of having the man she loved come out to her, of trying to please him still, of taking too long to leave him. I won’t give her a happy ending.

That Naseem still has a lot to find out. I already know. And the Naseem I’ll be in the future, well. They’ll know different than me, too.

This piece is excerpted from my first newsletter, called Tuesday Telegrams. If you'd like to join and get exclusive content, full versions of blog posts, and other goodies straight to your inbox, sign up here. As always, I'm on twitter and Facebook too.