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Friday, July 20, 2012

What It's Like When You Try to Die

Something happens. Or nothing happens. Perhaps you realize that he never loved you. Or you can’t possibly walk the halls of your school again. Or you refuse to listen to the screams anymore. Perhaps your sadness was something that had been swelling for years: you turned away in spite of it, but it grew nearer and nearer like waves approaching the shore. No matter what road you’ve traveled, you are here now. The thought has struck you suddenly, how unbearable it will be to face another day. You need help, but you don’t know how to ask for it. You cry and scream and the carpet snags underneath your fingernails as you fall. You need help so very badly. You find your way into the medicine cabinet, fumble your way to the aspirin, pop the cap. How many will kill you? Fifty sixty seventy eighty. How many will break you? Twenty thirty forty. You swallow big gulps, drink from the glass that has been sitting out since yesterday. You can’t breathe here, you can’t breathe on the floor.

In the hospital, your mother explains that you were confused, you didn’t mean to do it, and it’s almost funny how much work she’s done to convince herself of this. People move in and out, ask questions, take the blood from your body. You’ve lost everything else. A doctor gets close to your face and tells you that he knows it wasn’t a mistake, he knows what you did. He smells too clean and you never said it was a mistake. They give you a cup of charcoal to drink through a straw. This will save you. You are moved to the ICU for two nights because the levels of aspirin in your blood are still high. You drink charcoal again and again and you wear yellow socks. When you try to die, these socks mean that you’re not allowed to wear shoes. They mean that you are a suicide risk. You can’t be left alone, not that you’d get very far. You are tired. A nurse takes a blood sample every four hours. Another nurse puts a catheter in you. The aspirin level hasn’t gone down in the morning. It sinks in that you might actually die, now, in the ICU. In your yellow socks. A “sitter” stays in your room at all times, helps you to the bathroom and leaves the door cracked, just in case.

Finally, the aspirin in your system starts to disappear. The psychiatrist who will be treating you has not yet arrived in these two days. Is he busy? You watch television and sleep. Your mother never leaves your room. The psychiatrist comes. You explain to him that you didn’t want to die. You needed help, you called 911, you vomited into the sink. He tells you that this is what everyone says after they try to kill themselves. If you don’t willingly admit yourself to a mental institution, you will be forcefully admitted.

When you try to die, you spend six days in a mental hospital. You meet a woman named Storm with wild hair and wild scars. You meet people who are worse than you, you meet people who are better than you, you realize that it’s okay to be you. But what's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this? You can’t sleep at night because the nurses are laughing outside of your door. Instead, you walk the halls in your slippers. You make paper cranes in the TV room with a forty-year old depressive who never recovered from a motorcycle accident ten years ago. You listen to reruns of SVU on the TV. You sleep, you wake, you dream. And it’s strange how quickly you adapt to this new routine: taking the pills, talking to doctors, sitting through therapy. You are visited by friends who are afraid of what has happened to you. But when you try to die, you’re not afraid anymore. You’re not afraid of living or trying or failing. You return home and what you are afraid of, finally, is what you’ve faced and survived. You are afraid of death. You are afraid of the end. So you begin again.

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