Letter to Brian: August 22, 2019

Dear Brian,

The summer is nearly over… I made it through another July.  There are a lot of “anniversaries” during the month of July that I just can’t seem to shake.  It begins with Mom’s birthday on the 1st.  Then there’s July 5th… the very last time I ever got to hug you and when I watched your car drive away after you dropped me off at the airport knowing full-well that I likely would never see you again.  And July 25th… that was the awful day that I received your suicide letter via an email that you unintentionally sent to me.  I guess it’s a PTSD of sorts; each time these dates roll around… my memory is utterly hijacked and I keep reliving all of those moments over and over and over again.  It’s fucking crippling, dude. I used to be able to share this part of my heart with Mom… she’s the only one who truly understood what each of those days meant because she experienced them, too. We shared that grief together.  But she’s been gone a few years now, and it’s been so hard not having anyone else that understands the gravity of each of those dates to share the pain with me.

And now, as of last July, there is another event to add to that list of dates I dread.  July 3rd marked one year since my suicide attempt. If you’d told me back then that I’d still be here a  year later, I’d never have believed you.  When I failed that night, I’d already had my “Plan B” in the works and came dangerously close to carrying it out 3 months later.  I’ve been seconds away from trying again about half a dozen more times since then.  I still think about it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  No joke.  There is not a day that goes by when I don’t have to say to myself, “Ok… just get out of bed… get yourself together… just try and get through just one more day. If it’s unbearable… that noose will still be here waiting for you when you get home.” If I’m being completely honest… I still wish that I had succeeded in ending my life that night.  That’s not to say that I haven’t had some wonderful moments in the past year, because I absolutely have.  I have a fantastic group of friends and “chosen family” that have been a lifeline for me.  I’m surrounded by people who love me. But as wonderful as my support system is, when my heart and my head hurt as unbearably as they do, those few great “moments” don’t even begin to come close to outweighing the painful experiences that go on inside my mind all day long.  Everything just hits me WAY harder than it would if I were mentally healthy.  I think of it sort of like a bank account.  Let’s say you’re overdrawn (you know… much like I’m emotionally in the hole)… and you get a bill for a car repair… and another bill for the dentist… and a bill for a home repair… you’re feeling pretty overwhelmed as the bills start to pile up.  After doing laundry, you find a $20 bill you didn’t know you had in a jacket pocket.  Is finding that money a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  But does it make up for all the previous bills and fix everything and suddenly you’re not worried anymore?  Hell, no.  Much like my “happy moments.”  Are they unappreciated?  Of course they aren’t.  I love those moments.  But are they enough to undo the damage that the depression has done to my self-worth?  Not. Even. Close.

I just finished binge-watching all eight seasons of House, M.D.  Man, that guy could be such an asshole. He lived with immense physical pain as a result of a crippling leg-injury and became addicted to Vicodin.  He was constantly popping pills and lashing out at everyone… including those who loved him in spite of his behavior. But all throughout, I couldn’t help but identify with him.  I understood so well how pain, whether it be physical or emotional, can cause us to hurt those closest to us, even unintentionally.  I had a very close friend in college who I’ve since lost touch with; about 15 years ago, she stopped returning my phone calls and emails.  I finally reached out to her to ask what I had done to upset her.  She let me know that I hadn’t really “done” anything… she simply just grew tired of my depression and self harm.  She said, “I tried to fix you… but you weren’t getting any better. I knew that you weren’t ever going to get better so I just couldn’t be around you any longer.” I’ve long battled fear of abandonment by those I love… and that conversation certainly confirmed my worst fear: the fear that if my depression continues, people will eventually tire of me and leave. I miss her friendship greatly, but I also completely understand her act of self-preservation, too.  After all, if even I don’t want to be around me, why on earth would anyone else want to be? And honestly, I am well aware that my depression makes me an undesirable friend.  It causes me, at times, to distance myself from everyone around me.  It means canceling plans when I can’t stop crying or I begin to feel everything so deeply that I just can’t seem to be around anyone at all… it’s all just too overwhelming. And my depression tells me that people won’t care if I cancel because they likely will be relieved that I’m not coming… they surely only extended me an invite to be polite, anyway, right? I can become incredibly emotionally distant and withholding. I clam up and run from showing my emotions outwardly. I turn down social invitations because I’m in one of those moods where I feel every single thing with such intolerable intensity that it actually hurts to be out in the world. I just don’t know how to turn that off.  I’m very aware that it is quite difficult to be my friend at times

I am often haunted by a line in your suicide letter where you said to me, “I’m very sorry for those who tried to help me—I shouldn’t have brought anybody into this because I’m not sure that I really ever wanted any help.” I think about that a lot.  I find myself reaching out at times… but then I feel enormous guilt over reaching out because I truly don’t believe that anyone can actually help me, anyway.  I’m 45 years old, for christ’s sake… if therapy and medication haven’t helped by now, I don’t believe that they ever will; which is why I made the decision to stop taking medication.  I’ve been completely off both of my antidepressants for about 7 months now.  I was experiencing just as many serious depressive episodes on medication as I do without them so I’d rather not spend my money on them any longer. And with regards to seeking any help– honestly, sometimes the suggestions I receive from other people can just agitate me further.  Like the old, “Just tell yourself something different and you’ll believe something different” adage fucking pisses me off.  It probably shouldn’t, but it does; that kind of remark makes it feel like my lifelong depression and suicidality can be reduced to “Just snap out of it, you silly goose!”  I also have great difficulty taking feedback from anyone who has not experienced chronic, life-threatening depression themselves.  This isn’t a “Boo hoo, my car won’t start and I had a bad day at work” kind of sadness.  It’s a “my mind is literally taking over, it’s telling me that I’m absolutely worthless,  that I don’t fit in anywhere and no one actually REALLY cares for me and that the world would not be remotely affected by my absence” kind of sadness. I heard a great quote on a show I was watching tonight.  A father was trying to explain to his young daughter why she wasn’t ever going to see her mother again because of her mental illness; he said to her, “Do you know how sometimes when people get sick, no matter how hard they try to get better and no matter how many doctors try to help that they just don’t get any better?  That happened to your Mom.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks… that’s exactly how I feel about my own illness.

I heard the best podcast recently.  It’s a mental health podcast called “So Called Normal” and it is facilitated by Mark Henick, a suicide attempt survivor who is very active in promoting issues relating to suicide and mental illness. In episode #30, he was interviewing a guest who vehemently opposes forced hospitalization and openly supports the “right to die” movement; he believes that if someone has suffered long enough from an illness with no relief, they have a right to end their own suffering. I also share that belief which is why I chose to end my activity in suicide awareness and prevention efforts. I felt like a traitor having the thought that some suicides simply cannot be prevented.  In the podcast, the guest recounted how therapists and friends would say to him, “You’re incredibly smart, you’re capable of soooo much more and you have so much potential.”   But none of it ever truly connected with him… he said there was absolutely NOTHING they could say to him that would convince him that there was something greater waiting out there for him… he didn’t believe it.  He said, “I KNOW I SUCK.  I don’t deserve to be loved, I’m a loser, I can’t even love myself.”  That prompted the host to respond with, “Do you love yourself now?”  To which he replied, “NO, I don’t. Why? I don’t know. I want to…Maybe I will get to that to that point someday.” It was incredibly refreshing to hear someone speak so honestly about those feelings.  It was reassuring to hear those words come out of someone else’s mouth for a change; it was a reminder that while I may feel terribly alone in experiencing these emotions, I’m NOT.  But this kind of self-hatred makes even the most common of adversities that most people face unbearable in my mind.

I recently put myself back out in the world, musically speaking.  I’d really been missing playing piano and singing… so I tried out a few open mic nights.  I seemed to get decent feedback so I reached out to a few people in hopes that someone might like to get together and collaborate– just for fun and practice, really.  I got the cold shoulder from each of them.  What my mind turned that rejection into was, “You really suck at this… you’re not even good enough to goof around with so you ought to just quit trying.”  I get so down on myself that when I put myself out there I secretly hope that it’ll be well-received and I might even get a few compliments to boost my self-esteem a bit.  But putting yourself out there also means risking rejection– and I don’t handle that very well.  When I’m rejected, it enforces the raging feelings of complete inadequacy already running rampant in my head and it spins completely out of control.  After the most recent open mic night, I outwardly took the rejection like a big, strong girl but started crying as soon as I got into my car.  I went home and self-harmed that night because I was so ashamed of myself. Like I said… I don’t handle rejection well.  At all.  A stronger person surely would be able to let those kinds of things just roll off their back.

I’ve been feeling extra lonely lately. Every once in a while, for a very brief second, I think it would be nice to someday find someone to share my life with… but then I remember how dating sucks ASS.  It’s far too traumatic putting myself out there for someone to just knock me back down and reject me.  Besides, lately I’ve been told multiple times by several of my married friends that my life is much better now that it would ever be with a partner.  I’ve been told that any seemingly happy and meaningful relationships I see around me aren’t real… that “true love” doesn’t exist.  If any couples outwardly seem to really be in love with one another, it isn’t real. It’s so oddly optimistic of me; as terribly jaded and cynical as I am about life in general, there is still a part of me that has always wanted to believe that there’s someone out there for me that I could share my life with; but then when I hear, “Don’t bother… it’s a waste of  your time… real love doesn’t even exist… you’re better off alone” then it gives me one less thing to look forward to in the future.  Don’t get me wrong– I know that the “fairytale love” isn’t real… because life is difficult and messy; perfection just isn’t possible.  I had been hanging on to the hope that the couples I see out there that have been making it work for 40 years have done so because they truly love the other person enough to work through all the hard stuff that gets tossed in their path along the way… not simply because it’s easier to stay and endure rather than make the effort to start fresh on their own.  I’ve always been a “romantic” at heart and had hoped that someday I’d find that one person who I could grow old with and who’d be there to share life’s speed bumps with me.  Apparently, it’s all a big lie.

Well… I  guess I’ve babbled at you long enough for today.  I really need to stop letting so much time pass before releasing some of this built-up shenanigans.

Thanks for listening, dude.  I really miss you.

Love,
Laura