A question I’ve never been asked, a question I’ve often asked to myself, a question I may truly find the answer to only on the day of my death, is: what made me reel back from the edge of suicide, and giving my own life another chance?
The peculiarity of all my suicidal attempts is this : every time I found myself only inches away from a death I’d planned carefully enough to know that once I’d go on, I would not be able to go back – every time I faced the certainty of my own death once I’d decide it, I stood on the ledge for a varying amount of time, and managed to talk myself out of it.
Some wouldn’t even call that a true suicidal attempt. For them, to attempt suicide, you have to flail yourself in such a situation, to fall so far beyond all self-help and control that you have no means whatsoever to reel back by yourself, should you want it, and have to be saved by someone else to survive.
I still stand by the statement that they WERE suicidal attempts.
Because when I was standing on the ledge, holding the knife or opening the pill box, I had the deep, undermining feeling I was drifting away in loneliness, beyond any possibility of help or control over my own life. I had lost all hope and interest whatsoever about life and was only waiting for death to put an end to my pain. I had sent calls for help, and they hadn’t been heard or had been turned down. I had yearned for compassion that didn’t come, for sympathy that was withdrawn, for awareness that didn’t arise.
Each time, I had the conviction that death was now the only outcome I could hope for. That I had no strength nor any will left to live, least of all to fight. That I'd welcome death as a liberation.
What made me unravel this?
Every time, I gave myself pause before jumping in, to assess my decision and face death in full view. I knew pretty well this would be my final act, and wanted to ensure I’d totally commit to it. Sometimes I cried my eyes out to unleash all the bad memories and thoughts ; sometimes I bitterly looked back with dry eyes.
I used to recall how people had thrown at me the statement that I was hopeless, bad, wicked ; that I wasn’t supposed to be here ; that I shouldn’t be as I was. Which ultimately meant that I shouldn’t even be alive right now.
I used to draw in my mind their image, their words, coming at me like a hammer, and retrace step by step the process of getting slowly overwhelmed by the utter exhaustion that my life had become in fighting them back, day in, day out. To the point I couldn’t defend myself anymore, and came to agree with them : I shouldn’t be alive.
And I used to think, to hammer that in, that my family didn’t contest these words. They were sometimes the very ones who had said them. That if even my family, the people who gave me birth, fed and raised me, thought so low of me, then I was even worse than that. I had no friends. My teachers despised me. Nobody liked me ; everybody wished me away, or different. As for me, merely going on day after day was so hard I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t do it anymore. Not for another day.
So, it was better for everyone if this ended up now.
I would stand up again, and look my death straight into the eye, determined, and even relieved. This would be my last effort, my last suffering, and everything would be over. Come, and set me free from all that. Set me free and lay me to rest forever.
But, no matter how much times I’d push it aside, always rose in front of me this simple objection : but is this all there is to it? Is it how you wanted your life to end up? Is it all that you wanted it to be?
It would nag and nag me, until I’d finally face it and admit it.
Of course, no.
And that’d be when I would summon all the hopes I had held on about my life; all the dreams that would lay unfulfilled, all the things that would never happen. Being a writer, a publisher, being a partner, know mutual love, travel around the world, have kids and raise them, have true friends, share things with them, grow up together, laugh and cry and bond with all of them throughout life and old age.
I'd think: this is the future I wanted, the life I wanted to lay down in the world; and it will die with me today.
This was the real breakdown point, where I would melt down, grieving for that. Then I’d think: but that future has no chance to ever happen anyway, because I don’t deserve it. If I ever did, my current situation is utter proof I do no more.
I’m simply not good enough to make it happen.
I’d go back to the ledge again, defeated.
But always, always, from the bottom of the void, would drill through my mind: What if you could make it happen? What if this hardship is only temporary?
I’d reply : but they all said over and over I do not deserve to be here. They all say it is my fault. And I can't fight them anymore. So I can’t think I do; I can’t think it will.
Then, the voice would suddenly rise. Weakly, but it rose:
Yes you can. Because you are the one living your life, not them.
If you surrender to them, if you give up and kill yourself, you are proving them right. You are making their words real.
But as long as you do NOT give up, you are making them wrong.
You are proving them wrong here and now, by simply being alive.
You have the power to prove them wrong; even here, at the edge of suicide, you are still doing it.
And if you are proving them wrong, then why should you believe what they say?
If they are wrong now, because of you being alive, why should they be right years later, if you carry on?
What if you decided to deserve this future? If you decided this hardship will be temporary?
What if you thought you had a right to stay alive, and live such a future?
What if you decided to make this future a reality?
Nobody can ultimately take your own life from you. You are the only one in command.
Either you surrender it and give it up to them by killing yourself… or you regain full power on it, and carry it on towards the future you want for it.
And the first step towards that future, the first step to keep it open to you, is merely to stay alive instead of killing yourself.
This was the moment where I would feel my mind wavering.
It'd ask : Could your life be worse?
No, it couldn’t, or I wouldn’t want to kill myself.
It'd answer quietly : Then it can only get better from here, as long as you choose life over death.
And the small voice would gain strength and power into my head, repeating:
You are the one in command of your own life, be it the only thing you may have left.
Give it up, and you’ve lost absolutely everything. Keep it, and nothing is ever completely lost.
The question thus summed up: did I want things to get better? Did I want this future to happen badly enough to fight for it?
The answer has always been yes. Willingly or not, I had enough integrity to stand for it, if not for myself.
I always ended up stepping back from the ledge and coming back to the fight.
And when I came back to that dark place of despair, when I again hit the rock bottom and faced suicide, this is what I kept recalling. That living on meant committing to a better future instead of none.
I couldn’t always stop before being on the ledge ; but peering over it always brought back that question, and every time I managed to reel back from death. To vouch for my future and give another chance to my life. Because I wanted that future to happen.
For years and years, building my future consisted only in clutching at my life. In making the cold decision to grit my teeth and getting back up no matter the pain, only to keep living, and forcing myself to believe harder in the future I wanted for the small exhausted kid I was right then. Even when I couldn't believe in him presently, deep down, I could still believe in the future self he could become.
Now, today, I am his future self, for which he battled so long, cried so hard and sacrificed so much. And I am determined to make his hopes happen, to prove to myself I did not hope in vain. Because I always thought this future could happen. And if I could think it, it could be real one day.
When I again face hardship today, I look back on these times on the ledge, and wonder: Is it worse than that?
If no, it is bearable.
If yes, it can only get better.
It has never ever been even close to these times.
I do not have the full answer yet, whether or not I was right to believe in this future, but I am still trying to make it happen, because it is still a possibility today.
I am still committing to it, day in, day out, because I know the day I stop fighting for it, the day I stop imagining it, it will truly die, and the best part of me with it.
And how could I let that happen after going all the way back up from suicide to where I stand now, so much closer to this future?
How could I let myself down now, when the hardest part is over?
The more I commit to it, the closer it comes. That’s enough to keep fighting.