Sometimes in life, you have to ask yourself the big questions. What do I want to do with my life? How do I want my career to look? What’s important to me? Should I stay or should I go? No, actually, should I stay or should I go now. It’s not just a reference to a great song by The Clash off their 1982 record Combat Rock, recently made famous again thanks to Netflix’s Stranger Things. Not for me anyway.
I started asking myself if I wanted to stay or go around the age of ten. I was fourteen the first time I tried actually to go. Yes, I said the first time. I took half a bottle off Advil pm and polished off nearly a half of what was two liters of Bacardi; which I found in the stash of liquor my parents kept above our beach towels in what we lovingly called the ‘mud room.’ I got high off the feeling that my death was imminent; after getting dizzy and feeling somewhat sick, I fell asleep for what I thought would be the last time.
I woke up several hours later with a terrible headache and almost didn’t make it to the toilet in time to vomit, due in part to the fact that I couldn’t proximately make out where I was, and the room around me wouldn’t stop spinning. As I stumbled to the bathroom, I couldn’t tell if I was grabbing onto the counter or the towel bar. I got my answer when the towel bar, towel and all came violently out of the wall and crashed down on me at whatever early hour it was. The details about how the towel bar first came out of the wall have been something so shameful to me; it will be in writing this that my father finds out the truth of that story. The towel bar, and subsequently some of the drywall around it, was never the same and needed replacing several times afterward. Back to that night though, I clung to the toilet for what seemed like hours and vomited up the worst tasting concoction of Bacardi, Advil, and bile. I was almost surprised that I had a headache with all the Advil I had consumed. What I was more disconcerted about however was the fact that I wasn’t dead. I was almost miffed by this one solid fact at first.
I ended falling back asleep that night, waking up the next morning, and going to school. My uneasy, constant feeling of rootlessness and unease came to school with me, my anxiety packed itself neatly in my book bag as always, and my depression lurked over me like a cloud only I could see. My life went on.
I often felt like I had no sense of belonging, almost as if I had no face; like I was made of paper, and the slightest breeze could take me away. Simultaneously I felt held down by demons which I had no weapons, means, knowledge or energy to fight off. I think part of what made me so uneasy was that I always felt like I was a contradiction. All of this left me with the overwhelming feeling that I just wasn’t meant to be here. I call it the puzzle theory. If everyone is a puzzle piece, everyone around them in their life creates one, big, beautiful puzzle. Seems simple enough. For me, though I always felt like my puzzle was somewhere else like something had gone wrong at the great big puzzle factory, and I had been put in the wrong box, and I was surrounded by puzzle pieces I just didn’t quite fit with, no matter how hard I tried.
I also constantly felt like I was fighting against my mind. I had panic attacks which I’ll talk about further at a later date, and I didn’t know it at the time. However, I was also disassociating. I was thirteen when chunks of my day started to disappear. It was terrifying, and embarrassing, especially in high school where I already felt like an outsider to “wake up” crouched under a biology lab hutch where the chairs were stored not even having remembered getting out of bed and ready for school that morning. What scared me, even more, was that I was always angry, it’s still something I work on daily, often put to the test by Los Angeles drivers and traffic. I was always worried that I had unknowingly hurt someone or something during these blackouts. I never did apparently. I just went through life like everyone else; I just didn’t know it. It still creeps me out, to be that aware and yet so disconnected.
So you might think that fourteen is young to be considering taking one’s life, and you would be right. Having come much further now, I think it’s always too early to take one’s life. At the time though, it made sense to me. I couldn’t picture my life to continue the way it was. I was in high school. I was sleeping on the floor of my parent’s bedroom some nights because my panic attacks were so bad. I felt so uncomfortably out of place, feeling as though I had been misplaced. I was disassociating without even knowing what it was, and my anxiety kept me from taking so many chances I wish I had taken. I was a mess. Looking back, my biggest regret though? Not talking about it. It seemed so difficult at the time to speak up, to say: “I have depression and anxiety.” Or even to ask “Does anyone else feel like this?” because now I’m finding out that I wasn’t alone in some of those feelings. No, not all my friends tried to kill themselves at fourteen, I had gone through some life experiences beyond my control I’ll also get into at a later date that probably aided in my quest for premature eternal rest. I do wish I had talked about it more though. I am realizing now more than ever that it’s still difficult to talk about. I still have a lot of shame around it. I don’t know why I’m still figuring that part of myself out. I’m figuring a lot of myself out still. Aren’t we all constant works in progress?
What I have learned is that it’s okay not to be okay. There is nothing wrong with taking a moment to ask yourself the big questions. What do I need? Am I okay? Do I need help? Because I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure, help is out there. You aren’t alone. However faceless you may feel, you matter to someone. It’s important that you are a part of the narrative of this world because your contribution is unique, no one else has your voice, so it’s imperative for yours to be heard.