I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing this post. I kept going backwards and forwards on whether I should do it. But then I decided to do it anyway.
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Many people died this year, not only in the media, but also in my own life. When something like this happens so close to you, you start to think about the day that you will also die. At least, I do. But I guess that I don’t speak for a majority of people.
Today, 7 November 2014, is an anniversary for me. It has been four whole years since the night I last tried to commit suicide. Here goes…
2010 was a very difficult year for me. As I’ve said before, I am bipolar and that year I had a relapse into a major depression. The previous time had been when I was 15 in 2007. I got through that depression purely by God’s grace and once the depression had broken, I suddenly felt wonderful. I couldn’t even remember why I was depressed in the first place. I felt pretty sure that I would never fall into such a deep depression again. But, I was very wrong. By the time I turned 18, the darkness had returned. And it was drowning me.
Depression is a very difficult thing to live with, but it’s even harder when you’re a teenager. People pass it off as hormones or mood swings, and they don’t ever stop to think that it might be something much worse than that. I tried very hard to rise above my condition, but as the year went by, I felt myself slowly starting to lose the battle. I was seeing my therapist again and my medication had been increased, but it wasn’t helping. Finally I made the decision that I could no longer put up a fight. I decided to kill myself.
It wasn’t an impulsive decision. Very few of my decisions are, in fact, impulsive. The thought came to me one day when someone aggravated me by “joking” at school and, without thinking, I slapped him across the face. I had never done something like that, because I’m not a violent person at all. Everyone around me was also shocked, but mostly entertained. They never expected me to do it, but he did have it coming. I walked to the classroom with tears running down my face. I realized that I had reached a point from which I could not return and I was so tired of the endless struggle. I started making plans. I thought of many different ways to do it. I could have jumped off of a bridge, but I feared that the bridge would not be high enough and that I would just break my body into pieces. Many other ideas came up: hanging, drowning, stepping in front of a car. Finally I decided that the one that would work best would be overdosing on medication. I have quite the collection of pills that get me through headaches, anxiety, insomnia, etc. I decided on this method, because I felt that it would leave the smallest mess. I didn’t want anyone to have to clean up a bloody mess where I had fallen or cut myself. I thought that it would be the best way. The only way.
For weeks I tried to find the right day to do it. The house computer was in my bedroom and my mom, being a teacher, often used to type question papers at night. This would often mean that we would swop bedrooms for the night. Each time I decided that I was going to do it tonight, she would have to type something. I knew that it would be terrible for her already, so I didn’t want her to find me dead in her bed.
On 7 November 2010, I decided that I could no longer take it. The weight of the depression was pressing the last bit of air out of my lungs and the overwhelming blackness was all that I could see. I decided that I would watch Damages, which was one of my favorite shows, take the pills, and go to bed. I thought that I was being careful, but I have learned that there are few things that you can hide from your mother. She noticed that I had taken pills. I don’t know how, but she did. She finally got me to admit it and then she rushed me to the doctor.
That trip to the doctor was the worst one of my life. Living in small town like Harrismith, I had been seeing this doctor since I was in primary school. I was at the lowest moment of my life and I had to lie there while her did tests and asked questions. It turned out that the pills I had taken weren’t as strong as I thought. Also, the fact that I am relatively tall means that pills don’t affect me as easily as they would affect a shorter person. I probably would have ended up waking up the next morning anyway.
To cut a very long and tumultuous story short, I ended up being sent to Bloemcare, a psychological clinic in Bloemfontein to be treated for my depression. It was my second time there, but that didn’t make it any easier. After three weeks of intense therapy, I was released to go back to my home town. Despite what happened, I managed to recover.
Ever since I came to Pretoria in 2012, I never really thought about that time again. I started a new life here and the past didn’t seem to matter. But a moment at my friend’s funeral suddenly brought it back to me. When they started shoveling the ground into the grave, her mother broke down crying. In that moment I remembered my mom crying in the doctor’s office while I was being examined. For the first time I began to realize what a traumatic experience it must have been for her. The sad thing is that I knew it was traumatic for her while it was happening, but I was so far gone that not even knowing that could stop me.
And suddenly the question came up in my mind: what if I died that night? By this time I would’ve been a faded memory. I would’ve been seen as one of those tragic cases of teenage suicide. The only person who would probably still remember me would be my mom. It would have haunted her and I hate myself for that.
So many things wouldn’t have happened. I never would’ve finished school. I never would’ve moved to Pretoria and started my life here. All my friends here in Pretoria never would’ve even known about my existence. I never would’ve gotten my license, met many strange and interesting people, and I never would’ve lived to discover penis candles. It would have been like I was never there. Like I never existed.
I would be lying if I said that I never thought of suicide again. In fact, the first time I thought about dying, I was five years old. There was a time last year when another heavy depression struck me. What made it harder from the previous times was the fact that I was alone. No one at the college really took me seriously. I had no support system. This time I had to fight it all alone. And somehow I won. I started seeing a psychologist again and once again the depression broke and I made it through.
I guess that what kept me from going that far last year was the memory of how shattered my mom was the previous time. That knowledge that someone out there loves me more than life itself, that bond that is stronger than any 300km distance can ever be, is what kept me alive. Because I realized that although not many people would miss me, she would, and I didn’t want that.
I see chronic depression the same way that I see cancer. It is not something that can be cured. It can go into “remission”, and you can go on to live a happy and fulfilled life, but you need to take care of yourself and watch yourself, because five years from now, maybe even ten years from now, it might return and attack you again. And you have no way of knowing whether or not you will win that fight the next time. But what you can do is to use the days in which your mind is clear and you feel happy to live as much as possible. Feel it, take it all in while you still can. If you laugh, do so loudly, and if you cry, even more so. As I get older, I get better at handling my depression, because when you know better you do better. I know when to ask for help and I know when to avoid something or someone when I know that it could cause my depression to be triggered again.
My depression is dormant for now and I’m okay. There are good days and there are bad days. But I’m still here, and I still have enough life left in me to keep going. Some people might criticize my decision to share something so personal with the world, but that’s okay. I didn’t write it for them. I wrote it for anyone who might feel the same way. And I wrote it for myself, as selfish as that might seem. I’ve survived.