That One Night

emergency room suicidal stories
Last year, I did a really good job of not killing myself.
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Last year, I did a really good job of not killing myself.

This was despite an inner voice telling me I should, every day. Not out of pain, not out of any sort of poetic misery. It just seemed like the most obvious course of action.

One night, which I now call “that one night”, I decided yeah, sure. I'll go out and make something up. First thought was to find somewhere high up to jump from.

Maybe a plan to improvise isn't exactly a plan. Maybe saying “I was really gonna do it” now doesn't mean anything, because I didn't actually do it. But I was convinced it was time, at the time.

There was some foreshadowing of that snap decision, certainly. It had been a long, unpleasant period of minimal employment and generally feeling useless. Nothing in particular had happened to send me over the edge. It just clicked that there really wasn't any good reason for me to exist.

Depression gets a lot of nicknames. The Black Cloud. The Insidious Presence. The Dark Passenger. They all give it far too much credit. Depression is a greasy internet troll scoffing and trying to defeat you with its "superior logic".

It pretends it's not just out to get you. Its conclusions are based on simple facts, it says. You suck, objectively. Eventually, when you have no sense of accomplishment or worth to fall back on, you start thinking it makes some good points.

So that was sent me out for a walk that night. It was a late Eastern Canadian winter. I was just strolling and watching my breath steaming. As traffic rolled by, I sized up each vehicle, considering the angle of impact, whether I should aim for the grill or the tires. Settle on a truck or wait for a bus? There were just too many things to consider for my fogged-up brain. I was saved by my indescisiveness.

I happened to live near the hospital at the time, and it loomed over me the whole walk. If not for living in Canada, where a hospital visit didn't mean crippling debt, the night would have probably turned out differently. But I was lucky enough that there were no financial barriers, just the guilt of wasting everyone's time.

It did make me wonder. Is being really sad counted as an emergency? Dial 9-1-1, tell them a killer was on the loose, but plot twist! It was me all along.

Curiosity  was enough to lead me inside. It was this big dark mystery place and I had to know what would happen. One last adventure.

And not three steps in, bam, there was the awkwardness. There I was, surrounded by people limping and coughing and groaning. They looked like they'd seen it all. For them, illness was an unfair bump along the road, keeping them from doing the things they loved. Meanwhile, I was shuffling around, looking dazed and distant, wondering if I should exist. In the numbness, I probably looked more stoned than anything.

Soon enough, there was the guilt. These people were feeling measurable pain. I was unhappy. When it was my turn to check in, I sat and looked around warily. She asked me what was wrong.

"I think I'm suicidal," I whispered.

I was really worried that someone would hear me. Then they'd tell everyone they knew about it and soon enough I'd be branded Suicide Boy around the city. I'd be blacklisted by all the employers because they don't hire sad people.

I went on in a meek voice. "Is that okay? Should I be here?"

"Yes, absolutely," she said.

There was a hitch. I didn't have the right cards with me. I was scared and embarrassed, but she just calmly made it work for me.

It's funny, because when I think back to this, I remember it in the third person. I'm hovering somewhere outside my body, watching. I can see my expression. I look like a masked killer just burst in. Not even sad, just overloaded with fight or flight instinct. Considering the nearest window as an escape method.

I was more than ready to run for it. As in, actually run, for real. This was a state I never let people see me in. My secrets were leaking out all over the room. But she insisted it was all fine.

And then I was in the waiting room watching a close-captioned Pawn Stars marathon. Back to back episodes of never knowing what's gonna come through that door.

This lasted for most of three hours. I texted people and told them where I was, and why. I told them I was gonna be okay, while numbly watching Rick Harrison silently appraise assorted junk. There was something about it, and the repeating cycle of commercials every few minutes, that sort of made me want to be alive.

I wanted to stay alive so I could choose whether or not to try that new sandwich they kept advertising. I wanted to be alive so I could later tell people about getting caught in pawn shop limbo. So I could tell someone, someday, about how I neither love nor hate that show.

It wasn't the moment of clarity you might hear about. There was no angel-voiced singer, no nugget of wisdom that kept me going. Just some chubby guys looking at old stuff. None of it inspired particularly positive emotions, but the neutrality, the absolute mediocrity of the moment was worth living for. Three out of five stars for suicide night.

When eventually my name came up, I felt like I'd gone through some kind of psychological testing. Sensory deprivation. I was beyond numb, like waking up from a week's sleep but not any more rested than before. This whole time, I hadn't been crying, or even particularly hurting. My imagination kept knocking, tempting me with thoughts of the afterlife, that this must be purgatory. My imagination is such a hack sometimes.

They brought me to a grey, featureless room, and they made sure I was okay. I sat in a chair and waited for another thirty minutes or so. I've dreamt about that room before. In the dreams, I'm wearing handcuffs. The happiness police have taken me into custody for a frowning violation. People walk by the doors and glare. But not too hard, lest the police nab them too.

In real life, everyone was being very kind and gentle. They spoke in those hushed tones as if they were worried about hurting your sensitive ears. Most of all, they were treating this like a legitimate emergency.

It came as a surprise. I'd convinced myself that I'd be doing everyone a favour by being dead, but here they were seeming almost upset that I would think that. It's their job, sure. But they made it personal. I'd never met them before but they were laying themselves down on the figurative tracks in front of me. One more person I'd hurt if I did it.

At this point, I decided to cry. Just like that. And I went at it hard. It was a face-gushing, chest-heaving, eye-burning groan of sheer outwards force. Not just bawling, but bawling directly at the room around me. I was trying knock the walls down with with my percussive anguish. Bring it all down.

 Most days, I know how to smile and nod and say I'm fine. But in my isolation chamber, I was naked to the bone. When the doctor came in I was this snotting, shaking mess. She casually offered me a tissue and that made me laugh a little. I tried to apologize for coming into the place where the actually sick people go, but she said she was very happy I decided to check in.

Looking back, I start questioning if I really was suicidal. After all, the only thing it took to convince me otherwise was a stranger essentially saying "no, don't do that."

Or maybe that's all it takes.

After that night, I briefly got therapy, which didn't do much. Mostly because my problems aren't particularly interesting or unique. I am not a beautiful tragedy lost in the dark cold rain. I'm sad and I'm poor and I'm ugly. Most of the time I'm pretty okay with that but sometimes I want to be dead. That's life.

I'm glad to still be feeling stuff. Like, say, vaguely uncomfortable in this chair as I write. Thirsty. Sleepy. I'll take every last mundane sensation. Every thought. Every rerun of a show I don't even like. There are things to see, thoughts to think, and pleasures still to be had, even if they're not particularly good. Life's a thing. Which is better than no things at all forever.

I wish I had great advice for other sad people, but I don't. Most people tell you to stay positive, or just snap out of it, as if that might help. It's not like we insist on depression for its own sake.

All I can really say is, wow, good job. I've been there. I'm still there. I'm alive even though one of my internal organs, the meat inside my skull that controls literally everything, sometimes tells me I should die. You're here too. We're all still here.

Good job. Keep it up, please. 

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