TW // Suicide Attempt. Death. Abandonment. Psychological Abuse. Trauma.
This isn't fiction. This has been a topic that I tried to approach with as much grace and honesty. With honesty, that means mentioning things that aren't going to make people feel comfortable. It is difficult. I have kept actual names out of this in respect of their privacy and also the deceased. Everything that is expressed here, are my own perceptions and feelings, and should not be taken as facts, or any form of endorsement. If you have any depressive thoughts, please reach out to someone, and if you are currently experiencing a huge loss in your life, whether it's a failed relationship, a fallout with a friend, a death of a friend, and you have so many questions unanswered, please feel free not to continue further with this post. I don't want you to feel more hurt than you already are. You may return another time to read this when you are ready. And because it is a series of events that have taken place in my personal life, it would be impossible for me to have it condensed in one post. As such, I may be posting 2 or 3 parts of this topic that surrounds grief. While there are mentions of the fear of abandonment too, this story solely focuses on the stages of grief that I went through while coping 3 separate losses, all in which took place in the same week.
I knew Felix* only enough to exchange greetings when we passed in the university halls. I was the president of an English society and in the parlance of the time, fairly introverted. And I was insecure, too conscious, especially around people in general—species I found perplexing and more intimidating than lightning struck bright and sudden. All of which may explain my confoundment when he pulled me to a side to ask if I was all right while we were inside an International Students’ Society room. I’d just finished handling an event and I was exhausted.
He greeted me calmly. I remember the twinkle in his eyes whenever he spoke, he had a certain kind of gentleness he carried with him, the one that you knew you’d feel safe with. I recall the conversation like it was only yesterday.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked.
‘Do I look not okay?’
‘You just look tired. More than usual.’
‘I don’t know if I’m not okay either.’
Thus, whatever plans that he had, whatever work he was supposed to do, Felix laid it all down to talk to me. He wanted to make sure that I was feeling okay. He never mentioned that he had plans to go out with another group of friends for supper. He never told me of the time that he was having a difficult time with his family. He had to teach himself to be independent on his own, and all the struggles he was facing on his own, would become the root of both his compassion and his sensitivity to someone else’s hurt.
I was grateful for him, of course, and had a habit of thanking him for being him whenever we bumped into each other on campus. Each time I reminded him how indebted I was to him, he would smile and say it wasn’t a big deal, and that he was more happy to hear out a friend. Friend? Yes, he said I was a friend. I needed that.
The last conversation we had face-to-face, alone, was in 2018. One night at Astaka, we were sitting on the benches that faced the campus field, it was empty and lonely. There were stars that night. They were shining bright. Out of nowhere, he spoke the words that anyone who has dealt with some form of depression, would freeze for a while.
‘Isn’t it so random how the most amazing people die so quickly?’
We talked about Chester Bennington, specifically about the song ‘One More Light’ by Linkin Park. Initially, the song haunted me, but it was also comforting. I would listen to the lyrics and it was almost as if I was listening to suicidal notes, an imagery of a candlelight flickering. Perhaps that was just the nature when it came down to Chester’s voice and words. He may no longer be around physically, yet his legacy leaves on. There is still so much of him that is very alive to this day.
It was strange. I remember telling Felix how tragic it was, that life seems so bleak, so short for a person so loved by the world. As I said so, I told Felix I knew that he was capable of great things, and that I couldn’t wait to see what the future held for him, and what he would be contributing to the world. Felix smiled and thanked me.
‘Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?’
Each time I consumed a creative piece, be it a song, film, spoken words, poetry, instrumental… I can’t help but wonder each form of art is about a person who struggle with a sense of belonging, who is sad, depressed and dealing with issues they can’t possibly talk about. Or even if they tried, no one really cared enough to understand or be patient with them.
And I wondered then too, why, despite all the obvious cues, the social hints, we are never truly able to save a life. But I guess, what no one really talks about depression is that it is ocean deep. You learn to swim to shore by yourself. No matter how sharp the rocks are, or how they can cut you, you have to find the strength to get to shore. Because it’s scary. It’s terrifying to fall into the comforting familiarity of the harsh waves and the sensation of drowning. I told Felix, despite whatever pain we were both going through, I told us to hold on. He said he believed in good things to come. And I believed him too.
22nd September, Wednesday — I had known this amazing person since July, I still think of him as someone special. For the sake of keeping this individual’s privacy, I will not go into full details. But do understand that what I share, is solely from my perspective, and may not necessarily reflect on that person’s character and feelings at that time. I’ll call him Sean*. We had our time set aside for each other then, we would talk of the things that mattered to us. I was happy to be myself around him. Yet, we drifted. Maybe that’s not an entirely accurate way to put it. The words we speak, the voices we drown, the choices we make, the dreams we question, they each come with their own repercussions. To put it bluntly, what he did, hurt me. And I need anyone who is reading this to understand that, while it broke me, I still care a lot for this person. The times we had spent together were golden, a bit unreal. I wouldn’t have traded those memories for anything. Despite that, everything that we had said and done, I could forget nothing.
How was I supposed to?
And again, why would I want to forget the good things?
I was in tears. I was livid we ended things through a text. I didn’t want the conversation to end in a bad place, so I left my last text. I couldn’t continue on with the conversation because anger was going to take my stead. I had to save this friendship. Even if that meant not getting out the exact emotions I was feeling.
24th September, Friday — I received news of someone passing. We never talked much, but this individual would confide in me from time to time. Just how do you respond to a text when their sibling informs you they have taken their own life? It made my head spin. There was a lot I simply couldn’t comprehend. I thought of how differently I would feel looking at their texts knowing they won’t wake up anymore. Sad? I wasn’t sure if I was saddened. I hadn’t had any proper emotions since 22nd September.
I thought staying over at my second brother’s was going to cheer me up. I was wrong. He tried his best and cared for me like any older brother would. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t shower. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get up from bed without the pain in my chest. The worst nights were the ones where I would have vivid dreams of having conversations with Sean, where he’d say he wasn’t being himself, and that we’d talk again. I hated that I had to wake up, to be disappointed, that it was just a dream. But mostly, I was just terrified of falling back to sleep if I was going to dream about the good times we had, only to be slapped by reality that I was left behind.
It broke my brother. Not a single day went by where I wouldn’t struggle to breathe, get panic attacks, and cry. I would cry even whilst I was doing nothing. And it felt apparent at that time too, that I amounted to nothing. It’s something else to be hit by someone and getting hurt, and it’s also something else to have someone make you feel like the world, promise you that they would never leave you, only to leave you. And what difference does it make even though we still have each other on social media? What difference does it make for me to follow him, and him to follow me, now that we are just ‘strangers’? Because I already feel like I don’t exist. Maybe, I was the only one who wanted to feel seen. Maybe, it was wrong of me to reciprocate. Yet, asking myself now, do I regret any of it? I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is, it hurt then. Still hurts.
25th September, Saturday — On my way back to my apartment after what I felt was just me burdening my brothers with my presence in their home, I thought I was finally going to make it. For me, I was going to try to be strong, just for one day. All I begged myself was to not cry for one day. I needed to be strong. Then it all came crashing down. I missed a phone call. I couldn’t answer anyone in the state that I was in. Then a text notification came in, I froze.
My friend, Felix, isn’t here anymore.
I wanted it to be a joke.
I called up my friend. This had to be a joke. It had to be. I didn’t care how low it was to be one, but there was no way, a bright 26 year-old like Felix, who had huge aspirations, who inspired the people he encountered in life, has died. This must have been a prank someone thought of, and maybe Felix was just planning for us to meet up or something. But hearing the uncharacteristically quiet scratch of my friend’s voice on the line, I knew Felix had left us that day.
‘I thought you might want to know. He was close to some of us.’ my friend said. ‘Do you want to come to his funeral?’
‘I’d like to go,’ I replied.
The word sounded strange even as it left my mouth. Like? Why would I like to go to a friend’s funeral? Is that what I am supposed to say knowing a friend—a kind, bright and sensitive individual who was going places? I left my apartment room and walked aimlessly in the common area. I am told by friends that through texts, I seemed completely out of it. I don’t seem to remember what took place except people kept mentioning I was just not being myself.
Even then, I was present at his funeral. I saw people weeping. Some didn’t. It was odd to be hugging friends that I had not spoken to in years. To be meeting up with former friends in a funeral. Why did we have to meet up this way, in the midst of a pandemic, on a cold rainy night? And the night felt long, I still don’t remember much of what happened.
It was past midnight by the time I settled down in my apartment. Settled down, or so I thought. I threw up whatever I had for dinner. Back in my room, the sight of my antidepressants made me sick to my stomach. As my anxiety grew worse, even the order that was present in my room soon became a disarray. My focus and vision both grew scattered so that it became a challenge to stand still. And I fell to the ground. Shaking. I was scared.
I mustered what seemed of my remaining strength, switched off the lights, and dragged my heavy feet to bed, forcing myself to sleep. The nightmare came, I saw Sean again in my dreams, and we talked happily. It shouldn’t have been a nightmare if we were still talking, but everything that felt beautiful then only turned to sheer terror for me when I opened my eyes. The problem with being in the care of a person consumed by their own pain and grief is that your problems can’t exist to them. In a weird way, you don’t exist to them. And so the neglect is ultimate. The abandonment is real along with the unfulfilled promises and loving words spoken carelessly.
It’s not just the abandonment that hurts. It’s the post trauma that follows it when you have opened up to someone you trust. It’s waking up and checking your phone for a message that isn’t there. And the last exchange is still apparent. And you know, they have left you.
I was left behind.
I woke up screaming.
I felt as if the world used to laugh with me, hold me when I spent my time with Sean—no longer. Now the world mocked me. It was as if the world had shrunken away to leave a cold void around my skin, as if I had become detached from reality itself. It was dark. And then I asked myself the question I had been meaning to ask myself, but was always afraid to.
What if I just do away with myself?
What if I just swallowed every antidepressant and went to sleep?
What if I just don’t have to wake up anymore?
Because it sure as hell beats living.
But I can’t.
I have a purpose in this place. But I wasn’t convinced either. I needed to reach out. I could only think of one person to call at that time, it was Sean. It was just a matter of time before I consumed those pills. I had them on the floor with me. I dialed his number, I was fighting back the tears, and I bit my lip so hard it bled. He didn’t answer.
Second time. Nothing.
Third time. And nothing.
Did it matter if I called again? Because if he stopped caring, then who would? If he thought the best solution to go about parting with me was through texts, then did I even matter to him now? Did I matter to him then? I couldn’t just call him to start over this friendship. I couldn’t ask him to be here when I was at my lowest. And I started believing that I wasn’t good enough. But I still wanted to live, I still wanted to have hope. To breathe.
Now, let me tell you… there are times in life where you fall down and you feel like you don’t have the strength to get back up, you sort of put on a mask. A mask where you deny your vulnerable self the chance to breathe and cry. And it starts forming into a survival essential where you are from. It shuts your emotions down, it makes you more alert, more adept, yet more detached to compassion. I didn’t want to go back to being that. I was fearful of indifference.
You know how when you have to pretend that all is well when it’s going downhill, and you head home, you lay down in your bed when the world’s no longer watching. You don’t have to impress anybody and you are yourself. Then fear comes in. You know the fear that you have as soon as you walk into the doors of your house? Or the fear that comes when you are leaving home and you remind a parent, ‘Please, don’t make them angry today. I don’t want to get hit.’ Yes, that. Maybe it’s a broken home. Maybe you are constantly walking on eggshells with your family. And it scares you. Maybe you are worried about what people perceive of you just from the first contact. You don’t know what they are talking about behind your back. And that fear paralyzes you. You feel as if you can’t do anything.
Well, I told myself to call another number. And if the second person didn’t pick up, I wasn’t going to think anymore and kill myself. On the call, when Helen* answered, that soft voice that said, ‘Hello?’, that gentleness in Helen’s voice dissolved whatever stood between me and my sorrow. My torrents of grief were unleashed.
‘I tried to kill myself.’
We spoke for about 3 hours on call, taking turns for me to cry, and for Helen to comfort me. With her, I felt safe, even though we were separated by a huge geographical distance. I found solace in the words she had to say. For it was through her words, I believe that she too, felt the pain that swirled in my brain, all the unfinished chapters I kept telling as if they held answers. They don’t. Helen said something along the lines that hurt people do things because their emotions are driving them that way.
‘All those things that hurt you, hun, had nothing to do with you at all… and perhaps that’s even worse. Because you know you did nothing wrong, and you are hurting. And these heartbreaks that you feel, hunny. They don’t get easier. The end of a relationship always hurts. And when you have to deal with other deaths one after another, it gets too much for you. You are allowed to cry. And no one should have to judge you for that. You have been giving too much of yourself to others, you haven’t saved any love for yourself.’
At that time I didn’t understand how Helen who had known me in less than a year, just virtually too, would notice that of me.
‘Do you know how I know this? It’s because I keep my notifications on for you on Twitter. And see your every interaction with people. You give everything to others, putting their feelings first, validating them. It’s always yours that comes last. And all the hurt that you have been through, you still find the strength to forgive and let go. You still show love and care when everyone else would have found many reasons not to continue anymore. Because that’s who you are. You are so important. The world needs you, even if you don’t think it needs you. This world needs you to take up space. It needs you to continue showing understanding, patience, and love. It needs you to spread joy and bring a semblance of hope to those who have none. And whenever that voice tells you otherwise, it’s not true. That voice hates you, because it knows how strong and capable you are in this world. So, whenever you feel like it’s too much, that you can’t go on, please don’t keep it to yourself. You need a shoulder to cry on too when you’ve been carrying the weight of everyone else’s for so long. I love you so much, don’t kill yourself. You are needed here.’
Outside the apartment window, I could finally hear the wind rustling through the silence. It was hard for me to imagine that someone whom I have never met was able to comfort me with such intensity. I laughed inside, remembering those early days that had seen me rush out from my classroom to avoid being hit by my pursuers, grab a piece of wood for safe measure in case someone would hit me with a brick. I remember all the fear I felt for not being able to speak up, where the teachers never noticed the bruises on me. I wished, how I wished Helen was around then to keep me safe. But here she was now, miles away from me, believing in me and telling me that I served a purpose in this world.
I went to bed that night, finally smiling, even if it was a small smile.
(to be continued)