“The Silence is Deafening” Part 3 of 3

I need to push through this, or I’ll end up marinating in it forever. I’m going to just jump in; please read the first two parts for context.

When my neighbor jumped out of her window and died, I didn’t mourn her or feel much at all. Instead, I just watched everything from across a vast emotional rift. It felt odd, like a ghost being surrounded but not affected by the events of the world. It was a unique chance for me to collect data regarding the manner in which people respond to suicide. For my safety and my future, I needed to capitalize on this event.

So, as I went about my schedule, I observed the changes in others, and I took notes. I needed to know if one person really matters to the world. I needed to know what happens when they die. I needed to know if I mattered and what might happen if I died.

It was important.

My neighbor was not in my classes, so I had never really interacted with her much. This is what I wrote about classes on that first day after her death:

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

It was bizarre; I had never seen these people interact with her, and I could not find the hole that marked her absence anywhere. These were not, as far as I could tell, the woman’s friends. They may not have known her name or recognized her face. They didn’t even seem to be connected, and yet, here they were… mourning. How strange!

For a depressed person, this type of experience can easily be a powerful one, for better or ill. I was prepared to learn from it, and so I did. In this horrible, dark time, I learned that everyone makes ripples out from themselves. That everyone connects in some way to a community around them. That life matters.

It’s still hazy to me, honestly. I saw that she was connected, but I never saw how. And just because I saw people grieving, it doesn’t mean that I understood why they did so. Was it because they knew her personally and missed her? Was it because they are opposed to the vague concept of death? Was it because her death upset their perception of what college should be like, or how much time people should have to live, or some other abstract idea?

Why did they mourn? Why didn’t I feel anything? Maybe it’s too complicated for me to nail down after all. They, the crowd of hundreds or thousands of students, staff, faculty, etc., probably had hundreds of thousands of reasons for feeling pain at this young woman’s death. I, likewise, had one or maybe a handful of reasons for not feeling anything for her.

Life is just messy like that.

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“The Silence is Deafening” Part 2 of 3

Hello again. I started this earlier, but it felt like… like it was enough. Too much, even. It’s hard to admit these things- hard to say that you didn’t know your next door neighbor’s name until she threw herself out a window, hard to say that you didn’t care. Even when it’s true. Especially when it’s true.

Right, so here’s the gist of the last entry: before my neighbor killed herself, I didn’t think that suicide, or more honestly, that my suicide would affect anyone around me.

After my neighbor killed herself, I wrote this:

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

It was so odd to me. Surreal. The campus was mourning her, this one random student that no one had cared enough to invest in or connect with while she lived was now super important because she was dead.

It’s really strange to me that I’m angry about this. I mean, I am not even mad about her situation, not really, because I don’t know her situation. I have no idea who she was friends with or if she had friends or what clubs she was in, or if she went to the counseling center like me, or if she connected well to her family or if she had a family or anything. Because I know so little about her, it makes sense to assume that I am not angry about the events of her life. In order to be angry about this woman’s life, I would need a concrete event to react to, like watching a friend or family member check out of an emotional conversation or tell her that “she needed to get better faster”or something.

Instead, I’m trying to talk about the campus wide response (again), but this time, I’m just getting angry about something in my life. About how I felt so alone. About how the people around me let me believe that I could just fade away like smoke without affecting anyone. About how no one waded down into the fetid swamp that I lived in, just to be sure that I knew that I could never be too messy to love.

It sucks. It just does.

Hang in there, everyone. I will finish unpacking this mess soon.

“The Silence is Deafening” Part 1 of 3

I was going through more files, and found another old one that seems worth talking about. This one I remember. This is something that I wrote during college after my next door neighbor jumped out of her 7th story window and died. I know that was a really abrupt  intro, and I’m sorry, but there is something about death that makes it difficult to  justify small talk.

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

This was a very difficult time for me. I have had depression for the bulk of my life, so it has been very difficult to recognize what is “normal” in many situations. I don’t have a “before depression” period to look back on for comparison. Consequently, when I come into rough patches, like active suicidal thoughts, my perspective is markedly different than most people’s. Or it was; I’ve been in process for several years now, and I’m closer to normal than I have ever been before.

Now, in the aforementioned instance, my previous experience with suicide was all theoretical- I was considering it, and I was surrounded by pain, low self-esteem, my failures, and more isolating factors that kept me from connecting with others… at all. So, the viewpoint from within my festering, stagnant pool of insight was: “If I die, no one will even notice, and everyone will just be subtly happier as a result of my absence, but they won’t even realize why.” As I just mentioned, I did not have meaningful social connections, so there was absolutely no contradictory evidence. I wasn’t “selfish.”

I was alone. Terribly, anguishingly alone.

 

But I digress. We were going to talk about my neighbor. I don’t know her name, honestly. Living in a depression-based stupor does not permit time for socializing. It doesn’t provide time for survival, even. I just fought to get up, to bathe fairly often, to use hygiene products, to put on clean clothes, to eat more than once a day, to go to class, and if I was really feeling energetic on a given day- to do a little homework. And then I fought through that again. And again. And again in a horrible drudging war of attrition against the minimal requirements placed in my life.

I was not her friend. I never learned her name. I only shared the left wall of my dorm room with her. So, when they brought up counselors and stuff for my floor, I didn’t talk to them. I wasn’t mourning, not really. How can you lose something that you never had?

I’m sorry guys. I need a break.

“Tidbit”

I’m consolidating files off of old hard drives onto my current computer, and I found this odd little file named “tidbit.” It looks like a poem, and I’m pretty sure that I wrote it. I mean, if they were song lyrics, I should remember the song, since it was important enough for me to type and save them for myself. So, without further ado, Tidbit:

Tears upon tears,
eyes never dry,
none to hold me,
none to wipe these eyes–
Blinded by pain,
life’s bittersweet,
eyes never dry,
my only relief.

The time stamp is February 23rd, 2005, 9:23 PM, and I have no idea what it means. I know that a year and a half before, I had said goodbye to my first love, so I don’t think the pain would have been terribly fresh. But pain is funny like that- no one can predict what will bubble up and when, so it’s possible. Of particular note is the burning question, What is “my only relief?” Constantly weeping? Is that it?!

What I do know for sure is… well, actually, I know a short list of things for certain:

  1. I had not yet realized that I had been living with depression my whole life.
  2. Unrequited love and/or the unfulfilled desire to be in a loving relationship with someone have been a running theme throughout my life.
  3. These words don’t resonate with me any more.

I know that this entry might not seem very deep or meaningful, but here’s why I thought that it was worth writing: I do not feel that sad any more; there are many hard days, but nothing so intense. I am not alone any more, nor do I really feel that alone.

Right now, if I am honest, and I cut out my emotional drift response*, I know that I have at least a handful of people who would hug me or sit with me while I cried if I needed them to, and I am learning to see alternatives beyond my pain or my experience.

I am moving, guys. This is real.

“I am…” Part 1

I found a list of descriptions of me that I wrote in high school in an old, forgotten notebook. It is strange to look back on it… And sad as well. There is only one semi-positive phrase, and the rest of it is negative. Well, mostly. The featured image should show you what I mean.

See, some of this is sad, but some of it just strikes me as pretty self-aware. I lament not feeling loved or being hugged by friends and family, but also comment that I am terrified of both love and touch. (They are both tied to vulnerability and being known, which makes them scary.) I note how hard I am on myself and immediately comment that I am my worst enemy. That kind of thing.

So while these insights are still depressing, I can’t see them as bad per se. After all, personal change cannot occur without awareness of problems. 

But I’m sugar-coating things to feel a bit better about them. Awareness honestly didn’t lead to change. I didn’t grow as a result. In reality, rather than in theory, I only ended up using this self-awareness as fodder for debilitating self-talk. Signs of my weakness, personal flaws, proof of my inherent brokenness.

That’s the thing- awareness and contemplation are necessary for growth, but they don’t guarantee growth. It’s up to us to choose which path we will walk. 

If only I was always strong enough to take the healing route! But there have been, and likely always will be, days when I only have enough energy to continue towards more pain, because the familiar path is always easier to walk.