5.2
August 17, 2015

After Your Suicide: How I Saved My Own Life.

_MG_8895 copy, Lau_Lau Chan, Flickr commons

The words escaped my lips before my brain could comprehend what I was saying.

“I think I died with him that day.”  

The magnitude of what I said didn’t process until I felt the tears on my cheek.

My therapist gave me a knowing nod and a sympathetic smile. Perhaps he knew the truth of this statement before I did. I sought therapy after a break-up led me to lash out in anger and fear. I said mean things to my ex meant to hurt him. Things I would ordinarily never say to another.  I became obsessed with making him feel pain by throwing every attempt at consoling me back in his face.

The severity of the emotions and reactions frightened me. They seemed bigger than the situation warranted. Deep down I knew it stemmed from the loss of someone I adored with all my heart. I was afraid of someone else I loved abandoning me.

My friend had killed himself four years earlier.

He was an ex, a lover, soul mate and one of my closest friends.  Although the definition of us changed with the wind, we never allowed more than a couple days to pass without checking in with each other.

He was my rock. My serenity. When I was unemployed he treated me to weekly sushi night for a year so I would never feel deprived. He sat through some of my darkest times and absorbed my pain never expecting anything in return. I felt safe sharing my emotions and heart with him.

I taught him to paint. It was the only thing I knew which truly made him happy.  We spent hours putting paint on canvas and discussing the meaning of life and our existence.

He confided in me that I was the keeper of his secrets. He shared his fears and said he’d rather die than grow old alone. He once stated that if something were to happen to him it would take days for anyone to figure it out. I disagreed and shrugged it off.  Those words continued to haunt me. It turns out he was wrong.

During a long conversation about religion he asked for an explanation on reincarnation. I now realize he was contemplating what would become of his soul when he passed on.

I blamed myself for not saving him, as if these conversations were hints I should have picked up on.  I should have realized something was wrong the last time he called to ask if I was happy.

I told him I was.

A few days later he killed himself.  Perhaps my happiness gave him permission to leave me?

I owned his death and it threatened my own existence.  I thought I deserved punishment for not saving him—not knowing. I felt guilty for being happy. I deemed myself not good enough for him to stay.

I lay on my kitchen floor for hours as the sobs overcame me.  I didn’t think I would ever recover and at times it seemed I had lost my mind.

My life as I knew it was over.

Finally, with all my strength, I picked myself up off that kitchen floor and made a choice to survive the only way I knew how. I chose to believe that he was in a better place and no longer suffering. It was a story I told myself to numb the pain.

I replaced my sadness with affirmations: I am strong and resilient. Life is wonderful. I no longer allowed myself to cry.

On the surface these actions did a hell of a job numbing the pain.

But our minds are brilliant. They protect us from ourselves. They only let us shut down our emotions and hearts for so long before the alarm bells sound. My alarms came in the form of angry outburst and tears out of nowhere.

My emotions felt out of control.  I was afraid if I didn’t work to overcome the grief I would never find myself again.

I had to confront the loss of my friend. I was forced to admit that I had given up on myself the day he died.

Learning to sit with the emotions and process the pain was terrifying. I had no false affirmations left and no room for denial to ease the pain. There were moments it felt like my heart was made of glass and the broken shards threatened to cut me deeply.

But somehow, amidst the pain, I found my light. My canvas is brighter now and paints promises of a future filled with joy instead of only darkness and fear. I take chances and practice vulnerability. I share my stories, even the painful ones through writing. I wake each day with a new curiosity and the confidence to handle whatever life throws my way. As my heart continues to open, I embrace the undeniable beauty of all those I am grateful to have in my present life.

For the first time in years I feel hopeful.

None of us should carry the burden of another’s death, yet some of us cling to that like a security blanket. We punish ourselves for surviving. We quit living out of guilt.

Last week, during meditation the leader called upon our spirit guides and asked us to open our third–eye.

I was sceptical.

But I let my mind empty and relax all the same.

Somewhere in the moment a soul appeared before me. He looked exactly the way I remember him. I’m still not sure if he was an angel, my guide or a figment of my imagination, but I do know I was meant to receive his message.

He smiled at me. He told me that he loves me. He told me to be happy, that he knew I’d be okay. These are the things I imagine things all of our loved ones who’ve passed on would share with us.

As he turned to walk away his head turned for a final glance. His words were simple, but they gave me strength.

“I need to leave you now. It’s okay to let go.”

There was a peace in this goodbye.  As he disappeared from my mind I was certain I would find happiness again.

In that moment I made a choice. I’m ready to live now.

 

“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”
~ Pema Chödrön

 

Relephant:

The Other Side of Suicide.

 

Author: Kelly Chesney

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Lau_Lau Chan/ Flickr

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Annika Aug 20, 2015 4:55am

Wow, thank you so much for sharing. Reading this did make me cry. My godmother died tragically a few weeks ago and its not quite clear whether it was suicide or not. It leaves me wondering and thinking about her and her immediate family left behind.

I agree we should talk about suicide more, as it touches everyone´s life in one way or another at some point.
If we ever find ourselves at such a lowpoint in our lives where we feel so helpless or someone we might know, sharing those feelings of hopelessness and reaching out, might save us or our loved one.

My heart goes out to you, may the ones we have lost rest in peace… and may we find love and forgiveness…

madscribbler1968 Aug 17, 2015 7:34pm

My closest friend overdosed on her husband's antidepressants four months ago. I'd known her for over 20 years. She was only 44. She would have been 45 a few weeks ago. This was not the person who one would have thought would kill herself. I wondered if I'd missed something (her brother assured me I hadn't). And I just wondered, wondered, wondered….
Your mind goes through all the possibilities. My friends and my church community have been wonderful throughout this. The only people who said anything stupid was my mother and her sister! But that was to be expected.
I have started to write a memoir tapped out on my tablet on my work lunches. It's called 'Losing Stephanie: A Journey Through Suicide'. The last chapter will be written on April 3, 2016 the first year anniversary of her death. But i don't know if anybody will read a memoir about suicide.
A suicide is an open book: there is no closure. It's not tidy. As your well written article points out the fall out extends for years.
I've been through a lot of bad things in my life but I never suspected this was coming. It's a different world now. I'm struggling to get my enthusiasm back for things. My faith life, running and supportive husband and friends help. Writing helps.
I got a small butterfly tattoo on my arm as a memorial to Stephanie. She had a huge tattoo of a butterfly and a rose on her upper arm. I think she'd approve.
Thanks.

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Kelly Chesney

Kelly Chesney is a reiki healer and spends most of her days healing and exploring the connection between intimacy and communication as a healer, life and intimacy coach. She is a student of life and hopes to never have all of the answers.  This gypsy spirit is often restless and disappears on road-trips on a whim. She strives to meditate daily but can rarely sit still. Kelly is modern-day bohemian. She takes after her Grandma in this way. She believes in love, fate and the answers are found staring at the moon. At times, her mind is often over-analyzing and thinking in circles. Sometimes Kelly’s passion gets the best of her. When this happens she types words next to each other in hopes of making sense of it all. When Kelly is not writing she is taking steps every day to live life with fearless abandon, being her most authentic self and learning to say “yes” more. Sharing her words is one of these acts. She hopes to inspire others to do the same.