Note to Self a Year Ago or Upon Waking up in the ER Post-Overdose, You Will Need Some New Wishes
There are years that ask questions
and years that answer.
—Zora Neale Hurston
It is possible to be addicted to wanting to die: this is your
diagnosis, more or less—not an alcoholic like half your family, not a
heroin addict or gambler like your uncles, but a death-wish addict.
Remember this: after you crushed and swallowed the bottle of Lamictal,
after the vomiting started, after you tried to stand and failed, you
screamed like a banshee against the numbness overtaking you. You
screamed for help, for life. There will always be a part of you that
wants to survive that is smarter than the part of you that doesn’t.
It’s okay to feel like a wreck today. To curse and bless the
world—your body—that has kept you. To argue with hospital staff
members who insist you stay in the psych ward. Say you can’t miss
work. Say you don’t have the money or time. Say you didn’t mean it,
that it was impulsive, a mistake. It’s okay to clutch the small
stuffed dog your best friend has brought harder than you’ve clutched
anything since childhood. Say your body feels like a thousand
hangovers. Say you can’t eat anything but the canned fruit and water.
Refuse to get out of bed for group therapy. Out of some weird magic of
the universe, you will have plenty of days to do the work you so
desperately need to do, to learn new answers to voice inside you that
says you are unworthy of life.
I have a story for you that you won’t believe: a year from now, the
sky will start to not wake up in time for your alarm clock and you
still won’t quite know if you want to be a professor or not and you
will be a little short for cash and you will break a kind man’s heart
and feel a little like a villain and you will live alone and there
will be a magnificent sweetness to the way you say yes to simple
things, a dinner date at Saigon Kitchen, pumpkin carving with friends
you haven’t even met yet, meetings with students about comma rules or
Virginia Woolf, a new neighbor who laughs with his whole body, a woman
you can’t stop kissing, eating nine kinds of pie. There
will be a morning drinking coffee on a lover’s porch where you’ll
think, This is happiness. There will be a night arguing kindly with
friends until 4 am about language politics over gin-and-tonics and
fried rice and you’ll think, This is happiness. And there will be
anxiety attacks before teaching. A man who follows you home from a bar
and frightens you out of your body for weeks. An ex-roommate who hurts
you in ways you didn’t know you could be hurt. There will be weeks
when you eat nothing but delivery, buy new underwear instead of doing
laundry, sleep in your day clothes, shower so many times a day that
your skin starts to peel. And there will be days (many) that you think
of killing yourself and don’t. What I am trying to say is that getting
over this suicide won’t be easy, but some days it might be beautiful.
What I am trying to say is that no matter how impossible recovery
seems, there’s a life that still wants you in it. What I’m trying to
say is stay here with me.