I stood on the railing in complete darkness. The glow tape on the stage below gave me an idea of the distance I would be falling. It wouldn’t be enough on it’s own, I’d have to dive head first in order to finish the job. The warmth of the upper level of the theater was comforting in what I thought were my final moments. My balance shifted, causing the thin cuts above my knee to reopen, my blood mixing with the nervous sweat I was covered in.
From this vantage point I could see all parts of the stage. I often came to this very spot for introspective reflection, battling the demons I was unaware of. The few other students attending milled below in the aimless social patterns of a high school theater department. It was from there that I saw her. The catalyst. In my confused and fevered state of mind, I blamed her for the events that had followed our break up. I blamed her for the endless sleeplessness, the thin cuts I was beginning to lace across my body, for the unexplained and uncontrollable mood swings. I blamed her for the panic attacks, my decline in GPA, and the steady increasing desire to end it all for good.
No feelings should ever be cast aside as invalid. I did just that, disregarding the warning signs my emotions were giving me. I was trying to strong-arm my way through depression alone and failing daily, breaking down crying and spilling negativity to any person who would listen. More often than not, I called her. I would slip back and forth between calm talks, furious angry threats to her privacy, and completely falling apart into a sobbing mess. She frequently told me she wouldn’t be able to keep answering, that she couldn’t ride this roller coaster with me. My biggest regret is that she didn’t get off sooner.
Seeing her from that position overwhelmed me with guilt. I knew she would blame herself. Good! She should! I knew I didn’t mean it. Her new boyfriend stood next to her with his arm around her, chatting idly with other students. I wanted to hate the guy as much as I hated myself, but the truth was that he was an awesome guy. Impossible to hate.
It was a mix of selfishness, guilt, and a cry for help that made me text him from my perch. “Please get [her name] out of here, I don’t want her to see this.” I watched as he read the message then looked around, obviously confused. Then he saw me, a tall silhouette in the darkness. He was smarter than I gave him credit for, responding with, “I’ll get her out if you wait for me to get up there.” To the lonely and suicidal, company sounds nice. Who wants to die alone? What I didn’t know is that rather than trying to deal with me by himself, he was actually sending her to get help. Clever, really, for a high school student.
Up until this point people had been making the same mistake over and over. When you see someone in distress you want to comfort them. This is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can be bad. My depression and anxiety craved the attention, and everyone around me fed the addiction. Not him. Not the boyfriend of my ex-girlfriend. He climbed the spiral staircase at a speed that only a techie can achieve. He stood a few feet away from me, clearly panicked about the situation. I expected a long-drawn out conversation in which he either fixes my problem or I thank him for his help and jump anyway. Instead, in the most confident voice I have ever heard, he said, “Come back down with me or I will break your legs and carry you down.” Shocked, I looked at him. The only football playing theater nerd I knew. He could do it, easily. I didn’t climb back up those stairs for over a year.
By the time we got down, the whole department was in uproar. The story goes familiar from here. My parents were called. I saw the inside of a psych ward while I was being evaluated if I was a danger to myself or others. I agreed to see a therapist to avoid being put in an institution. I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mild bipolar disorder. I was off medication by the end of the summer.
Going back to school is strange afterwards. People talk to you as if you are broken glass, and the slightest thing might set you off. I never felt crazy until my friends treated me like I was. I don’t blame them, I’d have done it too if it wasn’t me. The problem comes from a lack of education and awareness about these disorders. Had I known what a panic attack was I might have recognized it rather than completely freaking out. Had they known what it meant to be depressed, they might have been open and accepting when I came back, rather than shying away as if I was dangerous.
It has been roughly 5 years since all this took place. I happily live in the mountains surrounded by the best friends I could have possibly found. I still battle anxiety, depression, and insomnia, but I don’t do it alone. I’m very conscious about the benefits of therapy, and preach the value of professional help to those with similar issues that I encounter. I have not had a serious suicidal thought in 3 years. I am more confident and in-tune with myself than I ever have been before. I write this now hoping it will comfort those in need, and also reassure fellow survivors. For too long after those events I have felt ashamed of them. The pragmatic side of me calls it over-dramatic nonsense and deeply shames me whenever I think back on it. In my heart however, I know I cannot change the past. Most importantly, I don’t want to change the past. If that is to be a dark blemish on my history that helped create the man I am today, then so be it. I’ve already made multiple apologies to those I pulled down with me, the only one left to forgive me is me. It is here, writing it down, that I choose to finally forgive myself.
Don’t let the dark times end you. Let them begin you again.