On the night of August 29th 2013, I found out one of my best friends had died. This scenario had often played out in my nightmares, but I never imagined it happening in real life. The Marin County sheriff declared that my friend, who I had seen laughing and smiling a mere four days earlier, had been found dead; washed up from the water underneath the Golden Gate Bridge like a seashell washed up onto shore. She was beautiful, but cracked and chipped from life’s thunderous waves.
She had the biggest smile in the room, the most creative costume at Halloween, and the loudest laugh. She will live on forever in beautiful memories and pictures; and, she will look down on me and other loved ones as the brightest star in the sky.
The road ahead will be full of sleeplessness nights and broken hearts; especially rough for myself and others affected. However, this piece of writing I constructed a few days after her passing is a fundamental step in my personal healing process. I share it with you today in the hopes of touching or helping even one person realize that there is nothing more valuable or worth saving than your own life.
There must be many reasons for a person to take their own life; I can’t imagine it being just one. But maybe there was one thing that threw you over the edge. One event that formulated the feeling that you just couldn’t take it any more. Like if you received a ticket from accidentally running a red light, or the server gave you the wrong order at Jamba Juice. Maybe you had a bad dream that put you in an especially depressed mood, or you earned a low grade on a test. Your brother yelled at you for taking too long to get ready in the morning. You couldn’t pay for lunch because you forgot your money. The parking space you always snag was taken. Your pen ran out of ink in class and no one had an extra pen. Your biking wound contracted an infection. You ate a spoonful of yogurt in the morning, only to realize that it had been molding for months. Your asshole boss told you that your method of bagging groceries was stupid. Your mom told you that if you didn’t study for the SATs you were stupid. Your counselor told you if you didn’t take five AP classes you were stupid. You convinced yourself that you were stupid. You opened up a starburst packet only to find the absence of your favorite flavor: orange. You pressed “seek stations” on the radio and the Backstreet Boys came on- what the heck was this world coming to? You looked in the mirror and thought that you looked fat. You came home from school and saw that your fly had been down all day and no one had cared enough to tell you. You thought that meant no one cared about you. You thought back to last time you saw me; I was drunk, and didn’t even say goodbye. You thought that meant I didn’t care. Maybe that’s why you jumped.
You were wrong, I did care. See, while you were stuck remembering all the shitty times, you must have forgotten to think of all the reasons NOT to jump. You forgot all the good. Maybe if you’d remember that time you found a four leaved clover. Or when you successfully slack-lined three feet. Or when you beat all of us at arm wrestles, despite being less than one hundred pounds. Your last kiss. When you walked down the street and some guy wolf whistled and you blushed. You looked in the mirror at prom and finally saw yourself the way we saw you: beautiful. You hung out with all of us in an Elf Costume because you thought it was comfortable, and we called you a goon. You played dress up one random afternoon at my house, and we acted like four year olds in ABBA costumes. You laughed for more than half an hour when I cooked the worst pasta imaginable while backpacking in the Sierras. You tried the pasta and spit it out and almost threw up. You were in hysterics when we had to eat it all. You took me on my first mountain bike ride, and convinced me that five miles an hour was not even that slow. We went on a ride after school and our friend flew across the trail and sprained her wrist: but, we still rode down Tenderfoot. You kicked ass at nationals. You earned three A+s in a row on essays you wrote. You were given your own horse, and absolutely adored it. You drove your car for the first time. You had us all over for a pool party and we ate ridiculous amounts of chocolate cake. Your family’s reminders that they loved you. Our continuous never-ending love for you.
Maybe you had chemical imbalances in your brain that prevented you from seeing the good. Maybe you had deep emotional wounds that none of us knew about, or you suffered through a secret traumatic event. Maybe it was all of this and more. I only wish that I had known. If best friends are meant to tell each other everything, then why did you stay quiet? Why did you suffer alone?
If only I had told you my story. I have been there. I know what it feels like. Just a few months earlier, only a mile away from you. The wind whipped around me; so strong that I started to lose my sense of balance. I half-hoped that I would just fall and not have to make the decision. My tears flew around my head, raining on the rocks below. I stood at the edge, and decided that if no one came and looked for me, if no one noticed I was gone, then no one cared if I died. I braced myself to jump. Demons surrounded my mind and refused to move. A dark abyss flooded my vision. A creeping sense of shadowy impulse clasped my body in ways I cannot put into words. I squeezed my eyes shut in the hopes of fighting the darkness. Reasons flooded my mind; reasons of betrayal. Reasons of loneliness. Reasons of pain. Reasons of isolation. Reasons flooded into my brain like a flushing river from a broken dam.
I opened my eyes, and for the first time in over half an hour I realized where I was. Looking out on the desert landscape, my eyes followed the silhouetted figure of a giant, far away rock structure and noticed the prickles on a nearby cactus. The more I noticed in the land around me, the less dark my world seemed. And then, something changed. By some miracle, a fleeting thought brushed through my mind. But there’s so much I want to see. I then thought of my upcoming gap year, my dreams of changing the lives of sick children with music therapy, my passion for reading and learning. I forced myself to start naming countries that I wanted to see, foods I wanted to try, and people I wanted to meet. I pictured my future wedding and the looks on my parent’s faces upon seeing their first grandchild. I forced myself to think of everything I would miss out on. My demon’s surrendered.
I was able to do what you were not. I was able to see what beauty there is in this world and force the darkness away. If only I could go back in time and show you how. You were so strong, but not strong enough to do it alone. I will always regret that I didn’t tell my story sooner so you could have fought the darkness. I wish you understood that suicide is a permanent fix to temporary feelings. There is so much more our world has to offer; beauty, wonder, elegance, excitement, first impressions, last impressions, relationships, hard work, opinions, wind chimes, ferry rides, fish tanks, s’mores, rideshares, rainy days, bike rides, vibrant cultures, stunning views, train rides, sunrises, sunsets, discovery, music, happiness, heartbreak, growth, learning, dreams, imagination, and love.
See, there may be many reasons to commit suicide. But there are infinite reasons to stay alive.
[Editor's note: If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and/or seek professional help immediately.]