I can see you. You are functional, and you are not functional. You haven’t left your room in days. You go to work and put on a smile, feeling like a fraud. You hide under blankets. You are afraid to go home because it’s so fucking cold and lonely there but wherever you go, there you are. Cold and lonely and hollow and empty and you are a black hole.
You are a black hole. You swallow up happiness wherever you can find it but it disappears. It doesn’t fill you and you don’t know how these Normals do it. You don’t know how they can find happiness and joy in things, and hold onto it.
You have always struggled with the holding on. Your hands are slippery with grief. Your arms ache with exhaustion. You know who you are mourning. You don’t know who you are mourning, but it might be yourself.
You remember what it was like before this, and you don’t remember what it was like before this. You can’t remember yesterday, but you doubt it was any better. You don’t have plans for tomorrow, because you are afraid to make plans.
The plan you are afraid of is the last plan you’ll ever make.
Don’t make that plan. Stay here. And I mean, here. This world’s too often stupid, but it’s often beautiful. The world’s broken, but it’s full of mending too. The world spins on wild dreams, and some of those wild dreams are yours.
I know you have wild beautiful dreams. You can’t see them because depression is a mean, dirty fighting motherfucker. It sucks you dry and drowns you at the same time. You’re so overwhelmed by feelings that you just turn off. It hurts to be that sad. Like, fucking draw your breath in and feel like someone’s snipping up your lungs with dull sewing scissors hurts. It hurts so much that you turn off.
But you can never turn off all the way because you are human. You still dream. You still ache. That’s how you know something’s wrong. That’s how you can look around work and call yourself a fraud. That’s how you convince yourself you don’t need help.
I see you. I have been there. I understand.
I’m not going to tell you that you can’t disappear because it isn’t my decision. It’s yours. But I will tell you a thing. No, wait, Neil Gaiman is going to tell you a thing. He wrote this in Fragile Things, in a story called Inventing Aladdin.
We save our lives in such unlikely ways.
Fragile Things came out in 2006 and that quote saved my life. For years, I said it to myself on a nearly daily basis. I went looking for unlikely ways to save myself. I wrote and I read and I fell in love. I fell out of love and fell in love again. I found music I loved. I found music that I hated.
I tried to die, and failed.
So I started to get better, lacking anything better to do.
I began to volunteer as a foster parent and volunteer at the local animal control shelter. I started to write and finish writing books again. I fell in love again, and took the leap to tell the person. It was worth the risk, even if it ended. I found faith, again, and my own form of it.
I found a critique group of writers who have become some of my best friends. I went to Book Expo America for the first time. I wrote books that are, I think and hope, increasingly brave.
I fall into deep depressions, but I’ve learned to tether myself to the earth the way that Philae attached itself to that comet (and yes, sometimes, my landings are as awkward as Philae’s was) .
My tethers have names, sometimes, friends to whom I can say, “I am drowning” and they say, “Oh no you don’t.”
My tethers have titles, books and songs I turn to whenever I’m hitting rock bottom, and occasionally quotes from movies and books that I just read for hours online, just to remember the feeling I had when I first read the book or saw the movie.
My tethers are just feelings. I used to find other ways to feel things when I was numb from turning off. Now I go for a walk. I take long showers. I take baths and watch my hands turn pruny.
My tethers have fur. I have rules, for my worst days, and one of them is that I can’t die if I still have foster cats because then they’d end up going back to the high kill shelter they came from. So, I always have foster cats.
You don’t always know your tethers until you have them, until they’re holding you to the earth, until you need them. But looking for them, the discovery of them, that’s half the fun. That’s how you stay. You discover. You are curious. You trust people like me who say, I am here. I know where you are, but you are here too. You are irreplaceable and I want you to stay here.
And if you have no tethers, I will be your tether. If nothing else works, I want you to know this: that I cry every time I read about a suicide, that I wish I could stand on every rooftop, every bathroom, every train track, everywhere, to close my hand over yours. To keep you from jumping, or sinking, or opening that pill bottle. I will be here, if you need me. If you want to leave a comment, or send me a tweet, or send me an email, I am here for you. I believe in you. I will be your tether while you hang on, looking for more ways to hold on.
You are so much better at holding on than you know. You are made of stardust and wild dreams. You are beautiful and you are brave. I see you.
P.S. This is the first in a series of blog posts about suicide and suicide prevention as this weekend is the sixth anniversary of my friend Kayla’s death. Tomorrow, I’ll share my letter to Kayla.