"Is it always going to hurt this much?"
The untimely death of my boyfriend will send me on a downward spiral. I was headed nowhere fast and it was clear that I was an imminent danger to myself. All I could feel was anguish and despair, and they weren't feelings that I was trying to suppress. Instead, they were the only emotions that I would embrace. I wanted to feel the pain. I begged for the agony. Daniel dying by suicide made me want to do the exact same thing.
What most people can't fully comprehend about suicide is that it is the final symptom of depression. You have to be in excruciating, overwhelming pain for a prolonged period of time to be able to die that way. Innately, everything in your body is meant to keep you alive. When you experience pain, it is your body's way of signaling to you that something is wrong. When you get hurt, your body naturally heals itself. Your body has natural instincts to survive. So to inflict deathly harm onto yourself to the point of suicide, is to ignore every single alarm bell in your body screaming otherwise.
But Daniel dying by suicide made death so attractive to me. Him no longer existing on this earth made me want the same. I wanted him so badly, it was the only thing I could think about. I visited the train tracks where he died regularly so I could reunite myself with the only person who would understand who I had become. I ran across the tracks time and time again to prepare myself for what I was about to do. But every time the train came, I just couldn't do it. Even though I was in paralyzing pain, I couldn't overcome my body's instinct to protect itself.
And this made me a time bomb just waiting to go off. I was consumed with sadness and anger; a dangerous and deadly combination, which at any point would ignite and reap havoc on anyone in close proximity to me. I didn't want to live but I couldn't bring myself to die. This painful contradiction would have both sides of myself at war with each other.
I spent the months following Daniel's death still attending my classes and still going to work. I was going through the motions because I thought it would be better than being stuck at home under the watchful eyes of my parents. But every time someone asked me how I was casually in conversation, I wanted to scream. Every time it seemed like people were moving on, it would eat away at my soul.
So it was only a matter of time before I would get into my parents car, on our way home from work and they would ask me how my day was and I would completely and utterly implode. I started blubbering nonsense about being stressed at work. I was so consumed with the loss that I couldn't concentrate. I had been repressing all of these intense and violent emotions in front of them and I was about to deteriorate right before everyone's eyes. I was in so much pain that I couldn't keep the façade up long enough for the car ride home.
When the car stopped and my breathing finally steadied, I assumed we had reached our final destination. But when I looked out the car, I realized we were in the parking lot of the hospital. I pleaded and begged to just go home but my parents weren't about to ignore my calls for help. My dad refused to move the car and said we were going inside.
I flashed back to the childhood version of myself that refused to leave the car when we had moved across provinces. I remember my little stubborn, childhood feet refusing to touch the ground of a foreign territory. But as always, my dad would eventually talk me down. I can't say no to him.
We entered the hospital and I watched my mom explain to the nurse inside that I was suicidal and explain the circumstances. It helps when they have context. I was placed on a Form 1, which essentially means I'm a danger to myself and I can't leave the hospital until they complete a psychiatric assessment. They can hold you for up to 72 hours until that happens.
Mental health workers are overworked and few and far between. There are not nearly enough people in the field in relation to the amount that need help. As I was lying on my gurney in the hallway of the hospital waiting to be assessed, I internally apologized to Daniel for suggesting he do exactly what I was about to be subjected to.
First, they make you change out of your clothes and into a gown. I tried to respectfully decline, but they said it was protocol. I was sent to a private washroom stall on the floor with security and my parents waiting outside the door. I looked down at the mute toned gown in anger. I had refused to wear any color since Daniel died and I didn't want to break that habit in that moment. With tears burning down my face, I quickly scanned the washroom for anything to harm myself. I looked at the soap dispenser. I looked at the mirror. I looked for anything that would make me die before they opened that door again.
But I was in the washroom of the mental health wing of the hospital and it wasn't about to be that easy. Before I knew it, the security guard was banging on the door asking what the hold up was. I had a lump so large in my throat that it threatened to send me into hysteria if I dared to speak a single word. I slowly pried the door open and the security guard looked me up and down with apologetic eyes.
"Sweetie, you have to change," she said as tears were streaming down my face. I was wearing sunglasses at the time; a habit I had begun to do indoors in an effort to conceal myself after the loss. I wanted to be invisible. I didn't want to be seen. I don't think it helped to conceal my devastation though.
But my mom would see me in that moment. She was just outside the door and moved toward me instinctively. The security guard would put her hand up cautioning her to stay back. If you've ever seen a mama bear defend her cubs, you would know exactly how unwelcome that gesture from the security guard was received.
My mother would transform with a rage I had never seen before. "I am her mother. Her mother," she said with maternal frenzy. She pushed her way through and got into the washroom with me despite the security guards protests. With pain filled eyes, she got me dressed, as she must've done a thousand times before when I was a child. Seeing me in that state caused an anguish she could not conceal from her face. My broken heart was breaking hers.
We came out of the bathroom stall together and the security guard led me back to my gurney. There were a few of us there; all on Form 1's, all with gurneys in the hallway, awaiting our evaluation. While we waited I talked to some of the other patients out of curiosity.
On my right was Antonio. His dad had died seven years ago and it still devastated him. He told me his favorite color was the orange the sky turns when the sun was about to set. I almost resonated with him until a nurse walked past and asked him, "How are you?," and he dutifully replied with, "Good, how about you?"
I was disgusted that he could say such a thing. We were being held in a hospital, unable to leave and he still said he was "good." I rolled my eyes in annoyance. I couldn't bring myself to say the answers people wanted to hear. If people asked me how I was, I told them the dark and bitter truth. I couldn't bring myself to answer positively after Daniel died. It felt like an act of betrayal that I wasn't about to commit.
A nurse called me into a room to do a preliminary questionnaire before the mental health therapist could evaluate me. She asked me questions that I've come to learn are helpful to ask those in a mental health crisis. She started with, "How long have you been suicidal?," and "Do you have a plan?"
But then she wanted me to rate my feelings out of ten and she asked, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your suicidal thoughts?" And I swear, in that moment, I looked at her with a glare so vile that she should consider herself lucky that looks can't kill.
I replied through gritted teeth, "If you killed me right now, I would say thank you." She blinked in shock and I continued, "Does that answer the question?" She nodded dutifully and I persevered through the rest of her questions, trying not to let my anger overtake me.
I laid down in my gurney, looking up at the fluorescent lights, trying to picture the parallel universe where it was Daniel in the gurney and not me. The fictitious world where I had intervened sooner and gotten him help was one that I imagined all too frequently. I lay there perplexed at how things could change so drastically in just 88 days.
When the doctor finally came to talk me, he was conversational. He took on a different approach and just allowed me to speak freely. I presented myself as grieving but calm. He was my ticket out of there and I just wanted to go home. I consider myself to be a master conversationalist; I can direct any conversation to go the way I want. I'm a skilled evader and can dodge generic questions with ease. But the one thing I can't do, is lie if asked a direct question.
So when the doctor turned and asked me, "Do you think it'll always hurt this much?" I couldn't even hesitate long enough to think of a calculated reply.
#bereavementsupport #fivestagesofgrief #grievingprocess #speakinggrief