Content warning: suicide.
I feel like everybody remembers high school. For some, it was filled with parties and underage drinking. For others, it was AP tests and college applications. For me, it was panic attacks and crying at my desk.
My brain, body and the world felt stuck in a fog. Every step of the way, the fog would get thicker. My world, and subsequently me, were becoming encased in grey; it felt like being wrapped in a blanket.
It was a surprisingly comfortable feeling of invulnerability — it was normal to feel this. This duvet of depression kept me safe and warm from being judged. Like Linus from The Peanuts cartoons, I would subconsciously carry my blankie with me everywhere I went, no matter how inappropriate.
One morning, I felt my usual feeling of existential dread. I was in my sixth period design class, scribbling a housefly, when I received a summons to the counselor’s office. Isn’t it weird that the academic counselors were also the guidance counselors?
“How are you doing, Kino?”
“I’m alive, thanks for asking. Why am I here?”
“One of your teachers was worried about the way you were talking today.”
This took me by surprise. I’d never been told that somebody was worried about me before. I was used to being invisible, engulfed by my gray cloud, in a futile search for silver linings.
This was not that silver lining. I felt betrayed by that teacher. If she had said something, it would have made me feel cared about. Instead, she had somebody that didn’t even know me do it on her behalf.
“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”
I responded, nonchalant: “I mean, yeah. A lot of people have. Haven’t you?”
“Why haven’t you killed yourself yet?”
The word “yet” felt so assumptive — as if she’d expected me to do it.
The only thing I could think to respond with was, “I don’t think that I can die.”
Death, or what happens after the fact, is the only concept that I truly cannot comprehend. People have ideas and religious beliefs about what happens after you die, but nobody can truly describe death. The closest we get is experiencing other people dying — we feel loss. With that in mind, I believe that one can’t experience a universally incomprehensible feeling in their own existence.
So if I shoot myself, I’m destined to miss. If I hang myself, the rope is destined to break. If I attempt carbon monoxide poisoning, the room is destined to be well-ventilated. This feeling stemmed from how disconnected I felt from the world around me; every word sounded muffled, and everything I saw was covered in a haze. I was the spectator of somebody else’s life rather than experiencing my own.
My counselor looked at me, dumbfounded and completely silent for what felt like an hour.
“Whatever stops you from doing it, I guess.”
Retrospectively, she was probably asking me for things that keep me going every day — which at the time, was simply my inability to comprehend death.
One day, I was telling my therapist about my unsafe thoughts. Finding every answer to his questions more and more hopeless, he told me:
“Call me before you kill yourself.”
The word “before” changed things. “Before” felt so assumptive — as if he’d expected me to do it.
The only thing I could respond with was, “Sounds like a plan.”
He was probably asking me so he could convince me otherwise. It’s been six months since he told me, and I’m not sure why I haven’t called. I wonder if he knows that I’m still alive.
Maybe I’ve finally found the silver lining within the gray cloud.
Maybe it’s because people have expectations of me. As hard as getting out of bed every morning is, I’m compelled to continue because of the people in my life. They hold my accomplishments and qualities in a greater esteem than I ever could. My mom expects me to graduate from UC Berkeley, my editors expect me to write this column every week and most people expect me to not kill myself.
Maybe it’s because I think I can’t die — destined to walk the earth forever, feeling every feeling and living through every experience, positive and negative. Any attempt to combat the universe’s will is sure to be futile, filled with missing bullets, frayed knots and well-ventilated rooms.
Maybe it’s because I have some feeling of hope that things can get better. It seems terrible if we’re destined to live in a haze spreading forever into the horizon.
I’d like to believe there’s a lighter shade of blue.
These “maybes” are what I wish people would understand. I want acknowledgement or understanding that I feel this way, and I want more people to know that it isn’t wrong or abnormal.
To be honest, most days I just wake up and think, “I’m not going to kill myself today” and hope for the best. Living is as subconscious as breathing but as conscious as brushing my teeth. It’s something I always do, but I’d be lying if I said that, some days, I really don’t want to.
Today has been pretty good, though.