I have been in my hell.
I abandoned myself there, where no one could reach me.
No “I love you’s” or “I’m sorry’s” could break through. No empathetic smiles attached to “But you can recover, you’re a strong woman” could touch my heart. His daily, “You’ll die on your own, you need me” chants rang louder than all the church bells in the world inside my brain. The poison in my veins convinced me that the sole reason that I was failing at life was because I simply was not made to be in it. I am no snowflake. I haven’t offered some irreplaceable piece of talent or inspiration to anyone. My Catholic upbringing forbidding me to take my own life had worn off years ago like an awkward phase I’m now embarrassed by. Did I believe in a god? I’d like to say yes because I feel that is the appropriate answer.. but no. I wanted to have the faith and inward strength those who believed seemed to possess. I wanted the peace of mind that we don’t just rot away and cease to exist in every sense of the word. But no.. I believed that we flourish or fade away.
And I was fading fast.
Waking up in a dual diagnosis locked down psych ward to sympathetic glances and tones in their voices- combined with the sensation of swimming in mud- I was lost. “You couldn’t be in a safer place right now.” Safe from what? I searched my spotted memory.
“Do you want us to call anyone? Family? A husband?” To tell them what? I was forgetting something important.
“I’m Dr ______, could you please tell us why you attempted suicide?” What??
Booming voices. Panic. EMTs asking me what year it is. My chest hurts. My head is caving in. The afternoon light pouring in through the bathroom curtains. I don’t know those curtains. “Do it, you’re dead without me,” his voice always flooding each room in my mind. Words sewn together from several worried voices. “OD’d…. Fifth one this week. CPR… Brother saved her… Narcaine… No note…. No record… Lucky..”
Lucky. Put Luck on the list of things I no longer believe in.
Over the next few weeks, professionals and painful phone calls to my brother helped me piece together the facts. Yes, it had been my intention. Yes I’m sorry I put you through that. No, I wasn’t lucky. Because I am in my own hell.. my past is renting out my being and it has sucked the desire for a present and future completely out of me.
Then one day I woke up to a book on the corner of my neatly starched bed. I had not spoken to the other patients, and had shied away from any compassion at all. They only piled onto my guilt, my shame, and my anger. Someone had left this book for me without pinning it to my conscience with a “You might get something out of this” or “To keep your mind off of things.” Erik Weihenmayer entered my life free of charge.
“Touch the Top of the World” altered my perspective of my situation. Not drastically, but enough so that I wanted to have a goal again. I wanted to do something besides causing and feeling pain. I wanted to be determined and strong. I won’t say it is the best novel ever penned, or that I recommend it to everyone. There is a lot of climbing jargon and details that remain lost on me, but the essence of his drive and what it meant to others, that moved me in a way I will never regret and remain grateful for.
I now move through each day considering that there may be another way of living tomorrow than how I’m afraid to do it.There may be no God. There may be no Luck. But there seems to be Purpose.
That’s what I believe in.