What would s/he/they think about me if I told them?
It was a typical school night at the dormitory. My best friend and I were in the common showers together. We used to cram into the same shower when the rest were occupied to avoid waiting on each other…
She: Look. *peeled off the band-aid on left forearm*
Me: What happened? *looking at her forearm confused*
She: I’m going to tell you something but you can’t tell anyone, promise?
Me: Yes, of course! *eager to be in on any secrets*
She: I did this with a razor blade. *pointing at the red-tinge scar*
Me: … *stunned*
She: I wanted to feel the physical pain so I can forget my mental pain.
Me: Do your parents know? *blurred out*
She: My mom took me to the Chinese medicine doctor last week and when he was examining my palm… that was when my mom saw… *recounting soberly*
The memory of my best friend revealing her deepest secret did not resurface until years later when I began to read about mental health illnesses.
My 17-year-old self was slow to react. Confronted with suicide, my mind went blank.
Even now, I blame myself for not being a better friend, and not being able to understand her pain.
It was almost April, but we just had another snow storm. Pinning myself on the chair, I told myself not to move. In a frenzy, I texted anyone who would listen…
Me: I’m afraid of my own thoughts. I feel suffocated. What do I do?
He: Wait, slow down, what happened?
Me: I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t go to the kitchen. I can’t look at knifes right now. I’m also afraid to look at the balcony window. I’ve been gripping this chair in the den for 10 minutes already to calm down.
He: Ok. Listen to me, you will be okay. I’m coming. Don’t move.
Me: Thank you…
The urge came like raging ocean waves. It was a mixture of shock, fear and confusion.
Transfixed by my sudden mood change, I sat still listening to the million thoughts racing in my head.
The pain in my chest felt so real. How could it hurt so much without leaving scars?
20 minutes later, we sat on each end of the kitchen island talking late into the night. More precisely, he talked while I listened. Somehow his story, more than his presence, made me feel less alone…
He: Maybe it’s not exactly the same, but maybe I understand how you feel. *uttered each word carefully*
Me: Hmm? *looked up from my balls of tissues*
He: When I was in junior high, I had to attend after-school school daily. Although I can’t recall the memory with details, I clearly remember the numbness I felt on the way there. It was always in the evening. There’d be cars with their bright headlights streaming in and out of traffic. And… every day I’d wish one of them could hit me so I’d die.
Me: You never told me about this. *surprised*
He: I never told anyone. I was afraid how others would see me if they knew.
Me: How do you feel now that you’ve told me? *curious*
He: Relieved. *shoulder sank*
Suicide is a word we avoid voicing aloud.
An act that is mostly heard or seen on the screen. As if it were an earthquake aftermath that happened in some country a thousand miles away, we think it would never be us.
We don’t want to ask too many questions for fear of putting the idea in someone’s head or not knowing how to react if they told us too much.
What you don’t know is we’ve been dying to be acknowledged, to be listened to and to be understood, if only you’d make us feel safe.