Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Transparency

Obviously I haven't been here in a while. I haven't been doing much writing at all, so I guess most of my writing-related activities (blogging, Twitter, etc) have suffered for it.

But I'm here, so I guess it's time.

Yesterday, I had one of those conversations with my kids. You know--that type of impromptu conversation that you aren't really expecting to ever have. The kind you sort of hope you'll never have to have.

The kind where you tell them about the time when you were their age and wrote your first--or perhaps, only--suicide note.

Yeah, that kind.

We were talking about how differently the adolescent brain functions as opposed to the adult brain. How hard it is for a teen or preteen to see that there is a future 2 or 3 or 10 years down the road, and how empty the words "it gets better" can be--no matter how well-intentioned they are OR how much experienced the person offering them has. When I wrote my note, I was at my lowest. I couldn't see any other way out. I didn't see how my situation possibly *could* improve.

Yet it did. And within a year. Which, looking back, isn't really that long. At the time, though, it would have been an eternity.

My kids asked me, rightly so, what stopped me. In that moment. In my darkness. And I had to be honest.

Writing. When I wrote my suicide note, in the maybe 4 or 5 minutes it took me to pen the note, I was alone. But I was at a friend's house. And for the previous several months I had been writing every single day and sharing every page I wrote with my friends. It had become habit--so much so that when my friend returned to the sanctuary of her bedroom I just handed my suicide note to her without a word. Automatically. Utterly without thought on my part. She read it. We talked.

Yes. You can argue I wasn't that serious about killing myself if I was that easily talked out of it. I will simply state that I'd thought about the many, many ways I could end my life countless times. The possibilities were constantly on my mind. I didn't have access to guns, and I didn't want anything "showy"--I wasn't out to make a statement--so drowning in the bathtub with the aid of pills or possibly hanging myself was my most likely method. I wanted something absolute. My mom had a fear of my older brother dying by drowning in the nearby canal that ran through the city, but I wasn't sure that would actually kill me, so I didn't want to chance it. Wandering off on one of the many desert hiking trails wasn't an option because there were too many well meaning hikers/joggers etc ready to help me, or some psycho wanting to make my situation worse--again, too many variables.

Let's just say I thought about it a lot. And I had to do it right the first time, because a messed up attempt would only put people on guard and make it harder to succeed a second time. Those were dark days. I was severely clinically depressed at the time, but had yet to be diagnosed. It was just something I was struggling with day to day, in addition to all the normal crap a teenager struggles with everyday.

And writing my first novel. That became my escape. And yes, like a friend of mine at the time suggested, I probably became too involved in the story. But, at the time, I needed it. I needed the outlet. I could have turned to drugs, or sex, or alcohol, but I didn't. I turned to fiction. It could have been worse.

It's never been a secret to my kids that I struggled growing up, but yesterday was the first discussion about the actual note. I'm sure it won't be the last. At least I won't be able to pull it out and show them. Even I think that would be kind of creepy.

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