I spent much of my life convinced that I wasn’t meant to live at this time on this earth. I have detailed before why this is so, so I’m not going to go through the whole list again. Instead, I’m just going to highlight a few before moving on to today’s post.
I have never decorated any place I’ve lived because I’ve never felt at home. Now, this might be because I haven’t found the right place yet, but I think it’s more because I knew at quite an early age that I simply did not fit.
I got teased throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school. I was semi-popular in college, but only after I totally remade myself over from the sad sack I was in high school. I lost a ton of weight, slapped on the makeup, started dressing outlandishly, cut my hair asymmetrically, and wore mismatching earrings. By then, I knew there was no hope in hell that I could fit in, so I decided to be as different as possible. On a vanilla campus like St. Olaf, it wasn’t that hard to stand out, especially because the place was so damn homogenous back when I attended.
I made friends easily, but I was careful not to let them in too far. It was another lesson I had learned early on–those closest to you were the ones who could fuck you up and over the worst. College was pleasant enough, until I started falling apart. During my third year, I would black out while talking to people or while attending class, and I would come to about ten minutes later with no idea what the hell had just happened. The funny part was that the person with whom I was conversing (or the prof of the class) never had a clue that I was gone. In fact, I got all “A”s and “A-“s that semester. Granted, I did for most of the rest of my earlier classes as well, but I was actually awake in those. For that one semester, I fell asleep in every fucking class every single day. Ok, I’m not sure that ‘fell asleep’ is the best term for it, but it’s close enough.
In addition, I was blacking out while driving, too. The same thing would happen in that I would come to ten minutes later with no idea where I was or how I got there. I have no idea why I never got in an accident during that time in my life, but I am very grateful that I didn’t.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t say that I was blacking out because it was more like, one minute I was awake and then ten minutes later, I was awake again. It’s hard to explain, but take my word for it that it was no fun to experience.
During the same time, I was in the middle of my first true love relationship. I loved him with all my heart, and I just knew we were meant to be–despite the fact that we weren’t. From that relationship I learned that who I was wasn’t enough and that even when someone said he loved me, I couldn’t take it to be true. I have had the unique knack for picking partners who confirm my worst fears about myself, which, in turn, makes me shy away even further.
After D and I broke up for the last time, I was shattered. I tried to carry on, but I did a piss-poor job of it. I went to Asia for a semester abroad, and while in Thailand, I started a very destructive relationship that reinforced the notion that I didn’t deserve to be treated, well, like a human being. It’s a good thing that I had to leave Thailand, or who knows how it would have ended up? He never hit me with his fists, but there are many ways to kill a woman’s soul.
Back in America, I went off the rails. My self-esteem, which has never been good, plunged. I became convinced that I didn’t deserve to live. I was a horrible person who should just die already. I engaged in self-destructive behaviors, partly because I couldn’t care less if I died. No, it was more than that. I wanted to die, but I didn’t have the strength to actually end my life. Yes, that’s how I thought of it. I was too fucking weak to kill myself, so I tried to kill myself through neglect.
We don’t talk about suicide much as a culture because it’s not a very comfortable topic. We rather pretend it didn’t exist or that it only happens to other people. Well, I can tell you that approximately fifteen years of my life, I thought about it every day. Sometimes, it was only a brief thought, and sometimes, it was a drawn-out fantasy. Ironically, telling myself that I could kill myself if it got too bad was one of the things that got me through my worst depressions. I have heard that from other people who suffer severe depression as well.
“I could always slit my wrists. Along the vein, not across it.” “I can get in my car, turn it on, and fall asleep.” “I could walk into a lake, like Virginia Woolf.” “I could just not get out of bed.” “I could hang myself.”
What stopped me? Fear. I didn’t know what was on the other side, and I was afraid that it was worse than life on earth. Love. I didn’t want anyone I loved to find me. I live alone, so the chances are, it would be my brother or a good friend coming to check on me a week after not hearing from me. That would not be a pretty sight. After I got my cats, it was because they needed me. Sure, other people could take care of them, but not as well as I did.
For those years, I wandered this earth as if I were a ghost. I got so good at not being present, I’ve had people not acknowledge my presence, even when I was standing a foot away from them. I was so convinced that I didn’t belong and that I wasn’t worth seeing, I made myself invisible. Believe me, that’s hard to do when you look the way I do, but I managed it. I was dead inside, anyway, so why bother trying to look alive?
Now we get to the crux of the matter. During this time in my life, I would sometimes see this visual phenomenon when I was driving on the interstate. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like there was a wrinkle running down my sightline, and it was shimmering. It was calling to me, and it was all I could do not to turn my car to follow it (which would have been detrimental to me and to anyone around me). This happened a few times before I realized that I was seeing the death membrane. No, that’s not a real term–it’s one I made up to describe this phenomenon. What is it? It’s the thin line (literally) that separates life from death. It strongly called out to me, and it was beautiful. Scary as hell, but beautiful, too. Every time I resisted going to it, I felt a tiny twinge of regret in my heart that I didn’t give in to its siren song.
I don’t know when the daily call of suicide started muting itself. It’s not something that abruptly ends–at least, not for me. I still think about it from time to time, and once in a while, it flares up. You see, I’m still not comfortable in this world. I’m still not totally sold that I want to do the hard work necessary to feel like a viable human being. Hell, I’m not even sure what that would entail. I’ve been a mimic for so long, I’m not sure I can be the real thing. More to the point, I’m not sure I want to try.