It is a nuance that is unimportant to most people, but of the utmost importance to me; I never wanted to kill myself. I knew that it would destroy my parents and my sister would never recover. I couldn’t bear to derail her bright future because I had somehow bungled the incredibly lucky situation we had both been placed in. It is a small detail, but I also hated the idea of girls who were mean to me getting to be sympathetic heroes at my funeral, bravely going on while their friend lay dead. What I did want was to have never been born. No one could miss me, because there would be nothing to miss. I do recognize that not being born is completely impossible and without help I probably would have killed myself, or at least made an attempt. I don’t do things halfway, so I fear any attempt would have been successful.
The depression, the darkness, the lack of energy or desire, seemed to mostly stem from my difficulty connecting to people. I just felt entirely alone. Once I was already low, I didn’t think I had the right to be. My life was very easy. I was never in danger. My family loved me. I had opportunities others would kill for, and I squandered them all. I felt like my life was wasted on me. I felt guilty that I was taking up time and space others could better utilize. I didn’t think I had a right to be depressed. That was more damaging than anything else. Feeling as though I was a waste fueled my desire not to be alive far more than my loneliness.
Three days ago one of my high school best friend’s older sister died in a snowboarding accident. She was 23 years old. I went to her house the night after she died. I hugged her mom. I whispered I would always be there into her sister’s hair. I held her father as he shook, weeping in my arms. I sat in that house for two days, wracked with guilt. This could so easily have been my house and my family. It could have been my parents meeting with the funeral home director, my sister being coaxed to eat, flowers piling up on my kitchen counter. The anger and guilt washed all over me again the moment I made eye contact with her mother. I almost made a deliberate choice to do this to my parents.
The first thing I did when I heard was call my mom. I had barely told her the news before I dissolved into tears. I couldn’t get much else out. I wandered around campus and called my sister. Through the tears I managed to ask a question that had been plaguing me for years:
“When I was depressed, how much did you know? I mean you were away at school. Did mom and dad ever tell you what was going on?”
“What do you mean? I knew you were depressed”
“Did you ever know I was briefly suicidal?”
“Yeah, but you never tried right?”
“No.” I’m really crying now. Through gulps of air I weep, “I’m so sorry. I hate myself for putting you through that. I’m so sorry”.
I have been carrying that guilt for three years. I have been angry with myself since I was 17 years old for my depression. I’m angry that I made my parents worry. I’m angry that my sister had to be at college, wondering how bad I might be the next time she came home. They didn’t deserve having to deal with me, having to worry about me.
I have a vivid memory of sitting on a large green trunk in my closest, tucked in behind hanging dresses. I don’t really remember why I was there, but I remember my sister finding me, crouched on top of the trunk. Through my tears I shouted her away. I told her to fuck off and that I hated her. I said anything to drive her off, my one ally in life, the one person who was biologically required to be there for me forever. I resented her for having it so easy. I was jealous of her looks, her popularity, and the grace with which she did everything. I was mad that she got to go off to school and pretend I was fine, while I had to be home crying in closets and pulling my car over to the side of the road to prevent myself from swerving into a tree. We haven’t really been close since then. I always kept her at an arms length because I was jealous. She shrunk away because she didn’t know how to be there for me.
I felt guilty for that too, as I sat on their couch and attempted to console their remaining daughter. My friend and her sister had been very close. They were each other’s best friends. I felt guilty that I had pushed my sister away, while her sister, whom she had loved fiercely, lay dead. And then I felt guilty that I was thinking of myself while I was supposed to be there, comforting my friend. I felt guilty that I was grateful it wasn’t my sister and that I still had a chance to be close to her. And I found myself in the same line of thinking that I was in while I was depressed.
My depressed manifested in guilt and that’s bullshit. It is not now, nor has it ever been my fault that I was depressed. My grief is manifesting in guilt and that’s bullshit. I love my sister, but it has taken me a long time to feel comfortable opening up to her again. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is something I’m still doing. I need to forgive myself for my depression. I need to forgive myself for the pain my family felt, and know that while it did stem from my condition, it was not my fault. I need to let myself off the hook for my past relationship with my sister but hold myself accountable for it’s future. I will never forget and I shouldn’t, but I won’t let it control my future. I was depressed and it put my family through hell, but I made it through and that is something to be celebrated. I can write it, but the hardest thing is to actually do it.
Middlebury College, ’18