safety net

I always opposed the installation of a suicide net on the Golden Gate Bridge. Many deride it as an ineffective solution, claiming that those who want to kill themselves will find a way to do it, on the Bridge or off. I opposed it for the opposite, and perhaps the most contemptible, reason. The lack of a safety net was my safety net. I always told myself that I would never do it, that I liked myself too much to do it, but I always knew where I would do it. The Golden Gate Bridge, requiring just the tiniest of jumps over a four-foot railing, was the only place I would ever be able to muster up the courage to end my life. In the most selfish of ways, I opposed the suicide net because I knew it would work; I would not jump if I knew that someone would catch me.

My depression came on slowly, creeping in from the start of my adolescence but not truly manifesting itself until the beginning of high school. Midway through my sophomore year, caused by a combination of troubles at home, school, and with myself, it hit me full on. I no longer found enjoyment in the little things I used to enjoy, and worst of all I felt empty in the social sphere, as the friend groups settled and I ended up on the fringes of a few of them, but in none of them. I began seeing a therapist, but I was so reserved that I hardly yielded any substantive information to her. I always denied that I had thoughts of suicide or self-loathing, but in truth there were long periods during which I hardly went a day without them. I started to take medication, but noticed little difference and eventually stopped. Occasionally I would find solace in the outdoors at my summer camp or while on vacation, but my depression would always return. Yet throughout all of this, whether I was trying to battle it off or had given up for the time being, my feelings were unnoticeable to many around me. My academic drive never slowed down, and the humor that I often use to cope with my sadness conveyed a jubilant teenager to my peers. In a letter I received at the end of my senior year, one of my 11th grade teachers told me that she loved how I was always smiling and happy whenever she saw me around campus. Maybe I was. But I would always fall back in some form of depression, loneliness, or self-loathing.

Things got better. I started to feel like I had real friends, I filled up my calendar with things I wanted to do, and I saw hope for a future after high school. I still fell back into sadness on a semi-regular basis, but it felt more manageable. Upon graduating high school, I opened a letter from myself that congratulated me on making it this far, and encouraging me to strive for happiness in the future. Since then, there have periods in my life where I have almost forgotten the state that once engulfed my everyday life. But every once in a while, triggered by some stressor in my life, I will fall back into some sort of misery, that I know is silly or avoidable but I somehow still struggle to emerge from.

I never actually stood on the edge. I once came close to screaming at my father to let me out as we drove home across the Bridge, but I held it in. Was that the hardest thing I ever did? Absolutely not. I do not think that I ever truly wanted to do it, and I certainly do not want to today. Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done is to share my story. Or it would be, if I did not choose to keep it anonymous. I keep my troubles closely guarded–omitting many details even from this story–and I do not think that I have the courage to share them at this point, to face my friends and family. But at the very least, I hope that I can encourage others to share their story, as I was encouraged to so by those posting on the Resilience Project. And hopefully one day, I will feel safe enough to come forward myself.

-Middlebury College