At the beginning of this month, I wrote a short poem at the day program I attend. I was given the assignment of writing a compassionate letter to myself. It was a bit of a daunting task just because of how much I struggle to be even remotely nice to myself. I tweaked it a little after the group, but nonetheless, here is A Compassionate Letter to Myself:
Hey little girl
No so little, now you’re grown
But you still feel just as helpless
In this house that’s not a home
You say you hate yourself
But how can you really hate it all
When the things you hate the most
Are all the things that aren’t your fault?
You can ask anyone around
You’re not an awful friend
You improved his life the best you could
No one could stop him in the end
And you don’t have to stop your eating
Just because you think you could look better
And you don’t always have to cut yourself
And it’s not conceited to write this letter
And you were the best daughter that you could be
Even with the storm and all the clouds
Because if your dad was even a little sane
He would be so fucking proud
I know you think this poem’s dumb
And you want to throw it away
But my hope for you lives on
And maybe you’ll believe this all someday.
I have a list
A list of the good times
A list of the good memories
A list that I do not read or add to
A list that I ignore
It is so easy
To be overwhelmed by the negative
By the anger
By the pain
I forget all of the times
That I cried laughing
Because I’m too busy
Crying out of despair
I forget the last time I saw you smiling
Because I’m too busy
Seeing you in a body bag
I forget the hope that you gave me
Because I’m too busy
Mourning the hopelessness that you felt
I forget the quirky little things
Like the tricks that you played on me
Just because you knew
How easily I freaked out
Like the falsetto that you sang in
Or the way you jumped up and down when you waved
Or the way that you pronounced Gatorade
I forget how much you really did care
About all of us
I forget the encouragement you gave me
When I tried to stop cutting myself
I forget what it felt like to hug you
Or to hear you say you loved me
I forget the letter that you wrote me
Telling me not to kill myself
I forget about all of the silly things
Like making root beer floats
Or having a picnic on skateboards
I forget the tender things
Like the way you loved your niece
Or the soccer ball we gave
To the boy across the street
I forget the crazy things
Like the time you dared me to drink
Four Monsters in one day
The can says not to drink more than three
I look past all of this
All the fun and the love and the dreams
Because it seems like when you died
All of the positivity was burned away
And all that remained were the ashes
And the memory of that final day
When you left
You took my light
I don’t think that was your intention
But it happened
And I let it happen
I surrendered to the agony and abandonment
I drowned in my tears
And wallowed in self-destruction
So many people have told me
That I need to focus on the good
The good times
The good memories
And I haven’t listened to a single one of them
Because I am hurt
And I am stubborn
And I am angry
I don’t know if there’s a heaven
And I don’t know if you can hear me
But if there’s one thing I want to say to you
It’s that I’m sorry
And for once
I’m not apologizing for letting you down
I’m not apologizing for not helping you
I’m not apologizing for my actions
Or lack thereof
The thing that I am most sorry for
Is not remembering
All the good
I love you
And I miss you
Forever and always
Your best friend
Doing my hair
Doing online school
Exercising for my gym class
Taking care of my dog
Planning a club meeting that’s happening today
Getting my new prescription filled
Instead, I’m lying here in my bed. I cannot move. It’s like I am paralyzed. I’m lying backwards so I can see the picture of Isaiah that I have hanging on my wall, and my iPod is playing the songs that I used to listen to with him. Sometimes I just stare at the ceiling in between writing these sentences. I feel dead, just not nearly as dead as I’d like to be. The pain runs through me so deep beyond the surface of my skin. My mom just texted me the suggestion of doing my schoolwork as a distraction. I honestly started tearing up at the thought of having to go downstairs.
I wish so much that I could celebrate the 5 years of good times that I shared with Isaiah instead of focussing on the bad and the fact that the good times will never happen again. I want to honor Isaiah, not make him ashamed of me. I guess no matter what I do, there’s no guarantee that he’s even out there somewhere. All of the things people tell me about what he’d want for me and how I should make him proud hurts. What if he can’t feel proud? He can’t feel anything. And whenever people say that he wouldn’t want me hurting myself or killing myself or obsessing over his death or being sad or whatever, I want to scream. He gave up his chance to have a say in my life or my decisions.
I feel so alone. I’m currently being pretty strongly rejected by someone that I thought would always be there, someone that is one of the reasons I got through this time last year. He had been my best friend for about as long as Isaiah was. Now I’ve lost both of them. I have friends, but none that I’m super close to. I just need to held or talked to or comforted. Don’t get me wrong, I know that my friends care about me, but it’s like a silent caring, it’s understood. Especially when I start to spiral, I need to be reminded a lot that I matter to anyone or else I’ll head towards the idea that no one would give a fuck if I died. I’m scared that this might be close to how Isaiah felt before he died, although I’m sure it was more intense for him. So alone with those who love him standing right next to him.
The two year anniversary of his death is two days away. I’ve begun the process of going through in my head what I was doing two years ago. Remembering the times I was with him. I was with him the weekend and the Monday before he died (on a Tuesday). Those memories replay in my mind. What did I miss? How could I have been so oblivious? How could I have been an even remotely good friend if I missed something so major going on in his life? I will hate myself for as long as I live for not noticing, not being there, not hanging out with him, not saying anything, not stopping him.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to write in the next couple days. I’m barely able to now. Hell, I can’t even get dressed. How am I supposed to go to the meetings at my high school and act normal? How am I supposed to do my schoolwork? How am I supposed to live? It feels like every fiber of my being is wracked with grief.
I’ve seen this coming for a while obviously. It’s been a steady decline with each day that ticks by, but this is the first time in a long time that I’m really feeling it. There’s still an element of it that’s surreal, but it’s really hitting me. Sometimes I can get myself distracted, but then I see the blue and red lights flashing in my mind or the thought “he left” comes out of nowhere.
On October 27, 2012 (four days after Isaiah died), I wrote, “Maybe it’s stupid, but I honestly feel like one way or another, this is going to kill me.”
Maybe I was right.
It is estimated that 1 out of every 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year.
In October of 2012, my best friend, Isaiah, became one of those statistics. Since that day almost two years ago, I have gathered a box full of things that remind me of him. I keep it separate from everything else in my room partially out of respect but also for my own emotional stability. This way, I can put it away if I need to and there are less spontaneous reminders around my house. Looking through it today, two things stood out to me: a bottle cap and a bracelet.
Isaiah had a bracelet identical to the one on my wrist in this picture. I remember the day we got them, though I’m not sure quite how long ago that was. It was probably in 2010. Isaiah was 11 or 12 and I was 14 or 15. We were standing in Spencer’s Gifts, pretending like we were such badasses. Isaiah had been telling me about his suicidal thoughts for a year or two prior. I had also been struggling with suicidal impulses and I had made a few attempts at that point. We decided on the spot to buy matching bracelets with one rule: as long as we wore them, and even beyond that, neither of us would ever commit suicide. We called it our anti-suicide pact. We would remind each other of our agreement whenever one of us would talk about wanting to end it all.
I don’t know if Isaiah still had his bracelet, but he did not hold up his part of the deal. Shortly before his death, he had been wearing a ring of mine on a necklace, which I took to have the same sort of meaning. That might have all been in my head though. I often wonder if Isaiah thought about our pact before he took his life and I grapple with the idea of reversing our agreement. I rationalize my own suicide by believing that I had a commitment to Isaiah. Our bracelets that once signified us living out our lives together now urges me to leave with him. It makes sense to me, however far from logical it may be. I remember so vividly breaking down in tears in my basement one day after he had made a couple suicidal threats as he just stared at me. I rarely showed such raw emotion to him; it might have been one of two times that he saw me cry. I said over and over again, “Isaiah, if you do it, so will I. I won’t be able to take it. It would kill me.” I promised him that day that if he ever ended it, I would do the same. Shortly after his death, I felt such extreme guilt for not following through with that that I carved the word “LIAR” into my arm.
The bottle cap is from the night that Isaiah died. Shortly after I watched as his body was carried out of his house on a stretcher and all of the ambulances, police cars, and the fire truck left the street, I declared to my mom that I needed to tell my friend, Catie, about what happened because I thought she deserved to find out directly instead of through others who were sure to post on social media. She lived a block away and had spent pretty much the whole weekend before Isaiah died with him, his brother, and me. My mom wouldn’t let me go alone out of fear for my safety, so my twin brother accompanied me. Catie wasn’t at her house, but I texted her saying I was walking there. She called me and I had to tell her what happened over the phone. It was so hard to breathe as I said “Isaiah committed suicide tonight.” She came home immediately and we were all so much in shock that we really didn’t know what to do. Catie was crying, I was completely numb, and my brother isn’t a super emotional, so it was an odd dynamic. Her dad gave her some money so we walked to a pizza place near our houses that we would always go to. I had to tell the guy that runs the place what had happened because we were quite an alarming mess and Catie couldn’t really talk. Some other kids met us there and we just sort of sat and stared at the table. The pizza place guy, Sam, gave us drinks and cheese fries for free, although none of us could eat. I got a bottle of root beer. Isaiah and I always got excited about it being in a glass bottle. I must have put the cap in my pocket because I found it later that night and I’ve kept it since then.
I don’t know what it was about the bottle cap and the bracelet that caught my attention today. One symbolizes Isaiah’s commitment to life, and the other symbolizes his death.
Recently, his death has been majorly overpowering his life in my mind. The two year anniversary is next Thursday (10/23), and that one day is once again consuming my mind. I wish that I could focus on the five years that I had with him instead of his suicide. I want to be able to cherish the great times we had without becoming overwhelmed by the fact that we will never have that again. I feel so ashamed and ungrateful. I truly do love and value the good times more than I can even express, but the bad times and the bad time that ended them all clouds that so much.
If you look closely at the picture above, you can see that my tattoo of Isaiah’s name is slightly distorted. It’s only minor, but there are scars running through it. A few weeks ago, I got so upset that I cut over his name. I don’t think I have ever regretted an act of self-harm so much. I cried out an apology to the tree that I planted in his honor last year at this time. I feel like I have disrespected him. I hurt him. I cut him. I don’t even know how to cope with that thought. I guess I’m the only person that can hold myself accountable for that. I’m also the only one that give myself a little bit of a break. I was so angry at myself and at him. I don’t remember what my thought process was, but I feel like we both let his suicide happen. How could I not feel rage? That’s no excuse though. Self-validation and forgiveness have never been my fortes.
I’m not sure how to end this entry. I guess I really needed to get all of this out. The closer the day comes and the stronger these feelings get, the more alone I seem to be. I have no idea how to handle myself moment-to-moment, let alone how to handle this anniversary. There are so many times during my whole journey with Isaiah that I wish I could just freeze time or at least slow it down. But life waits for no one, and the days will continue to tick by.
“I really don’t want to be a fucking crisis hotline again. I can’t just jump in and keep him alive. I can’t make him throw up after swallowing pills or throw myself at him when he’s about to stab himself anymore. I can’t be a walking first aid kit or an all-hours counselor. It’s way too much fucking pressure. If I mess up, if I drop the ball even once, it’s all on me.”
It’s all on me.