On this day 15 years ago, a classmate of mine committed suicide. She was a nice girl, quiet, smart, plain. She reminded me of me and I always wanted to be her friend, but I never actually talked to her. She sat behind me in English class, and she was a good writer. I had no idea how similar we really were until the phone call came the next morning. Katie had killed herself, and that same night, my own suicide attempt had failed.
I kept a suicide journal beginning on the night of the 29th, documenting my thoughts over the course of the next three days. There are cut marks on the edge of the notebook where I was testing knives. There is a list of products from the cleaning cabinet that were labeled 'harmful or fatal if swallowed'. I wrote about feeling under pressure and useless, and wished there was someone I could talk to that felt the same way. I recorded some memories from childhood and expressed how I wished I could be a carefree child again. Ultimately, I attempted to hang myself in the basement, but my meager attempt resulted in a slightly red neck and the realization that the crossbeams in our basement ceiling were not high enough. No one in my family was aware of what happened. My journal entries make it clear that I was scared of feeling any pain and scared of failing at suicide. I believe that if I had had access to a handgun, I would not be here today. Katie used a handgun. 15 years ago, I was jealous. Today, I thank my father for not having a handgun in an accessible location.
My suicide journal was found by my sister on January 3rd. I was at my friend Michelle's house when my sister came to the door in complete hysterics. I didn't know it at the time, but that night, my father made five entries of his own in my journal, between 4:15am and 10:30am. He didn't sleep that night. When I first learned of the entries and was able to read them, I remember feeling kind of numb to it. I felt like my father really didn't understand me at all. Each year, December 29th is always a reminder to me of how far I've come from that deep depression 15 years ago, and so tonight I pulled out the journal to read through it. Now, reading his entries from a parent's perspective, my heart aches for him. My eyes get watery thinking of how close he came to losing a child. He writes,
How can a father not know when his child is so deeply troubled that she sees death as the only solution? How can a sister not know when her closest and dearest friend in the world is so close to saying life no longer matters? How can anyone know?
The truth is, no one really can know. If you're not a person that has suffered this kind of depression or have considered suicide as an option, you can't fathom how anyone could. So don't beat yourself up if you've missed the signs from someone you love. And if you're a person that has suffered, this is me letting you know that I get it, and I'm here if you'd like to talk to someone who gets it.
I'm very happy that the night of December 29th, 1996 ended the way it did for me. Over the past 15 years, I've learned that failure isn't so bad after all. Though, I can't help but remember there's a family who feels very differently about that night, probably wondering what kind of person their daughter and their sister would be today, and for them, I am sad.