Thursday, August 17, 2006

Life is Not for Pussies

Saturday night, I'm in Queens, buzzing off a pair of Johnny Walker Reds. I had just demonstrated my sucking-off skills to Mike and Daniel, and smoking outside the Irish Rover, a familiar hotspot crowded with regulars.

I check my messages, there's one from my former roommate. She had been having some troubles the day before, a man, no less; a man she worked with. She had just left her husband not three weeks before. She was in hysterics. I tried to talk her through her troubles. I've been there, we all have. I invited her over for a bit, took her to dinner...but I had a friend in town and my own man troubles to deal with. There was a downpour that day, the kind that erodes small cliffs in a matter of seconds. I gave her a sweater to wear on her way home, and told her to call me before she did anything "impulsive." She had attempted suicide three years earlier.

But the message wasn't from her, it was from her husband. "Cristina has overdosed. She's in stable condition in I.C.U. at Mount Sinai. If you would like to call the head nurse..." and he gave me the number, which of course I dialed immediately. I talked to the friend who found her, struggling through my alcoholic haze, street lights softening and hardening at whim. She had found Cristina sleeping in her room next to a bottle of open sleeping pills, and she called 911.

I didn't sleep that night. I couldn't stop recalling the beat, the moment, when I told Cristina days before on the phone "lets hang out in a few days," the pause, the long pause, the kind in italics between dialogue in plays when some drastic thing is meant to be said, but isn't.

"I'm not doing very well."

I knew what that meant. It's not even like I can see, now, in retrospect, that she was telling me something. I knew what she meant...and I all I did was take her out to dinner.

The next day, at ICU, she was strapped in her bed. The painkillers caused hallucinations, her eyes rolled back, machines crowded her like Science Fiction beasts. She kept stroking my hair and asking me how the play went, but couldn't understand the reply. Her husband was there day and night, calling her friends, her family, dealing with nurses, doctors, talking her through her hallucinations which bordered frightening. All this for the wife who tried to kill herself for another man. It was heartwrenching to watch him.

She fell asleep, I was alone with her, I watched her. It was like seeing a race-horse with a broken leg, except nobody would shoot her. I wished that someday, somebody would let her put herself out of her misery.

She has been through therapists, psychiatric mediation, she herself is a social worker. But this is deep, everlasting pain that will never go away, its rooted in thick soil, gangrene and hollow. I know how she felt, I've been all too close. But I've learned to see self-hate as a handicap like any other. You reconcile, you overcompensate, you use it to your advantage.

She is in the medical unit now, physically much better, still emotionally destroyed. We talked for a long time yesterday.

She said "nothing is worse than surviving suicide."

She wishes she had been sucessful, sucessful in death. Yeah, I probably would be too...rather than suffer the guilt of seeing your loved ones worry, the doctors and shrinks expounding their fortune-cookie wisdom and their AA bullshit. The In-Patient care she has to go through for god knows how many months. The guilt, guilt, guilt. The knowledge that the man you think you love has not even bothered getting in touch with you, while the husband you left worries about every move you make.

She asked me if "he" will ever contact her again. I say, I don't know, but she shouldn't expect it.

She cried.

I don't know how not to break her heart. I don't know how not to tell her truth. I can't hope she'll someday "find herself..." I hate that term, nobody ever finds themselves, they're lucky if they enjoy the search.

I don't want anybody to think I'm cruel. I'm very glad Cristina is alive, I love her dearly and feel very close to her right now...but I do not believe that this won't happen again. When she wants the pain to go away, and that pain is stronger, harder, and faster than what most of us experience, she will do what she feels is best for her and for everybody. That's what people don't understand about suicide victims: they think they are doing it for the greater good of their loved ones.

Anyhow, I've been increasingly depressed myself for various reasons. Some of my friends have been calling me up, worried to death I'll copy the crime. I won't. This is why being a non-believer can be very helpful...because I don't believe the "next place," is going to be any better, I cherish moments instead of idols, false or otherwise. I plan on sticking around for the long haul. Besides, I have some atoning to do, here on earth.


Blogger NYCbeauty said...

Oh, you poor thing. I'm so sorry for you and your friend. Mental illness is an impossible thing. I know firsthand. But I also know you CAN get better (ish). If you are feeling depressed now, you need to concentrate on YOU or else you will be no good to yourself or your friend. Your honest thoughts and excellent writing are refreshing. Thanks for your story.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous poet said...

been a lurker, and i felt compelled to reply to this post. mental illness is not something that can be dealt with lightly. i have been on the receiving end of treatment. it is hard to think that i was worth saving. i know i am now, but there was a time when death would have been welcomed. (i did not attempt the final act). take care of you, and in turn you will be able to be strong for your friend. i am glad i found your page. poet

10:39 PM  
Blogger Billychic said...

Hiya, Boo

Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry about your friend - I hope she can get through this and maybe find some glimmer of hope that will keep her from attempting again. I have family and friends that I have had to deal with on this level - and it's sad and scary and emotionally devastating.

Like Poet said above - take care of yourself, because that's the only way that you can be of any good to her. And don't blame yourself for anything!!! We are not mind readers, we have our own lives that we are trying to get through, and we do the best that we can - and you took her to dinner and tried to be there for her; if you would have hung out more with her afterwards or stood on your head - it wouldn't have mattered, she probably still would have tried it.

I hope you can get through your own trying time right now as well. You know if you need to, I'm a phonecall/email (and four flights) away.


7:16 PM  
Blogger Full Frontal Honesty said...

I wish I had some magical, mystical thing to say that would bring you clarity and peace. All I can tell you is that I have been in those dark waters due to a situation that sounds eerily similar to that of your friend. I am a survivor of suicide. I had wonderful people around me (like yourself) who wanted to help and who would have helped, had I been able to ask. But the bottom line is: we can really only save ourselves. If we aren't ready to start doing the work to get well, then no amount of work outside of us will change the course of events. For me, I felt incredible guilt for "being a burden" to my friends and family and that just made me want out all the more.

I am wishing for your friend to find a kernel of hope that will help her to rise from the ashes and build a better life. Six years later I can say that my life is amazing and the thought of ending it is a million miles away... although the well of despair that has always run deep beneath the surface is still churning away. Those of us who carry this darkness can only do as you said... find a way to live with it, turn the handicap into an advantage somehow.

10:36 AM  

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