On Tuesday, November 8th, shortly after 11 A.M. a young man ran across the Washington Avenue bridge at the University of Minnesota – an action so quotidian that it garnered no attention. Before anyone could anticipate what would happen in the next moments, he propelled himself off of the bridge’s edge, arms out, eyes closed, landing on the cold concrete below like a splattered egg. Later on, a witness would arrive to her introductory biochemistry class in shock, crying and grieving.
Did he feel the cutting chill of the November air while running? Did he feel the sun on the back of his neck? Or was the pain so consuming that, for a moment, nothing else existed? Did he feel relief, knowing that, for him, there would be no tomorrow?
I recall the time when my own tomorrow was in jeopardy.
In 2014, at the tender age of 19, I had attempted myself. After a decade-long spell of devastating depression with countless medication trials, I had gulped down all my pills with a bottle of off-brand mineral water. I was found by my parents half-lucid, blanketed in a childhood comforter, knees curled into my chest, helpless and hopeless. I stayed in the ICU for six days. On the seventh day, when I came to, I was asked why I did it. “I just wanted the suffering to end,” I said.
The suffering hadn’t ended right away. A few summers later, on a vacation to California, I visited the Golden Gate Bridge, evaluating it for ease of suicide like a piece of real estate. As I watched the blue ocean water lapping up on the shore, I realized I was too afraid of heights to jump. I looked up at the sky. Between two clouds, a sliver of sunlight shone through.
I visited a psychiatrist a few months after that. I was tearful throughout the intake appointment talking about the relentless pain I was in. The doctor, who had a lovely Pema Chodron quote framed on her desk, began softly crying.
“I’m sorry I’m getting emotional. Whatever you do, don’t stop driving. I don’t care if you have to pull over to the side of the road and lie in the fetal position, but don’t stop driving. Take rest if you need to. Suicide is not an option.”
That September, I started school and medication with trepidation.
In October, I started writing again.
Through the fall, I practiced the art of self-resurrection.
In the winter, I re-acquainted myself with laughter.
I’m in remission from mental illness these days. Though things are not perfect, they are good enough. I’m filled with a vibrancy and ease that I had once forgotten.
I walk across the Washington Avenue bridge daily. Sometimes I pause to watch the sun highlighting the dirty, marbled Mississippi River. But my feet are firmly planted.
If you’re struggling, lie in the fetal position. Take rest. Be still with the pain and suffering. Plant your feet. You belong here, and we love you.
Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you are in crisis. Trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 to speak with you. 1-800-273-8255