I learned that dying is hard. You wouldn’t think so, but it really is. There’s all these options, you know? And you Google them because you want to learn but Google keeps telling you not to do it. And even after you do all the research, there’s such a huge chance that you’ll fail miserably at it. That you’ll survive. And then you’ll really be screwed.
I learned that I really, really don’t like Mountain Dew. I bought a can of it at the gas station to wash down two bottles of pills. I’d never tried it before, honestly. I’m not one to drink sodas—the gas hurts my throat as it goes down, the bubbles piercing my throat, but I remember thinking, ‘Hey, might as well try something new while I can.’
I learned that the Chattahoochee River is a wonderland in the rain. Fat drops of water burst on the rippled surface like the bubbles in my soda, spitting out tiny splinters of mud in every direction when they hit the ground. The water beat against the shore like one giant heart, its color the perfect combination of burnt umber and ultramarine blue.
I learned that time is not linear, and the race between the rain drops sliding across the car window is most definitely not a fair fight. All of a sudden, I’m seven years old again, and it is Christmas Eve and my parents are in the front of the car, driving us back home. It’s pouring out. I pick my favorite raindrop—it’s huge, as swollen as my belly (because, God, I ate so much red jello), and the biggest raindrop of the bunch. It’s sliding fast, beating every other pathetic little druplet, and then…not fair. It split up into tenths of tiny pearls in the wind. It lost. Suddenly, time warps and I’ve finished swallowing all the pills.
I learned that even trying to kill yourself will leave permanent wounds on the people who love you. That your parents will know to call the one person who might know where you are when you phone goes straight to voicemail and they’re worried out of their minds. I learned he knew I’d be at the river. As I dove in and out of consciousness, I saw his blue shoes on the shiny pavement. They were the ones I helped him pick out during Black Friday. Man, that line was the longest one of our lives. I saw his hands dial 911. I saw his face, wet from the rain. I learned there are some things people will never forgive you for doing. For even trying to do.
I learned what charcoal tastes like, what hospitals smell like, what a mother’s desperate grip feels like. When I was little, she would sometimes grab my wrist instead of my hand to cross the street. I always asked if she was mad when she did this. She never was. It’s more than a decade later, and her hand is on my wrist. It feels just as terrifying as it did then. I asked her if she was mad. She said, “I love you.”
I learned to pee with the door open. To have nurses sitting in my room through sunrises and sunsets, each and every one of them as kind and wonderful as the next, each and every one of them as unwilling to let me close the damn door. But I learned to live with it, to get over it.
I learned that I really love The Lion King and cheese pizza with ranch dressing. I wasn’t allowed to eat pizza. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything that didn’t taste like yellowed, wrinkled hospital sheets. But boy, the pizza on all the TV commercials on the hospital screens looked like steamy heaven. So I promised myself, as I watched Disney’s best-movie-ever on repeat, that I would eat all of the pizza when I got out. All of it.
I learned about religion. I walked into my apartment to find that my mostly atheist parents had set up an altar for me. There was a picture of me in the middle, fifteen pounds heavier that my current ghostly self, surrounded by mismatched candles, angel statuettes, and a wooden sign painted with the words “Today: Begin”. They prayed to a God I’m not sure they even believe in. As the door slowly shut behind me, I learned about love and heavy, heavy stomachfuls of regret.
I learned that living is hard. That my depression would constantly make me feel like my lungs were filled with dark water and my legs made out of melting wax. That I was going to have to try harder than most, every single day of my life. But I also learned that the fight is worth it. I mean, life is cheese pizza, rain drop races, and fathers with hearts coated in gold. It is love and faith, and though there might not be much we can do about how horrible Mountain Dew is, life is worth sticking around for a second or two. I learned that living is hard.
But I learned that dying is much, much harder.