A few days ago, I tried to overdose on Valium. I’ll say it: I was a coward who was too afraid to live, and a coward too afraid to die. I drank a little bleach and the taste was so terrible that I decided that an overdose was a better way to go. So I stood in the afternoon, little packets of Valium in my hand, and started popping them one by one. I’d hoped that my father would leave some alcohol at home but there was none otherwise I’d have ensured death because I wasn’t sure there was enough Valium to kill me. I really, desperately wanted to die. But I am glad I didn’t. I am glad I was sobbing while popping those pills because my sister was upstairs, napping with my mother, and she heard me. I am glad she ran down those stairs and took everything away from me and let me sit on the floor, dizzy and crying. I am glad. As somebody who has wished for cars running me over or somebody mixing poison in my food or just about anything to happen that could stop me from existing, I want to say to everybody: Don’t do it. Don’t try to commit suicide. Don’t kill yourself. Don’t do it. You think you’re not worth fighting for but you are. I thought I wasn’t worth fighting for but I am. Stop and read and I’ll tell you.
I was a model student, a good daughter, a loving sister, a loyal friend, and all in all, the kind of person everybody loved. I was talented and smart and intelligent. I had everything going for me. To the whole world anyway, that’s what the story was.
I was sexually abused at the age of five by a man almost fifteen years older, later abused at different stages of my life until I turned twelve, and then fell into self-harm and depression. Until I was fifteen I didn’t tell my parents about the abuse, and until my Grade 11 was almost halfway done, I hadn’t even received a medical diagnosis of anxiety and depression. I was just there. I was trying to figure my way out, trying to figure my body out, trying to figure out what went wrong. How did I go from being the life of every conversation to struggling to make it out of my bed to brush my teeth? It felt wrong. And yet, to most people, I was still just fine. I was avoiding meals in college because I had to sit with other people that I didn’t have the courage to speak with and I fainted from lack of food and water for two days but I was ‘fine’. I was crying under my desk with a blanket because I was lonely but I was ‘fine’. I was calculating how many classes I could miss even for my favourite subjects but I was ‘fine’. I was always ‘fine’.
Psychiatrist visits became monotonous and taking medication irked me. I had nothing to say to the doctor that was different from any previous visit. I didn’t feel any better. I didn’t have anything to tell my friend. My life had no meaning. And all I wanted was somebody to just sit next to me. I didn’t expect somebody to understand. I didn’t want somebody to magically give me words of wisdom that would turn my life around. I just wanted somebody to know that I was trying desperately to reach out to the person that I know I used to be but that I needed a little help getting there. But my biggest problem was that I never voiced out this need. I mentioned how I was struggling and things were not always great to my parents, to my sister, to my boyfriend, and to some of my closest friends. But I always tried to cushion it for them. I had to live. Not for me, for them. I had to live because I couldn’t let them down.
And then when I finally decided to pop those Valium pills, I’d decided that I had already let them down. All I could think of was the medical bills coming at home for my monthly psychiatrist trips and medicines, how much my sister had to ignore her own needs to take care of her elder sister, how much my boyfriend quietly endured just to ensure I wasn’t unhappy, how much my friends had to look out for me to make sure I was okay. I had wanted to be self sufficient. I had wanted to be the person that could support others. Instead, all I could think of is how much support I needed and how it seemed to be leading nowhere. And it all got to my head when a person I had thought was a friend said that he’d only ever talked to me because he thought I’d die if I didn’t. He didn’t like me. He thought I was weird. He just didn’t want to feel guilty or responsible for me dying. In that moment, he killed a little part of me inside. Just like that. I concluded that this was what everybody was doing: playing along just to give me a reason to live. I was sure that if I died, everybody would get over it just like people get over deaths of all the people in their lives because they have no choice but to get over it.
I was wrong.
While my father called a driver, my mother and sister tried to ascertain how much Valium I’d taken. They called my best friend over and she held me in her arms, listening to me sob about how I didn’t want to live because each moment felt like a moment that I wasn’t able to use. Her mother came as well and held me tightly and told me that she wasn’t going to let anything happen to me. My parents and my best friend came to the hospital. Nothing happened to me. They thought I’d sleep it out.
I came home, clutching my best friend’s hand and trying to remember when I had last felt like the people around me genuinely needed me. When we reached home, my sister was there, with her best friend, my best friend’s sister. The four of us danced and sang and laughed. They all held me tight. They didn’t have to say anything to say that they really wanted me there. This was not guilt. This was them telling me that I mattered. This was their way of saying that all the plans we’d been making for our futures together for twelve years were going to materialise with every one of us intact. This was their way of saying that I had been there when they fell down and that they would hold me up till I could walk again.
That night I didn’t want to talk to my family about what had happened. I didn’t want to talk about my feelings, or my frequent lack of them. But talk we did, and till two in the morning. There were tears, there were accusations, there was anger, there was pain. And through all of that, I found meaning. My father said how the most important part of his day was talking to me, how he waited for my WhatsApp status to show me online. There’s nobody he talks to as much as he talks to me and yet, for some reason, I had convinced myself that all I was to him was a collection of medical bills. My mother said how she loved hearing me talk about my day, how she loved it when I wanted to cuddle with her like I used to when I was a child. I had convinced myself that all I had been was a failure as a child. My sister said that I had been her idol forever and I had been convinced that I had utterly failed to care for her as much as I could have. They wanted me. I didn’t have to do anything big to hold importance for them. They loved me, all of it, and they were willing to love every part of it – including the broken parts. I had been trying to make them happy with me but they had been happy with me all along. The only person unhappy had been me.
I could have died. I could have found more pills. I could have found some way. I could have died. My father would have never gotten to talk to me about all the things he loves to talk about. My mother would have never gotten to cuddle me and then listen to me complain about classwork. My sister would have never gotten to tell me about her crushes, her bad hair days, her homesickness in boarding school, or any of her achievements and failures. And they would have had to move on with their lives but every single day, something would have reminded them that once, there had been another person to share their lives with.
You are important. You are important to others. You matter. And most importantly, you matter to you. I thought my self worth depended on how much I was contributing to the lives of others who were looking out for me. It doesn’t. You are already contributing to the lives of the ones who love you. You need to contribute to your own. You can’t do that by taking your life away.
Maybe we don’t know each other, maybe we do, but whatever be the case, if you’re reading this, I promise you that you are important. The words that you say and write, the thoughts that you think, the way you laugh and the way you cry, the books you like to read and the board games you like to play – it’s all important. You need to know that it’s important and that it’s important to you. I was so caught up in trying to love others that I forgot to take care of myself. But if you don’t love yourself, then you don’t know how to love at all. You can’t nurture others unless you can nurture yourself.
It’s hard. Some days are worse than others. It’s an awful battle. I won’t deny it, because I’ve been there and no words were enough to tell me otherwise. But you can fight it. I promise you that you can fight it. There’s only prize and it’s you and your life ahead. And that prize is worth fighting for. That prize is something you control. You can take it in your hands and mould it as you like but don’t throw it away.
I don’t expect you to magically feel empowered and inspired because I wrote a badly worded piece with more emotions than it should have. I still take medicines to stabilise my mood, to let me sleep well at night, and to keep me okay. But today, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die after years of having wanted to. It’s a start. It’s my start. It can be yours too.
Wherever you are, just hang in there. Hold on. You will rise. You will be fine. You will not want to die, you will not feel sucked out of life every single day, you will not feel unwanted or unloved, you will not always panic at the thought of speaking to somebody. You just need to fight and believe that you are always going to be worth fighting for, and that’s the motivation you need. Live for yourself first, and the rest will begin to fix itself.