The signs had been there for months and months. All those conversations we had about how terrible her life was, how persecuted she was, how much she regretted this and that, how injustice was burning her alive, how it was all painful and hopeless.
In short, depression was a heavy, cold, wet, woolen blanket over the whole of her life.
Although I suspect she would disagree even to that — she wasn’t depressed, she would say, not mentally ill. She was seeing things with a terrible clarity
No matter what I suggested, there was an answer as to why that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t help. That wasn’t for her.
I might have been talking to my mother — mentally ill, suicidal, deeply depressed and suspicious of the world, convinced everyone was out to get her, and completely resistant to any help.
I spent decades dreading the moments I’d have to call my mother to make sure she was all right, dreading the visits, which left me drained and angry and sadder than sad. She said she hated me. She told her revolving door of short-term friends she hadn’t had anything to do with me in years. During a hospital stay she tried to strangle the women in the bed next to her. The staff was shocked. I wasn’t.
But my mother has been dead for several years now, and I am sorry it if sounds cruel to say I have been released and never more at peace. She is too, I believe. Her life was awful, and she was so miserable at the end, just wanting to die, striking out at everyone, metaphorically and physically. Like my friend, my mother refused all help, insisting she was right and everyone else was wrong.
However, this woman, a dear friend, is not my mother. It feels like she’s the same spirit in another body, though, if you know what I mean.
My mother attempted suicide a number of times and threatened it more times than I can recall. Finally, I gave up and told her how to do it to make sure she wouldn’t end up a dibbling, drooling, brain-damaged eggplant in some nursing home. She didn’t threaten it so much after that, and died at 92 of natural causes.
Both my half-brothers committed suicide. A number of friends have killed themselves. The agony of the living, after a death like that, is like rust, like cancer. It’s not a clean grief. It crawls through the spirit for years and years. Okay, forever.
You’d think I’d be immune by now, wouldn’t you? I’m not. So when I started getting text messages that made it clear my friend was talking about suicide I came right out and asked her. She said she was sorry, she knew she’d promised me she wouldn’t, but she was going back on that promise. She was saying goodbye. It was her destiny. She couldn’t fight anymore.
We went back and forth on text message for a while. I tried to get the name and phone number of relatives, but she refused. I only had a cell phone number and a P.O. Box in the town where she lives.
I said, you aren’t leaving me any options. She said there were no options.
So I sat. And I cried. And I got in touch with a woman I trust, and who has decades of experience in the mental health arena. Call the police she said, which I knew I would have to do, but I also knew it would end my friendship. Well, better to have her furious with me than dead, although there was no guarantee she wouldn’t be furious with me and dead.
I called. The police, who were excellent, investigated and found her and spoke to her. Of course, she said she wasn’t suicidal, and when they reminded her of what she’d said in those texts, she said it was all just talk.
And that is that. But of course, it isn’t. I know she’ll never speak to me again, and I doubt I’ve done anything to stop her from doing what she seems determined to do. I don’t know whether she’ll read this or not. She might. If she does I want to tell her I love her and love her life and love her beautiful, creative presence in this world and that she is needed. I want to tell her I had no choice but to call the police.
I don’t know what will happen now. Today I received a note from someone I know saying that the love of his life killed herself yesterday and that no matter what he did he couldn’t stop her.
I talked to my friend whose sister killed herself.
Oh, this is a terrible club to be a member of.
There’s no good way to end this, no words of wisdom to tag on to the end…..