I’ve never composed a proper suicide note.
The one time I tried to was when I was fifteen and I didn’t really understand what death was. I thought I’d be there to read my own obituary and wanted to make sure they had something poetic to put in it. Adrift in agonising over words that rhymed with “loneliness”, I put on a CD to help me channel some of the pain and became rather distracted. I sneaked a fag out of the bedroom window and watched the smoke drift off towards the moon. In the glass was reflected the padding figure of my baby sister, still in her school uniform, batting her fair hair out of her drooping lids and groping a hand towards her bed. Friday was the day it was okay to sleep in your uniform. She nodded at me sleepily before climbing onto her bunk and, very quickly, her little butterfly breathing began. I shut the window so she didn’t get cold, then turned out the lights. I always marvelled at Orlaigh’s ability to sleep under the brightest of bulbs. We hadn’t had a lampshade on our light for years.
I woke up the next afternoon in my drenched school shirt and reached one arm down to turn the pages of the notebook I’d written in. There it was, half-composed shite. I tore it out and then shoved it in my mouth. After chewing on it for a little while, I spat the inky wads onto the door where they landed with a pathetic slap. I resolved to just cheer the fuck up. It didn’t work, but I tried.
As an adult, having read Philip Larkin’s “Aubade” and understanding death’s brutal, modernist reality, it seemed very important to write a proper suicide note. It deserved more than a piece of foolscrap. And it was probably best to use a pencil and not a leaky black biro nicked from my dad’s pockets.
First, you have to hook them in with an opening zinger.
“Fuck! Well, I’m dead, so…”?
What would I say? Whom would I say it to? Do I write to everyone I know, as though I’m composing acknowledgements within an essay, each having their own personalised paragraph? Would my English teacher correct my grammar as she read? What if I left someone out? Would they think they didn’t matter to me? Did they matter to me if I left them out of my suicide note? You can’t just unkick the chair from beneath your cold feet, grab a pen and the Tip-Ex and have another go. Nor can you return from the dead and sheepishly apologise to those who were offended by their absence, if anybody cared enough to be offended at all.
And there’s the matter of tone. Is it best to be short and concise (“I don’t want to be alive”) or is it best to explain, in detail? This is the last thing that you will say to anybody. The last link to earth, the shredded end of the umbilical cord. And what if, by the end, there is nothing worth saying?
The end of life does not have to be profound. In the moments when I have been idly thinking of suicide, it hasn’t been with a lurch in my stomach, a kick of despair. It has been curious, almost blasé. I have visited the end, and turned back. But it is a walk- not a lurch, not a leap- into the abyss for me. It is leisurely, with each step the shrinking of trees, the dwindling of sound, the dampening of colour. Despair- suffocating and constant- leaves, as does guilt. All emotions depart. Emotions in themselves are something of life. Feeling is better than unfeeling. I have gradually felt myself leave what life is. The words that I could have summoned months before, so easily, are a grey little memory, the faces of people I love, lost within the fugue. It’s too painful to try and remember them because of the frustration of being unable to made me feel as though I was inhuman. How could I forget how to say I love you? How could even crying at a sad film be gone now? He still had the same skin he had always lived in. The sound of his voice as he bustled in from work still twitched my lips upwards. But I couldn’t reach him, nor him me. To lie on the bed and say, “I am lonely without you”, while your hand is upon their shoulder. I am here. I am not here. I’m sorry. And suicide was just killing the body.
This was the problem. When I wasn’t suicidal I could write a beautiful note, but they would just be love letters. Best to write them while you wanted to live. When I didn’t, it would be in a fire or a fog. One bought giddied incoherence, and the other, more familiar, a kind of crystal ever present, a feeling that it was time to kill the body (and how? There should be one place, a vein, a certainty in it all), because the rest was already gone anyway. When I made plans I didn’t consider how I’d devastate my family and those who loved me. I thought about Robert maybe having to take a week off work, so I’d plan it for a Friday. I also knew that you were more likely to die if you were admitted to hospital over a weekend, so if anyone found me, then I’d have a better chance of dying. Remember to write the PIN down somewhere. Cover the last month’s rent, and take the rest for yourselves. I call you Judas.
When depression takes hold, the kindest of gestures are a grave (ha ha) insult. Those whom love you- and they do, even if you cannot physically nor mentally conceive of their grief, because depression is self obsessed, so is the recovery- and those whom you love try to include you. But it is in a life that has moved on without you. You’ve already left. (“I am fine…”) It feels almost mocking. A phone call. A trip to the cinema. The effort demanded is bone breaking. The sheer physical effort of it all, to be wandering through a world without limbs, to be smoke, a phantom, and yet to be so heavy. Particle physics, grotesque biology. The kind of thing dug up, leathery skin and half-furred, half-horse footed, the tell-tale autopsy stitching up the bloated gut. Here I am.
I’m still with the crisis team. I don’t want to be- I don’t want anything to do with anything mental health related. Medication, therapy, hospitals and doctors- I want away from that world, I don’t want to know it. I wish I never had. It’s not serious or dramatic and nothing feels like crisis. I was embarrassed to cry so much in front of my social worker- I have never cried in front of her before. I have almost nothing to say to them, even though they are lovely and being helpful. There is not much of a why. I just started slowing down. Maybe it’s my birthday. I know 25 isn’t fun, and I do feel I have come this fair, and essentially failed, and still fail. Today after my ten minute appointment, I wandered around the hospital, ate some chicken, eyed a stall. Waiting at the bus stop I was flanked by old women. People my age were at work. But there is good things- running late, I grudgingly went downstairs to the taxi rank, stated my destination, and the man said, “Don’t charge her. She’s our neighbour”. And that was lovely. But unlovely was the approach to the building. I had never been there before. I thought it was a test, to see if I pulled on my shoes or if I just flattened the cats and trudged meow up Holloway Road. I had no idea it was so clearly signed. I shrank in my seat and felt deeply ashamed. I wish I had gotten off and walked. I don’t want the people who I see every day and don’t know to know. My erratic sleeping pattern at least convinced them when I told them (lied) that I was a writer. Even if I hadn’t written for days. They still waved when I walked out at 5am, off for some cigarettes. I hope they still wave at me.
The team are easy to dodge and I find myself- for once in my life- with the deep need to not speak, to be quiet and still. And all I have ever done is talk, talk, talk- I’m renowned for it, it’s part of my reputation. “Seaneen? She’s LOUD!” I would probably confuse you, if you met me, months apart. Wonder who had replaced the girl, and left the doll. Over and over again.
I’m safe and I’m okay. I am still myself in the world, and I am good at hiding how I feel. I am managing, I am thoughtful. I am concentrating on trivia- little household details, written in chalk (at the moment:
TOILET, BEDROOM, MOP, 1000 words, today’s date). And non-trivial things, like love, study, the cats., books from my birthday I can’t concentrate on (I struggled with the Thursday magazines, I dropped them down the side of the bed), chocolate coins in a box that I can. Threading fingers through fingers. Being happy for my friend who just had a ginger baby. Even smiling at the fact my social worker was trying to be all serious when, in the background, I could hear her toddler floundering around, chatting to himself. Making plans. I am okay when distracted. I feel very slow, treacle-blood, often unsure of the day, and very keen to be left alone by doctors, keen to hide from intrusive questions. I have opened myself up to intrusion- here, there, everywhere. To write only of yourself really- it becomes humiliating, to think mostly of yourself, humiliating more. Our links are to each other. Too inside, the link is gone. Worse in mouth-words. In speech, it is too prodding, especially knowing there are answers they want more than others. I am to consider antidepressants, I am sceptical. In the past, they have thrown spanners in the dead-works, made me jittery and rapid, raging and awake. Usually I’d be rubbing my hands at the thought of an unnatural high, but I am just very tired. Even recalling some of the better ones (exquisite happiness, the feeling of being angelic, even muddied Essex light spun by god’s young fingers) , the thought of needing to speak again makes me feel more tired still. And wondering if I should just stay awake and cure myself- it works, sometimes. But bed is lovely. I would like to sleep for months and wake up to eat. Someone said, it’s a hibernation (I think it was my social worker). These are my seasons. It’s okay to just want to sleep and be still because it’s gathering my energy again, getting stronger, not weaker. I wish I felt that way.
I still sneak to the shops without socks, whispering, “I love you”, to nobody, and everybody, in particular. Something I have done since I was fifteen. So it’s okay. I still have, “passport photo” on my list, and Robert wants to do overtime. The effort is worth it. Has to be.
PS: I need a wee.