This feeling will be for the rest of my life.
I’ve always been a big picture thinker and this was the worst big picture thought I’ve ever had. Lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling at the start of last year’s reading week, it was a bad, bad feeling.
School was stressing me out. I was in my last year in the creative writing BFA program. I had two midterms and three writing projects due the next week, and was directing a short film the weekend after. Worst of all, I was procrastinating on all of it. By that point, I thought of my brain as acid. I was scared to write because I didn’t know how dark it would get.
My depression started over a year earlier with a bad breakup. It was my first relationship, something you’re supposed to brush off. Didn’t work that way for me though. I just assumed I would get better but I got stuck. After a few months, I thought I deserved everything that happened. I thought I was worthless, unlovable, a parasite. That I’d be better off dead. I went to UBC Counselling, but I didn’t tell anyone else how I was feeling. It felt like I had no one else. Friends drifted away because I let them.
That reading week Monday, I was waiting on one of those friends. We had talked about watching La La Land together that day. It meant the world to me, but I knew it didn’t mean as much to them. They’d probably already forgotten about it, forgotten about me.
So I decided to let them text first. I waited with my phone beside me lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. Morning became afternoon became night. Monday of reading week, a fucking week long break, and I was so, so alone.
This feeling will be for the rest of my life.
When I went to UBC Counselling for the first time that November, I rated myself a 3 out of 4 on the statement “I have thoughts of ending my life.” The counsellor asked if I had thought of a way to die. And I laughed, because I had. For months I had these idle thoughts of jumping off Granville Bridge and I didn’t even realize it.
Tuesday night of reading week I bused downtown and walked across the Burrard and Granville Bridges. I just wanted to see if it was possible. I just wanted to be a step away from ending it. As I walked I talked into my phone, recording my thoughts. Not sure why, but I did. Rain pelting concrete, cars screaming by, a soft-voiced kid asking if this was high enough to kill himself.
When I got back home my brother asked me where I was. I said I was walking around downtown. Casual, like nothing happened. Even though I lived with my brother, I was scared to tell him. He wouldn’t care. No one would.
But the next day, I realized I couldn’t bottle it in anymore. I needed help. That morning, I emailed my therapist to let her know what happened. That night, I floated around the house waiting for my brother to ask how I was. Telling him, “Lately, I haven’t wanted to be alive,” was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But when I broke down crying, he hugged me. Despite what I told myself, he did care.
I ended up turning the recordings into a transcript into a one act play. Changed the names, threw in a cheap gimmick, a wheel of death and boom - art. Yeah, it was kinda lazy, but it got me through the week. And then I got through the next one, and the one after that. Like I always have I got through all the deadlines and made it to the end. Graduation.
And after all of that it still felt like my life was over. For me, it felt like I was in school because that’s what I was supposed to do. I needed a degree because I needed a job because I needed to check x-y-and-z because that’s what normal people do. My entire university experience I was burnt out. I had no clue what I was doing. Even when I graduated, I had no idea what to do with my life.
So the first thing I did after I graduated was get a job at Safeway. I told my parents, I told my friends, and I told myself that I would work on my screenwriting portfolio. Some shorts, pilots, maybe a feature. In truth, the last thing I wanted to do was write. I was still scared of my brain and what it might do to me.
Safeway was a place where I could just try to heal. I made Que Pasa chip displays, I chopped watermelons in half, I showed Daniel Sedin where the All-Dressed Ruffles chips were. Even though I felt pressure to do something, be someone, it was more important I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I needed time to breathe, and that is so, so okay.
After last year, it feels like there’s a kernel in my chest. Most days I don’t feel it, some days it aches, a few times it’s broken me. I don’t feel like I’m cured, but I’m doing much, much better.
Me and my therapist made a safety plan after my reading week. First, we wrote down activities I could do to stay safe (movies, games, etc.). Second, we wrote down people I could call, friends and family if I needed them. Third, we wrote down emergency numbers, 911 and the crisis hotline (1-800-SUICIDE). Calling the suicide hotline is what kept me from drowning myself a few months later.
Whatever feeling you have, it does not need to be for the rest of your life. If you need help like I did, reach out to friends, reach out to family, reach out to health resources. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because it can change your life for the better. Trust me.