Libby tried many times to commit suicide. I don’t know when her first try was, in my memory attempts have blended into attempts. It wasn’t every week of anything, there’d be months, years, between tries, but Libby trying kill herself was an idea we all lived with. On one of her last attempts she rang me and I drove to her usual spot and stopped her. She got loaded into an ambulance and I followed, making a few calls on the way.
At the hospital a doctor said to my sister, ‘You have been a very silly girl.’
Libby was by that time in her forties, she was not a girl. She was funny, she was passionate, she smoked too much, didn’t cook properly, she loved her partner Darren and the life they had. She never missed an appointment and though she never had any money she had savings. Libby was not silly.
Don’t do anything silly.
That’s how people talk about suicide.
Don’t do anything stupid.
More like, don’t do anything desperate.
About four years ago I called Lifeline from my garage worried about how I was going to make it to the end of the day, I had suicidal thoughts that wouldn’t stop. My husband came home and found me on the phone. I waved him off. I couldn’t tell him. I never have. I guess if he reads this he’ll know. I had never been so scared. The whole thing, sadness, desperation, loneliness, the feeling living was hurting the people I loved, was an insight into what Libby may have been thinking.
One of the scariest aspects of that episode, and the few since, was how quickly those thoughts took: you’re no good, they’d be better off without you, this is never going to end unless you end it. It’s like bad drips collecting in a cup.
Now I’m on anti depressants again. I’m on day four and have been living some interesting times. The chemist gave me a five-page leaflet: why and how, what to do, what not to do. Side effects.
One of the side effects of this medication reads like this: Persons taking Esipram may be more likely to think about killing themselves or actually killing trying to do so, especially when Esipram is first started or the dose is changed.
And I was worried about gaining weight.
On the second night I was about asleep when a thought floated into my brain, if you commit suicide you can be with Libby. It scared the fuck out of me. If you commit suicide you can meet her again. Shut up! I don’t believe in heaven! You never know. I spent hours waging this argument with myself. I imagined the thoughts were like locusts, one, another, more, a plague. I sort of watched them splattering on my windscreen; kill yourself, kill yourself. Behind my screen I reminded myself, it’s the medication, it’s written down, don’t worry about it, let it go. It was a long night of not much sleep, but enough to miss my alarm and be late for work.
None of that sounds silly to me.
It sounds damn scary.
It was. And it was scary the next night, too.
This time I’m telling people. There is no bloody way I want to die. My right mind knows it and my night mind will just have to believe it. I told my husband about the possible side effects, about the horrible night of no sleep, and I told him to occasionally ask if I’m thinking about killing myself. I said I’d try to not be offended.
Telling your husband, and your sister, and a couple of close friends, to now and then directly ask you if you’re thinking about committing suicide isn’t silly. None of them think it sounds silly.
Day after tomorrow is Christmas, our second Christmas without Libby. We’re coming together at my place; the kids, my sister and brother, my folks and Darren, Libby’s partner. Libby can’t be there, but in a sense she will be because she was known and loved by all of us. It saddens me that Libby tried so many times, that she was so abject, but, you know, she always got help. She didn’t want to die, not really, she wanted to live, she was a messy, kind, stubborn survivor and she was never silly.
I promise I’ll try not to do anything serious, Libby.