I'm about to tell you, reader, about the hardest moment of my life.
It was a Sunday night, just before exam week, and almost midnight.
Now, I should preface this next part by telling you that during this time, my closest friend in the entire world was struggling mightily with depression and suicidal thoughts, and they had been for a while.
Trying to balance the impossible pressure, anxiety, and fear of being the closest person to someone going through this, the person to whom they turned, the person to whom they divulged their most negative thoughts and emotions put an immense strain on me and my own emotional state.
But this particular night, just as I was about to get into bed, I got a text from this friend.
“Would you forgive me if I killed myself?”
I was completely and totally floored and emotionally devastated. I didn’t know what to do or what to say, because what the fuck are you supposed to say to something like that?
I can’t remember exactly what I ended up saying, but I managed to pull myself together enough to text back something along the lines of “Why are you asking? What is going on? Are you OK?” I did this even knowing full well they were not, by any typical definition of the word, “OK."
I was in a panic, wondering if all the suicidal desires they had told me about were about to come to fruition and play themselves out in real life. I wondered if my friend was trying to get some closure or some assurance that I would forgive him. I was so, so scared that this was it.
Their response back to me didn’t come in until several long minutes later. It was just a general question; they were just curious. They weren’t killing themselves.
The question, “Would you forgive me if I killed myself?” still haunts me to this day, and not just because of all my pain and panic surrounding it. I’m still not entirely sure how to answer it.
Would I have forgiven them, my friend, if they had killed themselves? Could I have?
Had they gone through with it, had they swallowed pills or put a gun to their head or wrapped a belt around their neck and snapped it, the pain they would have caused would have been immeasurable.
It would have been immeasurable just inside of me, but also compounded throughout each and every one of the people whose lives they had touched. Their death would have been catastrophic.
And yet, I think the answer is that I would have forgiven them. I would have had no other choice.
The thing is--and this is what Lesly Salazar fails to realize in her article--suicide, suicidal thoughts, and depression aren’t things a person chooses; they aren’t something someone can control. They aren’t things for which those affected should be blamed for.
The truth is, if my friend were to kill themselves tomorrow, I would be unbelievably sad, grief-stricken, upset, hurt, and, yes, angry. But I wouldn’t blame them.
I would blame our society’s unwillingness to engage in serious dialogue about suicide and depression. I would blame our culture’s insistence that sharing emotions makes someone weak and that we should instead keep things bottled up.
I would blame our country’s paltry mental health care. I would blame just about everything else except the person who had been driven to such a state that they thought suicide was their only option. And, as unfair as it would be, I would blame myself.