It’s a weird thing to annually celebrate a personal failure, but I do it every single November. It’s not like I bake a cake or anything; I just note the passing of the day when however many years ago (17 this year) that I tried to make an early departure from this world.
Part of it, I guess, is an act of humility, but mostly it’s one of relief. I’m celebrating that I’m alive. More specifically, that I wasn’t successful all those years ago in making myself unalive.
It’s my alive-iversary.
I was one of those queer kiddos who was emotionally emaciated by loneliness. Despite being a fairly smart and athletic teen with a raucous group of friends (and a solid string of boyfriends), I secretly wondered if there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
I didn’t know then that I was gay; I just knew I wasn’t feeling the same things everyone else was, and I worried I was either dead inside or that everyone was lying about feelings of attraction and connection.
The charade was as exhausting as it was excruciating, and I ran out of steam. I begged my family to just have a nice dinner together and then let me go. I wanted out.
They were becoming increasingly aware of my anguish, but much to my chagrin, they were pretty determined to keep me alive. That meant I had to find a rare moment not under surveillance to make my exit without the proper send off. But for parental intuition and close proximity to the hospital, I survived.
People think suicide is selfish, and I guess I can see how that’s true. The loneliness that bore my depression acted like a blinder, leaving me with a perspective so increasingly myopic I could barely make it through a day. Even breathing was tiring. There was no room to care about anyone else; I was losing my ability to even care about myself.
Suicidality, I must say, is a bizarre thing. First of all, it’s completely against human nature, and secondly, it’s addicting. It’s this oddly zen-like state in which you can assure yourself that your untenable situation is temporary (belief structure dependent, I suppose).
I, however, with a surprising combination of fortitude and good fortune (mostly, having a family who loved me enough to make up for how much I didn’t), was able to kick the habit.
And that’s why I’ve celebrated: because when hope and energy were scarcities, optimism was a fatigued muscle I somehow mustered the strength to flex.
Seventeen years later, that muscle has become my superpower. It’s as if trauma and adversity are my Popeye’s spinach, because I’ve learned that I can transfer pain into power. I metabolize misfortune.
I’m a lucky one. I made it out alive.
But that’s not the case for an alarming number of young people today. I’m horrified at the reality that suicide is a — and in some places THE — leading cause of death for youth in our communities. We have to stop this epidemic.
So, while I have typically celebrated this annual milestone without much fanfare, this year, I’m speaking up.
I want the person who feels broken to know they’re mendable. I want the person who’s suffering to know that relief is possible. I want the person who feels different to know their uniqueness is valued.
And I want the person who thinks they’re alone to know I’m here.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing suicidal thoughts please call: 24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Also, Utah has crisis lines statewide.
Marina Gomberg’s lifestyle columns appear on sltrib.com. She is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.