***TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide and depression.
As I stand at the edge of this rooftop, looking down on the place I once considered home, I begin to feel the irreversibility of what I am about to do. There are no second chances where I’m going. It is nearly time now; I am on my last cigarette. Inhale, exhale – like it is my oxygen supply. My lungs burn with each drag and the dizziness in my head is overwhelming, but I can’t bring myself to care. The things we worry about while we are alive just don’t seem as important when you know you are about to die. Smoking Kills. But so does everything: isn’t that the point?
I don’t remember how old I was when I decided I wanted to kill myself. Perhaps I was born with the decision already made for me. Do you ever get that feeling, feeling like you just want to stop being? I’ve had that feeling for as long as I can remember. I think most people understand, in one way or another, how it feels to not want to wake up in the morning. I don’t just understand it, I inhabit it. If I went home now, the feeling wouldn’t go with it. It has made its home in me. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible to be nineteen and this fucking sad. People are always telling me that it will get better. That, one day, I’ll wake up and the pain will be gone. I’ll see a future for myself, discover who I am. But maybe I already know who I am. Maybe this is all I am.
Everything changed after mum was gone. Death changes everything. You don’t realise that, until suddenly it’s all around you. In the air that you breathe, the room that you sleep in, every ‘I love you’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’. You’re probably thinking: how could you do this, then, if you know what it feels like to watch someone you love die? I know it’s not fair on everyone I’m leaving behind. Or on mum, if she’s watching. But it’s not fair on me, either. To give me a life that I did not want. It is nobody’s fault that I am not the person I want to be, not even my own. It all comes down to that one question: can any of us ever actually be anything other than what we are?
People think that being suicidal makes you weak. Maybe they are right. But what they don’t see is how it also makes you indestructible. Standing here now, for example, about to shatter the illusion of immortality we build for ourselves every time we pretend that it will last forever, I don’t feel scared. I don’t really feel anything. Numb, maybe. Empty. Like someone has turned me upside down and everything inside of me has fallen out. But when you are this sad – like, all of the time, not just some of the time, you forget that unhappiness is a state of mind – it just becomes a part of who you are.
I once watched a video that said having depression feels like sitting in a nice warm bath and then someone suddenly pulling the plug. But I used to love watching the water drain out of the bathtub, it might have even been my favourite part. People say that being depressed is difficult. I think it’s the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is wake up every morning and decide that you would rather have stayed asleep forever. It’s horrible, yes, but it’s not difficult. I’ve always found it weird that unhappy people seem to be at their happiest when talking about their unhappiness. Yet here I am: unhappy, happy to be talking about it. Everyone is their own exception to their own rules.
I used to think that maybe someone else could save me. That if they thought I was beautiful; I could see it for myself. But there is nothing beautiful about pain. Falling in love turned out to be just that: falling. Falling even further than where I stood before. I don’t blame him, though. We aren’t born to spend our lives trying to find someone who cares; someone else wasn’t born to spend their life caring. It’s the worst feeling in the world, giving someone everything you have and watching them choose someone else. But I would choose someone else too, if I could.
I take one last drag of my cigarette and flick it forward. Preceding me, I think. I’m hoping it’s just the nicotine rush, but suddenly I feel sick. I don’t want to feel anything; it suggests I can still feel something. I step back, sit down, take deep breaths. Like they taught me in therapy. It is meant to make you feel more in control. Before now, I don’t think I ever believed it. But it is working. What an ironic time for my natural preservation instincts to finally kick in.
I have finished my packet of cigarettes. There is nothing for me to focus on now. I will just sit here, waiting. But what am I waiting for? Before I have the chance to contemplate my own question, I hear a whirring sound from behind me. No, not behind me, above me. A helicopter. Shit. I lie flat on my stomach, eyes facing the street below. I don’t want them to see me, but I also don’t want the artificial wind to push me over the edge. Only I get to decide when I jump. I wait until they’ve passed before letting out the breath I didn’t realise I had been holding. I stay lying down, it feels safe. I wonder what it would have looked like, if they’d seen me. Watching me watch the people down below watching each other. Three different tiers, three different perspectives.
From up here, looking down, I see things that I never would have noticed before. There are good things in the world, too. They’d always been there; I just hadn’t been paying attention. A black BMW stops at a set of traffic lights, an anonymous elbow reaching out the window, tapping lightly on the roof. My dad does that sometimes, especially on long drives in the summer when the car gets so hot you just want to crawl out of it. Keeping in time to whatever album he’d picked for that day. I smile at the memory. I miss him. I would miss him. He would miss me too. I watch the traffic lights change: red, orange, green. Things change. Maybe things could change for me too.
I stand up, brush the dirt off my front. The empty packet of Marlboro Light’s lays at my feet, taunting me. I kick it over the edge. Watch it fall down, down, down. I lean forward slightly, trying to see where it lands, but I lose my balance. For a second, I think, this is it. I close my eyes and brace myself for the fall. But I am not falling; I am still here. Tears begin to roll down my cheeks before I even realise I have started to cry. Where are my cigarettes? I can’t see where they’ve landed, but suddenly I need to know. Sometimes it’s the things we thought we’re killing us that make us realise why we need to stay alive. I stand on the rooftop, looking down on my home, and I know that it is too early to leave.
– Esther Huntington-Whiteley