The Bridge That Is Any Bridge

VOTY 2014I normally avoid the bridge after a jumper jumps.

While inconvenient, as the bridge connects the northern and southern portions of our small city, avoiding the long, sloping bridge over the train tracks is possible. A shortcut here, a longcut there, a roundabout, a “let’s explore this road we’ve never driven on before.” A purposeful, intentional avoidance; a subconscious, necessary avoidance.

After working a fourteen hour day, my eyes felt dry and scratchy; my mind, nothing but goo. The boys needed cereal, needed non-skim milk for their breakfasts. A mother’s work never done, never complete; I ran the errands in silence. No radio, the window down just a smidgen on an unseasonably cool June evening. Lost in thoughts and non-thoughts, I suddenly found myself on the bridge.

A sharp intake of breath. My foot pulled off the gas, a reflex quite the same as if you had accidentally walked on the fresh dirt of a newly covered grave. My hands gripped the wheel, white-knuckled. Don’t look over the side. Just look forward. Just. Look. Forward. Red light. Fingers tapping, deep-breathing practicing. Green light, go!

The wake of a public suicide always leaves me shaky, uneasy. The demons and ghosts and memories of my past — my present — begin to swirl and mix, dance and laugh, cry and poke at the places I prefer to keep hidden. I close my eyes and try to hide, but they remain in my vision, in my brain, in my soul. I feel the loss deeply, keenly, as I have been there. I have stood there, on that bridge that is any bridge, in that space that is any space, in that mindset that is deep and dark and empty and full and everything and nothing. I have wished and wanted and been there, in that place that we don’t dare discuss for fear of judgment, for fear of being labeled “unwell,” “unsafe,” or even insane.

We speak in hushed tones, if we even speak at all, about suicide. While the work that people like Cristi at Motherhood Unadorned did in the recent Overnight for Suicide Prevention shows that people do care, that people are talking about it, even she recognized the disconnect.

At one point halfway through as we casually discussed these typically intense topics, I noted “how wonderful is it to be able to talk about medication and suicide with so many people who really get it.” There were never judgements. Just love and support and no stigma.

It’s not that I expect the general public to understand what it’s like to stand on the edge, figuratively or literally. Once I step back from the edge, once I catch my breath myself, it’s even hard for me to understand what brought me to that point, what took me beyond the place of understanding to the dark, to the unknown. The judgments from others are quick, heavy. Selfish. Weak. We label, we point fingers. “I would never do that,” sufficiently silencing anyone struggling, anyone sitting in the crowd who might be struggling with their own thoughts, with their own fears. The venom of hatred toward suicide paralyzing those that need to be able to speak, to reach out, to ask, “But what if…”

I held my breath through the next light, only relaxing as I turned the corner and headed toward the light of the setting sun in the direction of our home. Toward my boys, toward my husband, toward everything that means anything to me. I slowly made my way through the emptying streets, dusk settling in and pushing people back to their homes, to what matters. I thought of the man lost this week — a husband, a father. I thought of the woman a few years ago — a mother. “How could they do that to their children,” people scoff, judge. Another way to silence those hurting, those most in need of having the safe place to say, “I don’t know what I need, but this place is scary. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I’m hurting.” We mock “cries for help.” We make jokes. We rant. We hate. My guess is that all of the lashing out is less about the person or concept being judged and more about not wanting to go there, not wanting to understand out of fear of admitting that, yes, we’re all human and flawed and hurting in so many ways, on so many levels.

Being human is scary and hard and real and painful and wonderful and amazing and fulfilling and squelching and everything in between.

— __ — __ —

The week before, I sent a friend a text.

“I’m not okay.”

And I wasn’t. A series of overwhelming life events and mishaps and even good things pushed me into a dark corner of self, of fear, of depression. I began to spew forth a series of everything weighing on me, the everything and nothing smashing into one another, into me. “I’m a failure.” “I’m the worst mother ever.” “I’ll never be a good enough wife.” “I don’t want to be a birth mother anymore.” “The house won’t sell.” “I’m just… tired.” Eventually emptying my soul, I set off on a run. Slowly — slowly — the right overtook the wrong, the light overtook the darkness. However briefly I felt lost, I found myself again a day or so later.

— __ — __ —

I pulled into my garage and shut off the car. I sat, silently, before the dog jumped up at the door, her pointy ears and nose visible. Sometimes knowing that people and pets and work and all of the things and and all of the people rely on you to make things happen, to make everything work can be overwhelming. Sometimes the feeling of pressure is constant, an indescribable weight. Sometimes the medication meant to quell the anxiety doesn’t quite cut it. Sometimes sleep evades. Sometimes life is too much, too big, too present, too past, too future, too everything, too nothing.

And sometimes the sight of your dog at the door, the sound of your kids’ feet thumping to the doorway to meet you, brings you back to the safe space, the quiet place.

I gathered the bag with the cereal, slipped my hand through the sweaty handle of the milk jug and stepped out of the car. Barking and little voices, hands and paws, greeting and asking all of the questions and licking the back of my knees. I gave a silent thanks for being here, in this moment — for being okay again, for being able to breathe, for a moment that feels normal. These are the moments that I come back from the bridge that is any bridge, the space that is any space.

This is not the bridge; this is a bridge that is any bridge

 

 

Suicide Prevention

 

If you don’t have a friend to text and you need to talk to someone, visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeling or call 1-800-273-TALK.

 

 

 

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17 Replies to “The Bridge That Is Any Bridge”

  1. A good friend of mine took her own life when we were in high school. No one could believe it, she was popular, a star athlete, and straight-A student. Per high school standards, she basically had everything. She sometimes expressed that she was feeling pain in her life but we, her friends, dismissed her cries for help as teenage drama and told her she was fine. We didn’t know any better, now we do. Now as an adult, I always try to take people’s cries for help seriously, you never know what someone is going through on the inside despite what you observe of their life on the outside. Haven’t we all struggled with something in silence before? Thank you for writing this!

  2. “Being human is scary and hard and real and painful and wonderful and amazing and fulfilling and squelching and everything in between.”

    Yes. Thank you for hitting publish. We need this. All of us.

  3. Don’t know what to say except I’m right there with you. No judgements at all. I think one of the most damaging aspects of the stigma is the “selfish” label. It’s hard to get better or even want to get better when your scared of selfish… There’s so much bubbling under my fingertips but I can’t seem to access it to type…

    Thank you.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. It means so much.

  4. Thank you.

    Regarding others, I feel like this quote on suicide I read last week is fitting:

    “There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”
    -Stephen Fry (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22782913)

  5. Wow, what a powerful post. Thank you for sharing. I think of course it’s impossible for those who’ve never experienced depression or suicidal thoughts to truly get it. I mean really understanding and empathize mg has got to be hard. We’re all prone to judge what we don’t understand. But it’s real. You and I and so many people know it. The power it can have over you. It lies. It steals your strength and resolve and joy. I hope you’re doing ok today. And I hope you continue to reach out because even though “society” often doesn’t get it, there are SO many of us who do. xo hugs.

  6. Oh Jenna my love. I love you to the end of universe. I am always here. Just like I know yiu will be virtually holding my hand as I go check in to rehab to detox. Love you.

  7. You are brave and wonderful for speaking up. I think more people have been there on that bridge than we think, people who won’t or can’t say anything. I have. I’ve been on that bridge myself and I’ve lost loved ones. It’s a scary place. Your words are beautiful and honest and it was pieces like this that helped me find my way back down off the bridge when I needed it. Thank you for speaking up, my friend. We are all here if you need us.

  8. Hey, Jenna–I came by to read this again after VOTY because I wanted to give your words the focus that they deserve. Thank you for telling this story. I’m glad your feet are on the earth. It’s so important for us to keep talking about the fact that it’s OK not to be OK. Peace to you.
    Ashley

  9. Hey Jenna

    I was guided to your awe-inspiring post by Laurel Regan of Alphabet Salad.

    And, now, I am in tears.

    A person who has the courage to open their most vulnerable, scary, enigmatic part of their selves to the world can NEVER be selfish. YOU ROCK, lady!!! #HUGSSSS

    Much love
    Kitto

  10. As someone who has lost people to suicide, and nearly lost a friend to it last year, I appreciate you sharing this so much. It is something that needs to be brought out into the light and be talked about and the stigma of having those feelings removed so that people can ask for help when they need it. I think posts like this are so, SO important.

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