Same Pen, Different Me
Chantal Johnson

Playing Tag With the Grim Reaper

September 21st, 2014. It was the Sunday after my dad’s death. My world was grey. His death sapped everything out of me, and before I realized it, I’d hit rock bottom.

I’d never felt so lifeless before. After his death, I’d stay in bed for as long as I could get away with it, staring at the ceiling and wondering why. Just why. It was a question that I couldn’t answer. My dad lost his battle to cancer five short months after his diagnosis, leaving me and three other children behind to the care of our wildly unstable, abusive mother. I’d never felt so alone.

Why did I have to be alone? Why did cancer have to take the sweet, caring man who’d sacrificed everything to ensure that his children were fed and clothed?

He didn’t deserve death, much less an excruciatingly painful one.

I don’t remember many details of the Sunday that I almost overdosed on the narcotics that Hospice had neglected to collect after my dad’s passing. Part of me thinks it might have been raining that day, but for all I know, it could’ve been sunny pumpkin spice weather.

I just remember locking myself in the bathroom, sobbing as quietly as I could. Shaking. Hyperventilating. Unable to stop thinking about how easy it’d be to kill myself with a single bottle of hydrocodone. I knew it was wrong to think about. Wrong to obsess over how goddamned easy it’d be to off myself before the sun set. Thanks to a lifetime of chronic illness and pain, my dad had enough pain pills and muscle relaxers to take out a horse. I knew it wouldn’t take much to take out my underweight body.

I hated how I was able to think it all through so carefully. How I had a pretty good estimate of how many pills it’d take to get my little heart to stop beating. For being smart enough to know how to make sure I didn’t fail.

Thankfully that day, my boyfriend (who I later married) was there over Twitter DMs to talk me out of it. I don’t remember if I told him exactly what my plans were, but he knew I didn’t want to live anymore. I don’t know how long I spent in that bathroom, tapping out my desperation on the screen while my chest burned from sobs I tried so desperately to muffle. I didn’t want my family to know how much I was suffering. I almost didn’t let him know how much I was suffering that day.

(If I hadn’t, I would’ve been buried next to my father a few short days later in the hot Georgia soil.)

I don’t remember how long it took before he was able to calm me down. I don’t remember how I spent the rest of the day, nor that following week. The black hole of grief consumed every last bit of energy I had. Because even though I’d managed to step away from the edge, things didn’t automatically get better for me. It took six months before I felt like I was able to breathe again. It took even longer before I started creating on a regular basis again.

Out of that experience almost two years ago, it’s given me a lot to think about when it comes to things like recovery and mental health. I’ve always heard people say “oh, it gets better!” But honestly, I think they’re full of shit. Life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine if you’re able to get through the intense urges to take your own life. The demons are still there. They just have days where you’re able to ignore them better than you are on other days.

I still go through periods of oppressing, overwhelming darkness. And yes, sometimes I still want to kill myself. But for me, at least, recovery isn’t this simple, quick process. It’s an ongoing thing. Maybe for one’s entire life.

It’s not “want to kill yourself, almost try, then never hit such a low point again.” A lot of the time, it’s “sometimes want to kill myself, not do it and feel better for awhile, then hit that low point again later.”

Because no matter how many good days I have or the amount of inspirational memes I retweet, I’m still going to have dark days. I’m still going to have periods of intense suicidal ideation. But I also know that I have a support system to get me through that, and most of all, I’m stronger now. My dark days are not an indicator of weakness.

Because I’m still strong even if I want to die sometimes.