Suicide Is Not Painless

A. Granheim Phogtoraphy/Santa Monica, California/2016

When I was a little girl my grandpa would watch the tv show MASH. I remember the line in the theme song that said “Suicide is painless”. They lied. Suicide is not painless. Suicide hurts the people that you leave behind, sometimes destroys them, and it ends things on your terms, and that simply isn’t fair.

In my life I have lost many people for many different reasons. I lost my Uncle Arnold when I was little, his funeral is the first one that I went to. To this very day I can not hear the song How Great Thou Art without crying. He used to sit in the window and shoot squirrels, and then one day he shot himself. They said it was an accident. I don’t think it was, but I don’t remember for sure. Either way, he was gone and as a 7 year old I didn’t understand why he left me. I didn’t have a father figure, but I loved him and he was my friend.

I lost my friends Robin and Sandy in high school. We went to church camp together and they were a couple years older than I was. We were close friends up until I moved away from the town we lived in to a different city. They always liked each other and eventually that like turned into love. Sandy got pregnant and she told Robin the day of graduation. He didn’t want the baby anymore, and he came home from graduation to find her dead in his apartment. She had taken her own life. I remember trying my best to be there for Robin from a distance. He was like a brother to me. It wasn’t long before he gave up and joined Sandy. I was only 15, I didn’t understand then. I do now. I remember going to their grave sites every time I went back to my home town to leave them flowers. They didn’t need to leave us so soon, but they did, and no amount of flowers in the world would bring them back, but somehow it comforted me to give them some type of beauty and let them know that I still cared.

As many of you know, almost two years ago I lost one of my best friends to what was a possible suicide. We may never really know for sure what killed him. I have my theory, but theory doesn’t change the fact that he is gone and that he isn’t coming back. Losing the others was tough. Losing him was enough to push me over the edge.

I spent the first year after he died wanting to join him. It was everything I had in me to not take my own life. I spent numerous days alone in my room, even though I had three other people that I lived with at the time, I isolated myself. I cried into the pillow that I had kept of his. In a morbid way I knew that it was on his bed when he passed, and in many ways that made me feel closer to him. It still smelled like burberry and his favorite fabric softner. It was on the other side of the bed that they found him on, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with sleeping with it, holding onto it, crying into it, and just screaming into it when I needed to tell him how pissed off I was that he left me. Eventually I had to let it go, when I was ready, on my terms.

Suicide will fuck with your head until you don’t think you can handle it anymore. And just when you think you have overcome those deep feelings of grief, you realize that grief comes in waves and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. I could be somewhat happy one moment and in tears on a ball on the floor in the next. I wouldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t be around people, all I wanted was to isolate myself and not come back up for air again.

I thought of more ways to take my own life than I care to admit. I flushed every pill in my room down the toilet one morning. I kept my closet as full as I could with clothes that were new and pretty so there wasn’t room to hang myself, but everytime I looked in there I saw his sweater. I couldn’t take it out. It was his, and I didn’t want to let go of him. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

I started writing. I wrote about every feeling and emotion possible, and even though I didn’t understand them all, they caused self awareness within me and I believe saved my life. If you were to look back on Medium from the time I started writing until now, I believe that you would see growth. I think that you won’t see as much sadness and hopelessness, but you will see that I am trying. You will see exactly what pain suicide causes to the people that are left behind. I no longer feel suicidal and haven’t for a while now, but I still feel sadness from time to time, I just figured out how to pull myself out of it.

For me, I suffered in silence for a while. I had to figure out what was going on in my head, and I wouldn’t allow myself to slow down. If I were to slow down, I would die. I knew that already. I spent a lot of time around the apartment building that he died in, around the familiar places that we would go together at first. And then one day I couldn’t go there anymore. I went to West Hollywood with my husband and as we drove down Santa Monica Boulevard I lost it. I cried so hard and so much that I probably could have used all the Ativan in WeHo. I drove by K24 where we would eat out on the patio, along the path where Chi Chi Larues, Mickeys, PUMP, Manhole, and finally The Abbey stood. I saw him in all of those places, and why should I not? We spent countless time in all of them. I even went to Greystone Manor one day during the day and they let me in as they were cleaning. I walked to the last table that we had bottle service at and sat there. It wasn’t the same, he was missing. The excitement was gone. The life had been taken out of the entire picture for me, and I realized that it would never be again. This life was over, there was never going to be anyone that could create those memories with me like he did, and there would never be anyone that I would want to. He was not replaceable, and I needed to figure out how to deal with that.

I would drive in Los Angeles and cry. The Hollywood 101, Fountain, West Sunset Blvd, none of them looked beautiful to me anymore. All that I could think of was how badly I wanted to run away from that place, how much I wanted to be somewhere that would give me solace, comfort, and joy again. Venice Beach had always been my place of zen, and even that seemed different. The warm sand between my toes no longer felt warm, the sun on my face no longer felt good, in fact, the entire world seemed colder to me. I would drive back home from Venice Beach and listen to Selena Gomez sing Camouflage and enjoy the sadness. I even spent one day crying on Charlie Sheens star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame. It was where we laughed and teased each other about trying to keep up with Charlie. I bet the tourists were wondering what in the fuck I was crying about and what Charlie had done to me. It wasn’t his fault, it was just a place where a memory was built, and I was searching for things that were no longer there. The reality of it all is that I was enjoying the sadness because I felt as if I had no fucking reason to be happy. I forgot the other reasons in my life, and I focused so hard on the loss of him, that the sadness consumed me. You can’t let that happen, you have to figure out how to be stronger than the sorrow.

I figured it out eventually. I reached out. I was in pretty constant contact with his sister, and his cousin. They were my lifelines at first because I felt as if no one else would understand. I learned how to be great at faking smiles and making small talk. I tried to drown my sorrow with creating art, and it worked for a while, and then I would lose all desire to be creative. It came in waves, just like the grief does. You never really know when you are going to get swept out to sea in sadness, or when you will be caught in a riptide, and if you don’t use your voice to scream for help, no one will save you.

Eventually I started telling my closest friends what I was feeling. I will say time and time again that a couple of them saved my life. When they didn’t even know how bad it was, they were there for me, they reached out to me, they made sure I still laughed with funny messages and snapchats, and they came to my rescue when I didn’t even know what they were doing. Reasons to breathe are important, and they gave me several. From 2200 miles away they saved me, and I will forever be thankful for that.

I could make lists so long of the people and things that I have lost in my life that it would probably shock you. Some of those people I lost by choice, I refuse to allow toxic into my life anymore. I lived with that behavior far longer than I should have. I learned a hard lesson that you have to know yourself and know your worth. When Jayme died, I forgot both of those things. I lost myself and in my eyes I had no self worth.

I went through the emotions and the stages of grief. I can’t remember how many stages there are, fuck, no one counts when you are feeling that way. The stages were probably all scrambled for me anyway, I am far from ordinary. I feel things strongly, I hold onto things longer than I should, and I suck at letting go. I am still trying to learn how to let go of some of the people that I lost from years ago. My mother, she is still alive, I am healthier without her in my life, but it isn’t easy to say goodbye to your mother. Jason Bateman, well, for those of you that know that story, I have finally let go. Friendships like that don’t come along every day, and he wasn’t easy for me to let go of. It wasn’t a love, or a relationship type of wanting with him, it was simply friendship that was lost over a misunderstanding. He ghosted, I behaved badly, and we are no longer friends. That doesn’t mean that I don’t send him the very best and want the best for him. He’s a stellar dude, and I would never wish him anything but the happiest of days. It’s all about the art of letting go, and it’s a hard lesson to learn. I no longer care about where he is or what he is doing, I don’t care about why we can’t be friends, I have just simply let that shit go. All I can do is wish him the best and keep making new friends.

It will be two years on November 13th when we lost Jayme. I think he left us on November 11th, but we didn’t know until two days later. I could be wrong, but in a strange way I think I felt him leave us. I can’t explain it, but I remember feeling as if I couldn’t breathe that day. It is already a tough day for me, November 11th. I lost my daughter on that day many years ago to a miscarriage, so my sadness is already carried through on that day, but it was different. The last time he texted me was the day before. I can no longer see his messages or hear his voice on my voicemail. I would give anything to be able to, but I know that it wasn’t healthy for me. I had to let go of those things.

Jayme and I/Selfie/September 2014 on my birthday

Two years without him feels strange. Some parts of this story still feel as if they happened yesterday. The phone call telling me his was gone, the feeling of not being able to comprehend what I was just told. Breaking down at our security gate and not remembering the code to get in, and laying in that strange astroturf California grass and crying until I don’t think that there were any more tears to cry. It tore my soul apart and ripped my heart out of my chest as if someone had reached in and grabbed it from inside. I didn’t understand why, but I knew why. I was afraid of this, and from there I blamed myself for the events that happened.

I should have been a better friend to him. I should have been more understanding. I should have said yes when he called and wanted to go out. I should have drove him to treatment and forced his ass to go in. I should have texted back after he sent that stupid meme of the frog hanging from a branch. I remember looking at that text and being annoyed with him because he kept sending me silly shit and he stopped talking to me with heart. He had become distant, we had our differences, I knew what he was doing and he knew that I knew, and I know he was ashamed. The truth of the matter is, there was no situation that I wouldn’t have helped him with. He knew that. I would have driven him to wherever he needed to go, flown with him to wherever he wanted, there was no extent to what I was willing to do to help him get better, to help him face the music, and to save his life. He made the choice to leave when he did, and I realize now that it wasn’t my fault. I did my best, and even though it doesn’t feel good enough, it was the best I could do at the time.

I hate to think of the pain he must have felt in the end. The sadness he must have gone through. I hope he wasn’t alone. I hope he didn’t feel as if no one loved him. I loved him. His family loved him. His friends loved him. He had just forgotten how to love himself. I think he was clouded by his addiction, he was living for other people and forgot how to live for himself. He never needed to impress me, but I know he felt as if he had to live up to the West Hollywood standards and impress people that didn’t give a shit about him. In the end they didn’t care, and I hold some of them very responsible for how it all ended. The sad truth is once the money was gone, once the drugs were no longer available, once they took every last fucking thing from him that they could, they left him to die.

And here we are, today. I am in Seattle, 1,134 miles away from The City of Angels, 1,124 miles away from WeHo, 1,127 miles away from 7950 Sunset Boulevard. But, the strange thing is that the very city that I wanted out of is the same city that I am going back to. I needed time to breathe. I had to leave in order to figure out that it was going to be OK. I had to learn that it was OK to hold on to the memories, but I didn’t need to grieve so deeply in them that they made me forget what joy and happiness are. I thought that the city was stealing my joy, but the truth is I was allowing it to be taken.

I love Los Angeles and so did Jayme. When he died his bed had been moved to the other side of the room where it usually was and it was facing the Hollywood sign. You could see Steven Spielbergs’ house outside of his window, and the sounds of Sunset Boulevard were humming below the open window where the California breeze blew on his face one last time. I think he left on his terms, at least I hope he did. But, I don’t think he understood the pain he left behind. He left far too soon, he was barely in his 40’s. He was handsome, and kind, a heart of gold, yet to him value came in the form of dollar signs, and when he could no longer support his lifestyle and habits, it was time for him to fly.

Steven Spielbergs’ house/ view from Jaymes window/7950 W Sunset Blvd/A. Granheim

I have seen people go through the grieving process of losing a loved one to Suicide, and I have felt the effects first hand. There is nothing painless about it. I have to imagine that when you are in your darkest and deepest moments, when you think that you have no more days to live left, and when you think that death is the best route for you, well, you probably don’t really think about the people that you leave behind.

For me, when I was feeling that all I had left was to just leave this earth, I thought about my husband and what his life would be like without me. I am sure in many ways it would be far more simple, but I am all that he has, and at that time he was all I had. I couldn’t do that to him. And as the days went by I realized that it was going to be OK, all I had to do was get through another day, and when it was really bad I just had to get through another second and then another minute. I remember watching the small hand on the clock, and breathing. I didn’t want to be the cause of that much pain to anyone because I knew how deeply the pain of losing my friend caused me.

In the past couple days I have seen that there are other people in my life that have recently lost friends and loved ones to suicide. Please know, you can get through this. I know those words are not going to make you feel better now, but in time you will learn how to live with this grief, and it will become lighter. You have a friend in me, and you can call or text me anytime day or night. If you are feeling low or in need of someone to talk to, and you don’t want to confide in a friend, please know that there are hotlines that you can call and they will help you. You are worth it. You are here for a reason. This life is precious and so are you. Suicide Hotline Number: 1–800–273–8255. Just because one person wasn’t able to get through it doesn’t mean you can’t. If you need help, please call.

Suicide is a bitch of a thing to deal with, and I hope that you never have to feel the feelings that go along with losing someone to suicide. I wish I had never had to feel the things that I did, but they have made me stronger, and I hope kinder. I am more understanding than I once was, and far less quick to judge. I guess when Jayme left us, he also taught me lessons in friendship and in life. He left me in good hands with his beautiful sister and his cousin.

Eventually Jaymes cousin, Nic and her friend Holly flew to Los Angeles and we went to the places that Jayme loved. We had a sausage sundae and brunch in big floppy hats at K24 in WeHo. We had drinks at The Abbey and I cried a little in the bathroom. It was the first time I had gone back without Jayme and it was all so bittersweet. We shared laughs on Santa Monica Boulevard and explained to Holly that Chi Chi Larue’s was not a dessert place, but we did take her in there and show her what they did have. And then we drove in a convertible down the very same roads that Jayme and I would drive to take him to LAX. They were flying off to a island vacation, and I was closing parts of the chapter of this book in beautiful ways. As we drove we listened to “Setting The World On Fire” by Kenny Chesney and Pink. It was as if they wrote the song for Jayme and I. As if they reached into our memories and wrote about them, and then left me with a beautiful song to remind me of all of the laughter, La Cienega Boulevard, and how we were always a little higher than we probably should have been.

Life is a funny thing. Some days will be full of laughter and fun and amazing times with friends, and then the next day those friends are gone. Sometimes they leave warning signs and sometimes they don’t. The lesson here is to never take anyone for granted. Be kind to people. Be a friend to the person that doesn’t seem to have friends. Explore outside of your comfort zone and stop being judgemental. In the end your designer clothes are not going to be what comforts you, that BMW is nice and great to cry in, but it isn’t going to tell you that everything is OK. I know that the comforts in life are nice to have, but if you had to give it up to save a life, would you? What would you give up to save your own life? What lengths are you willing to go to in order to prevent someone from suffering if they don’t need to? Who are you at the core of your being?

I learned who I am. I am brave and I am strong. I am worth it. I am enough, and so are you.

If you or someone you know needs help, please don’t hesitate to seek it. There is no shame in seeking counseling or asking for help. We need to remove the stigmas that society has placed on mental health and depression. It is not a weakness and it is not a character flaw. Again, you are enough, and you are worth it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know that many of you have traveled this road with me over the past two years, but I don’t think I can stress enough how important it is to talk about these feelings, to share the pain that suicide causes to the people that you leave behind, and to tell people that no matter how bad today might seem, tomorrow will be a little bit better. Life is a marathon not a race, and it is our job as human beings to help each other out.

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