“Each time I fail to think about death, I have the impression of cheating, of deceiving someone in me.”
— Emil M. Cioran (The Trouble with Being Born)
When I was in college, I struggled constantly with poor mental health. I was frequently suicidal, and many days the only thing keeping me alive was my unwillingness to let Afina come back to the dorm and be traumatized by my corpse. When that didn’t work, I leaned on my Catholicism, which claimed that anyone who died from suicide would go straight to Hell. There were times that I honestly wondered if Hell would even be worse than being alive. At least the climate would be an improvement.
The highlight of every day became the moment when I could crawl into bed and sleep. Even then, I was harassed by my voices until I became so exhausted sleep finally took over.
I learned the term “Memento Mori” in college. It literally means “remember your death” or “remember your mortality.” Christians also have adopted it as a way of life, a way of maintaining faith and virtue, by contemplating one’s death. This seemed like a good idea. Funneling all those suicidal thoughts into meditation. Of course my voices technically don’t allow for meditation or quiet, but you get the idea.
I even had one professor who gave an extra credit assignment that required me to visit a cemetery and meditate on my eventual death and judgment. Instead, because I am a genealogist, I got distracted and excited taking pictures of gravestones with the surname Wilson.
One day, I took out my post-it notes from my desk drawer and scratched out the words Memento Mori. I stared at them, then stuck the post-it to my desk shelf among the endless to-do lists.
My hope, I thought. From then on, when I was in my room and the emotions and pain became too much, I would look at that post-it note and think someday. I worked toward my death like most people worked toward a new job or retirement. I worked toward it like it was something I needed to earn.
My prayers changed. I used to pray that God would fix me, heal my broken mind. But now I prayed for God to end my life so that I would not be punished for committing suicide.
Please, God. I know life is supposed to be a gift, but I don’t want it. Sometimes things are so hopeless and broken, that killing is a mercy. I used to not understand that, because I thought that even suffering while alive was better than death, even mercy killing. I have changed my mind. Please. I am going to sleep. I don’t want to wake up again. I have been a good Catholic all my life, please, this is all I am asking from you.
Like all my prayers, this one went unanswered by God. My voices were the only ones who answered, zealously recommending I kill myself.
I had a friend named Sam I talked to regularly. He wanted to be a priest someday, and as I was the quiet ultra-Catholic in the Newman Club, we got along well. One day I sent him a picture of my desk, probably to show off my laptop stickers or desk organization. He saw the Memento Mori post-it.
He said that was very heavy and asked why I had it. I looked at the text and thought about opening up. The voices advised that I keep my problems to myself, but desperation won out. I typed back, it is my only hope.
He was very concerned. He suggested I try the on-campus counseling and begged me to remove the post-it. I took it in my hands, running my fingers over the paper. I guess it was unnecessary. I dropped it in the garbage and informed him that I had done so. He was relieved.
The slightest bit of hope rose up in me. A friend I could actually confide in. And I did, a little bit, over several months. I described my struggles, vaguely alluding to my serious mental illness. He was receptive and kind.
Then I got the text. He said he felt like we should stop talking. That he didn’t want to text anymore. He didn’t explain why. The tiny, flickering light of hope in me dimmed and died. My voices chastised me, saying that’s what happens when you open up, what did you expect? You’re too much. You’re not worth it.
I said, I understand and appreciate your honesty. He didn’t respond. I must’ve hoped that he would respond and explain for months. I hoped beyond hope. It wasn’t like he was a crush or anything, like Afina seemed to think. We were genuinely friends. At least I had thought so.
Abandoned, again. Why was I even surprised? I deleted his contact information, and our entire text conversation, hundreds of messages.
He was right, though. Even though I wouldn’t acknowledge it for a few more years, I had been depressed. I still struggle with depression. I never did go to counseling. The thought of spilling my problems in front of someone who was paid to listen to me was not an appealing prospect.
I didn’t stop missing that damn post-it until I had known Marie for months.
Post 64 in Socially Unacceptable: The Daily Life of a Queer Schizophrenic Wreck (2022)
This is an autobiographical series about my life, something I have wanted to do for a long time. I intend to add new content daily.
For the whole series, follow this link.