—words by Jay Shaw (@petitepariah)
—photography by Jasmine Durhal (@JassieUO)
It’s been roughly 10 months since my suicide attempt, and in these past months there have been plenty of times both good and bad. But all of these experiences have shaped me into the person I am today and I couldn't be any more proud of the progress I've made. Because in this past year alone, I have learned so much about myself—what I like, what I don’t like, what I stand for, what I refuse to tolerate, what I value in both friendships and relationships, my dreams, my passions, who I want to be and most importantly, who I do not want to be.
Upon waking up, like everyone else, I was under the impression that everything would miraculously be “okay”, that the only recovery process I’d have to withstand was physical. I struggled with survivor’s guilt, with the hopelessness of being bedridden, and with wanting people to understand but knowing they never would. I'm still healing, and that's okay.
As of recently, I try my best to only share my story when I find it completely necessary. Because I don't want to be known as just “the girl who woke up”. This has been only a short chapter in my life, and I have so many more to write. I only share my story in hopes of helping others understand, or to inspire hope, because mental illness can be deadly but it is still very possible to overcome. Awareness is equally as important because the more visible an issue is, the less stigma will remain attached, leading to greater understanding and greater chance of people who are struggling to seek help.
My favorite platform to share my story is through the arts. Whether through prose, storytelling, a conceptual photo series, or any other medium I decide to experiment with. It is cathartic to watch my pain and struggles transform into something beautiful that people may appreciate, or even relate to.
As I bring this chapter to an official close, I'd like to end with: Suicide is not beautiful, but surviving it is. The act itself is not beautiful, but survivors are.
I woke up in a room I didn’t recognize. My head was pounding so I figured I had gotten pretty trashed the night before, stayed over with some friends. But Jesus Christ, how much did I drink? My first and only hangover had been that time freshman year at Eric Johnston’s. I hadn’t blacked out for just as long, yet here I am again - a blank slate. My mind jumped from possibility to possibility with such speed I couldn’t even process my own thoughts. My body seemed to operate the exact opposite; eternal slow motion.
Where were my friends? If I could even call them friends. Who knew? As of recently, I’d become more reckless. I could’ve been with my roommate, or with some guy I hardly knew. I was a city girl now. I couldn’t be boring. And if growing up in Indiana taught me anything, it was that I didn't want to be known for growing up there.
There was something in my mouth. Someone said it was to help me breathe. Am I still drunk? Did I hear them correctly, or were they just messing with me? Who was that person anyway? I can’t even remember if I caught their face or not. Maybe I am drunk. That would explain the blurred vision, right? After the room emptied of all those faceless strangers, I placed two hands on the small plastic tube protruding from my mouth. I slowly began to pull. Before long, I realized the tube actually descended into my throat. As I got to the end of the tube, the last pull was celebratory in a way that I aggressively tugged rather than gently slid. Before I could finish my internal celebration, I started gasping for air. It felt as if hot coals were being stomped onto my chest. My head was going to cave in. Was this what dying felt like? Suddenly, hurried footsteps filled the room. Where there was silence only a moment ago, there was now hysteria; desperate shouting over what sounded like beeping from a monitor. And that’s when I realized I hadn’t stayed with friends or strangers last night at all… I was laying in a hospital bed.
My mom tells me it only took a day or two to start talking; pretty miraculous after a 5 day coma. It’s mostly a surreal blur but I remember at some point I asked what happened and the nurses only replied with, “You were in an accident.” An accident? A car accident? The only person I knew with a car was the guy I’d been seeing. Where was he? Was he okay? Fast forward a few hours, or maybe a few days - it’s hard to know for sure, but the nurses eventually gave me a little more to work with - a train accident. I still had no idea what they meant.
I was in the hospital for so long I started scheduling out my days. I was on three different pain medications so I set alarms on my iPad. 6am. 9am. Noon. 3pm. 6pm. 9pm. Midnight. 3am. Repeat. Teams of doctors questioned me while I was half asleep, heavily drugged - I don’t even remember most of them. I do remember the attractive residents though. Waking up to their faces made those early mornings almost enjoyable. Throw in mealtime and bathing schedules, working around visiting hours, so on and so forth, and you get a good idea of how terribly monotonous my days became.
Hearing news that I’d be leaving the hospital filled me with both fear and euphoria. After 3 months of only seeing hospital walls and the inside of ambulances, I was eager for a taste of the “real world”. I was scared because I didn’t know what to expect next. I was still bedridden so going home only meant more waiting.
I spent a lot of time questioning how or why I survived, and wishing I hadn’t. It wasn’t until October that I fully understood that I survived for a reason. I became determined to find out why. A little over a month ago, I asked a friend about the possibility of moving in, because we’d talked about it in the past, and she was all for it. Everything happened so quickly. I moved in a few weeks later.
It’s amazing to think about because I wasn’t supposed to wake up at all. But not even a year later, I’m beginning a new life in the city I love, doing some really remarkable things. It’s enlightening because my life has always been kind of a train wreck - after all, the accident I woke from was intentional. On May 13th, 2015, I caught the front-end of the Redline.