Alone in a dorm room, lying on her bed, staring at the poster hanging above her. She was waiting for sleep to come. She knew when she fell asleep it was for the last time and she would no longer be a burden to the world around her. Mom would no longer have to fight to pay for tuition and deal with step-father badgering her about it. Roommates would no longer have to worry about her oversized clothes taking up so much of their precious closet space. Her “friends” she heard laughing at her the day before wouldn’t have to ask her to go to dinner or anything else because they had pity on her.
“This is taking forever,” Ames thought to herself. Then her resident assistant came in to check on her because she heard she’d been sick. At least that is what this college freshman’s roommates told her. Ashley knelt beside Ames’ bed. She felt her forehead to see if there was a fever - just like her mom would have done. Her thoughts went to how much she missed her mom.
“How are you feeling?” she asked. “Not great, but I’m sure I’ll be fine in the morning,” was the faint reply as Ames tried to hold back tears.
“What’s going on?” She thought to herself. “Why is she checking on me?”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get by earlier. I was in class,” Ashley said with one of the most compassionate smiles she could remember. “If you’re not feeling some better by morning, let me know and I’ll go with you to the health center. They’ll see you faster if an RA takes you.”
The questions and thoughts that were churning through Ames’ head were no longer quietly poking her but now they were kicking and screaming. “What have you done? She doesn’t see you as a problem. She really wants to help! Maybe you shouldn’t have done this. Now it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow she’ll be calling campus security because you’ll be gone.” Even then she couldn’t bring herself to say she’d be dead.
Ames choked out, “Thanks.” Ashley stood up, turned to the door, but turned around, “If you need anything before then, I’m right across the hall.” She also told Ames’ roommates, Miss Perfect and the Monster, to let her know if she needed her.
She turned on her side, pulled the covers over her head, and cried silently, tears following each other down the side of her face. Even though Ashley said to let her know if she needed anything, she was too ashamed to tell her what she had done. “There was nothing she could do now, right? Oh God, what have I done?”As the tears and sobs calmed, sleep came. This was goodbye forever.
Beep, beep, beep, beep…
“How long are you going to let that alarm go off before you get up?” The Monster’s voice rang like a bellowing melody from her bed on the other side of the small room. How could something so abrasive, her voice not the alarm, sound so wonderful?
“Ames, you are going to be late if you wait much longer,” Miss Perfect was already dressed and heading to breakfast. Ames didn’t care how “perfect” she was; her voice was another beautiful sound.
She crawled out of bed, gathered her stuff for her shower, and headed down the hall.
As she stood in the shower, tears freely flowed down and mingled with the water she let splash on her face. This time those tears were numb tears of happiness. She was glad to be alive while at the same time she had no clue where to go from here. She knew she couldn’t tell anyone. There was no way her family, friends, or anyone on the very guarded college campus would understand. Now she was alone in a different way. It was a new level of challenge, but she was no stranger to challenge. She decided to go on with life as she had before, being the perfect student and making everyone proud. This time she knew that there was at least one person who actually cared about her and didn’t see her as a burden.
For some reason, even after a very hard sleep, she was exhausted. She finished the shower and quickly got ready for class.
Ames was given another chance and had a lot to figure out. She, I, was determined to press on; it may have been a mild determination, but it was determination none the less.
I went through the “day after” in a fog. My mind was not very focused. I guess it was a combination of a medication, mental and emotional “hangover”. The things I do remember from that day were smiles from friends and professors which I am now sure were there before then, but my mind had muted. I remember a professor giving an assignment back and when she placed it on my desk, she pointed to the grade and smiled. I remember my best friend at the time seeing me near the cafeteria and running up to give me a hug and drag me in to have lunch with her and some of her other friends. I have to admit that I wasn’t hungry but to know I was not just wanted but strongly invited to spend time with her helped me get some food into my tired body. We talked like nothing had ever happened. She never needed to know. I was going to be fine now.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted. I got ready for bed early and laid down. The Monster was still out with friends and Miss Perfect was probably in the library, so I had a few moments to myself.
I heard a gentle knock on the door. It was Ashley checking on me which was part of her job as RA. As we talked for a few minutes, I figured out that she was off duty and just came by because she was concerned about me. The night before I thought I was saying goodbye to her forever. That night her voice was so calming and her face lit up with genuine care. It was just what I needed to know my decision to push through was the right one.
The rest of college went by with some personal tragedy, but no further thoughts of suicide. I decided to lean on the people around me and be there for them as well.
Life has continued for many years after that experience. Like everyone else, I’ve experienced good times and bad times; wonderful times and horrific times. There were times when I was able to rejoice with others and cry with them.
I am one of the many who have tried to end my life and was thankful to wake up. I am one of the many who never told anyone what they did when it happened and worked on their own to find the resiliency to go on. I am one of the many who haven’t had a voice because they chose not to have one. I am now one of the many who have chosen to work to help those like me.
The voice of lived experience and hope is like a ripple in the ocean of quiet ignorance in which our communities are engulfed. It resonates with more people than we can imagine. For although we are all unique, many share similar stories we have stifled for months, years or decades.
Survivors find hope in many different ways. I reached inside myself then out to others. Many reach out to others so they can look inside themselves. Some struggle to reach at all but still press forward. The choice for any of these is a choice of strength. A strength that must have a voice in order for hope to grow.