[17 June, 2010]

take me all the way

Under the bridge downtown
Forgot about my love
Under the bridge downtown
I gave my life away

Credit: Khataroo at DeviantArt

I mentioned before that there have been sad things happening in my life. I've been trying for months now to write something down, but it's difficult to find the words to really describe what has gone on, externally and internally. Everything I say sounds gauche and awkward. This is just another one of those clumsy attempts.

Three months ago today, a friend of mine committed suicide. She wasn't in my circle of closest friends, but she was a colleague in our small graduate program, and more than an acquaintance. We were in a class (of 12 people) together this past semester. And last semester, she planned a baby shower for a good friend of ours, where we all enjoyed her New Orleanese cooking. She was also the roommate of another close friend, and our paths crossed all the time, whether through studying, mutual social activities, or in conversations about dogs.

Credit: PostSecret

On March 17th, on St. Patrick's Day, she jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. This fact feels just as beautiful and grotesque as it sounds. Beautiful, because it essentially bypasses the mess of death. This is exactly how I would picture her leaving this world: falling weightlessly into the abyss of the waters, surrounded by the beauty of the Bay. And grotesque, because there it is: the magnificent enormous symbolic San Franciscan sculpture transformed into a killing machine. I haven't brought myself to be near it yet (walking or driving), but whenever I catch a glimpse of it from across the Bay or through the buildings of the city, I feel it staring back, stoically and mysteriously. Just like in the movie, The Bridge:

Everybody always wants to know the facts surrounding this event, and the facts are that yes, she most likely had a mental illness. She was in a lot of pain, and many of us knew that. We think she had Bipolar II (depression is predominant to mania), which is actually one of the most deadly disorders, since as you come out of a depressive episode and you still taste the bitterness of depression, but you also have more energy and the impulsivity to hurt yourself. There were times when she was clearly manic, and (most) times when she was pretty depressed. She had attempted suicide before, and that just drives the risk even higher. She was in the field of mental health and knew all her resources, but this was her definite decision. There is such finality to taking that plunge off the bridge. There is no turning back and virtually no possibility of survival. As you're standing on that ledge, the pain of life must outweigh the fear of death.

While we knew she was quietly suffering inside, she poured her heart into giving to others. She was honestly one of the most selfless people I have known. She made everyone around her feel comfortable and accepted. She knew exactly how to converse with every person, on very diverse topics. She loved experiencing foods and culture, she loved to meet new dogs in parks, she loved to welcome everybody into her heart. And maybe that got a little too heavy.

And the feelings since then? There have been so many: disbelief (we were in class together two days before this happened, her name is still listed in our online class database), guilt (were we really all so wrapped up in our cocoons of grad school stress? and did these cocoons really matter so much that we couldn't look around? were we not watching/listening/understanding? and where was that suicide hotline number?), anger (because, wtf? WTF?!, sometimes I wish I could just shake her, screaming, are you f'ing kidding me?!). But the most prominent feeling is sadness. Powerless, despairing, soul-wrenching sadness. Because we lost an amazing friend and talented colleague. Because my first funeral was for a young classmate. Because the menacing Golden Gate Bridge is a reminder of the pain people in this world feel every day, when death seems like the best most logical option.

Credit: Vaggelisf at DeviantArt

I wanted to write more, especially about the aftermath and where all these events have brought me, but I'm afraid I am running out of steam tonight. You will just have to hold tight for an equally-awkward Part 2. Until then, stay safe, and please enjoy every moment with your friends and loved ones.

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