These things have been true since I was a child: I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve always been lonely. One of my earliest memories is sitting alone during recess, wishing someone would talk to me because I didn’t have the courage to approach anyone. No one came.
My closet is full of old journals filled with more stories than I know what to do with, and every surface in my room is covered in books. When I sat alone, they were my refuge - my friends when I had none. The books abated the loneliness just a little, and I buried my fears in the stories I wrote.
My darkness grew as I did, anxiety morphing into depression morphing into total dread of life. I had friends, a best friend even, but during quarantine, I was entirely isolated from them. My mind returned to its state of total loneliness, and I didn’t know how to handle it. The downward spiral reached its end in one idea which, once thought, plagued my every waking moment: that the only solution was to entirely remove myself from this world.
Over the next few months, I puzzled over this solution, thinking of pros and cons, reasons for and against. I wrote poetry about how I felt, and it was a mild reprieve, but it didn’t stop the constant plague of thoughts and plans. I decided that I would do it at night, that I would take the pills I could find in the laundry room. I decided who I would give each belonging to, what I would say in my letter. I never told anyone because I didn’t want help and I was afraid that, once I told someone, they would stop me. Still, the only other thing I never did, never, was write the letter down. Some part of me knew that once it was written down, I couldn’t stop myself, and some part of me knew that this would not be a good thing. A story may just be a story, but stories find ways to make themselves real.
It was a multitude of things that made me decide to live. When thinking about what I would say to my best friend in my letter, I found that I couldn’t justify it. I couldn’t leave them to deal with it. When imagining my family finding my body, I realized I couldn’t bear the horror, the grief they would have to go through. When sitting on the dock on the lake, I remembered a distant memory of joking around with a friend - she claimed to be psychic, guessing the boats that came by, and she was accurate each time. I remembered the wonder, the joy I’d felt at the world’s little tricks, and realized that I wanted to feel it again.
The final straw: a book by Fredrik Backman called A Man Called Ove. This book details a man trying over and over to kill himself because he has nothing to live for. Throughout the course of the book, though, he develops relationships and, through them, new reasons to live. At the end, he dies as he was meant to - a disease takes him, and he is mourned by the neighbors he never thought he would know beyond passing glances. This book solidified the decision for me. It made a home in my chest, a radio that told me over and over again that life is about finding new reasons to live, even if you don’t want to see them.
It took a few months to recover, and I still struggle with many of the issues I did before, but this time, death never presents itself as an option. This time, I know that, despite it all, life makes itself worth it.
I told all of this to a friend one night as we sat on the edge of a bluff eating Mexican takeout. We hadn’t been friends for more than a couple of months, and I didn’t know much about his mental health. He nodded along, listening as I spoke and marveling as the night clouds wove themselves about the city below. I did not think that what I said was too important - it was an expression of trust, yes, but nothing more.
A couple of months after that, my birthday rolled around, and he came to school with a letter as a gift. In it, he told me he’d been considering suicide for a long time. He told me he was ready, on the verge of doing it, and that what I had said had come at the perfect time to give him hope again.
This friend is now one of my very closest, a daily presence and comfort. He is still around, and so am I, and so we make late-night runs to fast food restaurants and talk in silly voices and spend too much time on Roblox together. To know that this came about because of a story I told, because of a decision I made, because of a book I read - this means everything.
I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve always been lonely. Now, though, I’m less alone than I was those many months ago. Now, I have people I can share my stories with and people I can write for, can live for. I hope, through my writing, to inspire someone as another writer once inspired me. If I can save lives with art, with the stories I write, then why wouldn’t I put my whole life towards that? After all, stories are the friends we have when we have no one else, the first thing we turn to to hold our hand when things get hard, the forces of the universe that just might save us.