Trigger warning: Suicidal ideation

Today, I’m settling into a long and pretty uneventful holiday weekend. Sweet Ruby had a bit of minor surgery yesterday to remove the remains of a canine tooth after she and Sissy got into a nasty tussle. So, we’re laying low and watching her closely, hoping the stitches in her mouth heal quickly and that she can return to solid food soon. (Sidebar: Most people think Sissy is the aggressor in these dog tussles, but she’s not. Ruby does not play when it comes to her chewies, her food, or her bed.)

I’m reading lots in the mystery/thriller genre lately. After discovering the deliciousness of a tightly woven and twisty thriller by Freida McFadden, I’ve decided I’ve been missing out… both on reading thrillers and on writing them. I’m obsessively thinking of the best, most fearsome, most unexpected twists I can conjure up. I’m going to try my hand at one soon, and it feels like walking into a forbidden—but enticing—forest. I’ve got a stack full of thrillers to read this weekend, and I’m pretty committed to doing not much more.

(Question for those who are more informed than me: Is it okay to write cross-genre? I’ve published in literary fiction, I’m writing memoir, and I’d love to dabble in both thriller and YA. Does that make agents and publishers want to cry?)

Okay, back to today’s story…

While I was reading this morning, my youngest called from Colorado. We’ve been talking a lot lately. He’s been sick for three months, and I finally convinced him to go to the doctor on Mothers’ Day. He didn’t actually go to the doctor until the day after Mothers’ Day, though, because he’d already booked his Sunday schedule with a haircut and the purchase of a pet tarantula, whom he named Mr. Mayor. Sadly, Mr. Mayor met his demise just a few days later. “It was a good $35 spent,” George said. “We made some memories.” I love that kid-man.

Anyway, I was surprised by his call this morning because we’ve been talking a lot: Me, obsessively asking if the steroids are making his cough better before he begins his summer job that’s located 14,000 feet above sea level; Him, assuring me that he’s definitely getting better even though he still sounds like he’s hacking up a lung or a small, moist animal.

When I answered the phone today, I asked him immediately if all was well. He was okay, he said, but all wasn’t well. His friend had just lost his mom after a long battle with cancer, and George was feeling the weight of his friend’s incredible loss. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to die any time soon.

None of my kids has ever really talked to me about my possible death. When I was divorcing their dad and coming out of the closet, I often thought they might be better off without me. I thought during my lowest times that their dad would remarry, they’d have a stepmom to rely on, and they wouldn’t have to deal with the human who changed their young lives in irrevocable ways.

On my very worst day, I even went so far as to sit in my running car in my rented garage while I cried alone, inconsolably. The detached garage was far from airtight, and I only sat for a couple of minutes, but the thought of leaving this earth definitely crossed my mind.

That’s what grief and guilt and hopelessness can do to you.

I’m so, so far removed from those dark, lonely days now, but I remember that horrible, choking feeling of hitting rock bottom. I remember actually believing people—even my own children—would be better off if I were no longer here. I remember thinking I’d lost almost everyone who’d ever mattered to me. I remember talking myself into my own unworthiness as a human. I remember feeling like I was taking up too much space on this earth. I remember seeing the ever-present blackness with no possibility of sun.

I remember nearly giving up.

My sweet boy reminded me today why I chose to remain.

I promised him that I have no intention of dying any time soon; that I am getting stronger and healthier every day; that I’m eating better and losing weight; and that I’m doing everything within my power to stay here for a long, long time. I told him I intended to live until a healthy 105 and then die in my sleep. He said he’d do the same. We even pinky swore on it—as well as we could via FaceTime.

A reminder to me, to you, to all who have had those darkest of thoughts: You are here for a reason. You may not understand it now, but someday you will. And if you don’t ever understand it, someone else will.

Please choose to stay.

Let’s pinky promise on it.

If you or someone you love is struggling to stay, please call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for help.

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