This past week, I binged watched the second season of 13 Reasons Why. Some of it, I couldn’t relate to because I had a much different high school experience, I thank God and my praying mother for that. Regardless, it was painful to watch. To know that this is reality for many people. Going through the motions of life, yet experiencing a pain so unbearable, they chose to hurt themselves or others.
Maggie Day is someone I have known for many years. Her smile is contagious. She has such compassion and a caring nature. So when she wanted to share her powerful story, I wasn’t surprised at her willingness to be transparent in order to help others. However, when I read about her experience, I cried because I never knew. And naively, I never would’ve guessed because I always think of her and that smile. This is what so many of us do. We focus on the surface and go through the motions, forgetting that we all have demons we battle with everyday. I am grateful that Maggie chose to be strong, to live another day, and brave enough to share her story.
“Some of my fondest memories of recent years are of time spent with one of my closest friend and her two boys. There was the time we went for a nature walk with both little dudes in tow, and by the end my friend was giving the youngest a lengthy piggy-back ride and I was carrying the eldest as though he was my blushing bride being swept away to the honeymoon suite, only we were traipsing through twists and turns on a dirt path trying to avoid tree roots and swarms of gnats as he whined and I think fake cried. Or the time I accompanied mi amiga on some everyday errands along with her older niño. In TJ Maxx, we crossed paths with our eleventh grade history teacher and all I could think afterwards was, ‘He didn’t ask us much about where our lives had brought us from junior year at Binghamton High up ’til now… what if he got the impression that my bud carrying an adorable baby, me following along with a diaper bag, and us looking at home decor items meant that we had grown up, fallen in love, and decided to start a family and re-decorate our home?’ Honestly, I wouldn’t care if he did, it was just funny to think that our image could have easily given that vibe.
Two of my absolute favorite memories with my nephew nuggets are of the eldest singing happy birthday to me over the phone and when I stopped to see them briefly before heading off to Europe in December of 2016. As I was saying my last goodbye, the littlest one gave me the biggest hug and would not let go. That had never happened before and I have no idea why it happened then, but it definitely reminded me of all the love I had in my life at that time.
I still get that bubbly feeling of happiness and pride when they call me Aunt even though they have blood Aunts and Uncles on both sides. They are by far one of the top joy producing aspects of my life. Most times I smile just thinking of all the adventures I hope to continue having with them as they grow older and of them doing adorable things to let me know that I am an important part of their lives. There are times though when I cry at the thought of them. I think of all I could have missed out on, that I didn’t think about the eldest when I completely fell apart, and that I would not even know the youngest if I had tried a little harder to take my own life.
On January 12th, 2015 I woke up debating whether I should start my last semester of grad school or take myself to the emergency room. The previous day along with trying to choke myself with my bare hands and trying to flood my lungs by drinking a momentous amount of water, I purposefully ingested an unsafe amount of Tylenol. Looking back none of those actions would have been successful at completing what I thought I wanted, to disappear. That’s because on some level that isn’t what I actually wanted. I really just hoped that something would happen while I slept and I wouldn’t wake up. But… I woke up.
Then, I guess you could say I made the “responsible choice” to go to the emergency room to get checked out. I really don’t know what I thought would happen, but I didn’t expect to be transported in an ambulance to a mental health facility where the discomfort of the airport-like seating, stench of urine in different parts of the communal room we were all held in, and fear of the possible actions of others dealing with mental health issues and/or withdrawal would be my reality for approximately 24 hours. It sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t expect for the psychiatrist to ask me what I wanted to do next and then completely disregard my response that what I did was a mistake and I just wanted to go home, whether that meant to my apartment in Philly with my roommate as support or to Binghamton with my family. No one ever said those three numbers, but that’s what happened.
At the time I felt angry that the mental health workers wouldn’t believe that I didn’t actually want to be successful at killing myself and I was in denial of what I had allowed myself to do. The naive part of me and the part of me that had always found a way to push through troubles, thought, ‘We all know I didn’t actually take enough Tylenol to kill myself, so why can’t I just promise to never do it again and go home?’
After my nearly 24 hours in the place where even though I hovered when I had to go to the bathroom in the single restroom available to the about a dozen individuals both female and male, I still worried that I could have contracted HIV, hepatitis, or something life-altering (if you had seen and smelled that bathroom you would understand why this was not a completely outrageous thought), I was informed that a local psychiatric hospital had a bed for me and that my transport would arrive soon.
It took several hours for the ambulance to arrive which further increased my anxiety level. I remember being annoyed that I had to travel in another ambulance, that I was I guess thought to be so sick or fragile that I couldn’t be trusted to just sit buckled up in a vehicle. I was buckled in on a cot just as I had been the previous day. The paramedic/EMT driving the ambulance asked me what happened and I vaguely uttered a sentence about taking too much Tylenol. He responded by informing me how harmful Tylenol can be to your liver and gave a little pep-talk about how I had too much left to do in life. I didn’t really think much of his words. I thought maybe it was just polite professionalism to try to encourage a suicidal transport to continue living, but when he wished me well after they escorted me into a hallway to meet whoever would begin my in-take there was something very genuine in his hope that everything would turn out okay for me.
Even as I was asked a bunch of questions and taken through some of the steps of a typical non-invasive medical examine, I felt incredibly grateful that I was at the hospital because I felt infinitely safer than I had at the previous facility. To simply be able to take a shower, eat something (thinking back I can’t remember if we were even offered anything at the previous place), and not be trapped in a single room with other people felt like the biggest blessing.
A lot happened in the week I was in the hospital and after I was released I attended regular individual counseling sessions with my therapist I had begun seeing that fall and group counseling three times a week for three months. Group was the most valuable resource I received from my decision to try to kill myself. Listening to others’ experiences and ways of viewing themselves in the world freed me in some way to share my own, to begin shedding some of the negative thinking that helped lead me to what was and still is my lowest low, and showed me the power of being grateful for who you have, what you have, what you have experienced both positive and negative, and who you are.
There is so much more I can share about my time in the hospital and my treatment, but I want to at least partially explain how I got to the state of mind that committing suicide was a valid choice for me and why I began this post with stories of my dear friend and nephews. I don’t know what precisely caused me to do what I did and I accept that I likely will not gain full clarity about it because I don’t believe I can return to that state of mind. I don’t think I would want to even if there was a way. It was the most scared I have ever felt.
My thoughts on the slew of things that allowed me to reach that darkness: I grew up in a home where feelings weren’t really discussed let alone openly shown. I was raised primarily by the Irish Catholic side of my family which thankfully has become less notorious for closed off emotions, secrecy, and pushing through on your own as really the only way to cope. I had just about a year prior unlocked an experience from when I was a child, of being touched inappropriately by someone who was trusted to look after me on just a few occasions. I was and still am trying to figure out what my racial identity means to me and how it impacts how I fit in this world (I’m bi-racial, Black and White). I was struggling to understand why since I moved away and was trying to become more and more independent, my Mom was now trying to make our relationship the closest it had ever been and why she was more openly expressing affection. I was finishing up a two-year graduate program in counseling psychology that somewhat forced me to do more introspection than I had ever done minus one year of therapy during my senior year of high school. I was working at a middle school as a therapy intern and although I tried my damnedest, I sometimes could not relate to the experiences some of my students shared. I was trying to make things work again with my on-again off-again boyfriend despite the fact that he had cheated on me multiple times and helped make me start to believe that I was crazy. I had spent 5 months switching birth controls because the one I had been on for years suddenly stopped interacting with my body the same way. I imagine there are other factors, but those are the major ones that I know played some role in my stress and depression.
Finally, one of the reasons my beloved friend and her boys mean so much to me is because she was the first person to really notice that something was off with me back when we were 17. She asked me one day while I was at my locker getting ready for afternoon classes if I was okay. She wouldn’t accept when I responded that I was fine because somehow she knew it was a lie. I think it really might have been the first time I realized that it is beneficial to let people know when you aren’t feeling okay and that you have a right to say so. She spent part of the afternoon with me trying to find a way to help which led to me meeting with our school psychologist and beginning therapy shortly thereafter. No matter how busy our lives are at times I know I can reach out to her and she always responds to me. I hope she knows I try my best to do the same for her.
It may sound like nonsense but, I don’t regret my suicide attempt. My actions got me the help I didn’t know how to seek, but that I needed. Sure I could have gone about it differently, but I can’t change what I have already done. I regret that I didn’t think of the people I love and who love me, I really didn’t. I was so consumed by the negativity, sadness, emptiness, hurt, pain, anger, loneliness. I didn’t think about my nephew, about what my friend would have to tell him about how his Aunt Maggie left this world had I tried harder and been successful in killing myself. I never would have met her youngest, I wouldn’t even be a memory to him. When I think about what I did, those thoughts on what would never be if I followed through, are what make me cry the most and feel the most thankful that something stopped me.
I have never been given a concrete diagnosis and to be honest, I’m kind of glad that is the case. Why do I feel this way? Because I am simply a human being who has feelings, experiences, a personal history, and at times a masterful ability to uphold the facade that I am fine, all of which in different combinations have led to points in my life that I was depressed. Knowing all I currently know about myself and psychology I can look back and say that I have battled with anxiety and depression throughout most of my life and that suicidal ideation has sometimes accompanied them. I don’t need a diagnosis to know that is true.
I am sharing my story because I am finally ready to put it out there and as a plea for all of us to be more mindful of how we act and react toward one another, how we speak with one another, how we judge one another (sure the ideal is to not judge one another at all, but we all do it in some way), how we cope, and perhaps most importantly how we care for ourselves. I ask that we all do what we believe we can to stay alive and to make our lives meaningful. To anyone reading this saying, “She never told me.” I am sorry. It is not because I didn’t want you to know, I had to be ready to tell my darkest truth. My name is Maggie Day and although many people in my life both past and present did or still do consider me a happy individual, on January 11th, 2015 I chose to attempt suicide.“
– Maggie Day
If you or someone you know is dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +18002738255. Seek help. Tell someone. You are not alone. & You are loved.