I Was the Best Faker Ever
My smile and pleasant demeanor betrayed my reality
I'm true to myself now, and it's not gonna happen.
Sometimes that’s enough.
I can say that, now. There were days when I’d wake up wishing I hadn’t, and days when I’d consider driving my car as fast as I could, over a bridge or into a brick wall.
Days when I thought about jumping from a mezzanine or the temptation of falling backwards onto the subway tracks was almost too much to bear.
Days when I’d cut or scratch myself until I bled, just so that I could feel something—anything—that might satisfy the urge to do more.
And yet here I am. Still here. Go figure.
Those days are now memories but given the possibility of unexpected circumstances and recurring trauma, I’m neither bold enough nor naïve enough to expect they’ll never resurge.
But not today is good enough.
Why am I spilling the beans? If you’re in trouble, I hope you see that I—and many others—are genuine and caring helpers. Our experiences help us help you.
I know it might be hard to believe that happy-go-lucky, optimistic and always-smiling me lives with sometimes-debilitating PTSD and mental health issues. A good friend used to call me the most effective faker he’d ever met. An actress. A character with a million masks, ready to show the world how fine I could be.
Is it horrible that dark humor is my first response to suicidal ideation? Perhaps. If I believed in Hades, I’d already have a back packed and at the ready—full of hot yoga shorts and sweatbands, tissue tank tops and breathable undies. It’s ok. I’m already familiar with hell.
Because despite the enormous seriousness and tragedy of suicide, I make light of it sometimes. Maybe it’s because it hits so close to home. See, suicide doesn’t just run in my family, it hires a bus big enough to carry anyone who cares to jump on board. Funny? Just wait. Cousins and other relatives on both sides of my family have killed themselves. Mental illness is even depicted in my family’s coats of arms. Look at it, a black dog on a backdrop of roses. "We love life," we’ll tell anyone who cares to listen. We stop to smell the roses. And then turn around and prick our souls with the thorns.
And here’s something else: If I’d not woken up after my last attempt, I’d never be able to laugh about or tell the following story. As it stands, the only person who has heard the entire account of this tale is, well…dead.
An assortment of pills washed down by guzzling an earthy, smoky Merlot. Several big gulps, directly from the bottle. Nice vintage, I muse. Goes down smoothly. The radio’s on. It always is. I sing along as I calculate the timing of my demise. A tune from the 80s, a time when I drank and drugged myself happy. Of course. It’s Cyndi Lauper, and Girls DO Just Want to Have Fun…well, don’t they?
‘Yeah, girls just want to have fun,’ I laugh without mirth. But the time for fun is over. It’s been over for a long time.
When I awake hours later, I open my eyes to a mask of darkness. I can’t see my hand in front of my face. Am I alive, still? Am I dreaming? I recall where I am and marvel at my cleverness. I’m in a place so small that nobody would think to look. And I’m not dead.
I decide I’d better dust myself off and climb out of my death chamber. When I open the door, I’m first blinded by daylight. My eyes adjust to see my ever-loyal canine lying in wait for my return.
It’s a lesson, I think.
Not today. Huh.
I devise another plan. This one includes a significant adjustment of my medication, a new therapist, nature walks and time with my loyal dog companion. The meds start working, and the first thing I miss are my ‘highs’. With bipolar, the highs are full of uncontrollable glee and careless, dangerous decisions. I don’t miss the drops, the falls from devil-may-care to that-just-proves-I’m-worthless.
After a while, I realize that the ‘highs’ are replaced with a calm joy, and I learn about realistic expectations and self-care. My dog Sunny and I visit places like the Scarborough Bluffs, where I am awestruck by their regal height and longevity, their natural shifts and erosions. Like the bluffs, I begin to let go, accept, and work with the changes I will face.
All this talk about ‘it gets better’? When you’re in the throes of suicidal ideation, it’s impossible to believe. It truly is. I get it. But there is an army of warriors ready to help you fight the battle against killing yourself. We’re here to help. Honestly, if it means you go to bed with the pillow over your head and you don’t talk or eat for three days, that’s ok. It’s better than the alternative. Really. And remember, you can come out of your hiding place when you’re ready, and there are people who will welcome you with open arms. There are more of us every day. And we do not—we will not—judge you.
And you know, what I’ve told you is an account of just one of my attempts.
But it was the last one. And it was nine years ago.
When I say that I’m grateful to still be here, well, I sure am. I’ll admit, some days are still a battle. But those darkest days have become less frequent. I hope I can share the idea of gratitude instead of shame.
I used to be ashamed of all of this. I thought my illness and suicide attempts were character faults, that I was inferior to others in intellect or emotional fortitude. I thought I was weak. I thought I was worthless.
I used to lament that I couldn’t save the world. Of course, I’d still love to. But these days, if I can help one person, or ease one person’s pain and despair, that is enough for me.
Like you, I don’t have the ability to change or fix anyone. I can’t prescribe a solution to your misery. I have nothing but experience and love to offer. But I can sit quietly beside you, and when you’re ready to stand, I’ll offer my hand to you.
And remember…not today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or your past, because today will always be…today. Think about it. It’s like that sign that reads, ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’; you think ‘yeah’, and then, hey wait, tomorrow it will still read tomorrow…
Not suicide. No self-harm.
I hope by now you realize that you’re not alone and that there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Drop me a note and let me know how you’re doing. Because I’m always here to listen.
About the author
I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.
I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.