Sunday, November 7, 2010

It Gets Better - Leah Clifford

Leah Clifford joins us for It Gets Better week on Faerie Drink Review;

There are a lot of people who clicked on these links.  Spread them around.  Got the word out.  Which is pretty amazing if you think about it.  This blog isn’t for them. 
           Maybe you don’t even know why you clicked on this link, why you’re reading these words.  You’ve seen the vlogs for everybody getting bullied for being gay or different.  But even if you’re not gay, or even if you’re “popular”, those smiles, the ones in the videos?  You’re pretty sure they’re years away if they’ll come at all.  And so you’ve started to think about suicide.  Plan it out late at night, when it’s quiet and you can think for once.  Figure out how you’ll do it.  The truth is, it’s not that every day is worse, it’s that they’re all exactly the same and you can’t imagine anything ever getting better.  This blog post is for you.  I’d really like you to read it, because if you go through with it, you won’t be here to see what happens after.   And so I’d like to show you what it’s like to be left behind.     
I remember the exact moment I knew he was dead.  It was June and I was in my backyard, talking on the phone with my mom.  Toward the end of the conversation, she asked if I knew why Ryan’s mom would call, that she’d left a message to call back, that it was about Ryan.  And just like that I’d known.  “Because he’s dead.”  I’d whispered it, but it hadn’t made it any less true.  And she’d said she’d call her and call me right back.  I remember how everything seemed to freeze and fade away, how the air stopped moving and there was only the phone pressed against my ear while I waited.   
I’d met Ryan when I was twenty.  We worked together, and as horribly corny as it sounds, the second I saw him, I fell for him.  We were inseparable from that first day on.  Only a month into our relationship, we hatched a plan to escape Ohio and head out West to Colorado.  Every day we lived an adventure.  It was us against the world.  I’d wake up to love notes and make him special dinners to surprise him.  He loved the outdoors, always hiking, climbing, and caving.  We’d go camping after I got off work and come home the next day so he could be at his shift.  Wake up early to climb the stunning sandstone spires at Garden of the Gods as the sun rose.  He took me to alpine meadows at 14,000 feet.  He showed me the world with a frantic passion I’ve never found in another person.  And after two and a half years it slowly became one I couldn’t keep up with.  There was no messy split, no terrible fight.  We just knew we weren’t right for each other anymore.  We stayed friends and visited a few times.  We drifted, but when something important happened, we were each other’s first phone call.  But it had been awhile since we’d talked. 
I tried to figure out how long while I waited, the phone clutched in my hand and the birds chirping and when it rang, I answered.  My mom said my name, too quiet and too slow.  The way someone says your name when they want you to sit down, when you know it’s going to be really really bad.  He’d shot himself in the head.  At one point she said his parents were going to go out to Colorado and get him and I kept wanting her to say something like “he’s really lucky to be alive,” but I knew in my gut she wouldn’t.  That she hadn’t meant it that way.
I can tell you I made phone calls, but I can’t tell you what I said.  I remember being a sort of shocked calm, but a friend told me I hadn’t been at all. It’s funny the ways your memory can trick you.  See, when you’re gone, memories of you are all anyone has left. 
I remember the last email he sent to me, where I said “Hope life’s grand.” And he responded, “Nope. Life sucks.  Hope yours is better :-)” and it’d made me pause but there was that stupid smiley face and so I figured he was being dramatic and I hadn’t written back. 
When someone commits suicide, people are constantly saying things like “There was nothing you could have done.”  The people in your life will have so many moments, those maybes and should haves and wish I would have, and they will think about them constantly.  Not because they feel guilty, which they will, but because they want you here.  And they will always feel like they missed some chance to make everything turn out different.  Me, I’d thought about calling him a few days before that, out of the blue.  And maybe if I had…  It haunts me. 
It has been just over one year and four months since Ryan died.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.  When I can’t sleep, and I’m up to see the sunrise, I think about how he won’t see it and I can never figure out why he wouldn’t want to.  I’m caught up in confusion, like if I figure out the why, it will make things better, easier.  Sometimes I feel like I’m too sad for how much time has passed, like that ‘time heals everything’ should be kicking in by now, and then I feel guilty.  I think about his family, and how I should stop by or write but I never know what to say.  Nothing sounds right when I try. 
Suicide hurts so many people.  Once you are gone there is no undo.  There is no way for your friends to tell you how important you are, because you are so important.  There is no way for your family to tell you how much they love you, because you are loved.  And worse, there is no way for you to realize that it does get better.  There are people who want to help you, who can help you.  Please, please from the bottom of my heart call them. 

Teen to teen peer counseling hotline: 1-877-YOUTHLINE
Hopeline: 1-800-442-HOPE


ZoeAlea said...

I don't know how to put my thoughts into words. Thank you Leah, for writing this. I know people who have tried to kill themselves and I knew someone who did.
This made me cry, so so hard.
Thank you for writing this.


Chelsea said...

You're a beautiful person, Leah. Thanks for writing this and sharing with us. I know it was hard to write, but it also hits the people who read it just as hard. So...thank you.