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I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

TW: Suicide

If you had told me the highlight of my 2020 would be seeing Bowser in titty tassles, I would have said “Fuck you! I have MCR tickets!” Alas, that was the case as the whole country was officially labeled in a pandemic the weekend after I went to the video game convention featuring a Mario/Godfather themed burlesque act.

I had been holding onto this highly coveted My Chemical Romance ticket for almost three years. A friend I made the same weekend as the music convention over the bizarre experience that is Cheesecake Factory said, “I’ve had it for so long I no longer feel the emptiness in my wallet for buying it.” Personally, I had it for so long that I completely forgot that by some miracle I managed to get a floor ticket. There was this horrifying moment of realization about a week before the show that I would not be in a seat, but on the ground level inside the swarm of MCR fans that have waited almost three years for this show just days after the Goo Goo Dolls meet and greet.

“Ah shit. I’m either going to die from a heart attack meeting the Goo Goo Dolls or from getting trampled by Killjoys.”

Neither prediction occurred, but there were a few times where I thought I was going to die. I probably would have been squashed to death if it weren’t for Gerard Way politely telling the first few rows to take a step back a couple times throughout their set and the crowd calmed down a little for a bit. Despite earplugs, I managed to become temporarily deaf in my left ear and it has made a very slight buzzing sound ever since.  

Like most concerts lately, I recalled forgotten memories because of the music. It wasn’t surprising at all this time knowing that I listened to the band a lot when I was a teenager going through a lot of shit.

My friend had burned me a copy of the Three Cheers for Revenge album for my birthday after showing me the music video for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”, which was a faux movie trailer for a movie we all wished existed. The friend in question was someone I liked. She later confessed that she was bi-curious and it got my hopes up. By the time I actually got the courage to tell her I liked her, she had figured out she wasn’t bisexual and privately I did not take it too well. Now I didn’t think that she had to like me or should like me, but that rejection still hurt.

Months earlier, I had been forcibly committed for a few days and given anti-depressants. The pills certainly didn’t fix all the bullshit happening at home and I felt worse while on them. Nobody properly explained to me that if I felt suicidal on them that I wasn’t going to get in trouble and be committed again if I admitted they weren’t working. With the horrid combination of incredibly aggressive suicidal thoughts no one knew about and all the shit happening in my life at the time, it was only a matter of time that something would break me. My state of mind was fragile so it probably could have been anything. Unfortunately and embarrassingly, the thing that sent me over the edge was my friend telling me that she realized she wasn’t bisexual so she didn’t like me more than a friend.   

I tried killing myself one night with my medication in my darkened bedroom while listening to Garbage’s “Bleed Like Me”, but couldn’t bring myself to down more than eight pills. The next day, I secretly popped the pills I had left over in the bottle over the course of lunch period. Someone found me sitting in the hallway crying and I was taken to the counselor’s office. My counselor wasn’t aware of what was happening to me as I refused to talk so she pulled my friend out of class thinking I’d talk to her and left us alone in her office. My friend asked what was going on. I had begun to feel the effects of the overdose and I panicked by throwing the empty pill bottle on the floor. She immediately understood what happened and rushed to get the counselor outside the door. They both came back to find me lying on the floor as I had fallen out of my chair and struggled to get back up. I was conscious the entire time—I just couldn’t move my body properly. I remember my friend propping me upright until the paramedics came because I couldn’t sit up, the oxygen mask they put on me because they thought I was struggling to breathe, being wheeled out on the stretcher and seeing my art teacher’s horrified face as I rolled by, the dizzying ambulance ride to the hospital, puking a lot into a bin in the ER (which is likely why they didn’t pump my stomach), the catheter for a urine sample (I was unable to go with a room full of nurses staring at me), another ambulance ride to a different hospital with a mental healthcare unit once it was confirmed I was stable, the saline drip to flush the meds out of my system, the dimly lit room I slept in…it now feels like a weird fever dream rather than something that actually happened.

I always remember the things that happened afterwards: walking around like a drunken sailor the next day because the meds weren’t completely out of my system, learning that I would have had permanent brain damage if I had taken more than the 40-something pills, being shocked that the doctor wanted to prescribe me another medication not even 24 hours after I tried killing myself with the last prescription he gave me, and deciding not to go on any more medication because it felt like it was a gamble, which turned out to be correct when I finally did decide to try a medication regimen years later and many of the meds I tried reacted horribly with my body. But I always tend to forget the events leading up to it. Unlike some other experiences that my brain has seemingly locked away as a coping mechanism, I kind of wish I didn’t remember the suicide attempt. Whereas other memories have involved my childhood or my mother’s abuse, this one involved people I cared about and how I scared the shit out of them because of my stupidity. I felt guilty because I (more or less) committed suicide because of a girl (even if there were other factors involved) and it wasn’t her fault this happened—it was mine.

The suicide attempt was indeed traumatizing to make me think twice about attempting it again and limiting my access to prescriptions I could kill myself with, but it wasn’t enough to stop the suicidal thoughts from creeping back into my head. A couple months after the suicide attempt, I started a morning ritual of heating a butter knife over a candle and touching the hot metal to my arm to feel the pain, which lead to another hospital stay when I left the knife on the flame too long and it left a scab that I kept picking at during lunch. I would go about my day thinking of all the “what-if” things that could kill me: jumping off the bridge over the river during my walk, being hit by a car in the crosswalk, an active shooting in the store I was shopping at, etc. Sometimes I wondered if anyone would miss me or if it made little difference if I was around or not. My brain was constantly thinking about my own demise and hurting myself.

I refused access to antidepressants, but I could still buy things over the counter. For years, I kept a bottle of aspirin by my bedside. It was weirdly both a potential suicide method and a deterrent. There was the idea that I would reach a point where I could no longer handle life and down the fucking bottle to end it all yet it was a reminder of what I had done and how it awful it was for most involved. I say “most” because Kim was apathetic about the whole thing and was more concerned about how it affected her than she was about her daughter wanting to die, which was partially why I hardly ever told anyone what was happening inside my head. There was also this fear that it could go the opposite way and I’d end up worrying people who wouldn’t know what to do for me to the point I’d be institutionalized again. Without medication, therapy, or a true support system, I dealt with much of it on my own. Music like My Chemical Romance helped keep the suicidal thoughts at bay, but it could only go so far. It didn’t help living in a household where the matriarch could explode at any moment for any little thing she considered a slight to her and everyday felt like delicately walking on eggshells.

My friends did suspect something was wrong, but I reassured them by saying things like “I’m fine”, “I’m okay”, “I’m just tired.” I’m not sure how much they bought it. All I know is like the MCR song, I was definitely not o-fucking-kay at all.

Nobody ever knew the true extent of what was happening inside my head because I mostly didn’t tell anyone and what little I did tell was incredibly filtered. On top of the suicidal ideation, I often thought of my own funeral. At the height of My Chemical Romance’s fame, Hot Topic sold a replica of the dress the dead girl in the “Helena” video wore and I often thought about buying it for the funeral I imagined I would have. Since I frequently thought of my own death, I often thought about what happens when we die. With the release of the Black Parade album, I was given Gerard Way’s perspective of death coming to us in the form of our strongest, happiest memory rather than a menacing, skeletal God of Death with a huge scythe. What was my happiest memory at the time? Eating ramen noodles with my dad by the wooden coffee table while watching MTV, going to the movies or the café with my mother, playing horror games in the dark on the Dreamcast with my brother, listening to music on my Walkman by the stream behind our house—things that had become an impossibility at that point because I was estranged from my dad following the divorce, my mother became a monster to me when she didn’t have Dad to push around anymore, and I lost the Dreamcast and backyard stream when the bank foreclosed on the house.

I don’t think the more depressing music like My Chemical Romance generally amplified these thoughts I had, but rather made me feel like someone in this shitty world understood what I was going through and that was a comforting thing to have when you have nothing else.

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