Have you ever felt like the world around you, the world you were familiar with, the world you grew up in was changing? And I don’t mean global warming, or technological advancement, or the fact that a third World War could start with the press of a button. I mean an unbelievable shift in the direction you thought your morning, day, month or year would head at the beginning. In more familiar words: an existential crisis.
From what I heard, every person has an existential crisis before reaching thirty years of age. In short, we all pass through a troubled phase at least once in our lifetimes. How serious, and how long the situation lasts depends on many factors, including how strong our mental state is, the type of people around us, and most importantly, how we get out of it. Many come out of the other side better; what doesn’t kill you, they say, makes you stronger. Others become scarred for life, with little or no healing or normalcy. They just learn to live with it. Few people, however, never make it out alive. Yep! To relieve themselves of the pain, they take their lives, and to the most troubled of people, suicide is a relief. I know, because I have tried it.
My dad was the director of a successful tech firm, and my mom was a professor at a prestigious university. As the only child, I was well taken care of. They raised me to the best of their ability, and I was also a good child to them. Everything was going well with me, and like every child, I wanted to change the world. Unknown to my beautiful naive mind, life wasn’t as straight as I thought.
6 months before now, I started having bad days. You know, like losing the wallet containing your cash and cards the very day you need it most. Or having two injuries on the same day. Well, for some reason, I overslept before a test and I missed it. My pleas were disregarded and I became worried immediately. As if it wasn’t enough, I woke up the next morning to see that someone had stolen my phone and laptop from my room. I was heart broken, but I remained calm. I had a backup drive, and I could always get new devices. With the help of a friend, I called my father to explain what had happened:
“Hi Dad, I just wanted to….”
“Hello Charles!” I heard the fickle voice of my mom instead.
My chest began to tighten with anxiety. Dad was never away from his phone. Not on a Tuesday morning!
“Mom, why are you with dad’s phone, I hope everything is ok?”
“All is not well Charles! Your dad got arrested!” her statement was followed with tears.
“Arrested! How? Why?” I was already sweating profusely.
“I don’t know. He said he was framed by his senior colleagues who laundered a large amount of money! I am so confused right now. I don’t know what to do.” She wailed, with concern in her voice.
I summoned the little strength I had and consoled her over the phone. I promised to be home the next day.
“Thank you s….” she went into a coughing fit for about five seconds, and then she cut the call. At that point, my anxiety was up to the roof. I was so distabilzed. I didn’t know that things could change this fast. I was never taught how to handle things like this. To be frank, NO ONE GETS TAUGHT HOW TO HANDLE THINGS LIKE THIS!
On getting home, and on entering our house, I felt a strange air blow at me. I immediately got weak in my bones. My heart started pounding as I took each step into the house. My mom opened the door, and she hugged me passionately. As if someone had died! After we entered, we sat and I asked more questions. She told me all she knew, I took the keys to her Jeep, and we headed to the police station.
My mind was extremely restless. I just closed my eyes for some seconds, praying that God would intervene; I wasn’t a religious person, but I needed every help I could get. All of a sudden, my mom entered into another coughing fit.
“Mom are you alright?” I said as I handed her a napkin. I was on the express road, and there were not many cars around, so I could drive and steal glances at her at the back.
“I am fine…” she continued coughing. I faced the road, and continued driving.
“Charles?” my mom said, showing me the piece of cloth. There was blood on the napkin! I was about to enter a fit of my own: a panic attack! As fast as I could, I turned the car in the direction of the hospital.
I sat down at the waiting area, about to burst into tears. How could all these be happening so close to each other? What was wrong? I hoped that my mom was alright.
“God please help my mom! I don’t know if I can survive it if her condition gets critical. There is only so much a person can take!” I said silently. Few minutes later, our primary care doctor called me into his office.
“Sir, is my mom alright?” I asked, squeezing my fists.
“Well Charles, your mom has stage IV lung cancer. She needs treatment soon, or she would likely die.”
My heart sank.
I closed my eyes, released a fresh batch of tears….and my heart sank!
“I am so sorry Charles. Where is your dad?” the well-meaning doctor asked.
“He isn’t available for now.” I said with my shivering lips. “Please excuse me.” I left his office.
That was it. It couldn’t get worse than this. As I walked through the hallway, I saw people screaming in pain. I saw a man that the medical team was trying to resuscitate after he flatlined. I never knew how hard it was surviving in the world until then. My world had changed!
“I can’t do this” I said nodding my head vigorously. “I ca…I can’t do this.” I raced up the hospital floors in a rush. I was in mental and emotional pain! I opened the door to the roof, and was met with bright sunlight. The wind blew around me, and I closed my eyes. I wanted to absorb it: my last moment as a living person. I remembered the good memories. The birthdays, the game nights, the holidays. I also remembered all the plans I had for my future: how I wanted to be a world-class architect. My life was never going to be better, not any more. I ran with anger and I jumped down the top ledge of the building. Mid-air, as the cold air dried my tears, I smiled. My fear of heights did not matter. My fears did not matter! I closed my eyes as my body started to spin.
Good-bye mum and dad. Good-bye world.
There was a thud, and I blacked out.
Two months later, however, I woke up on a hospital bed with a doctor and two nurse standing over me. I tried moving, but my motion was met with intense pain.
“Easy there, your wounds are yet to fully heal.” the doctor said as he gently pushed me back to lying down.
“Wha…what happened. I am supposed to be…” my eyes widened with the realisation that I tried killing myself! Immediately, I bowed my head down to avoid looking straight at them. I felt so shameful, filled with guilt.
“On your way down, you crashed into our fresh supply of surgical drapes. Even though you got hurt pretty bad and had to get emergency surgery, it cushioned the fall. I guess you are very lucky.” I felt even more shame. Why would I try something like that, I thought to myself. Why did I not think about the effect my action on the hospital, my parents…. Wait! My parents!
“Uhm, sir… how are my parents?” I asked. With a smile on his face, he explained to me how my dad had gotten justice, and my mom was doing well with the targeted therapy treatment she was getting at the time. Immediately he finished, I burst into a wail. The reason why I had so much agony inside of me, instead of being happy was simple: I could have missed it. I could have missed all this! In the bid to relieve myself of a sudden chaotic change in events, I could have missed the return to normalcy I thought was impossible!!
After a lot of physical and mental therapy, I got better. My mom’s tumors are almost completely disappeared, and my dad had even gotten promoted. Life was good, in fact better! And even though I was very lucky to get a chance to see change, I still think of the many people who never fell into hospital supplies, or were by a friend. So, I decided I was going to be an advocate against suicide, helping people who have gone through troubled times get back on their feet.
In one of the most recognizable phrases of Shakespeare, “To be or not to be”, a soliloquy by Hamlet, talked about how painful and miserable human life is, and how death, especially suicide would be preferable, if not for the fearful uncertainty of what comes after death. Well, the only way we can get through the downs of life is by holding on to the ups. As the lead actor in the legendary Sound of Music movie sang:
When the dog barks, when the bee stings,
And I’m feeling sad,
I simple remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.
Oluremi Daniel Ayanfeoluwa from Abeokuta in Ogun state is a young student, a classical musician in training, a Christian and a science enthusiast. He also loves dogs, fashion, photography and intellectual stuff. Hr can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org