Kate Farr is a second-year journalism major and writes “Face to Face” for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and suicidal thoughts.
One of the last times I had to confront the complications of my mental health was during my senior year of high school.
It was just about two days after one of the freshmen at my school had committed suicide. We had been in session for less than two months.
I knew her because of how small the school was. I saw her in the hallway among the some 200 of us who walked from class to class. I saw her in the locker room. I saw her on the broadcast announcements the morning before.
She didn’t live very far away from me. We were both situated in the countryside outside of Antwerp, Ohio, with only a couple of corn fields and a patch of trees between us. Our age difference in school kept us from crossing paths, but her presence still existed in my periphery.
It was also the first time in almost over a decade that a student had died, let alone from suicide.
It was September — mid-month and the third day of spirit week. The news found its way to me before the school day had even started. One of my friends broke the news to me, and I remember falling to my knees in the locker room before I could even get my cross-country bag past the grated doors of my locker.
It’s still etched into my brain as one of my most emotionally palpable and damaging memories.
And in those two days after, I found myself in the classroom of my high school English teacher. That wasn’t an abnormal occurrence. In fact, it was almost eerily normal. I stayed there many times after the school bell had rung before.
But it was different after someone died. It was different when you were trying to put the pieces together, trying to make it all make sense.
The same place where we’d talked for years — Bob Dylan or Chamberlain playing in the background, facing each other at our own respective desks. The music felt heavier in the days following, filling the room in a way our few words couldn’t.
It was strange. The music we were listening to was basically the soundtrack of my life — a life I had attempted to escape before and was still trying to find a reason not to. It was years after being told I had depression, years after I stopped cutting.
After the shock came the guilt. A guilt we both felt. What if we had had more time?
But I felt another layer of guilt I wasn’t sure how to grapple with.
I always sat at the same desk when it was just the two of us — the one I once sat as a wide-eyed freshman. And I was still talking to the same English teacher who unintentionally saved my life when I was a freshman.
But the hardest guilt as I sat there — crying and listening to the music that played a part in saving me before — was that I survived and someone else didn’t. I was here, and she was gone.
As I’ve gotten older, it’s become easier to talk about my struggles with mental health. When I can be candid with others, I can find a way to be candid with myself.
It hasn’t been the easiest process — the whole being honest with myself, with the people who love me — but I have to acknowledge that I’m still healing.
To get it out there, I’ve contemplated and attempted suicide a couple of times in my life. That’s a terrifying thing to put on paper, but it’s easier than uttering it aloud. And who knows, this might be the most cathartic experience for me.
The most recent time I dealt with suicidal ideation was during my first semester at Ball State.
As an incoming freshman, it was my first time in a new place in a new state where I’d be without any of my family, my friends or anyone I knew. As soon as I hugged my parents goodbye, the loneliness started to sink in.
Even though it was scary, I was trying to be hopeful. I was at a school that had a great journalism program, I had the possibility of meeting new friends and I had an array of new experiences staring me in the face.
I should have been excited, and I should have been hopeful. And I tried to be.
But hope isn’t punctual. It doesn’t always show up when you want it to.
Not only was I starting my collegiate journey, but I was also still dealing with the end of a three-year relationship. Even with a façade of strength in my back pocket, I was struggling to cope.
We were friendly and stayed in touch, but we were still obviously in love. And while I had my focus set on school and healing on my own accord, it came crashing down.
Believe it or not, it is difficult to be friends with someone you had just been dating for three years. And it’s hard being dragged through their new fling with someone else. No matter how hard I tried, it gnawed at me until I shattered.
The aftereffects of this crumbled relationship I could once rely on mixed in with my loneliness, my being thrust into a completely new space and a stacked school schedule were more than chipping away at me. My mental state was taking a turn toward a place that I hadn’t been to for almost a year.
I was feeling the pressure and the pain.
In the week after cutting off all communication with my ex-partner, I decided to make a trip home. It was a week of compartmentalizing my whole life — planning, splicing, putting together my unfortunate plan.
I was back in the spot I’d been in as a freshman in high school. Now I was 18 — an age I had never thought I was going to make it to all those years ago — and a freshman in college.
But I had circled around mentally, staring right back into the face of my ninth-grade self. The flashing red lights and sirens signaled in my mind, but I willed myself to ignore them.
I was planning on taking my life after going home that weekend. It was my first time home since leaving, and I was convinced to let it be the last time I’d say “Bye, I love you,” and leave with a smile on my face.
I got home on a Friday in mid-September. The leaves had started to change near my house. My dog had lost weight, and I was the only one who had noticed after being gone for a month. We didn’t know we’d lose her two months later to cancer.
My sister begged me to drive us to the gas station. She wanted candy, to talk, to listen to music. It was so simple, so painless and so like her to ask me to do something like that. I wouldn’t have usually said yes so easily.
She didn’t know that I was thinking about this possibly being our last time hanging out — just the two of us. Two sisters parallel to each other, one a freshman in high school and the other a freshman in college.
I looked at her — the other side of my coin. At her age, I was at the same precipice. And I’d reached it again.
We sat there side by side in my car, quietly eating whatever candy she’d picked up from the gas station. I watched the lights flicker over the pumps while she scrolled through her playlist trying to find a song to start.
I usually didn’t like her music, so it was rare that I passed up the aux. But I wanted us to have this, a last moment together.
I remember her saying she was going to play some stuff from TikTok she liked — stuff I hadn’t heard since I didn’t have the app.
I would have never guessed that what she played was going to turn into exactly what I needed.
Like Simon and Garfunkel in middle school or Bob Dylan in high school, a Swedish rock band surprisingly saved me. I started to listen to Ghost — whose 2019 song “Mary On A Cross” blew up on TikTok in late July — every single day.
It was the only thing that let my emotions pass through me while I stitched my wounds back up.
While heavy metal or hard rock was never my thing — let alone songs with Satanic lyrical writing — my mind was quiet for the first time in so long. It let me cope with my depression.
The sirens and red flashing lights had shut off. It felt like my life wasn’t a dead-end anymore.
I saw Ghost this August in Indianapolis. I’d never cried or screamed/sang lyrics at a concert like that before in my life. It was the closest thing to a spiritual or “religious” experience I’ve ever had.
Even though my struggle is yet to be over, I was so glad I had made it to see them.
That day was like a mini victory. For once, I had the hope I deserved.
As the seasons are changing again — another September coming and going — I’m trying to enjoy the little things.
September is Suicide Awareness Month. I want everyone to know they aren’t alone. There are people, experiences or songs that can lift you from the darkest of places if you wait for the day they unexpectedly arrive.
If you can find a way to hold on, there will be something that comes along to save you.
Even in the emptiness that has come with pain and loss, there is everything that remains.
I am glad I haven’t lost my battle. I’m glad to have the chance to experience — to live through — what remains.
If you or someone you know is dealing with thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Top 10 Songs That Kept Me Going:
- “Bleecker Street” – Simon and Garfunkel
- “Red River Shore” – Bob Dylan
- “Bridge Over Troubled Water (with the Jessy Dixon Singers)” – Paul Simon
- “The Only Living Boy In New York” – Simon and Garfunkel
- “He Is” – Ghost
- “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)” – Jim Croce
- “Goddamn Lonely Love” – Drive-By Truckers
- “I Contain Multitudes” – Bob Dylan
- “Take What You Can Get” – Chamberlain
- “Kiss The Go-Goat” – Ghost
Contact Kate Farr with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.