When I emerged from the gray cloud of near death, the color I woke to was blue. It was an artificial blue, kin to a chlorinated pool water or blue Jell-o or Smurfs. It was a long tube with ridges that seemed to be coming from my face. I couldn't use my mind well enough to know it was a respirator tube. I stared at this blue with bewildered wonder.
I did not remember what caused the gray. I did not remember walking away from my job at ten in the morning without asking for time off. I did not remember going through my closet and throwing all my clothing in the dumpster until I had very little left to wear.
From deep inside my mind I did remember a room of flickering shadows where I was on trial for witchcraft or for being a bad daughter. I remembered the voices saying that I must be executed. I had to be my own executioner. I remember narrator voice saying, “The prisoner is walking into Reliable Drug. She is walking through Health and Beauty. She is walking through First Aid. She is picking up a bottle of rubbing alcohol. She needs the Reliable Drug brand. It will be a reliable drug. She needs it now. No time to think about it.”
But what happened next? I couldn’t remember if I obeyed the voices. I wish I could remember if I challenged their distorted thinking. All this forgetting makes perfect sense when you consider the gray that followed it. Fortunately or unfortunately, my mind’s computer made a back up copy in the cloud and replayed it over and over years later.
But there was one thing that I should never have forgotten. I should never have forgotten that Marnetta had said, “Call me before you hurt yourself.” Did she really mean that, or did she mean don’t hurt yourself in a way that will hurt you? This way of hurting myself wouldn’t hurt, I would just fall down, down, down into sleep without dreams. I went with the half truth that was a whole lie. I made a choice that could have ended all choices. And that choice did hurt, exquisitely, the hearts of those who loved me.
And I still have no memory at all of Marnetta breaking into the apartment, finding my unconscious body, calling 911, getting me to the hospital where that beautiful blue respirator tube kept me alive.
In and out of the gray, I woke a second time and the blue tube was gone. I was sitting up in my hospital bed. I looked down and saw the blue flowered print of my hospital gown. That pleased me enormously. Then the nurse brought me a toothbrush and tooth paste and wouldn’t you know it, the toothbrush was blue too. Blue. Blue. Blue. The color of life.
Suicidal depression isn’t “the blues.” And neither is blue, for me, the color of depression or of psychosis. Because I lived beyond that attempt to end my pain, my body remembered all the colors and chose to pay attention to the beauty in each one. Blue is still my favorite.
Decades later, while in the Blue Ridge mountains celebrating my father’s 91st birthday, I was walking down a mountain path alone, going to meet Dad at the bottom, when a solid mass of white air approached me. It moved slowly like a large boat in deep water. Then it surrounded me and I could only see white like paper with no words on it. And then it passed. I was released back to color. That is what it’s like to survive an attempt at ending your life and remember how much you love what you nearly lost.
Nowadays I have a closet full of clothing in every color of the rainbow. Tomorrow I will wear the turquoise kimono blouse with the deep indigo blue pants. I pick out the earrings with three beads of gradations of blue. The sandals with blue straps will go with those. In the morning I will be ready to go to work. Ready to remember and keep my promise to Marnetta. Ready to choose blue in all its delight.
Margalea Warner has lived with the adventure of mental health challenges since her early twenties and now considers herself differently-abled. She is a published writer of poetry and prose as well as a public speaker. She works full time as a secretary at University Hospitals and Clinics of Iowa City and has done so for 35 years. She has been free of psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts for over 24 years and has collected 24 keys to wellness along the way. The title of which she is most proud is Bing the Triumphant Tai Chi Tortoise, having studied and practiced Tai Chi for seven years.
Margalea has previously guest blogged for Prozac Monologues, Seventeen Keys to Recovery.
photo by William Yoder