Dear Me,

Before we get started, I want to check in on you: Are you thinking of killing yourself?

Call National Lifeline 1–800–273-TALK (8255) if you or others are in need, and call 911 if you or others are in danger. I am here for you too, one call or email away :)

I just learned the FCC presented draft rules to establish 988 as the new, nationwide three-digit phone number for suicide prevention and mental health crisis. Such great news! 988 is NOT currently active nationally, please still use 1–800–273-TALK (8255). The wait won’t take long.

As you may know, I’ve been volunteering at a suicide and crisis hotline lately. I started volunteering when covid-19 officially started spreading in the United States. When covid-19 started spreading in China I just got started with the 80-hour volunteer training.

The One Last Hug

The first day of my training, seven a clock in the morning, I was waking up and saw a WeChat message from my brother, “Let me know when you are up”. I jumped out of my bed, and clicked the video chat button — “Your call was declined”. Another message, “Can’t talk right now. Grandpa is gone”.

My grandpa was in China. My whole family was in China. They still are. They were in lockdown, separated, not too far away but still couldn’t get together. I was in the U.S., alone, I still am, too far away, six thousand of miles away.

Ten hours later, I was sitting in the volunteer training room, together with other seven soon-to-be-volunteers like me. After a round of intros, our supervisor asked us to check in on each other. The first time, someone asked me: Are you thinking of killing yourself?

I shared with the group that my grandpa just passed away. My grandpa was surrounded in love by our big family in his last days. “I am one of the happiest people in the world.” These were his last words to me (in Mandarin). I didn’t say goodbye. I said take care grandpa I will go back to see you soon.

I thank technology, the internet, and WeChat, at least, we can connect in this way. Though, how I wish I could give my grandpa a big hug, the one last hug, a giant and tight and warm hug with love, a lot of love.

I was able to but I didn’t give my best friend the one last hug too.

It was suicide.

“She is gone.”

It was seven years ago, almost. It was twenty-three days after I landed in America, three days after my first birthday here, and three days before the first class of my grad school. Like yesterday, still feels like yesterday and a dream.

The tear would be sneezing out of my eyes and falling down through my face. Everything would be blurry when it was a bit too much. I would be wondering if I were in the class if the teacher was talking in English, and if my classmates were laughing, or if it were all my imagination.

I’ve been blaming myself. I studied psychology. I couldn’t help her. I didn’t notice, anything. I didn’t ask further when she said okay.

We were middle school roommates and high school schoolmates. We went to the same college and lived in the same dorm building. We used to be like a twin. She had a real twin sister though. We had the same stripe sweaters, the same pair of red slippers, and the same hair bands. We sang together at the Singer Competition in middle school. We would be holding hands while running into the school dining hall. She would help me blow dry my hair. She hugged me so hard when I was crying so hard after being hurt badly the first time.

I didn’t hug her, the one last time. We were on the bus, in the middle of the back row, sitting next to each other. She was gonna get off first. I imagined giving her a giant, tight and warm hug. I didn’t. We said take care and let’s get together when I get back from the U.S. I would be flying to the U.S. for the very first time in a few weeks.

“Take care of yourself. You are alone there. Don’t worry about me. I am here. I will be okay.” These were her last words to me, sent on QQ, the chat data was gone. Two weeks later, another friend messaged me that something happened to her. I thought she had a car accident, like a bad one, the worst case.

“She is gone.”

“She killed herself.”

You are not alone.

When people hear someone killed themselves, we would be wondering why.

Me too.

I’ve been revisiting the past, again and again, especially, the one last meeting, the one last conversation, and the one last words. I tightened up my muscles, closed my eyes, and used up all my energy to remember, searching in the sea of memories.

What was I missing?

What were the signs that I didn’t see? Why couldn’t I see the signs?

How much pain and what kind of pain she was in?

Why didn’t she come to me? Did I lose her trust? Have I ever hurt her?

What if I said this or did that, would things be different?

Why didn’t I ask further, just one more question, after her “okay”?

I could never know why. No matter how many times I went back to the past in my imagination, I could never go back to reality. It happened, it happened.

Last year, I went through a period of darkness, pure darkness. The first time in my life, all of my energy was swollen into this black hole of pure darkness. The first time, the hopelessness, helplessness, and meaninglessness, were eating me up. The first time, my friend’s suicide, my grandma’s sudden death, and my being cheated on and betrayed badly, and many other unresolved issues here and there, all came together, to me.

A flash thought of suicide came to me, no, not killing myself, but “maybe it’s okay without me at all”. My parents were my last straw. There was once I felt completely alone and completely disconnected from everyone else, including my family. They were working hard together on the family orchard business. Too far away, six thousands of miles away, I couldn’t help anything. “My parents have my brother, and maybe it’s okay without me at all. ”

I came out of the darkness, with the help of my therapist, my family, and more importantly, myself. I still have many fears, but I am braver than ever. There will be certainly a lot of pain in the future, I know but I am not afraid. I have the present. I’m stronger, happier, and I have more energy as well as peace than ever. I can’t wait to help others as I have helped myself.

People may think suicide is an impulsive action. Yes and no. Most times it’s already planned. There might be previous attempts already, multiple ones. They may complain that life is meaningless and that they wish they had never existed. Maybe they are giving out their favorite things.

If you are worried, ask “Are you thinking of killing yourself”. And just be there, tell them that you are with them, you love them, and they have your support, and they are not alone. Take care of yourself too. Call 1–800–273-TALK (8255) if you need. We are always here, for you, and for your family and friends.

You are not alone.

“They are not gone.”

“They are not gone. It’s just that the relationship is transformed.” My supervisor responded to my question about “death”.

My grandma passed away when I was asleep in a hotel in Sydney. I was told she was in critical condition 48 hours ago when I just landed in Sydney, Australia, for the very first time. I caught the flight back the next day. Still too late.

I didn’t say goodbye. The one last hug was a year ago. So warm. I touched my grandma’s face for the one last time before her body was gone, disappeared into ashes in a minute. I expected it would be cold. I didn’t expect it was that cold.

It was like a black hole in my heart, and it would be never filled. Then I realized there’s another hole and another.

Now, I see it differently. It’s ok if there are many holes in my heart that would never be filled. These are not black holes anymore, they are bright ones, like the sunshine. It looks empty, but they are there. They are in my heart. They are not some data. They are real, and they are really there, in my heart. I’ve been thinking of them, all the time. Sometimes, the tear would be sneezing out of my eyes and falling down through my face, to my neck, and into my heart. So warm.

I miss them.

I miss you, my dear best friend.

I miss you, my dear grandmas and grandpas.

I miss you.

You are in my heart.

You are part of me.

You are not gone.

Now, my dear friend, I want to check out with you: Are you thinking of killing yourself? How are you feeling? What is bothering you? Who are you thinking of?

Next, check-in on someone you love and tell them that you’ve been thinking of them.

I’ve been thinking of you.

(Originally published on July 10, 2020 on Substack)

Yes, humans are social animals. Yes but no, humans are lonely social animals.