You want to—or at least feel you should try to—make some meaning out of that night, the night you jumped off the roof. Everything went black, you weren’t expecting that to lift, but it did and you find yourself in ICU three days later, intubated; every limb and appendage in your body broken; a smashed jaw and fractures throughout your skull… You know you should try to find something profound underneath the wreckage of why you survived… [But] you’re not sure if reflecting on what happened will unearth epiphanies and finally annihilate your fucked-up, inner paradigm—the ideal outcome—or whether it will, instead, just confirm that your original, entropic intuition and inclinations had been right all along.

Because all you can think about all day and night is how unbearable your throbbing, swollen gums, fused to metal wires, and barely pieced-together jaw is; how your mouth is a fountain of drool and puss; how the puffy skin covering your broken skull feels like some weird, rubbery, alligator-like amalgamation of patches—some of which are completely numb; how your bones ache and your splinted limbs can’t possibly ever feel normal again; how your bowels won’t move and it’s driving you absolutely crazy with discomfort, on top of the fact the fucking catheter makes you feel like you always have to pee. Not to mention Jesus Christ you have a fucking catheter!! How freakish your jack-o-lantern head bobbing atop a human body looks and how bad you feel for anybody who has to talk to you and pretend they’re not as repulsed by the monstrosity as you are; how there’s still clumps and layers of blood matting your hair but you can’t wash the tangled mop until you’re ambulatory.

And you still yell at the nursing aids’ incompetence and are rude beyond measure; you don’t feel blessed by laser beams of cold hard wisdom and don’t feel passion for anything in particular—when you’ve always had a surfeit of the latter…

But [now] you just don’t feel it and aren’t sure if you ever will. You don’t feel amazed at the body’s ability to heal or survive nor confirmed that it’s a brilliantly-designed machine marking evidence of some higher order or meaning. On the contrary all you feel you are now is body, flesh and bones, period. Body stripped of soul which makes you wonder if all those “intimations of immortality” you used to feel, all those groundswells of passion and fervor and other-worldly purpose were all just neurons’ coincidental firing and shit, straws of purpose you grasped at that were never any more real than the masses’ idiotic gods. You wonder whether art and words, subtle beauties and gestures, and the children of this world which had been your gods and your center weren’t just as much hokum as the other, obviously ludicrous “sacred.” Because even though you’re supposed to make a full recovery death never felt closer and while you’ve always thought of death here and there, you wonder how you’ve still yet, like most, managed to so successfully ignore the frailty and grossness of the human body. You just feel more disgust with the organism you’re trapped in than you had already—and that was a lot. Revolted by bodily functions, saliva and stool, frail limbs and non-shatter proof jaws. You wonder if scientists and atheists and matter-ists and all those folks haven’t always been right all along—there is no beauty or love, no greater, hidden messages encrypted on the surfaces of our lives and nature and family, waiting to be found, and there never have been. All there is is atoms. You always knew this was a possibility but had hoped your art and your Dubliners moments indicated otherwise but now it seems that may not be so.

I mean it’s not like you’ve given up, yet. Maybe you’re still suffering from narcotic-induced brain fog and an unwillingness to think about that night whatsoever, some kind of blah blah post-traumatic emotional shock. Nonetheless. This is not how you imagined it going down if you were to survive your first, real, bona fide—I mean, this was supposed to work!—this-takes-guts-and-is-the-real-deal suicide. You hadn’t really considered any afterward—but if you had considered alternative endings, this most certainly would not have been one of them.

Above were the first words I wrote following my Oct. 23, 2015 jump from the roof of my four-story apartment building, early on in what would become two months of hospitalization. My jaw was nearly fused shut due to surgery, and it was difficult to speak. The piece is unedited, for the sake of authenticity. ~ JH

In her previous iteration, Jeanene Harlick was a daily newspaper reporter who moved on to freelance writing and editing, as well as publishing a Web magazine. Circa 2007 she returned to grad school and had a five-year stint as a wannabe social worker. Publications she has written for include the San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sacramento Bee, Stanford Magazine, and others. In 2018, she was published in a graduate-level textbook, authoring a chapter on the socio-economic drivers of rising suicide rates. 

2020 A.P.S. (Anno Post Salire), Jeanene is a failed writer who isn’t afraid to grovel. She stays alive feeding burning text to her shrine of David Foster Wallace, while railing against psychiatric ableism. She welcomes any and all forms of menial work and can be reached at [email protected].