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I Am Not Allowed To Die

I am not allowed to die.

When I was nineteen, my older sister committed suicide. It was my second year of college. I woke up on the 14th of October, 2018, to see a cop car in the driveway, and the man my mother was dating at the time outside talking to an officer. My mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway.

I went downstairs and sat on the couch. I remember how cold and still the house was. The three cats were nowhere to be seen. Our two dogs were completely silent for once.

When he came back inside, he lied when I asked him where my mother was.

“She’s out running errands.”

“Are you lying?”

“Yes.”

The look on his face was pained. He knew what happened before I did. How could he not when he had been sitting next to my mother when my sister’s fiancé told her over the phone?

I went back upstairs and I laid down on my bed, anxiously tapping at some game on my phone. Where was my mom? Why was there a cop car in the drive at nine in the morning on a Sunday?

Around eleven, my mother called me. She was in Pennsylvania, where my sister and her fiancé lived. She had been crying. My first thought was immediately of my sister. I asked if it had been a car accident. My mother was forced to tell me over the phone that my sister had shot herself in the head just before midnight last night.

That Sunday was the first time she told me that I am not allowed to die.

My mom and I were in a hotel near Philadelphia. My dad was flying in from Alaska and would land the next morning, so we drove out to spend the night there. Around one, I was tucked under my mom’s arm, and she was crying in my hair. 

“You can’t do this to me. Not you too. I can’t lose both of you. I won’t be able to survive that.”

I had always thought my mom was the strongest woman in the world. She was raised hopping around navy bases because my grandfather was a naval officer. She was in foster care for a time. She had my sister when she was nineteen and me at twenty one. My dad joined the military when I was six and we moved from Washington State to Virginia. There, my mom went back to school. She got a 4.0 GPA in her first year of grad school, done while raising me and my sister during our dad’s second deployment and working full time. She got a job offer from the National Archives to come work for them in Anchorage, Alaska. She accepted the job and took every opportunity they gave her and that eventually got her employed at NASA.

My mom went from working in a nursing home to being the archivist of NASA in just twelve years. She raised me, an autistic girl, without any of the resources because every time she tried to get me diagnosed, there wasn’t anyone willing to help.

She did all of that without cracking under the pressure. But losing my sister shattered her.

That Sunday was the first time my mother told me that I am not allowed to die, but it was not the first time I was told that.

When I was 14, I went through a depressive episode. I went to the hospital, I did a round of medicine, and that spring, a few months after my hospital stay, I self harmed. My sister saw and told my dad.

My dad is a mortician by trade. At the time, he was working in a funeral home. Alaska has a very high suicide rate. My dad took me to the home and showed me the body of a girl who had killed herself. He had embalmed her the day before.

That was the first time I was told that I am not allowed to die.

“If you die, I’m going to be the one to prepare you. Don’t you dare put me through that.”

I was 14. 

Five years later, my older sister put a bullet through her skull and I sat outside the morgue while he cleaned her up and my mom did her makeup.

Since my sister’s death, I have had what’s called Intrusive Thoughts. Thoughts of “what would happen if I opened the car door and fell out while we’re speeding down the highway? What if I leaned over the bridge railing and fell to the river? What if I stepped into the road in the dark? What if what if what if?”

I’ve moved twice.

I’ve changed medicines four times.

I’ve been diagnosed autistic.

Every time I get dark thoughts. Every time I think what if. Every time I want to just stop.

I remind myself

I am not allowed to die.

I will never truly heal from what happened. How can I when part of my identity has been ripped away? When I remember that my fathers’ sons will never know her except for pictures? How can you heal from that?

When my online friends are in dark places, I use comedy and comfort. I find them things that will make them smile.

When I am feeling darkness, I remember that I am not allowed to die. And sometimes, that is all I have.

I am not allowed to die.

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