What the word “hang” means to me

It’s a loaded word in my vocabulary. I’m never quite sure who I can say it around, and I’m always aware of every single meaning, especially the literal one.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

To linger, impend, to base an idea upon. To simply loiter, or even to decorate… a four letter word so diverse in definitions that I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes how many times I hear it used throughout each and every day. Yet, I hear myself say it, stumbling over the word, unsure of its impact on anyone else’s secret heart and not wanting to be the painful reminder as so many are, unwittingly, to me. You see, the word “hang” means… what it means, to me.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

To worship the words of someone who protected me – I hung from his every word. He spent time with me that my own father wouldn’t spend, taking me out of the line of fire no matter how late in the night. I clung to those memories as I grew up and the first time I’d ever experienced the loss of someone I loved because of suicide, it was a death by hanging, and it was my uncle, only 27. A giant man with a child’s heart – as his beautiful daughter once put it to me, “too big for this world.” I felt a detachment from my childhood the moment my little sister, wide-eyed with the scandal of it all fresh in her 7-year-old mind, announced it to me. It was one of those few definitive moments that divide my life into “Before” and “After.” One of the parallels of my inner child was gone forever; a very real piece of me that was ripped away like a bloody hangnail.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

To impend upon, like the dark doom behind a smile. He laughed in front of us but I’d heard the boy cry. I’d seen him in moments he made me scared, afraid of his fire and afraid of the flood that would follow. I’d heard the stories, seen his furious fists flying when someone’s tongue got away from them. He was a good kid, but he had his demons. The worst of them were enablers, the sad but hopeful people around him who knew he needed help but couldn’t admit to themselves that they couldn’t be part of the solution – because maybe, they were part of the problem. If only we could say we’re sorry now; if only we could make that hug last a moment longer. He is nothing but a memory now, a recurring nightmare in my history, a piece of the pattern in “Before and After” – this was called “Again.” Ten years after the first time suicide touched my life with its Reaper’s claw, my best friend woke to the phone call that her brother had finally, after three failed attempts, taken his life. My entire family was devastated; he was our brother, first and foremost, and to this day we speak of him quietly and not without a tear.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

Her scream hung from my eardrums, it washed over me like a bucket of nails, of searing hot pain, of the worst possible awful hurt anyone could imagine; his mother’s mournful cry. That phone call, I heard it. I heard the shrill, shocked shriek and I knew, just as she had just known, it was confirmed and he was gone. The shriek grew dark, and low, and a horrific guttural noise expelled from the very depths of Hell, the pit of this woman’s pain, and it is a sound I will never be able to rid from my soul. It lingers in the air in my nightmares, in the black moments of the days when I hide behind the mask and carry on.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

There are only so many days one can continue to wear that mask, the façade of “fine, thanks.” Let’s be honest here, we’re all a little more fucked up than we’re willing to admit, and the worst of us are those who are still unwilling to admit that to ourselves. I try to stay optimistic, but sometimes we have bad days and there used to be a time when I would allow those bad days to make a profound impact on what I thought of myself, and I like to think that I have outgrown that. But… let’s be honest here. I will never outgrow being afraid of what you think of me. Sometimes, I feel I’m a person outside of myself who performs each and every second between breaths, devoting her life to a portrayal of normalcy. There’s a shell of me, but whatever’s inside is anyone’s guess, especially mine.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

To be lonely, to be quiet in the midst of noise. To be the only one in the crowded room, to be constantly second-guessing oneself. To be truly alone, surrounded by so many reasons why nobody would recognize the problem. Suspended in a reality that’s nothing more than the illusion we’ve built around ourselves to reassure us that we’re still headed in the right direction. To be lost on the main road, helplessly watching everyone else navigate their lives with such sickening ease. There I am, the little old woman with her blinker on, doing thirty-five in the fast lane, as the rest of the world speeds past. What makes you think I’m not trying just as hard, if not harder? I know the way, dammit, and I’d be there by now if not for all this damn traffic in the way. It doesn’t seem real, the rest of them. The angry drivers, the bored ones, the ones holding up the lines at the lights to take selfies… they’re not real people to me anymore, just faces in a blur of the movie I watch on repeat every day of my life. This is it…? That’s when I know I’m in trouble, in danger of falling over that cliff of self-doubt into self-loathing again.

To dangle, to be suspended. To be barely attached.

So I want to say this, on the terrible and devastating topic of the recent suicide of screen and comedy and human legend in general, Robin Williams: attach yourself to something. Put your feet back on the ground, and sit down. Think about yourself for a moment, and think about the people in your life. They are there for a reason, and so are you. And so am I, and it is not

to dangle, or be suspended, or to be barely attached.

It is to live, to love, and if nothing else, to learn. Even if there isn’t a future promised to you, go to bed with a smile on your face, and fall asleep in the bliss of thinking you can try again tomorrow. And please, if your vision of tomorrow is as bad as you think your today was, please call 1-800-273-8255. Or call me.



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