On Being Better

Lindsay Levine
9 min readMay 23, 2019

The anniversary of the day I tried to kill myself is right around the corner.

Over twenty pages and a dozen versions later, I’m still trying to put to bed this screaming child of a story. It’s been one year since I lost everything, or so it felt. I felt like a prisoner in my own life for so long, navigating an unrelenting desperation for escape. Cursed like Tantalus, tortured by the need for something always just narrowly out of reach. Long weeks, longer weekends, bargaining for just about anything that might free me from my grief. It will get better, they say.

And it did! It does. It really does.

In the versions of this piece before the one below, I wrote a great deal of words about why I was the way that I was. Every single thing I survived, all of the choices I made. There’s no point. It doesn’t matter. What matters is I never meant to become the girl I became.

This piece is dedicated to my ex.

Last year, in April 2018, Jade and I finally broke up. She moved out in May. I planned my suicide in June. I left NYC in July.

Despite feeling like we were suffocating in that apartment, I somehow still — for the life of me — could not accept the idea of her moving out. When I tried to imagine my life without her there, in that space, in our bed — my heart shattered. I felt like I didn’t deserve to lose her after the years of hell I’d already endured. The more I resisted, the worse she felt about having any relationship with me ever again. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of clinging to the one person I couldn’t bear to lose and pushing her away in the process.

This rollercoaster, which had been crawling to its peak slowly and steadily, began to plummet over the edge. After everything, after my whole privileged life of shit, I had never felt anything like the pain of losing her. I had survived so much and yet could not see a way out of that agony.

But I was trying. God, was I trying. To get out, to stop the rollercoaster, to be sane, to salvage whatever relationship we had left or might have one day. I already had one job offer in another city and was getting closer to another. But no matter how quickly I tried to run away — from her, for her — the darkness was quicker. I was dying in NYC, at our job, in our apartment.

It was just two weeks before my onsite at Coinbase when I started planning my suicide. I researched the best ways to kill yourself — the most pain-free, the methods most likely to succeed. Any story about my demise would have definitely mentioned the search history on my computer, right? How do you even hang yourself? I asked myself, looking around the apartment and all over the ceilings. Literally, what could I hang from? And do I really want to die by asphyxiation? Overdosing seemed pretty miserable. What if I slit my wrists and fail? What if I have to go on living with those scars? Jumping. Yes, jumping could work, though I longed for a choice less gruesome than death by impact. Day by day, I toyed with the idea but never committed to any particular time. I wondered what finally pushes a suicidal person over the edge. Is it the smallest step over an invisible threshold? Or one colossal trigger? A part of me hoped I’d never find out for myself.

On June 4th, the morning I left the hospital, Jade made the difficult but necessary decision to exile me from her life. A day later, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

My anger towards Jade was unimaginable. I didn’t sleep for a long time. I grappled with the idea that she didn’t show up that night, that she was willing to let me die, that she saw it as a manipulation. That she could knowingly destroy me, someone already so broken — the victim. That she seemed perfectly okay, maybe even happy. I replayed and picked apart hurtful things she’d said during the breakup. I’m relieved to be out of this relationship. I feel like I don’t want to talk to you ever again. I don’t know if I love you anymore. There’s no hope. I have no compassion left for you. It’s so clear to me now that everything you do is to manipulate me. You need help. Serious help. Words that spun the wheels. I tossed and turned trying to keep the fury at bay.

I held onto Jade for months and months and months. Even in SF, my new city, I was heavily following her social media. I felt terrorized by her constant posts about “rebranding” herself and the idea that she moved on so effortlessly.

In my first weeks of DBT, I cried in sessions about Jade. Jade Jade Jade. It was all about Jade.

The anger carried on for months. I stayed violently, uncontrollably suicidal until January, when I found my second SF psychiatrist, tried my third medication, and landed on a mood stabilizer that gave me my life back.

I was constantly thinking about this piece, adding muddled thoughts to an already incoherent mess of a document. My feelings changed so often, and I had no idea how I really felt about anything. Am I writing this for her or for myself? Am I writing this for forgiveness, for redemption, for pity? Am I writing this to drag her for turning her back on me and leaving me to die? Am I writing this for closure, to concede my wrongdoings, to take responsibility? I wouldn’t figure that out for the longest time.

But I did. And here’s the whole truth.

I was the reason our relationship failed. Time and time again, I let down the loving, devoted, selfless and spirited woman who stole my heart as easily as it broke.

The truth is that Jade gave me everything she had.

She stayed by my side when I cried over my recent ex again and again and again. She said she signed up for it. The truth is I shouldn’t have let her.

Jade was there when my dad was in the hospital, when my mom was in the hospital.

She struggled during her transition to NYC, missing her friends and old life. Instead of supporting her, I felt responsible for her depression and selfishly asked her to bury it to spare me, the victim, any discomfort.

The truth is that Jade compromised on everything. She made it clear to me from day one that she didn’t want to adopt a dog, but she compromised for me. I pleaded with her to foster a blue heeler; she was so allergic. God, it makes me sick thinking about all of the times she so willingly accepted discomfort just so I could be happy. I was the fucking worst.

One of the hardest truths is that the dog I adopted loved Jade so much, and Jade loved her even more. Jade always took better care of her and the other dogs we fostered. She was the mom they deserved.

When Jade came home with me for the holidays, I slept all day instead of spending time with her and making sure she was comfortable. The truth is, I wish I’d been a better woman to present to her family when we went from my home to theirs. I’m embarrassed.

In a fleeting, lucid moment from last April, as the breakup unfolded, I included this next paragraph in an email to Jade:

The truth is that no matter how strong my partner may be, no matter the love or how perfect the match, I cannot expect my feelings and needs to be prioritized above my partner’s just because I characterize myself as damaged goods. At some point in time, I adopted this philosophy that my laundry list of traumas somehow makes my needs more immediate than my partner’s, and I let my love for and awe of Jade carry me into a relationship before I could unlearn that philosophy.

The truth is that I loved Jade, more than anything or anyone. She was my very best friend, and the closest thing I ever felt to family.

Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. — Rumi

Friends grew very tired of asking why I’d refuse to let go of her, after everything. After the breakup, the destruction, the hospital, the blocking, being erased. I didn’t let go because she made me better. I credit Jade for doing the one thing nothing and no one else could — waking me up. In my life or not, love me or hate me, single or taken, kind or cruel — I wouldn’t be becoming a better, healthier person without her.

Jade is the one person who had the strength to see my flaws and refuse to pardon them. A person selfless enough to try and wise enough to know when to stop. In my whole heart, I want nothing but the absolute best for that girl. I hope she finds someone who is worthy of her love, her humor and laughter, the pieces of her I got to see that no one else had seen before.

It’s been a long year. I’ve had weak, hate-filled moments. I’ve had eternally hopeless moments. I let down another girl in the exact same way I let down Jade, for the exact same reasons. I lost sleep trying to understand why two girls who saw all my scars couldn’t find it in themselves to talk to me. I made desperate attempts to reach out to Jade and people in her life, to figure out her new tattoo, to find out if she was dating that guy. To know she was okay.

The year is over. I’ve been stuck in this glass box for so long. I’ve been pounding on the walls, gasping for air, teary eyed for a decade, and inviting people inside to suffocate with me. I’m freeing myself. I’m becoming the kind of woman who endures more than she crumbles, and I owe it to Jade.

For a long time, I couldn’t accept that all of the shit in my life — that had taken so much from me already — could somehow indirectly take her, too. That the trauma I survived and the behaviors I learned could turn me into such a selfish failure of a partner. The tragedy was believing that a better version of me could have had a healthy, long-lasting relationship with her.

Jade — you were a good man in a storm. It was never your job to save me, and I know you know that. I’m so sorry I fooled us both. Thank you for everything. Every sacrifice, every fearless risk taken, every time you tried. You are exceptional, and you will never not be important to me. And like I wrote to you in my payment note that day, I will be sorry for the rest of time.

Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Lessons on being better — learned because of and thanks to Jade:

  1. The least manipulative thing you can do is nothing at all.
  2. Delete the phrase I can’t from your vocabulary. Stop saying I can’t to things that seem unfair, impossible, impossibly difficult, or against who [you think] you are. You can.
  3. In those times, past that certain threshold of pain, when it feels like you’re covered in emotional third degree burns, force yourself to do the opposite of what your feelings tell you to do.
  4. Manifest the strength to walk away from people, places, and things that aren’t good for you.
  5. Stop comparing your experiences to others’ in an effort to better understand them. They are not you. Stop projecting.
  6. No one’s emotions, needs, or traumas are more valid than anyone else’s.
  7. Surviving trauma, disease, abuse or mental illness does not entitle you to excuse away toxic behavior with “sorry, I’m broken”.
  8. Give people space when they need it, even if it breaks you inside.
  9. Make sacrifices for the people you love.
  10. If you’re doing too much of 9, it’s probably not the right relationship or the right time.
  11. There will always be someone or something else.
  12. Instead of running from discomfort, tolerate it. Even seek it when possible.
  13. Don’t assign self-worth to somebody’s ability or desire to stay in your life.
  14. Love yourself and your own life before jumping into someone else’s. Do not search for a purpose or savior in a romantic partner. Marry your passions.
  15. Challenge and refuse old habits. Don’t spiral when you inevitably submit to them.
  16. Do not quit therapy.
  17. Fight for your mental health care. Find the right specialists and the right medication for you.
  18. Accept what has happened to you. Accept what is happening to you.
  19. Forgive others.
  20. Forgive yourself.
White Tulip

Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. - Joss Whedon