While I was at BookCon, my dad attempted suicide.
I went back and forth about whether to write a BookCon recap as its own post, but for me, these memories are intertwined forever now and I want to preserve them. I want to write something for me.
What I’m Feeling
I don’t know. I feel weird, like I’m not feeling anything. The house is quiet. I can’t look at the kitchen knives. My mom is nervous and scared. I think she’s holding onto a lot of guilt. I slept on my dad’s side of the bed last night.
And then I’ll think about BookCon, when I was blissfully ignorant of everything at home. I remember actually thinking to myself while roaming the show floor, “This is the happiest I’ve felt in a long time. When someone asks when the last time I was truly happy was, I’ll say today.”
It kills me to know my father was feeling the complete and total opposite of this at the exact same time.
Maybe I’m holding onto a lot of guilt too.
What I’m Reading
I’m incredibly proud of my haul. Last year, I got a bunch of stuff, but not anything I was really dying to read (I actually didn’t even know there would be ARCs… I was such a newbie). This year, I was focused, planned out what I wanted and what the best way to get them was.
I thought my first book would be BLOOD FOR BLOOD since WOLF BY WOLF is, like, my favorite book ever maybe. I needed its sequel. I expected I’d be reading it on the plane home, probably cry a lot and scare my seat mates.
But then, towards the end of the day, I was sitting at the Downtown Stage when a friend got an alert that Penguin had tweeted out a chance to win A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT. My first instinct was not to run for it, followed by a flood of regret. I was so close to Penguin, I should have just gone and tried. I reminded myself it was coming out in two-ish months and I could wait.
Then, maybe an hour later I was across the show floor with my friends, sitting and resting while they decided which panel to go to. I was satisfied. Done. I’d achieved everything on my list and was happy to just go with the flow for the rest of the evening. That’s when my phone buzzed with another Penguin notification. I skimmed the image of books in the tote they were giving out, glimpsed Torch, and took off running.
Mine, mine, mine. I wanted it. Screw waiting two more months. Elias, Laia, Helene! I needed to know what would happen. I reached the Penguin booth, gasped out the password, but was met with “Awwws” and “You were SO CLOSE.” The winner was actually still there! I’d just been a few seconds too late.
I asked if there was another chance to win Torch. The Penguin staffers told me there would be, so I decided to hang around. It was 4, there were 2 hours left of BookCon, and again, I had what I wanted. It’s not like I’d have been missing something except a panel I wasn’t really interested in anyway.
I watched some other people mosey along to try to claim the tote bag of books, but they were too late. At some point, another girl showed up and sat right in front of me. I saw her refreshing the PenguinTeen page nonstop. I was like, “Oh my gosh. Welp. This is it. She’s blocking my way and she’ll get it.” Thirty seconds after, I was like, “NO. I’ve been waiting here longer, there’s no way she’s gonna get it.”
Time ticked by. Oh where, oh where was my tweet.
Finally, the girl was packing up her stuff and gonna leave. Yes! Then a PenguinTeen staffer came over and said not so covertly to her co-worker that they’d be tweeting out the thing, so be ready. The girl stopped putting her stuff away. No!
That was when I noticed another girl hovering. More no!
We all got ready. We all shouted “Nightbringer!”
We all looked around anxiously.
A tie breaker of Rock, Paper, Scissors was suggested.
I died a little inside.
An idea popped into my head. I suggested we share it.
— Penguin Teen (@PenguinTeen) May 14, 2016
We shared it!
And thus, this is how BLOOD FOR BLOOD did not become the book I read first from BookCon. I’m reading Torch so I can send it along to Healy and Lauren.
But, you know, it’s really good so I’m not complaining. Torch is slowly consuming me, and I keep imagining it as a big epic movie. Seriously, someone get on this!
I recall all of this with what I know now about my dad, and feel like none of this matters. That it’s insignificant. Sometimes I’ll think about it now, and it’s like I wasn’t really there for any of it. The Michella at BookCon feels so far away from the Michella At Home Writing This Right Now. BookCon!Michella is like an AU.
What I’m Thinking About
My dad has had depression as long as I can remember. My dad has hated therapy as long as I can remember. My dad is now in a psychiatric ward, and seems open to therapy.
My dad reached a point where he felt so bad he went to the kitchen, looked at our knife set, and thought, “This is a good idea.” Or, “They’ll be better off without me.” Or, “I don’t want to live.”
I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t know if he was even aware of what he was doing. I think the not knowing scares and puzzles me most.
I want to know if this was purely a side effect of the wrong meds, or it’s something more.
I can’t look at the kitchen knives.
My mom broke down in front of me yesterday. They bought those fancy knives together, she said, their first set as a married couple. She was horrified with what they were used for.
My mom said she cleaned up all the blood with her friend. But we found some yesterday, on a paper sitting on the coffee table. It was the first thing I saw that said, “This is real.”
Seeing the bandage on my dad’s wrist earlier that day didn’t resonate as much. I don’t know why. Maybe because I saw the bandage in a sterile, controlled setting, and the dried blood was in my constant reality, my safe space, my home.
I haven’t been able to ask her which knife it was.
I don’t know if I want to know.
But I also don’t want to touch any of them.
My mom doesn’t know if we should keep them, or throw them away. But if we do, then the new knives will always be The Knives After Dad’s Suicide Attempt. Which is worse?
What I’m Doing
I just got back from Chicago yesterday. While my trip had a lot of good, it also had a lot of not so good.
Leading up to my trip, my dad was not doing well. He wasn’t sleeping. He was anxious. He was down. I did not want to leave, but I knew I had to. On the way to the airport, he had some sort of mini breakdown, and my mom maintains that he passed out briefly. I don’t know. I just won’t forget the sound he made deep in his chest.
When I landed in Chicago, I had an easy commute to my hotel and was excited to meet Mel finally. But things with Mel didn’t go well; her anxiety was too bad, and she left early, missed the convention, and wasn’t available to take me out on Sunday. I cried a lot on Friday. I went through a range of emotions: anger, guilt, confusion, sympathy, uselessness, sadness.
Mel and I have talked every day since NaNo 2013. I haven’t heard from her since Friday. I feel this sense of loss. Every once and awhile I’ll feel like I should be talking to someone, and then I’ll remember why. I don’t know if I should be the one to say something first, but I don’t want to be. But I also thought if I could talk to anyone about mental illness, it would be her, and now she’s not around.
But then I’m glad she skipped the convention. I was in line at 6:30 with my friend Brittany, and the line was nuts. At 8 we were moved into the queue hall and packed tightly close together so no one would be able to cut the line. The sheer amount of people all around us would have been too much for her.
Once the show floor opened, we took off for Penguin’s First in Line event. It was euphoric. Waiting in line for hours was totally worth it for GEMINA, THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, and AND I DARKEN (the three I most wanted). It set the day off on the right tone. From there I went to the EVERLAND signing, then to Little, Brown to see if they had extra SEVEN DAYS OF YOU from BEA, and they did! I helped Brittany score an ARC of NEVERNIGHT. I got A SHADOW BRIGHT & BURNING. I met up with the Pitch Wars group. We grabbed a few more galleys and then went to see Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer’s Truth or Dare and then got ice cream with Morgan Matson. I coerced all of them into reading WOLF BY WOLF.
It was a fast-paced, busy, exhausting day. In my heart of hearts, I know Mel would not have been able to do it, but I still wish she had been able to experience it.
After dinner in Chinatown with my Pitch Wars crew, I went back to my room and called my mom.
She told me Dad was in the ER. She told me he was fine.
I knew she was lying. I didn’t push it.
What I’m Feeling
I understand why my mom lied to me. I understand she wanted me to have a good trip, especially after what had happened with Mel the day before. I understand wanting to tell me in person. I understand she was in a hard situation. I understand she was sad, angry, confused, scared, everything.
But now I think about BookCon, and what a great day it was, and then I think about what I was missing here and I feel like, Something has been tainted. I can’t just think about BookCon as I have all weekend. How can it still be the last time I was really, really happy?
I wonder if she’d just told me on Saturday, if I wouldn’t feel like I have to reorganize and reprocess everything. If I’d known on Saturday, BookCon wouldn’t have had a chance to be gold plated in my memories. The high of Bookcon and horror of my dad’s suicide attempt would have been encoded together. But I’m not blaming her, or upset with her. I’m just trying to figure out how to navigate this new normal.
I’m angry. I’m angry at my dad’s doctor for changing his meds, not following up, telling him to stop the meds, giving him a medication that’s a stimulant and doesn’t help with anxiety, not turning his case over to a psychiatrist, not paying enough attention.
I’m angry I left my mom alone to handle all this.
I’m thankful she had a friend with her.
I’m angry I wasn’t here.
I’m scared treatment won’t work. I’m scared I’ll never be able to look at knives with the same indifference as before. I’m scared I’ll never be able to cook with them. I’m scared treatment will work, my dad will come home, and relapse.
I think about BookCon a year from now, back home in New York. I won’t have to travel. I wonder about where we, my family, will be one May from now.
I hope we’re better, stronger, healthier.
I hope I can look at knives.
I hope my dad is still here. Not just here, but truly living. Happy.