Sarah Bircher: Memorial Bench

I bought this bench for myself.

I don’t tell people that generally. If a friend comes to the park with me or happens across me while out for a stroll, they might remark that the name on the bench is the same as mine. I typically joke back that the universe must have meant for me to choose this bench instead of admitting that I picked it. I did my best to keep the plaque ambiguous. It merely reads, Marla: keep fighting.

The truth is, 28 years ago I tried to commit suicide. I woke up angry and frustrated, still breathing, realizing that I had even failed at trying to rid the world of me. I didn’t think there would ever be a point where I felt worse than when I decided to kill myself. But actually failing to kill myself – my most desperate act ever… that was my rock bottom.  I wasn’t grateful to be alive. I was ashamed at what a loser I was.

Since I had failed again, I decided I would actually do the stuff my new therapist suggested – everything I had resisted doing or trying for years before. It made it easier to start because I was in mandatory inpatient treatment. I was really lucky that I could afford a good one. I stayed there for three weeks full-time and stayed in therapy for years after that. It seemed endless at the time. Some people think therapy sounds nice, or self-indulgent. It wasn’t for me. It was awful. I had spent so long ignoring my demons, or letting them control me, that learning how to fight, and then learning how to prevail took a lot of work. There were days I felt so anxious the only thing I could do was lay in bed and cry. But those days became less and less frequent overall. I just had to travel back up the trajectory of my downward spiral, and that took a long time.

Around the 5th anniversary of waking up alive, I decided to get the bench. The money would go to a good cause, and I wanted to commemorate how far I had come. FB

I make it a point to get here once a week and sit on the bench. It is my way of coming and sitting with that woman who couldn’t figure out how to love herself enough to know that her departure from the world would in no way benefit anyone.

Next year I plan to do something bigger than coming here. 25 years of fighting through the pain have earned me some sort of holiday or celebration. I haven’t decided where to go. Some kind of bucket list place seems fitting – maybe Thailand? I have the money saved so it won’t be an issue that way. I just have to choose.

But today, like many other days, I will seem like just another old woman sitting on a bench in the sunshine alone, remembering another time.