Suicide has been a fairly dominant theme in my life. I’ve lost friends to suicide, have a number of friends who have attempted suicide, and a number of friends who have gone through periods of being suicidal. I’ve been friends with several people who have lost family and friends to suicide. I have experienced being suicidal, and had some close calls with suicide attempts.
There is great work being done through social media by organizations such as Project Semicolon, Ok2Talk.org, and the It Gets Better Project to raise awareness and to reduce stigma. I'm telling this story partly for my own catharsis, but mainly to let people know that help is available. We don't have to suffer in silence, and we don't have to suffer alone. Please don't be like me and think that you should be able handle your problems on your own. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it's okay to talk to someone about them. If you want to talk to me, please send me a message. I may not be able to help, but I am willing and able to listen. Don't go through this alone.
There seem to be voices that live in my head, and the dialogue goes something like this:
Can you tell the story of why you wanted to die?
I'm not sure I can because it's almost a lie.
I wanted to die, yes that's true.
But if you wanted it badly,
Why didn't you follow through?
The reason I didn't follow through…
I didn't want to die.
Wait. Even that part is a lie.
So, you wanted to die?
I wanted to die
That part I know is true
But I wanted to live,
and that was true too.
So, you wanted to live?
Yes, I wanted to live. No, I wanted to die.
I think you don’t try hard enough,
To live… or to die…
In March of 2013, on my birthday, I had what the psychiatrist referred to as a psychotic break, where I found myself on the railing of my 8th floor balcony, ready to jump. I'm looking back on that time now, and it made me wonder when and why suicide became a theme in my life.
I first learned of suicide when I was a young boy. I don’t know when I first heard the word, but I do remember the first time that the word really meant something to me. I can’t remember the details, but there was mention of a cousin whom I’d never met taking his own life. I had never considered that someone could take their own life, as though it just wasn’t possible to do. It seemed that a veil was lifted.
Soon after, I found myself sitting alone on a fence by a tree. Images started flowing through my head. How did he do it? I looked at the tree and thought perhaps he’d killed himself by hanging from a tree, or perhaps he’d stood at the tree and put a gun to his head. Maybe he’d taken a bunch of pills and sat by a tree to die.
I knew from what little I’d overheard in the conversation that committing suicide damned you to hell, and that made it all the more intriguing. It was flirting with danger just to think about it, but think about it I did, and often. I didn’t think of killing myself in those days, just of suicide in general. Thoughts of killing myself were to come a few months later when I would make my own deal with the devil.
My parents had recently gone through a very nasty divorce. My father, in his anguish, blamed my mother entirely. I regularly heard the words, “Your mother is going to burn in hell for breaking up our family,” and a number of variations on that theme. I took those statements literally, and began to agonize about my mother and the loss of her salvation, burning in hell for eternity.
The workings of a child’s mind are interesting. I worked out a plan that was sure to save my mother from burning in hell. I was going to take her place. It would be easy. All I had to do was kill myself. If I killed myself, my mother and father would be so distraught that they would have no choice but to turn to one another for comfort, thus reuniting the family, thus saving my mother from hell.
It would be easy. I would ride my bike down Graveyard Hill and crash into the rocks at the bottom. It would look like an accident. In the end though, I chickened out. I hated myself for chickening out though, because I wasn’t good enough to save my mother. As I grew older, I realized that this plan would never have worked.
Through puberty, as I was learning that I was gay, I experienced many times when the thought of dying was more appealing than living. I was cycling through periods of deep depression, but again, I didn’t have the guts to do anything about it and actually take my own life. It wasn’t until my stepfather found me out and confronted me about being gay that I actually decided to follow through on the act.
I started planning for the day. I gave away several of my most prized possessions to various friends. I wrote several drafts of suicide notes. I made the plan of how I was going to do it, and where I was going to do the deed. I thought I was ready. On the day I'd chosen for the deed though, I received a phone call from a friend. I don’t recall the conversation, but something in it made me decide to wait a little longer, and then I made a mistake that was fatal to my plan. I got into a yelling match with my mother. I have no idea over what, but I blurted out, “I’m going to kill myself.”
My mother’s response to me telling her that I was going to kill myself was something along the lines of “No you’re not. It’s just a cry for attention.” That may have seemed like the wrong thing to say, but in that moment, something in me changed. I realized that I really didn’t want to die, and the idea of killing myself moved from the foreground of my thoughts, but never left me. Maybe it was indeed just a cry for attention.
Throughout my adult life, I would often think of simply turning the wheel of the car just enough to wrap it around a tree. An even more appealing thought occurs to me every time I get on an airplane. Perhaps the plane will go down. If so, I get to die and it won’t even be my fault.
It wasn’t until March of 2013 that I lost control. I had been physically ill for several weeks. I was exhausted after returning from a trip to Las Vegas for a work convention, and I came home to a problem in one of my offices that kept me in the basement closet for several long days.
I remember coming home at the end of a very long work day, a day where I didn’t feel accomplished. It was my birthday. I have always hated my birthday. I was exhausted, and physically ill. I remember walking into my apartment, looking around and feeling like everything was pointless. I felt like everything was wrong. My apartment looked as it always did. Put together. A symbol of success. I felt like a fraud. I remember going out onto the balcony and looking at the park below.
My next memory is realizing there would be tons of paperwork for the HOA if I jumped, and I couldn’t put them through that! Conscious awareness had returned and I was up on the railing. I was about to go over the edge. I climbed down and collapsed to the ground in tears. It was a moment of psychosis where I was not aware of myself. A moment that is not in my clear memory. A moment was all it took to be on the railing.
Almost a year and a half have passed since that time. What I have learned in that year and a half is that I can’t always trust my mind. I have learned that in order to survive, I have to have help. I have learned that I can’t handle the problems on my own. I have learned that there is so much more to learn, and that I have to stick around in order to learn. I still struggle every day, but I'm getting through. You can get through too.