I decided to kill myself last week. December 11th, 2019. It was a Wednesday.
Since I’m writing this now, it’s fairly obvious I didn’t go through with it.
Suicide has been on the table since I was a kid. It’s always been a theoretical thing. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all of my life. Relatively recently (meaning a few years back) I finally realized that most of my issues throughout my life stem from the fact that I’ve likely had un-diagnosed high-functioning Asperger’s this entire time.
Like I said, suicide has always been a theoretical thing. When I was in my mid-teens I once held my aunt’s Saturday Night Special revolver in my hands, intending to put a stop to all the depression and general confusion. I didn’t follow through. But I’d crossed a line. Once you’ve come that close, the idea of suicide never really goes away. From then on, it’s a possibility in your list of options. I’ve always assumed that I might one day reach a point where things were so dark that I would finally go through with it.
That’s why December 11th matters to me. It wasn’t theoretical anymore. I literally said to myself, “It’s time.”
After I reached that decision, I lay in bed for about an hour. There was no sadness. No apprehension. No relief. It was just time. I lay there and thought about ways I could do it that would inflict the least trauma upon my wife. Foremost, I was determined that she not be the one to find my body. I would never do anything as selfish as slash my wrists in a bathtub or get a gun and blow my brains out. At least not at home. Someone has to find you. And that person will never forget that moment. And someone has to clean up your mess.
I decided it would be better if I killed myself while I was working. Not at work, though. The plan which made the most sense was to do it on the weekend during my lunch break. Most often I go over to a mall near my workplace and have my lunch in the parking lot behind some of the buildings. It’s the kind of place most people don’t go except employees. If I did it there, it would be some time before my supervisor would wonder what had happened to me. I’d just be late coming back from lunch. No one would send out the cavalry. Most likely, no one would wander through the area in time to save me.
Left with no other real option, this would mean wrist-cutting. But I had to make sure it was effective. What you see in the movies, slashing your wrists from side to side, doesn’t always work. Plus, there’s the chance of severing tendons. If by some stroke of bad luck I botched the job and survived, and had severed tendons, there would be no future music in my life. My playing days would likely be over. Which, of course, would just create a circular loop, because then I’d have even less to live for than before. No, I had to get it right the first time.
I studied the best ways to do it. Believe it or not, there are helpful instructions on the Internet about the best and most effective ways to slash your wrists. I won’t go into the details. If you want to know, look it up for yourself. It’s not hard to find.
Anyway, I figured out how to do it most effectively, and decided the place and time to do it. You can never eliminate all variables, and there’s always the possibility someone will find you before you’re gone. But I felt like the place and time I chose was the only real option. I would do it outside of the car so there was no mess to clean up there (minimizing the trauma to others), and likely just get out of the car and sit beneath a tree. I’d enjoy my lunch as usual, take in a last few moments and, hopefully, a nice breeze, then slice my wrists with that box knife I’ve had since the 1980’s (a fitting instrument) and just sit back and wait.
Ideally, I thought, by the time someone found me I would be long gone. No hospital trips. Nobody being Baker Act’d. No court-mandated therapist. Someone would see the body and call authorities. Someone would come out and collect me. At the very least I will have spared my wife the trauma of finding my body. Better for everybody.
At least… that what was going through my head as I lay there in bed on the 11th. I was quite at peace about it. It wasn’t a sudden decision based upon emotion. It was just the inevitable result of a long, slow grind that had seen me finally, fully embrace that my life was never going to be anything but shit, and the Universe was never going to allow me to be the musician, writer, or artist I fancied myself, but rather that my life was going to remain a never-ending grind of dead-end jobs and poverty.
I mean Christ, I went to college for three years studying audio engineering, mixing, and acoustics, and put my wife and I deeply into debt, in the hope of improving our options, only to find myself in the company of proverbial crickets on the other end of it all. I knew it was possible no one would want to speak to some weird old guy who had graduated from college in his early 50’s, but I was still surprised that the only response I received from scores of job applications was from one staffing agency who provided roadies (i.e. labor to move around heavy shit) to live productions. Yes, I firmly believed that some option would present itself, and in the end all the hard work would prove worth it. But I was wrong.
Of course, that was just one of many issues. Overall, my life had become one long list of missed opportunities, miscalculations, and general bad luck. So much so that I literally never expect anything to go right. If I put money in a drink machine, I am mildly surprised when the bottle actually comes out. When I turn on the heat or the air conditioning, I half expect it not to work. When the winds blow, I expect tree limbs to fall upon our house. This all has a cumulative effect, which leaves you feeling like you’re looking out at the world through a fog of abject misery that permeates everything you do and think.
So much so that when I’m in that parking lot at that mall I mentioned earlier (where I take lunch), I can’t relate to those people who are going into stores doing normal things as part of normal lives. Both my wife and I are so far removed from having normal lives at this point that we didn’t even try to decorate for Christmas this year. There’s no will. No hope.
We put out one figurine in the kitchen of Jack Skellington from the The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I’m sure just happened to be handy, surrounded by a string of flimsy, battery-powered clear lights that my wife has been putting into these wonderful, artistic jars she’s been making (which no one has been buying or shown any real interest in). Well, she put Jack and the lights out. I haven’t even had the energy to put out the two Santa figurines which belonged to my aunt, and we have put those out every year since I moved down in 2007. I’ve literally been putting those out for the last 30 years. This year I couldn’t pull it off.
You know, the funny thing about deciding to kill yourself is the clarity which comes from it. You’ve made a fairly profound decision. I think it’s the kind of clarity one might have when they look up from a beach and see a tsunami coming at them. Some people might scream. Some people might try to flee. But some people will simply know what that means, and watch the waters coming toward them. That’s where I was at. I was watching the tsunami, and, simply put, I knew I wouldn’t be hurting much longer. There’s a certain peace in that.
On the 11th, having made the decision, I realized that it was a decision. And it was my decision to make. I literally told myself, “You have to decide whether you live or die.”
That was somewhat revelatory. With that, I came back to the moment. Did I really want to die? Well… yes. I hadn’t made that choice lightly. But… did I have to? Could I fight for my life? Move forward and try to find ways to make things better? Might I find reasons to stick around and keep fighting?
Obviously, I thought of my wife. I wouldn’t want to leave her alone. Anymore than I would want her to leave me alone. I’d long since accepted that if anything ever happened to her, I would have no reason for being. She was, and is, literally the one good thing in my life, and the reason I keep getting up every morning.
I keep trying to think of ways to explain the change that happened in me then. That one statement made me look at it all differently. “You have to decide whether you live or die.” I don’t mean to suggest that I ever thought it was anyone else’s choice. The choice was always mine. I suppose, more than anything, I was asking myself if I had any more fight left in me. I was asking, “Are we truly done? Is this it?”
That was what I needed to decide.
I wish there was some revelatory experience to relate here. Some dramatic moment. Angels in the clouds. Or sunlight beaming in through the window. Or the voice of God softly touching the heart of someone who’s suffering. But there wasn’t. There was just me, lying in bed, having decided to die, and wondering if that was that. Part of me wondered if life could be better. If I could make it better.
I suppose in the end, it all came down to me rejecting the finality of death. I’m not afraid to die. There are days when it would be preferable to the alternatives. But that’s the final paragraph in a novel. Once you’re dead, you’re done. Certainly nothing will get better then. It’s game over, man. What I had to decide was if I was ready for my story to come to an end, if I had said all I needed to say.
It turned out I wasn’t ready to concede the narrative just yet.
I wish I could say this was a Hallmark moment. That everything changed after that. But all I really did was move the idea of suicide back into the “theoretical” column. It’s not gone. I feel like the guy who was standing on a bridge ready to leap to his death, and then smelled something wonderful coming from a taco truck. Maybe you’ll have one last taco?
The week which followed was like any other week. Bad moments, and less bad moments. Depression. Anxiety. The same old, same old. In fact, I was sick recently and missed a few days from work. My body felt like I had the flu, though I never got congested and never had a runny nose. I slept most of Thursday afternoon and evening, and all of Thursday night. Fatigue. Upset stomach. A general crash. The upset stomach went away on Friday, but the fatigue remains (though it’s better than Thursday). I realized it’s quite possible that those flu-like symptoms can be caused by stress, and there can be a physical manifestation of never-ending stress. Since there was never any congestion, I wonder if that’s what happened here.
Basically, I’m just saying that this isn’t over. I’ve decided to keep going. But it seemed significant that just last week I had decided to stop. That is now a part of my history. It’s part of who I am. And it’s always possible I could return to that place.
Hard times are ahead of us. We’re likely going to lose our house. So we’re going to be moving. I’ve cast around for better paying jobs that might help dig us out of our financial pit, but I’ve received no replies. I don’t see that the misery is going to abate any time soon.
But for now… I am here. It’s another day.
In the end, I think that’s how you keep going, really. You decide if you’re going to go a little farther. And while I can no longer look far down the road with any sense of hope or excitement, I can look forward to taking a bathroom break (and a short walk) in about an hour and a half (I’m at work). I can look forward to going home in about four and a half hours and getting some sleep in the company of my wife and our three cats. From there, I can look forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which will just be me and her, and some tasty food.
Beyond that, I just don’t know. I don’t dare look any farther than that, really. It all looks pretty dark to me. But for now, I’m still here. And I think maybe that’s the trick. Just find a way to go a little farther. And then find a way to go farther than that.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline