I’ve got a confession to make, and it’s not one I will ever be able to be comfortable with making. The people who care about me won’t be, either, but if they are being totally honest with themselves, they already know this, deep within.
I think about killing myself all the time. There are long stretches in which the thought crosses my mind at least once a day. Most days, I can push it away, knowing, on an intellectual level, that this is just a chemical in my brain tricking me. It’s sort of like the Mucinex blob from the tv commercials; a hateful, horrible creature tucked away up there, living in a corner, feeding on my thoughts. It malevolently whispers in my ear about how hard this life is and how much better it would be to depart from the pain of it all. In my case, this asshole resembles Rockhound, the Steve Buscemi character from the movie Armageddon. Remember when Rockhound got the space dementia and was riding the nuclear device and whooping and hollering? That’s sorta how my guy is up there. Demented, certainly. But smart.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, I promised, when I began this blog, to leave no stone unturned in my dialogue about the things that are very fucked up about me. I promised to write about my journey with mental illness. I promised to be transparent. My thought was that if I could do that, I would be able to help others with their magical mental mystery tours, so to speak. In doing so, it would give me a sense of purpose and keep me from the darkness and doing something “bad”. Many people are great believers in writing things down and then burning the pages. This purges them of the poison within. I don’t want to burn the pages. I want to free the thoughts but I also believe that returning to read them when I’m feeling whole is a key factor in keeping me alive. The way, I can conduct a rationale between fact and fiction, so to speak. And I don’t believe that we should be silent about mental illness. I think it’s every bit as lethal as cancer, or heart disease. It kills people. Every day. It kills wonderful people.
Can we agree on one thing right now? Can we agree that suicide is reaching epidemic proportions? People are sad. People are born sad, or their circumstances make them sad. The ones with circumstances causing the sadness are a little luckier, because they can fix it, fix the circumstances. There is hope. Those of us who were born sad face greater challenges, because we’re just chemically wired in a different way, and we could have every little thing, be everything, and still be sad. We would never, ever choose it. We never, ever enjoy it. We sometimes wallow, but most of us are great pretenders, great actors. How many times have you heard someone say, “He/She always seemed so positive” when discussing a suicide victim? Sad people are really, really good at deception. We can function as extroverts, even! It’s fucked up, isn’t it? Trust me, though: we are counting the moments until we can take that mask off and just wilt. Because it is exhausting, playing that part. There is a great cost.
I attempted suicide at age 13. The circumstances surrounding it are very complicated and would take forever to explain. The condensed version is this: I was mentally abused at home. It began when I was about 7 and continued relentlessly until I escaped. And then, it continued from time to time because I allowed it. At the same time that this was occuring, I was entering that awkward phase we all experience when we become teenagers. Hormones, peer pressure, all of it; and I was not pretty, or thin, or possessing of the essentials of surviving. I was poor, had old clothes, and was a nerd. You either sink or swim in 7th grade. I could not swim and I had no life preserver. Thus, the bullying began early in the year and culminated in a mass-bullying incident that lasted for weeks and weeks at the bidding of “the most popular girl in the class” and was aimed directly at me. I could not escape it; even the handful of friends I had shied away from me for fear of being targeted themselves. I began a daily complaint of stomach pains and refused to go to school. I’d miss a week, go back for a day. I’d hope that my classmates had forgotten. Tenacious and cruel as they were, they hadn’t. My mother would take me to the doctor. I had tests done. Of course, there was nothing physically wrong. My homelife was such that I didn’t feel that I could tell anyone about the living Hell that was school. My pediatrician was wise, though; he prescribed me a tiny dose of valium.
When I had missed 40 days of school, my mother began to insist that I had to go. During this time, there was a nasty evening in which she and my grandmother took turns reminding me just how unwanted I was. My grandmother had dementia and was confined to a wheelchair. She had psychotic breaks from time to time and we were her punching bags. But when she would attack my mother, my mother would then attack me, and then they would both fixate on me.
I had simply endured too much. My family didn’t like me. I had no friends. Most of all, I hated myself. The only person who gave a crap about me was The Male Sibling Unit, and he would be fine. It was all too painful, and so I decided that it was time to do us all a favor and remove myself from the equation. It was what everyone wanted, wasn’t it?
It was a Sunday night. I cried for a while, and then my movements became robotic. I knew pills would be best. I would take them and just go to sleep forever. I remember methodically shaking out little handfuls of my grandmother’s heart meds, my valium, and then a big handful of aspirin. I swallowed them all, then went to bed. Then I worried that maybe it wasn’t enough, and went back and got more. I added Tylenol into the mix, because I didn’t want to leave my grandma with nothing, or she could die. The irony of that isn’t lost on me, okay? The things she would say to me aren’t anything I want to put in print, but they are things no grandmother – no human being – should say to another. I shouldn’t have given a single fuck, given that I was hoping that I’d be dead by the time she’d need them again.
The fact that I’m writing this means that I didn’t take enough to kill me, although it did make me very sick and I did have a nervous breakdown and there was a hospital visit and subsequent intense therapy. The therapy should have continued for longer and there should have been intervention in the form of medication much sooner than there was, but there is now, and that is what keeps me from trying again. This time, I guarantee that the drugs used would do the job.
The thing is, the drugs put up a barrier between thinking and doing. They don’t remove the thinking entirely, and they don’t remove the impulse to do self-destructive things. I worry, when it is particularly bad, that the drugs will stop working. I try to send up signals that those I love will understand, because there is not a more wretched feeling than to look at some someone I love and say “I am thinking I might just kill myself.” It’s equal, In my eyes, to looking at them and saying, “You don’t matter enough to me to stick around and I don’t care if it hurts you.” While I may feel as though I’m commiting a tender mercy upon them, I know that they won’t see it that way. And that’s the part of the drugs I take that do their job.
It doesn’t help with the sadness, though. Nor does it help me to understand why I am sad. I just am. Sometimes less so, but sometimes so much that I think, “What is the point?”
This is the reality for millions who suffer from depression and other forms of mental illness. This is the reality for millions who live with chronic pain and illness. This is the reality for millions who struggle with addiction. No one gets to judge when enough is enough for them, so this rhetoric that suicide is an act of cowardice/selfishness needs to stop, and those who have never been in that dark, low place need to open their hearts and minds to empathy.
We need to listen and to hear. We need to understand. We are losing precious lives. Every day, someone important chooses to succumb to the dark. By “important” I don’t mean a Chris Cornell, a Robin Williams, or the latest, a Chester Bennington. I mean a human. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy.
Can we agree?