Thursday, January 22, 2015

That One Time I Tried To Kill Myself

So there was this one time I tried to commit suicide.  Some people that know me might say I have been trying to kill myself on a steady basis since my teen years.  I have not really lived a cautious life, but I don’t think I have a death wish. 
Eh, if I die, I die.  When I take a cold hard look at life in general, it is pretty pointless, but there are enough things to hold my interest and keep me here.  The world is full of beauty and wonder, love and amazing people, a million little things to make life worth living.  On the flip side, there are people.  They are aggravating, they are stupid, they are rotten to their core, and it gets to you.  The smarter and more aware you are the more intolerable life can be. 
Unless you’re rich.  Your only other option is to be completely delusional, which might not be so bad, but I’d rather be rich.  There are people that say money isn’t everything, but those people are stupid or have just given up on the chance that they themselves might be rich someday.  Which you should.  The odds of you being rich some day are pretty astronomical.  I’m not saying don’t try, but don’t get mad when it doesn’t happen.  It might get you so frustrated that you will try to kill yourself, which is what this is supposed to be about anyway. 
People try to kill themselves in all manner of ways.  Sometimes it is just a cry for help or attention, and that’s a valid thing.  If your life has gotten to the point that attempting suicide seems like a good idea, even if deep down you know it probably won’t work, someone in your life should notice and give you that attention.  If no one does, you should either get new people in your life or take a good hard look at yourself and stop being such an unlovable asshole.
I remember reading in the paper one time about a guy that committed suicide.  One sunny day he was standing on the sidewalk and a big truck stopped at the light in front of him.  According to witnesses he simply lay down on the road with his head in front of the rear tires and when the light turned green … splat. 
Now that was not a cry for help.  That guy had just had enough.  To this day I wonder what he was thinking.  Did he go out looking for a truck that day?  Did he just decide on the spur of the moment?  Did his girlfriend just break up with him, or did he come from the doctor after some dire prognosis? 
Probably not.  More than likely his life was just miserable, either because it just was or because of a chemical imbalance in his brain.  He probably just saw a quick way out and took it.  Who hasn’t thought about it at one time or another, to some degree?  If you haven’t, chances are you just haven’t been paying attention.
There’s a lot of shit you have to deal with on a daily basis, and while usually no one thing makes you think you should end it all, everything does add up.  I’m sure a lot of suicides happen just by the random ebb and flow of the good and bad things that occur in your life.  Hit a bad stretch for too long, like a bad run at the blackjack table and you might just off yourself.  Given one more day something good would have pushed the needle back the other way.
I’m not saying everyone is walking around hanging by a string.  Life is not that bad all the time and the will to live is strong.  Most people are relatively happy and have plenty to live for, thankfully. 
The thing is, there are a whole other group of people that aren’t very happy and don’t have much to live for.  They run the gamut from people stuck in unbearable life situations filled with abuse and neglect to people that can’t get good cell phone service that morning.  Seriously, from one extreme to the other, there are a multitude of things that send people over the edge. 
There are a lot of people comforted by the thought of suicide.  I have been upon occasion.  When life gets really bad and intolerable I actually am relieved to think that it is always an option.  I have spoken to many people that have felt that way at least once in their lives.
Of course, there is always the situation where someone decides that their quality of life was so diminished that they didn’t want to live any more.  I am all in favor of assisted suicide.  If you are in a situation where a disease or disability is too much, I believe you should be able to go out on your own terms.  Some may think that course of action to be irrational, but I think it is as rational as you can get.  Why put yourself through some horrible treatment that’s worse than the disease if the odds are it’s not going to work?  Why live if you are in constant pain or misery?
Oh well, back to me and my attempt. 
It wasn’t a cry for help, I was truly miserable and did not want to go on.  I was 22.  I’m not sure of the exact circumstances in my life that got me to that point.  I know I had been through a really bad relationship, I didn’t have a very good job or any prospects for any career in the future.  I had no real direction in life, and comparing against my parent’s life at my age I should have been married with kids by now.  I was starting to feel like a disappointment and a failure.  These feelings were all in my head. Everyone in my life was very supportive, I just didn’t care. 
I was living at home at the time(another check in the failure column in my head, 22 and still living with my parents) and at the time part of the house was under construction as we were building an addition.  No, not for me to live in, smartass.  My parents were away on a trip, and I had spent the last few days feeling extra miserable.  Drinking, sitting in the dark and listening to Pink Floyd, replaying every bad thing in my life over and over in my head.
Then I decided I had enough. 
I went out to the half finished rooms and found some wire.  I tied it over a beam, climbed up a couple of steps on a ladder, tied the wire around my neck and stepped off.  I didn’t drop enough to break my neck, I just hung there slowly suffocating.  I didn’t really feel any panic, just felt like it would all be over soon and a little relieved.  I wish I could say that I thought of my family, or my friends, the people I would hurt and leave behind.  I didn’t think about all the things I wouldn’t get to do, the songs unsung and all that.  I didn’t think of anything at all really, and that’s hard to even imagine as I type it. 
People have a hard time fathoming why people kill themselves and what could have been going through their heads and how they could be so selfish and not think of the people they hurt.  In my case, and I’m sure many others, your mind just disconnects you from those things. You’re not thinking rationally, so you cannot apply logic or reason to the situation when you’re on the outside looking in.
At any rate, there I was, dangling by my neck, a foot off the floor and waiting for peaceful oblivion.  I was vaguely aware that I was spinning slowly.  My eyes were closed and it felt very relaxing.  There was no thoughts of teaching anyone a lesson, imagining how everyone would regret that they didn’t treat me better.  Nothing.
Suddenly I felt my foot touch something.  My feet were pointing down and now my other toe also brushed against something.  I moved my feet and I could feel the ground.  What the hell?
Okay, so here’s what was happening.  The wire I used to hang myself turned out to be the four copper wire phone line.  It is not very thick and the copper was stretching with the weight of my body hanging from it.  Now it had stretched enough that my toes was on the ground.  I was dangling there like some sort of grotesque ballerina.  Once my toes were on the ground there was not quite enough pressure on my windpipe to kill me, but I still hadn’t gotten my feet on the ground so I could free myself.  The ladder was to the side and I couldn’t get back on that either. 
All my dark feelings were gone now, I just felt foolish and it was hurting my neck.  I reached up and grabbed the wire and tried to take some of the pressure off my throat.  I pulled my feet up so the cable would stretch more and finally I got it so that I could get my feet on the ground enough to free myself. 
So there you go.  I wanted to live after all, I suppose.  Did I know in my mind ahead of time that the wire would stretch and I wouldn’t die?  I don’t think so, but who knows?  It wasn’t a play for attention because no one would have found me for days.  It was as if something in my brain just shut down, the rational part, the survival instinct, whatever. I just calmly strung myself up because I wanted to stop living.  I’ve only told a few people that story, and I never went into great detail about it, so I wasn’t being a drama queen either.
There are many aspects of it that make me feel embarrassed, and that’s interesting.  Why anyone should feel like they did something wrong or foolish and feel ashamed or guilty about it is precisely why more people don’t discus their feelings with other people.  Writing it I felt a twinge of shame at many points in the story.  I felt embarrassed that I would do it over a relationship.  I felt lame because I was 22, as if doing it as a teenager would have made it less embarrassing.  I felt horrible because I did not think of my loved ones.  I especially think about how horrible it would have been for the people that loved me.  I can’t even imagine what it would have done to my parents if they had come home and found me there.
The list goes on and on. Sadly, I never once felt sorry for my younger self, and still don’t.  I feel foolish and angry and disappointed. So if I feel that way about myself from three decades ago, why would I expect anyone to have compassion for someone else who contemplates or commits suicide?  Why do others react with rage and disappointment instead of empathy for the suffering?
The most important thing to take out of all of this is that I have never thought about doing  it since.  I’m happy and (relatively) well adjusted.  Everything worked out fine and I wouldn’t trade the last 28 years I would have missed out on for anything.  I am even writing about what must have been the lowest point in my life on a meaningless blog in a seriocomic manner. 
So if anyone reading this is having any thoughts about doing something drastic, please don’t.  It will get better, I’m proof of that.  It is especially tragic whenever a young person commits suicide with their whole life lying in front of them.  All those possibilities, all that promise gone in an instant.
Don’t ever think that no one understands or no one else could have possibly gone through what you are going through.  No one’s problems are unique, there is always someone out there that has felt what you’re feeling now.  You have the internet at your fingertips, do a search on your problem or feelings and you’ll find a whole community of people feeling the same way.  You’ll also find plenty of places to get help dealing with it. 
If someone is tormenting or bullying you, understand that those people are assholes.  Many of them have their own problems; shitty parents, insecurities, unresolved issues with who they are.  You can feel a little sorry for them, but don’t let their shit ruin your life.  Find someone to talk to that can help make it stop and help you get to a point where you don’t care what others think of you.
I think most people could just go on if they knew they weren’t alone.  That’s why art; books, movies, music, is so important.  If you’re stuck in a miserable situation, you can find kindred spirits in those stories and songs. Just maybe stay away from Pink Floyd for the time being!  You will see that there is a whole world of people that feel just like you, and if you’re in an area or a family that makes you feel bad for who you are, go seek out people that accept you as soon as you can manage it. It may seem scary, but trust me, it’s much better than being dead.
I realize also that there are some people who suffer from depression, and it’s not a matter of just saying “buck up pal, you’ll be okay”.  I can’t even begin to understand how if feels to be a slave to body chemistry, to not even be able to help yourselves at times.  It must be scary as hell and I feel bad for anyone in that situation.  People suffering from depression don’t need anyone telling them how to feel.
Those people need support more than anything else, so if you have someone in your life that suffers with it, be kind and patient with them.  I know it can be frustrating at times, but imagine what they are going through.  A little understanding goes a long way.
So, to sum up, like everything else in life, kindness and empathy can go a long way to making the world a better place for everyone.
Oh yeah, and try not to kill yourself.  At least not all at once.  Do it the way the rest of us do it, slowly with alcohol, drugs, stress, cigarettes,  risky behavior, processed foods and obesity.  You know, like a normal person.

© 2015 David Ferraris

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