I have sometimes asked for topic suggestions and questions as starters for posts on this blog, but I don’t solicit feedback for things before I publish them. There is no editing done by anyone other than me, and I while I will correct typos or passages that are unclear, I don’t edit posts after they’ve been posted, so not all of my posts are perfect, just like I’m not perfect, even if I might sometimes want people who read my writings to think I am.
This is an example of my imperfection.
My partner read my most recent post and she had two constructive comments that stick out with me. The first thing she said was, “I didn’t expect it to be gendered.” I was a little surprised by this, not because she’s wrong – it is quite obviously a gendered piece – but because I didn’t really intend for it to be that way when I began writing. Desperation looks just as bad on women as it does men, or on those who don’t closely identify with either of those gender phenotypes. But I am a cisgendered heterosexual male, and as much as I strongly believe in the value of any and all gender identifications, I find it very difficult to write from the perspective of someone whose struggles I do not know. Because of this, the piece probably lost a lot of the power that it could have had.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, she stated that I don’t often put much of myself into my writing, and that it can come across as a bit preachy. I don’t necessarily mind being thought of as preachy, but when I’m not identifying closely enough with the subject material, I’m doing myself a disservice, so I’m going to do the big scary thing here and open up to the world a little, right now.
About five years ago, I nearly killed myself.
There is within me a deep darkness that shows up every once in a while, ever since I was a teenager. I have a family history of depression and bipolarism, and whether this is something that would have come out for me if I had not been molested, I do not know, but it is about that time that things started to change for me.
Most of the time I can stare into the abyss and come back, none the worse for the wear, but once it nearly claimed me.
In the years since this incident, I have learned a great deal about myself, and I do not believe that I am really in any danger of going this deep again, but it’s something that I am ever-vigilant about, and I’ve set traps for myself to avoid spiraling too far away. I am far too smart for my own good sometimes.
I was depressed beyond depression… I felt hopeless, I wanted a way to stop the pain, and I saw no way to get free of the things that trapped me in that existence.
I took out extra life insurance. It’s shockingly easy and cheap to get $2 million in life insurance for a healthy, non-smoker at age 34. I made sure that the plan had a double indemnity for workplace accidents.
I made a plan.
I’m a control freak at times, and I wanted to sure, absolutely sure, that when I did it that I would be gone, not a vegetable in long term care, not maimed and living with physical pain to match my emotional state, and I wanted to be sure that no one I knew would ever know that it was my choice to end my life. It would look like an accident. I would leave no note.
I did dry runs of the plan. I could have actually taken my life at any of those times. Three times, I did this. I was ready to do it.
And then my daughter told me that she loved me and she missed me because I had to work late, and my resolve shattered.
I looked back over the months of planning that I’d done and the effort that was involved and I knew that I needed help.
I told my wife (ex-wife now, but I was married at the time).
She didn’t understand. She thought I was attention seeking, which is exactly the opposite of what I was doing, but it didn’t matter. In telling her, I’d destroyed my chances for success, and I had to continue down the path of getting help, because my plan was destroyed. Now she would know. Now the life insurance company would know, and I’d leave my family with nothing but pain.
I was somehow, miraculously, able to summon the strength to get help on my own. To this day, I still don’t know how I did it.
I found a psychiatrist. I made an appointment. I went to the appointment.
My brain has a chemical imbalance, she told me.
My anhedonia was just a symptom. My feelings of hopelessness were just symptoms of this problem with the chemicals in my brain.
Here, take these pills, and you’ll feel better, she says.
I took them.
I did not feel better.
Weeks later, I still felt terribly depressed, hopeless, in pain all the time – and this was before I had any physical reasons to feel pain. Apart from the overwhelming miasma of disharmony that surrounded me, I was completely healthy.
Nothing and no one gave me joy. Even my children annoyed me and made me feel trapped and alone and responsible for things that I felt were beyond my ability to handle. I was deeply mired in feelings of inadequacy and failure. I could do nothing right, nothing I did was ever enough, and no one wanted to be around me.
The truth was, of course, slightly different. I actually was being shunned a bit by family and friends because I was so far down that I made people uncomfortable just by being around. They wanted to help and felt helpless to do so, and after a few attempts to cheer me up, they eventually gave up.
My ostracization was complete. So I came up with a new plan.
That’s right. I was on SSRIs, I was in behavioral and cognitive therapy with a psychiatrist and a separate therapist. I was writing about my feelings and thoughts daily. I was doing everything that you are supposed to do in those types of situations, and it was not enough. My psychiatrist even put me on MAOIs for a time, hoping that would kick my brain back into ‘normal’ mode. I was beginning to accept that this was the new normal for me. And in the midst of all of this, I still had suicidal ideation. I still wanted to kill myself. And I came up with a brand new plan for how to do it, and I was hiding the thoughts and plans from my therapists.
At this point, I really should have gone to the hospital. I should have enrolled in some kind of managed care facility. I was not safe to be with myself. I have probably never come closer to dying.
My plan required that I purchase some new equipment, so I did. When one of the people I was buying this stuff from asked me what I needed it for, I responded, “Oh, I’m going to kill myself.” She laughed at me and sold it to me anyway, without further comment.
No – I did not buy a gun for this, though I certainly could have.
I wrote a note this time – since it was going to be obvious from the method that I was intending to employ that it was a suicide – but I never sent it. To this day, it remains a draft item in my gmail account. I keep it as a reminder of how close I came.
Somehow though, I managed to snap out of it.
I stopped everything, and I managed to step out of my misery and look at myself from the outside.
Perhaps it was an accumulation of drugs in my system that finally set me right, or perhaps there was some other trigger that remains invisible to me, but for whatever reason, I stepped outside of myself and looked back and said, “what the fuck is wrong with you? You have everything you want and more than you need. People love you, and what you are contemplating doing is the most petty, selfish, and hurtful thing that you could possibly do to those people. Sort yourself out.”
And so I did. Somehow.
I stepped back from the precipice, and I started the process of letting go of expectation, of letting go of the images that I’d overlaid on the world.
When I was in high school, I was unstoppable. I was athletic, I was brilliant, I was gorgeous, and people followed me around like some kind of rock star or demigod. In college this continued for a time, and then I went through a bit of a transitional period. I looked into the abyss for a time as my first marriage ended, but I embraced the darkness inside and became something new. This time, that did not seem to be an option, so it pulled me further down, but eventually I came to realize that the goals that I had set for myself then were just that, goals – and while I can and should always strive to meet my goals, it is not an indictment of my character when I fail to do so. So I wasn’t a millionaire. So what?
I was mortified that I was looking back on my high school days as ‘the best days of my life,’ just exactly like the elders of my home town told me that I would. I was better than them, wasn’t I?
And I am. I just needed to let go.
Always afraid of failing or falling, I kept a tight rein on what I did and said and planned and thought. I tried to take control of everything, and while I succeed in controlling much, no one can control every aspect of his life, and I am no exception.
I let go. I did not let go of my life like I was thinking in those moments where I stared into the abyss, but I let go of all the things that were pushing me towards the edge.
And then the most amazing things started to happen… oh sure, I had setbacks still, and I still do, but I started to look at the world as if it didn’t owe me anything and that everything I had was a gift. The abyss has no hold over me any longer. I still have this darkness inside, and it still must come out from time to time, and I even feel compelled to stare into the abyss from time to time, but I can look and wonder rather than despair.
I am blessed. I am privileged. I am powerful.
I am Rant.