Monday, September 9, 2013

Being Serious For a Moment...Suicide Awareness Month

I usually keep things pretty light around here, but I want to take a minute to talk about something near and dear to my heart.  It's come to my attention that September is "Suicide Prevention Month."  Now, I've always been of the opinion that there are entirely too many awareness days/months/weeks already, but in this case, the date is kind of significant.

I'm going to tell you a story.  It's kind of personal, and it's probably a little triggering.  But I feel like maybe there are others out there who have been in the same place...and maybe hearing about things from someone who's been there might help.

So I'm going to tell you about how I almost killed myself five years ago, and now things are so different now.

Five Years Ago

Five years ago, I was at a pretty low place in my life.  I had dropped out of graduate school after realizing that the program wasn't at all what I'd hoped for.  I had racked up a tremendous amount of debt, both student loans and credit cards, and had no hope of paying it off.  

I was working a physically demanding minimum wage job as a night stocker at PetSmart.  I had wrecked my sleep schedule through a year of sleeping 2am to 4am, working until noon, then napping until 6pm and starting it all over again.  I had a heavy reliance on painkillers, which were the only thing that kept me on my feet when slinging dog food bags aggravated nerve damage in my back.  And I was horribly lonely.  

The loneliness was the worst part.  As a senior in college, I had a large support system of friends.  In graduate school, though, I had no one.  I didn't get along well with my classmates, my coworkers were all too young and immature, and I had too much social anxiety to go out and meet new people.  Once I moved back to my old college town, the majority of my college friends had scattered.  I moved back in with my old roommate, by the dynamic was different thanks to her new career and new relationship, and I was feeling like the odd man out.  

I felt lonely, alienated, desperate and as though I was a horrible failure.  I had no idea what I was going to do with my life or how I would ever pay off the debts I had accrued.  I had a couple of stories in minor publications and one desk novel that I had labored over for four years and knew was still unpublishable.  I felt trapped, as though I had absolutely no control over my own life and no clue how to climb out of the trap I'd fallen into.  

Considering Suicide...

I'll never forget the day I thought about killing myself.  I was working in the cat food aisle, stocking 20lb bags of Whiskas.  My back ached terribly and I was exhausted -- that kind of sleepiness where nothing seems real.  I was working on autopilot while a single thought echoed around in my brain:  None of this means anything.  

I started to make plans.  I didn't want to run the risk of anyone finding me.  So I contemplated the time between the end of my shift and when my roommate would get home from work, and decided that would be an ample amount of time.  I had a specific knife in mind, from the kitchen drawer, and I planned to slash both wrists with two long vertical cuts, then bleed out into a warm bathtub.  

I daydreamed about it for the rest of my shift.  I didn't feel scared.  If anything, I felt excited.  I had been feeling dead inside for months.  Having a plan made me feel more alive, as if I had control once again.  

I might have gone through with my plan that same day, if it weren't for a very specific, ridiculous circumstance.  

I went to the bathroom, toward the end of my shift, and I realized that something was wrong.  I saw blood on my toilet paper and felt an odd lump somewhere it shouldn't be.  I realized...well...that I had hemorrhoids. 

This was enough to shock me to distraction.  It was just so ridiculous.  I started laughing.  Like, seriously?  I can't kill myself when I have hemorrhoids!  I could just imagine the jokes the paramedics would be making over my body.  How can anybody take you seriously when you have hemorrhoids?  I certainly couldn't any more.  It was just too absurd.  

The Aftermath...

That situation was just enough to shock me back to my senses.  I later told someone about my suicidal ideation.  The response was....not what I needed.  But by this point, that good ol' self-preservation instinct had returned.  I stayed the night at a friend's house so I wouldn't be alone.  But I made the mistake of not telling my friend exactly what was going on in my life, and I made some decisions over that weekend that were not very smart.  Let's just say, I was not in a good head space, and I should not have been making any decisions that would impact my life, or anyone else's.  

But it worked out in the end.  Here's a lesson: No matter how badly you fuck something up in your life, you can pretty much always find a way out of it, even if it's not immediate and even if it's not a perfect solution.  I learned that.  

Not too long after this whole situation, I ended up going on my first date with my boyfriend.  We just celebrated our fifth anniversary last week.  


A lot has changed in five years.  After a lot of missteps and struggles, I've actually ended up in a pretty good place.  I'm working full-time as a writer, something I'd never dreamed would actually happen.  I've managed to pay down some of my debt (and get an income-based repayment for the student loans).  I have new friends.  And, of course, five years of relationship with a pretty awesome dude.  

All of which is not to brag, or say my life is perfect.  It's simply to say: Shit gets better.  

Five years ago, I felt like absolutely nothing could ever get better, that I was trapped in a pit with no escape.  Obviously, that turned out not to be the case.  Yeah, the journey to get here was hard as shit, and yeah, it's exhausting, and yeah, sometimes I still get snowed under with depression and waves of hopelessness.  But shit got better for me...and it can get better for you, too.  Ultimately, the challenge is worth it.  

To quote Tyrion from Game of Thrones:  "Death is so final, but life is full of so many possibilities." 

If You're There...

Hey there!  On the other side of this screen!  Maybe we're friends.  Maybe I don't even know you.  But I want you to know something: You're valuable.  Your life is valuable.  Even if you're feeling lost, alone, overwhelmed, ashamed,'re worthwhile.  And if you need to talk, you can talk to me.  I promise you.  I might not have any answers for you, but I'll listen.  I won't even judge you or think any less of you.  

But I bet there's someone else you can talk to who will listen.  Friends, relatives, roommates, coworkers.  Or you can call a suicide hotline.  

One last thing.  One of my very favorite types of music is the...let's call it the "Life sucks, but it's also pretty great, so don't die" motif.  Music can have some amazing healing powers.  Here's a few songs in that vein that always make me feel better: 

Take care of yourself.  And love each other.  Peace out, friends. 

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