Day 23: I was lucky…
Okay, so not every post has to be strictly academic. If my twitter feed is any indication yesterday was world suicide prevention day. So with a heavy heart I have not one, but two very personal stories regarding suicide. Obviously this is a content warning for those wanting to go further, we will be dealing with suicide, death, and suicidal ideation.
Life hasn’t always been kind to me. At a young age I was abandoned by my father and my mother literally lost touch with reality. Not that my father was a good person, he is a horrible bastard of a human being and frankly the world will be that much better when he finally dies. The thing you need to understand about my family is that there was an ongoing and never ending circle of abuse. I was beaten, just like my father, and my grandmother, and the rest of my family before me. In fact, I was told by my grandmother that, “I was beaten harder than my brother because she knew I could take it.” You would think that growing up lower class and in an abusive household that would be the only way you could end up. You could think that, but you would be wrong.
Of all the people in my family it was my uncle who had every legitimate reason to be a shitty person. A genetic anomaly, he was the first and only person in the family to be diagnosed with lupus. For those unaware, this can be a very painful disease. One which has no cure yet. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also had heart problems (most likely caused by the lupus) and back problems (that one is a family curse). Yet despite all this, he was still very kind. I often find myself contemplating why that was the case. I think it’s because when you’ve known pain you don’t want that for the people around you. The truth of the matter is that despite the abuse and the suffering he was genuinely a good person and no amount of abuse or suffering would take that quality from him and damn it, he was a good person to the end.
One day, the day after easter quite a few years ago, I drove to visit my father and brother. When I arrived my father said, in his signature monotone way, “Your uncle killed himself.” At first, I thought it was some sort of joke, or maybe I had misunderstood. Sadly, that was not the case. The details of what happened are not important to the story, suffice to say he struggled with life until he shot himself. In that moment the only family I really cared about was gone; I was a pallbearer at his funeral.
This precipitated my own suicide attempt several years later.
If we go back a few months prior to my uncle’s death, I was just thrust back into civilian life unexpectedly after a serious injury in the Marines left me with no other choice. One day I was planning a life in the military, the next I was being told they didn’t have a use for me. Hurt, without any source of income, and no marketable skills, I was homeless and had nowhere to go. However, I quickly found my footing. I took a job as a personal trainer at a gym, got a place to live, and thought things were looking up. I was lucky, no PTSD, no missing limbs, and I was alive. I was lucky.
The funny thing about PTSD or mental health in general is you can be fine, until you aren’t. Not being fine can and did hit like a ton of bricks.
Not long after my uncle passed a fellow Marine called out of the blue. He had been hurt. I found out he had suffered a stroke, and his wife needed help if he fell trying to walk. With nothing holding me to where I was, I packed the few things I had, then drove for three days to move in with him and his wife. There I found work at a manufacturing plant on the night shift and helped take care of him during the day. I threw myself into my work, because I was lucky. I got all the overtime I wanted and let me tell you, I took it ALL. I was lucky.
A year later and my friend had progressed enough for me to leave. So I moved my handful of things into my own apartment. It was then I realized I had nothing, so for the first week or so, I slept on the floor, ate with paper plates and my hands, and generally tried to get things I needed to live. It was then that I decided I could be around people on a regular basis and started my undergraduate degree at the local university. The first two years went spectacular and I was well on my way to my degree. I was lucky.
Looking back I couldn’t tell you what changed. To be honest with you and myself, nothing had changed. One day I got up just like I did every day. I went to class just like I normally would. I even went to the school gym and worked out as usual. That evening I went out and had a drink, then another, and another. The next day I wasn’t in class, then the next day, then the next day. I stopped doing my normal routine, I even stopped sleeping.
After a week of not sleeping, things start to feel like a videogame, or maybe a movie. I wasn’t in control. I watched myself get up, drink applesauce straight from the jar, drink until I puked, then I would lay on the couch and watch movies. On day 6 of this routine, I calmly cleaned the stack of empty applesauce containers in the living room, the alcohol bottles in the bedroom, and the puke in my bathroom. Then I calmly climbed into my bathtub and took the entire bottle of ambien I had just been prescribed. God fucking damn it, I was so fucking lucky.
Over the course of this spiral, some of my friends had been worried about me. Despite turning them away at every turn, I still had a random friend check on me during this time. That’s the best explanation I can give you when I say that I woke up in the hospital, disoriented and very confused. Someone came to check on me, maybe they heard me make noises, I honestly couldn’t tell you and frankly I never asked. From what I was told, they got the apartment manager to do a wellness check sometime after I had taken all those pills. I survived, shocker I know. I told you, I was lucky.
The truth of the matter is since then I’ve come to terms with something:
Every damn day, I want to die.
Death is an old friend of mine you see. I sort of anthropomorphize the voice in my head now and frankly, I don’t know what I would do if he ever truly went away. Some days it’s just a hushed whisper, telling me that it no one would miss me. A special secret just for me.
Some days it’s a yell, those days are harder to ignore. Those are my low days, the days where I know everything I’m thinking is true. The voice says things like I’m worthless. No one wants to be around me. I’m only tolerated and sometimes not even that. I’m a failure, it’s what I do, I’m just a professional failure. My uncle, in all his glory and godliness — a man I wish I could be to my core — couldn’t make it in this world, so why the fuck should I be alive?
People tell you all the time that it gets better, but what happens when it doesn’t?
My circumstances have drastically changed since those days, but the voice is still there. Still a friend to me when I desperately need one, albeit a friend who wants me dead. In a weird way it’s comforting, a lifelong constant in an otherwise tumultuous life. For the most part, I have more good days than bad and really that’s the best I can hope for.
In a lot of ways things are still the same though. I still miss my uncle, that won’t change. My new councilors always make the same face when I explain I think about killing myself every day, the “oh you poor thing” face, that won’t change. My family is still awful and I’ve completely cut them out of my life, that won’t change.
TL;DR things are never going to be “okay” for me.
Sure things can get better, but I’m never going to be the happy person who has their shit mostly together. I struggle just to function and most days I can barely find the strength to put on shorts and a shirt so I can interact with the general public. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever become half the man my uncle was. Maybe that shouldn’t be the goal, but it was the only thing I ever wanted in this life.
If you want a happy ending, you won’t find it here. That doesn’t mean I’m going anywhere though, I’ve come to terms with wanting to live. Even if it sucks sometimes and I need to check myself into a clinic because I don’t feel safe. I want to do something with my life and even if I fail, well at least I had the guts to try. Sorry if that disappoints you, but that’s the best I’ve got.
Take care of yourself and the ones around you. Remember that even if you have all the reasons in the world to be a shitty person, you ultimately decide to be a shitty person. Most of all, check in on your friends, even if they don’t want you to. You might just save their life. I was lucky.
Your regularly scheduled educational themed posts will now resume like normal. In the meantime hug a loved one, or hell hug yourself. You’re worth it, trust me.