Music to kill myself to
This time of the year is always hard for me. It’s close to the anniversary of my last suicide attempt and while a lot has changed, there’s always some things that stay the same. Today marks the end of year three of my 365 days of academia and today we’re talking about suicide and music. What is it about a song that when you hear it you remember things so clearly? This post wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for something very special that occurred this year and there’s been a wide range of emotions leading up to it.
The usual warnings apply to a post with this kind of title. There will be talk of suicide, depression, and a whole bunch of other not-so-pleasant topics. We’re all in different places in our lives so if you feel like you’re not in a good place to read about it, no worries, it will be here if you ever want to know and are in a better place. That said, take care of yourself no matter who you are or where you’re from. I’m in a safe place mentally, or as safe as I can be. I hope that if you don’t feel that way, you find a safe place soon. There’s always help out there for those who need it (like this). With that little disclaimer the rest of this is going to be a bit heavy.
For those who don’t know me or my story, I’m Marine veteran. I’m proud of my service even though I’m not proud of the country or the military, it’s a long complicated relationship, but I was planning on making a career of the military. I like structure it turns out, so it was a good fit and I had friends that were closer than family, also a good fit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. I was hurt, discharged, and before I could understand what had happened to me I was a civilian with serious health issues, not a whole lot of savings, and nowhere to call home.
I was very much alone, but I was alive, had ten fingers and ten toes, which was more than I could say for some friends, so I considered myself lucky. I was fine, this was fine, everything was fine. Spoiler, it wasn’t fine. A year after I was discharged I finally decided I could be around people again. I had done some work in a manufacturing plant for about a year which had been nice. I didn’t talk to anyone, I got all the overtime I wanted, it was a good distraction from living.
But I wanted more. I wanted to help veterans and thanks to a call by a dumb kid Marine (me) to someone at DARPA, I had a pretty clear path laid out (one I’m still on to this day, thanks Dr. Ling). It was off to college I went and for two years things were great. I excelled in my classes, I took 23 credits one term and things seemed to be okay. Until one day they weren’t. And that’s how it goes with these things sometimes.
I’ve told the story so many times already, but basically I woke up and the weight of all the years prior had finally come crashing down on me. I stopped going to school, I barely ate, I didn’t sleep for a full week or if I did it was only moments at a time, and just like that I went from being fine to not fine. There was nothing special about that day that I can recall, nothing that set me off, no memories to speak of, not even a bad dream. It was like I went to bed normal and woke up that day as a totally different person. So it goes.
How much torture do you think a person could undergo before death would feel like a relief? I think we fear death because it’s so common. It happens daily, we still have ~500 deaths a day from COVID and no one blinks an eye until they’re the ones on the deathbed. I’ve never really feared death like that and after a week or so of the hell that I found myself suddenly thrust into, death sounded like the logical exit strategy. Because how could something so pervasive, something so bone deep, ever get even slightly better?
The short version of what happened next is that I calmly cleaned my apartment, left no note – because there was no one who would’ve cared to read it anyway – climbed into the tub so I would be easier to clean up, and swallowed every last bit of ambien I had been prescribed. The next part is a bit hazy, probably because I had taken over a dozen pills at that point, but either I called someone for whatever reason or someone came to check on me and the rest is history. I lived to tell the tale and I have mixed feelings about it frankly, but at the end of the day I’m here. So it goes.
If there was a soundtrack I relate to this time it was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The year was 2007 and It’s Blitz! had just come out. You couldn’t escape “Zero” to save your life and I didn’t want to because the music was so calming. I have associated the YYYs with that time ever since. It’s the music I listen to when I want to die and that’s the joke of it, because ever since that day I still struggle with the urge to kill myself, EVERY. SINGLE DAY. So as my preferred music player reminds me, I’ve listened to the YYYs albums more than any other band I own by a factor of 20 or so.
I’m a big fan and you would think being reminded of that day would be harmful, but for me it’s not. It’s more matter of fact. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not shy about telling my story – obviously by this post – because it’s not something I feel ashamed about. I think letting it out has helped keep me around this long, bottling feeling like that is never a good strategy and while it’s been a rocky ~15 years (it does NOT feel that long), I’m still here and I still listen to the music I associate with killing myself to.
I don’t think I ever wrote about my suicide attempt and the connection to the band, but this year feels extra important to share because a few years after my attempt the YYYs split up. The last album they put out was in 2013 and it felt like I lost a bit of myself when that happened. This year they are releasing a new album next month and it feels appropriate that it would be that close to my suicide attempt anniversary. I don’t subscribe to the idea of fate, but it was a surprise to me for sure and I literally cried when I found out.
For the past 15 years I’ve taken life one day at a time with a soundtrack permanently frozen in time. I’m thankful I’m around to enjoy the new album. Not that I plan on going anywhere, as long as I have a say in the matter anyway, but the YYY’s will always be the “music to kill myself to.”
Even if it’s just a bit of catharsis.