It’s a very odd feeling to plan your own death.
Before you read further, I want to make this clear: My main goal is normalizing taboo topics so everyone will be more likely to discuss them and feel less like a burden for doing so. This is for the people that know what it’s like. You’re not alone. And this is also for the people that don’t know what it’s like. I know you can’t see it or do anything about it, but I hate feeling like I can’t talk about it because you’ll think less of me. If I was hiking and broke a bone, I wouldn’t hesitate to call for help. Why isn’t that so when I feel depressed or suicidal?
Most importantly, I do not want attention, pity, or advice. I want dialogue.
An estimated 300 million people around the world suffer from depression—which I’m almost certain is woefully inaccurate due to underreporting. However, one thing is certain: Suicide rates are on the rise. Right now, someone somewhere in the world takes their own life every 40 seconds. It has even become the 10th most common cause of death in the US. To help put that in perspective, we’re nearly 3x more likely to kill ourselves than we are to be killed by someone else.
If you’re worried and trying to figure out how you can help, then you’re already becoming distracted. If you’re wondering why I didn’t tell you sooner, then you’re being selfish. I sincerely appreciate both of those sentiments, but I just want you to listen for now.
There are many reasons that I’m still afraid to talk about this. I’m afraid that I might lose my job. I’m afraid that you won’t joke with me the same way. I’m afraid that this will completely ruin my chance at a potential promotion. I’m afraid you won’t think I’m strong or capable. Those are just a few examples, but they’re enough to notice a pattern: I’m afraid of what other people think and I’m afraid of failing to impress them. The worst part is that praise doesn’t even make me feel good. I often feign humility while telling myself that you’re just being nice; we both know I could have done better.
Just being aware of those irrational fears is not nearly enough to completely dispel their crippling effect. I would fucking love to dance when someone tries to pull me onto the floor. Instead, I politely and firmly decline while hatching a plan to ghost the party. Maybe I can head to the bathroom, then make a b-line for the exit before anyone notices me leaving. The effectiveness of this technique is directly proportional to the size of the party, which is the reason I rarely bother going to them. I know I’ll end up feeling invisible or awkward most of the time and regret that I came in the first place.
I was depressed for much of my youth, but the big one that stands out happened in 11th grade. I would sit alone at the bottom of an unused stairwell every day at lunch, hiding from friends and bullies alike. I had been forcing myself to sit alone on school buses for a decade, so this wasn’t really anything new, but it felt much worse because I actually had friends I could have hung out with. Sometimes I would cry, but most days I just sat on the hard acrylic staircase, eating my lunch while I waited for the bell. Sometimes I would hear other students talking as they passed overhead. I always wished one of them would find me somehow so I could feel even more pathetic. That’s pretty much all I remember of that entire year. It was especially sad because school was one of few places I actually enjoyed being. Fortunately, 12th grade was a new leaf, my bullies had graduated, and I loved it.
My entire youth is a vague blur littered with sad and fucked up memories: my baby-sitter’s son pissing into my mouth at 5 years old, being slapped off a stool by my drunk grandfather at 8, asking a girl if she liked me in 3rd grade (she also slapped me in the face), my dad breaking into my piggy bank for beer money, my dad asking me and my sister if he could marry his crazy girlfriend (we both said no, but they were married within a month), a literal closet for a bedroom and a shelf for a bed, always being afraid to ask if I could do anything, working for my dad without pay every day after school and every day during the summer—even after I got an actual job, lectures that lasted hours, being spanked with a wooden board well into high school, et cetera…
I finally got the courage to run away the year after I graduated high school. I owe that to my then girlfriend and her mom. My girlfriend lived on campus, so her mom offered to rent my girlfriend’s old room to me for just $200/mo. Her mom even stood up to my dad when he showed up, pissed as hell, demanding I move back. I don’t know if she ever knew how much that meant to me. I doubt it, and that makes me really sad. I would certainly not be where I am today without either of those women.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned my mom, that’s because she was pretty much never there. My dad got full custody of me and my sister when I was 6 or 7—my sister was 3 or 4. The first time I remember her was in the visits after the divorce, but she stopped coming after a few years. Then she came, unannounced, to my 8th and 12th grade graduations. I was about 20 when I got her number and reached out to visit over Christmas. That went fairly well, but it was the last time I saw her. Two weeks later, I received a rather unexpected email.
She was pissed at me for not contacting her since the visit, and for bringing my girlfriend of 4 years—even though I asked her if it would be okay. She threatened to burn all pictures she kept from my childhood. She had tattooed my name and my sister’s name on her ankle at some point, and threatened to have it removed. I was shocked, but I had no attachment to her, so I simply asked that she never contact me again. 8 years later, I received a strange email through my website. A name I didn’t recognize was suggesting jobs I might like in the Bay Area—I think I had recently blogged about looking for design jobs in California. I thanked her and asked how she came across my website. She confessed to being my mother and very proud of the person I’d become. I told her that she had no right to feel proud; she had nothing to do with any of my accomplishments. I wasn’t upset, but I saw no reason to change my mind. That was the last time I heard from her. I must sound a little hypocritical, considering that she clearly struggles with some form of mental health issue, but I do not want to reinforce her denial and aggression. Wow…I just realized that perfectly describes my father as well.
That’s enough about my mommy and daddy issues. I didn’t plan on doing that anyway.
Where was I…? Ah! Yes, feeling sorry for myself. [cracks knuckles]
The darkest time of my adult life occurred two years ago. In the two years leading up to that moment, my sister accused our father of sexual assault, my dog died, I was robbed twice, I moved 4 times in 4 months (two of them being out-of-state), and I was $40,000 in debt. In retrospect, the downward spiral is very obvious.
After fighting back depression for years and never talking about it, my will finally broke. I spent two weeks researching the most effective and painless methods for suicide. I didn’t want to leave anything for some poor fucker to clean up, so it also had to be peaceful. That last requirement really limits your options, but nitrogen asphyxiation seemed to check all the boxes. Nitrogen is very easy to acquire, won’t leave a mess, and shouldn’t cause any pain. Whenever I tried to crawl out of the depression, I would beat myself back down. No one really likes me; they’re just being nice. Sure, they might be sad when they first hear the news, but they’ll quickly forget about it. I just don’t want to try anymore.
I moved again two months later and finally started regaining control and happiness. I’ve felt happy and peaceful most of the days since, but the self-doubt never goes away completely. You just learn to wear a mask and stay busy so people will stop telling you to smile, or ask what’s wrong when they really don’t have the time or want to know.
Fortunately, this recent bout with suicide didn’t last more than a few minutes. It was followed by depression and self-destructive thoughts, but that only lasted for a few weeks—not months. I suspect this relatively rapid recovery is largely due to the amount of time that I commit to self-reflection and learning about world issues, psychology, and social taboos. That accruing wisdom is the main reason I love getting older. It does tend to increase my levels of stress because a lot of it is really sad to learn about, but it has also greatly influenced and increased my sense purpose. I want to play a bigger role, and being honest about my personal struggles seems like a great first step.
I’ve been putting this post off for more than a week, still afraid it will have long-lasting, negative ramifications. That changed three days ago as I quietly sobbed in a coffee shop while I listening to the final episode of Believed. It’s a podcast about the survivors of sexual predator Larry Nassar. More specifically, it focuses on the fact that no one believed his victims for nearly two decades. This hit especially hard because my own sister accused our father of sexual abuse. The police didn’t believe her and everyone swept it under the rug—including her. It took years for me to find out because she never felt comfortable telling me, or she didn’t think I would believe her. Like I said, it really hit home.
Empowered by those amazing women and girls, I closed the app and started writing. I shouldn’t have to explain that I’m not comparing my struggle to theirs. I’m merely inspired by their strength and courage. I may be a bisexual atheist, but I’m also a healthy white male in America, so my troubles will always pale in comparison to billions of other troubled lives, past, present, and future. I know it’s illogical to feel the way that I do when I get depressed or suicidal. Unfortunately, logic doesn’t really come into play when you’re depressed. It’s a very ignorant, self-abusive, dark, lonely black hole.
At nearly 30, I’m finally beginning to accept that these events are not the result of typical sadness or nerves. They’re brought on by accumulated irrational anxiety and I’ll probably live with it the rest of my life, but I hope this will help myself and others in some way.
I still don’t want to post this, but I’m committed. I’ve already spent 3 fucking days writing this and I just want to hit send and be done with it. If you want to have a discussion about these issues or get something off your chest, please don’t hesitate to do so. I love discussing challenging and taboo topics. Silence will only reinforce the stigma that causes people to build walls. Let’s tear it down together!
Thanks for listening, friends :)
P.S. I finally edited a couple photos taken last summer in Glacier National Park on my return from Whistler, BC. Check out that Moose! I hope you like them. Actually, I shouldn’t care… I like them (but I still hope you do too).