The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, I Killed Myself
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Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, I Killed Myself|
When I logged into Facebook, I got an eyeful of alternate history.
“Can’t believe it was 25 years ago today that we graduated!” said the merry message from the “Norwalk High School Class of 1987″ group I belong to. Except I didn’t attend my own graduation. I was in the hospital psych ward, because I’d attempted to kill myself.
The reasons I’d tried to kill myself were embarrassing in retrospect. My girlfriend had broken up with me to go back to her ex-boyfriend, and as a lonely and socially awkward teen, I was convinced that I’d never have another love like that again. So I snuck back to my house and swallowed a handful of pills, then called up some friends to tearfully say goodbye, and lay down on the bed to sink into oblivion.
Everything about that suicide attempt was laughable, in retrospect. I called my friends, and what were they going to do? Support me in this venture? And I’d chosen the pill bottle at random, so what I attempted to overdose on was prescription antihistamines. The ER technicians laughed when they found what I’d done.
Still, I was serious about the death. I think about what had happened if I’d been a little more clinical about the suicide… And today, my parents could be mourning on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day their son killed himself.
And I think of everything I would have missed:
- The joy of performing on stage as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, becoming a sex star in high heels and fishnets, discovering that joy of transformation;
- The thrill of writing a silly humor column for Southern Connecticut State University, and finding that I could make people laugh;
- All the happy silliness of going on local poetry tours and playing gigs with my bands – none of which went anywhere, of course, but the pure delight of hanging with wonderful people aligned towards a common cause turned out to be more lasting than the art we created;
- The incredible honor when Borders Books chose a mere store clerk to head its new software-selling department, because I’d done such a good job selling computer books there they trust me with its new initiative;
- The agonizing challenge of using every one of my skills to try to make software possible in bookstores – I failed, but that was the first time in my life I’d ever poured literally everything I had into a taskgoaland it taught me not to be afraid of failure;
- The breathtakingly wild mountains of Alaska, the windy perfection of Chicago’s urban sprawls, climbing in abandoned castles in Germany, gawking at all the movies in Hollywood, and travelling to a hundred other cities I would never had seen had I shut that door;
- Taking that bold risk of going, “Yes, I love this woman, I’ll drop everything to move to Alaska to be with her,” and knowing that it was a crazy risk but taking a strange pride that yes, I had become the sort of person who would take wild risks;
- That first day I split my hibachi shrimp to my daughters Amy and Erin, the hibachi shrimp I’d always stolen from Uncle Tommy and Mom, realizing that I now loved my two daughters enough to give them the selfish things I’d always craved, and be glad to sacrifice for them;
- The incredible honor of being accepted into the Clarion Workshop, and that first realization that I might be good enough to make it;
- That first professional short story sale to Asimov’s, the magazine I’d always wanted to be published in;
- Signing my membership application to SFWA, knowing that I’d made three short story sales to some of the toughest markets in the country, and had managed a feat that only a handful of writers had been able to do;
- Getting the phone call telling me I was nominated for a Nebula award, an achievement of a lifetime, and then people being very casual in their confidence that I’d be back to get another nomination some day.
- All the friends I’d gather as I moved from place to place – the card-playing misfits at SCSU, my Champions-playing Ann Arbor buddies, the Alaska Magic players, and all the wonderful warm people in Cleveland.
- All the times spent with my family and friends – years spent with Dad, Mom, Tommy, Grammy, Grampop, Gramma, a thousand hugs and smiles and conversations that would have been erased had I dropped into that hole.
There’s a hundred thousand things that I’d never have gotten to see, had I swallowed the right set of pills that day. There’s this ad campaign for gay teens saying, “It gets better,” which helps… But looking back over the last twenty-five years, I’ve had such a wonderous and varied life full of such happiness, that to throw it all away over a broken heart seems like a personal holocaust, burning a quarter-century of life experiences on one bad day.
I want to go back in time and take my seventeen-year-old self’s hand and whisper: “Listen. I know it hurts. But some day, you’re going to be just this lonely and aching, and you’re going to go online to a meeting place… And there, you’ll start to argue with some girl over the tactics the Alliance used to blow up the Death Star. That girl is going to become the love of your life. You will love her so much that you will surpass yourself for her, caught in the throes of a love so gargantuan that you will find yourself changing because you need to in order to keep her happy. And you will grow wise, and strong, and competent, and all of that will only take place if you live. So put down those pills, my friend. Put down that hopelessness, because all of that will disappear if you do that one, irrevocable thing.”
And if I could, I would whisper my story into the ears of every suicide out there, to tell them the truth: there’s more. There’s always more than this.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/222635.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Oh Ferrett, this brings tears to my eyes. ... Unexpectedly it's all the things you've done--they are so wonderful and so full of life and so full of love for the world and involvement and tryingness and I LOVE them. And I think how fragile our connection to this life could be, and it might not have been that there was someone who did all those things, but there IS, and I'm so grateful for that.
Three cheers! Three cheers for you and being alive.
These things especially moved me:
The agonizing challenge of using every one of my skills to try to make software possible in bookstores – I failed, but that was the first time in my life I’d ever poured literally everything I had into a taskgoal, and it taught me not to be afraid of failure
That first day I split my hibachi shrimp to my daughters Amy and Erin, the hibachi shrimp I’d always stolen from Uncle Tommy and Mom, realizing that I now loved my two daughters enough to give them the selfish things I’d always craved, and be glad to sacrifice for them
... and about the nebula, it thrills me no end that you somehow think that my enthusing about the story helped lead to that. *That* makes *my* chest expand with pleasure and pride :-)
may 25th was my 21 year anniversary of my suicide attempt...i took roughly 45 antidepressants. i remember being in the ER and my first husband screaming "don't die, i love you!!" and getting the divorce papers on the psych ward, he'd filed the first day i was in the ICU, unconscious and they weren't really sure i would make it.
those divorce papers made sure i did. i wouldnt have my son, or my second husband as a wonderful friend post-divorce, or my granddaughter due anytime between now and july 12. (Miss satan is showing some signs of illness, and they may deliever her early.)
my younger self developed the beginings of a backbone while in the psych ward. it was good, and it continues to be good most of the time, with occasional wavers just like everyone gets. there is more, yes.
but i still leave suicide as an option for when i can no longer bear my chronic pain, and my husband knows and accepts this as an option for when the time comes that all the fight has gone out of me. and that knowledge...gives me the strentgh to go on.
Thanks for sharing this... and your memories.
Thanks, I needed this. Not in the I-was-poised-with-the-razorblade sense, but it was nice to be reminded that there's, y'know, more to the story that hasn't been written yet.
I've stood with my toes hanging over the edge a few times, too - most notably when the chairman of the physics department told me to go major in Elementary Education, but also a couple of "how can I bear to live if he doesn't love me?" moments as well. (Fortunately, I was just as inept at suicide as you were.) The older I get, the more absurd the notion of suicide becomes... I am making serious plans for the party on my 100th birthday, but I'm actually going to "live forever, or die trying". There are so many things I haven't seen or done yet!
But a year and a half ago, a friend of mine killed himself - hanged himself in the garage, where his partner found him when he drove home from work. (Ironically, he was an EMT.) They hadn't been having relationship problems, and there was nothing particularly wrong in his life - in fact, things were going pretty well for them. He was being treated for depression, and had been for years; his doctor had just put him on a new antidepressant, which he thought was really helping. But I'm convinced that he suicided because of that phenomenon where switching from/to certain antidepressants can lead to "suicidal ideation". And I think his doctor wasn't monitoring him closely enough while he was switching over from one drug to the other. I wish I, or his partner, or any of his other friends, could have whispered in his ear, "Don't do it, Ed! It's not really you - it's the drugs! Talk to us!" - maybe we could have pulled him back from the edge enough to give his brain time to adapt to the drugs.
His partner asked me to be the Priestess at his funeral.
Sounds like a good thing to write to the Dan Savage it gets better project. Dan Savage writes a weekly colume on Sexual Questions and becasue of deaths caused from Bullying he started the IT Gets better project.
I want this to be true so much that I cannot stop crying.
It's not just kids that need to hear this.
we graduated may 26th that year. our reunion is next month. i've been to all the others but i'm skipping this one. a bunch of us who really give a damn about each other are going to get together on an alternate date.
Taking that bold risk of going, “Yes, I love this woman, I’ll drop everything to move to Alaska to be with her,” and knowing that it was a crazy risk but taking a strange pride that yes, I had become the sort of person who would take wild risks;
Replace Alaska with Washington and you have my story in a nut shell. My friends and family thought I was crazy but 5 yrs later and I'm still here and still very much in love.
|Date:||June 24th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)|| |
I did that once. I took two boxes of cold pills. The worst part was realizing the next morning that I couldn't even kill myself. No psych ward for me thank god. I was in college, the school counselor diagnosed stress. Its important to remember that there are good therapists and bad therapists and you can't tell the difference from outside. I hadn't broken up with anybody. I hadn't had any disappointment I just wanted the pain to stop.
I tried again about ten years later. I parked in a secluded museum parking lot. I used to like to go there and watch the traffic. I knew I wouldn't be disturbed. I ran a vacuum cleaner hose from the tailpipe to the back window of the car. Sat in the drivers seat with the engine running. About the third time I passed out I had a flashback from surgery, freaked out and ran out of the car. Must have taken me half an hour to figure out how to make the car safe enough to drive home. For the next two weeks every time I drove for more than ten minutes I got a headache.
Am I glad I'm alive today? Sometimes. Sometimes I wish I had succeeded the first time. I can't get my ducks in a row. A former child prodigy in computers who can't hold down a job as a stocker at Target.
Ferrett, I don't know whether to thank you for a nice post or kick you for bringing all this crap to mind. I think I'll say thanks.
As someone who was almost left behind by a loved one, thank you. We'll be celebrating our teeny year anniversary this August, and our relationship just keeps getting better.
I had a high school classmate who committed suicide in 1986. Even though we were acquaintances at best, I did like him and I find I think of him a lot to this day. I often think about how much he missed out on if he would have lived.
|Date:||June 24th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)|| |
Ack. Bizarrely, I always try to channel björk's "there's more to life than this" whenever I get into those darker waters...
the truth: there’s more. There’s always more than this.
There was for you. Some of us would be hard-pressed to give our teenage selves even a handful of reasons to stick around. Don't get me wrong- I'm very happy for you. Not everyone's had that kind of life, though. It doesn't always get better.
Well, this is a depressing comment.
There was a weak pills-based teen suicide attempt in my couple-of-steps-removed family recently, and I was trying to think of what could have been said to me that would have helped when I felt that way as a teenager. I honestly don't think there is anything that would help, unless it was coming from a time-travelling self from the future. Someone else saying the same stuff is just going to parse as "maybe that was true for you, but not for me!"
Making it even more difficult, I'm not sure I would strongly recommend living to people anyway. "Video games had better mechanics in the 90s, imagine how shit they'll be in ten years! Don't you want to live to play Call Of Duty 9: The Same As Always But Now With Less Player Interaction!? But don't worry, I'm sure you'll have a string of painful relationships and hateful pointless jobs that don't pay enough to afford overpriced rent on a shoebox house! And the inevitable chronic illness from the terrible nutrition-lacking and/or poisonous food that'll be all there is to choose from by then will be great!"
So probably for the best that I didn't try to pep-talk the lad.
I hope you are right, and I get to experience even a third of the happiness on your list. But there are too many days when it feels like things aren't all that much better than they were before the psych ward.
|Date:||June 25th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)|| |
So glad you're here. :D
The problem I've realised is, would that 17year old believe you? hells no.
At least, I certainly wouldnt. I remeber when they had those 'tell your 16 year old self' posts going around,and all I could think of is 'if I told my 16 year old self this, they'd call bullshit.' When you're stuck in that angsty teen state, no one liking you, the world handing you a shitty self-esteem packet...someone coming and saying (in my case) "hey, you'll have so many friends you literally get booked out three months in advance if you dont watch out, and thats seeing someone every day. You will have not one, but even multiple loves at the same time. People will be in awe of your courage and admire your sexiness." I would have thought you were being mean and teasing me.
So, instead I just laugh, thank that silly teen for being such a poor planner and, like you point out, making silly, life-saving 'mistakes' with her attempted suicides, and instead try to appreciate all those wonderful moments I've been blessed with since then.