16 June 2018

That time I almost killed myself.

[NOTE: this post first appeared as a Twitter thread originally posted on the morning of June 8, 2018, spurred by news of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. A great many people seemed totally surprised by the Bourdain suicide, as they all thought he seemed like he had so much *good* in his life that there was no way the darkness of suicide might ever darken his story. These people were, of course, tragically mistaken, and there was a great deal of discussion onoine by a great many folks, all reflecting on their own personal tales about suicidal depression and episodes. I decided it was finally time to come totally clean on my own long-refrigerated such tale of a close call with suicide.

It refers back to the Spring of 1982, my senior year in high school, and well... "things were not a good as they could have been." The specific detailss are not as important as the events and thoughts in response to those details, so that's what the tweetstorm dealt with: the way suicidal depression can come out of "nowhere" to threaten those whom many would never believe might be at risk.

In a surprise to me, that tweetstorm sorta exploded, with hundreds of thousands of impressions and hundreds of "likes" and several dozen comments and responses (public and private) -- via Twitter but also via email, and phone, and text, and at least one or two real-life convos with friends and family who'd never previously heard a whisper of this tale. Apparently, a great many people were interested (or perhaps just morbidly fascinated-- I do not claim to understand).

At any rate, I had a few people NOT on Twitter ask if I might repost the entire thread in a form/location where it could be seen and read in its entirety.

And so here it is, reposted in one document, with each tweet in that thread now living as a paragraph in the large combined essay.

I don't post this (again) because I want or need attention for any of this, but rather because it feels important to get these kinds of stories out so that others might better understand just how common and easily camoflaged these typs of experiences are. As with Bourdain's suicide, people seemed surprised by my tale. Unlike Bourdain, I survived to share the tale (albeit many decades later). I was stupidly lucky that I pulled off at the last moment and didn't end my life. Others are too often denied that same stupid good luck.

I guess what I am saying -- what I was hoping to convey -- is simply "this shit is real. It is common. It happens to people all around you all the time. Be aware, and stand ready to be the kind of friend who might literally save a friend's life just by being there, by listening, by reminding someone that it's never as totally black as it might seem in any lonely moment."

I hope that makes sense. If not, as always, your full purchase price will be refunded.

"11:52 AM - 8 Jun 2018

Apologies in advance for a long humor-free thread:

When I was 17, I came within a devil’s breath of taking the final leap (literally) in a suicide attempt. I was in a dark lonely moment, and I just wanted that pain and terror to end— more than anything I could think or describe.

I’d not planned it or plotted it nor can I recall ever even contemplating such a thing before. But there came a night when everything swirled into a perfect storm of self-destructive terror, and some still-rational part of my brain plotted a possible exit strategy:

“We’ll dive headfirst from the huge stadium onto the pavement below. We’ll need to make sure to hit headfirst, of course.”

So I climbed the local HS stadium, clambered over the safety fence on the top back wall, leaned out and was holding on by one hand, staring at the pavement below, trying to gauge how much to lean to assure headfirst impact 75 feet below.

And that’s when a breeze of clarity drifted thru my head, and a small voice somewhere inside quietly screamed out “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” And then there was utter silence, and then horrible realization of my predicament.

I probably came closer to falling at that precise moment than at any other, as I almost slipped in my mad scramble to regain tight grip and get back over into the right side of the fence. Which I managed.

And then I slumped down and vomited all over my feet. And I cried for more than a little bit. And then I wandered home, and managed to wash my clothes without being noticed, and never mentioned this episode to anyone for very many years.

I NEVER TOLD ANYONE. Nobody who knew me then ever had any clue about any of this.

I never again had any similar episode, but neither have I ever forgotten how that moment felt: a total loss of rational perspective, replaced by an almost drunken logic where the clearly worst idea seems the clearly best idea. I just wanted the fear to be gone.

I’ve gone thru counseling at least twice in the 35 years since— talked about this in one series of sessions, didn’t in another series. I don’t live in constant terror of a relapse— that was a lifetime ago. A totally different person. A different movie.

But neither do I totally turn my back on the inescapable fact that that... thing— that beast— lurks somewhere deep in my brain, ready to whisper the worst advice at the worst time if I ever allow myself to tune out all other voices. Which is not exactly comforting.

The point to this overlong tale is simply this: you never really know what pain someone else was fighting against for their very lives. IS fighting against. What rationally bizarre and extreme action that struggle might drive them to. Drive YOU to.

These tornados of the soul can swirl up with little or no warning, and leave you with little safe shelter, and lay utter waste to every aspect of your existence. Or they can (as in my case) vanish just as quickly as they appeared, leaving you a shuddering sobbing wreck.

So be careful before you make very many grand pronouncements about suicide and depression. Unless you’ve actually been there and lived through it, you don’t know. You just don’t.

And If you’re very very lucky, you never will. Trust me."


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