I tried to commit suicide recently. Two weeks prior to that I had called the suicide hotline with two bottles of pills and Fireball whiskey on my table in front of me. An agent on the phone skillfully talked me down from the ledge. Two weeks later, over 1,000 mg of prescription medication would be downed with a deadly Fireball chaser.
I could no longer stand how I was anymore and the center could not hold. Feeling myself to be some monstrous aberration that would only serve to hurt anyone I loved or cared for overwhelmed me in those two weeks. I could no longer see a way to make everything right to anyone. The messiah complex combined with the reality of life, a missed flight and two weeks of about 3 hours a night of sleep left me vulnerable to a final and impulsive decision. At 7 in the morning on Veteran’s day I took the pills and drank the whiskey.
After the Attempt
As the whiskey burned its way down my throat washing the pills down I received a text from my child and a text from a loved one. Loved one asked me if everything was fine and my child sent me a picture they made. I lied one last time to the loved one and said everything was fine and I would text later. I told the truth to my 19 year old and said the picture was lovely.
I stared at the picture my child drew as sleep started to encroach upon me. For the first time in years I said a prayer of sorts. “God, if you exist, f*** off and I’ll see you in hell.” Tunnel vision was starting. Then came fear of the abyss and a desire to live. My hands trembled too much to make a call. I did not want to talk to anyone anyway. I did not think I deserved life but I did not want death.
Unable to stand I crawled to the bathroom and tried to induce vomiting with a toothbrush. It is not as easy as it seems. All I could manage was a gag reflex. I crawled back to the bed and laid on my side. I could feel my heart pounding and I was coated in sweat as I kept jamming that toothbrush until finally something came up into a coffee cup. It was not much, but I would take it.
It must have been enough. I fought to stay conscious. I took sips of water and ate some wheat bread from a leftover sandwich. As I chewed the bread, it was a strange hyper awareness. The grains and the wheat tasted so very sweet. It was hard to swallow as dizziness owned me. Some time later I would sit on the floor eating pasta and sipping more water.
8 hours later I could stand, just barely. But I could stand. 12 hours later there was a knock at the door. It was persistent. Shaking and still fighting for alertness I opened the door to 8 police officers who were called by the loved one who I lied to for the last time half a day prior.
I spoke to them incoherently and likely made no sense. Then I mustered the hard truth out, “I took over 1,000mg of (medicine) at 7 AM.” Next thing I know I am in an ambulance with the sirens on running every red light to the hospital. When I came in my blood pressure, white blood cell counts, blood sugar and liver enzymes were in different states of abnormality.
In the Hospital
Two days later with 24 hour monitoring I would be medically cleared for the next step of my journey where I would be in patient for almost 2 weeks dealing with rock bottom. A few days into it I would be completely honest about everything in my life. Complex trauma, depression, and anxiety would be the diagnosis. Complex trauma started from a young age. For the first time I would finally disclose that from the ages of 9-13 I was a victim of two adult pedophiles.
Untreated and undisclosed for the entirety of my life, every block built in my life has been as precarious as a drunken game of Jenga during an earthquake. It was inevitable, the balance would become worse, the tower of my life less stable, and then would come the crash.
While in the hospital I would have to face my child. They would look at me with hurt and anger and after they left, I went to my bed and sobbed the first time since I decided I no longer wanted to live. I hurt those who are precious to me in incalculable ways with concentric circles of pain.
When you are a dad, in some ways you are larger than life. You are Superman. When a baby smiles at you, they do not know how to lie, there is pure joy in your presence. You want to be that man the child sees. It is the same with relationships. When someone says they love you, you want to be that ideal vision they have of you. In my case, I never felt safe. So I never allowed the fractures, the faults and the humanity be fully a part of who they loved.
In the moment of seeing my child’s pain, confusion and hurt, every lost relationship came crashing into me. Lost friends, a failed marriage, a series of romantic relationships that never sustained. Then came the surfacing of the trauma. That is not something I could ever describe well. But one of the therapists in the hospital has seen it before. She assured me this is going to be a long and bumpy road. It will be something that I will have for the rest of my life in some respects now that Pandora’s box is open, but it will be okay if I stay the course.
Out and About
Then came the day I was released. I did not tell many people that I was out, or that I was even missing. I checked in with a relative twice a day to assure him I was alive. I spoke with a dear friend who treated me to Japanese, some architecture, pool and pinball. It was divine to not feel alone. I took the train back to my bed after that adventure thinking there may be hope. I finally had the courage to look at my email and social media.
The messages contained people asking if I was okay, information about a former congregant from the last church I was a minister at who died, and two threats to my well being. I called a friend I trust and told her my intentions on contacting people and she told me to talk to my new therapist first. I did. My therapist gave me suggested rules of engagement in approaching different relationships which included not talking to some people. I followed the advice and slowly came out of my shell accepting all reactions and severed ties. It was the most amazing experience in this story.
High Fidelity is an amazing movie. John Cusack plays a man who owns a record store that is barely in business. His long term girlfriend breaks up with him. He starts a journey trying to learn why his failed attempts at romance and happiness ended up the direction they had gone. In the course of the film he contacts his ex girlfriends from his life to find out what went wrong. I do not want to get into spoilers, but it is movie worth seeing.
I did not intend to model the movie, but I did find myself in conversation after conversation and a few spots of tea with ex girlfriends. I assumed they would say that I was the monster I thought I was. One or two had some peace to say, but every single one of them had nothing but kindness to me. I have even gotten some new friends out of this. People who now know me for all my fractures, mistakes and actions.
One said this,”Of course you hurt me, Patrick. I hurt you too. It’s what people do. But that is not who we are. When we do that, we apologize, we own it, and we move through life hand in hand. And if the hurt is too deep, sometimes a hand has to let go. I just wanted you as you and I wanted to know what was behind those sad eyes. And now, finally, I have that in my friend, Patrick.”
Another told me the following,”I stalked you a bit. Facebook is wonderful that way. You are an attractive and good man. And you should never be with someone who tells you otherwise and I know you have. That lack of appreciation for you along with your own self loathing on top of everything you’ve experienced, you’ll jump through hoops…impossible hoops to be something and someone you are not. That is what the empath and rescuer does. And good people will make mistakes, that does not change that they are good people. It means we have made mistakes. But we are never a mistake or a monster.”
Here’s the thing. I made those things my defining characteristic. It is how my brain has been wired. Now there is a lifetime of heavy lifting to rewire my brain, face the trauma and see myself differently. To see myself better than the abusive self speak I have allowed since I was 9.
Suicide is an Epidemic
We all know that I am not the only one.
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics states that there are 123 suicides per day in the US alone. In 2016 white middle aged men like me represented 7 out of 10 of those. The CDC also reports that the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the US is suicide. Of those teenagers most likely to end their lives are LGBTQ+ youth. According to the Trevor Project 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide, over 90% of those were under the age of 25 when the attempt was made.
Just writing this affects my ability to get employed if it is read by a perspective employer. That sucks because I need a job right now. We have an epidemic. Talking heads in this election cycle want us to believe that they have a solution for the healthcare crisis. They start each sentence with the phrase, “The American people want…” and then they go on to say something that I do not want.
I want to be able to get help and not risk a job admitting that I struggle with mental health and complex trauma. What I want is access to that. I do not want a better insurance plan provided by an employer that will find a reason to let me go as soon as it is learned that you struggle or will not accommodate that struggle.
We Need to Talk
We need to talk about this. We need to be honest about this. Children raised in poverty, children raised in abuse, LGBTQ+ children raised by parents who use religion as an excuse to shame and disown them, children molested or raped and shamed into silence create a problem. Those who survive the second leading cause of death in children with lack of access to proper help will struggle in their adult lives. Some will take their lives. Others will go on to live very difficult lives.
We do not talk about it. I’ve tried talking about it after the passing of Dolores O’Riordan. I have done so in other articles I have written.
We need to be transparent about this. Memes are not enough. This is a conversation that includes many things. Depression, abuse, rape, access to healthcare, employment rights, equality and so much more.
Today, we lost at least 123 people. Neighbors, children, parents, friends, lovers and so much more. Tomorrow we will lose another 123.
Time to talk about it.
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