As I sit down to write this I don’t actually know where I’m going with this post. It may be short, or I may ramble aimlessly for several pages. I’ve been pretty open about talking about this, but I’m not sure how much I’m comfortable actually putting down in text. I may just write two posts- one for general viewing and one with more detail for family and my therapist. We’ll see. Apologies in advance for random bits of gallows humor.
I’ll start with the basics. A year ago tonight I tried to kill myself. More specifically, I went to a semi-secluded location and tried to shoot myself in the head. I’ll skip over the specifics of my plan, but it was well thought out.
It was actually the third time I’d planned suicide. The previous two times, circumstances shifted and I changed my mind before I acted upon it. After each crisis passed I’d decided that it was an emotional aberration, rather than an indication of a mental state deteriorating under relationship stress and anxiety. And any time I pondered how “best” to do it I brushed it off as mere thought experiments.
The third time, a year ago, I didn’t change my mind. I was overcome with despair like I’d never known, and I’d worked up my nerve. Instead I was discovered (by femetal and zensidhe) as I was trying to remember what I had earlier decided would be my last tweet. I’d also composed an apologetic text message for our family GroupMe account that was typed in on my phone and ready to send.
I was caught completely by surprise. I hadn’t even been aware that they were out looking for me. I had an alibi in case a stranger or cop interrupted me, but hadn’t accounted for the possibility of being caught by someone who knew me. In fact, I’d chosen my location specifically to avoid that. I was stunned, as I had no contingency for this and am unwilling to lie to them. I had no idea what to do next, because there wasn’t supposed to be a “next.” So I sat down on the ground and poured my heart out to my wife, who handled the situation with superhuman understanding and kindness (as did redheadlass and zensidhe later). They also made sure that all of the firearms in our home “disappeared”, for which I am grateful. I’m also grateful to my therapist, who has been truly amazing.
In case you’re wondering, a gun tastes like steel. I expected it to have a slightly oily flavor as well, but nope. Apparently at some point while I was working up my nerve I bit down on it wrong. The next morning the cap on one of my front teeth (chipped as a child) came loose.
For the record, I never threatened suicide. I had a partner with whom it wasn’t safe to share the fact that I was having suicidal ideations, and assumed that if I told any partner then they’d share that information, so I couldn’t tell the safe ones either. I was (and still am) certain that if I had done so I would’ve been accused of being manipulative or using emotional blackmail. (Now, instead I’m accused of withholding information. I literally couldn’t win.)
I also would not, under any circumstances, have threatened or harmed anyone else. The notion sickens me, but apparently that’s how I’ve been portrayed by some.
I don’t know how to convey the reasons or the chasm of despair and hopelessness into which lead me to suicide. If you’ve been in that state of mind then you don’t need (or want) an explanation, and if you haven’t then it’s incomprehensible. A year prior I would’ve seen myself as the last person in the world who would contemplate suicide, let alone carry it out. I was an Extropian, after all! A cryonicist and life extensionist!
And I still am, only now I know I’m an Extropian who knows that there is a point at which death is preferable. It still boggles my mind a year later, and I’m still working to reconcile these mental states. As I sit here, I have no suicidal ideations or desire to self harm. I’m very glad I didn’t kill myself. But I know that there are circumstances under which I would want to die, because I’ve been there. As much as my life has worked out over the last year, as much as my stress level has plummeted, the pain of that night and the days that have followed has been so unbearable that if I knew then what I know now, god help me, the only thing I’d do differently is be faster on the trigger.
So I have a new glitch in my head. I didn’t used to, but now I do. In some important ways (and some trivial ones) I’m not the same person I was that night. Fortunately, I also know a way to work around my new glitch. I tell someone I love.
For me at least, that’s enough. I don’t even need any particular response or action from them - just to have someone I love be aware that my head is going to dark places. It brings into the foreground the effect it would have on those around me and short circuits the mechanism which otherwise shrinks the world down to just pain and despair. It obviously doesn’t make everything all right, but it keeps perspective more firmly grounded in reality.
I could write a book about that night and the days and months that followed, but I don’t see the benefit and I’m sure I’ll be writing about related topics soon enough. I will say this, though: I’m certainly not a qualified professional, and I don’t know if my situation is typical or not, but if you’re even just “toying around” with the idea of suicide in your head, find someone safe and tell them. Get it out on the table. You might be amazed at the level of support and love that materializes around you (I was!). If you don’t have someone safe, find a professional and tell them. It can make all the difference in the world when your world is ending.
Quick Addendum: It was never my intention to keep the first two "incidents" a permanent secret. I'd decided to wait a year (again, so it wouldn't seem like I was trying to be manipulative), then sit the Horde down and tell them everything that had happened. Obviously it all came to light significantly sooner, which is a good thing.