Why you should care
Life is beautiful. Except when it’s not.
Warning and disclaimer: This is going to be a letdown.
In 2015, when I was 32, I tried to kill myself. For the second time.
When I woke to discover I was alive, which was the last thing I wanted, my mind raced with scenarios of how I could change that.
I’d lost the most precious thing in the world to me: control. After having spent three days in a failed-suicide coma I was being moved from a medical floor at one hospital to the psych unit at another. I have no memory of my first day of consciousness, but I was told the first thing I did when I regained consciousness was to weep in despair about the nightmare to which I had awakened. The nightmare of life. It was the worst scenario I could imagine at the time.
Suicide had always been my failsafe. It was the last measure of control I had. It was my trump card and somehow I had fumbled it, and I was lost because I wanted to die but I couldn’t because I was captive and under surveillance. My only comfort was that one day soon I’d be able to kill myself properly.
[D]uring my first suicide attempt … 12-year-old me cried hysterically as I swallowed aspirin.
The medical techs in attendance knew my situation, so they kept the conversation general. We were speaking words with our mouths and others with our minds. We talked about the randomness of life, the incoming storm on the horizon, food, motorcycles. Besides being told that I sobbed when I awoke from my coma, I cannot remember the last time I cried. Even seeing the last thing I thought I would ever see was not enough to move me to tears.
The conversation was something else, though. I felt like what other people must feel when they interact with other people. I felt like a person too, and those techs made me feel like maybe I could live. Even if for most of my life suicide had seemed like a practical thing. Like a natural occurrence that will one day come to pass. I suppose you could say that if you live your life just below boiling point, all it takes is a few degrees to pass the threshold.
The day I passed the threshold, nothing extraordinary had happened. Except I did get arrested for shoplifting.
I’d attempted to steal $1.80 worth of water. That’s six 1-gallon refills of drinking water. Six gallons at 30 cents each. You bring empty gallon jugs to the store and fill them at the machine. When I shop I always go through the self-checkout to avoid contact with the clerks or baggers. The less I have to deal with people, the safer I feel. People are an uncontrollable factor and the less interaction I have with them, the more I can control things.
But with water refills, you can’t scan them yourself and I didn’t want to ask for help. I kept the gallons in my cart, scanned the other items and left the store. Store management called the cops, and I went through the whole bit: handcuffs, a trip to the station, mug shot and fingerprints taken. I knew this was my last day on earth. This was no place for me anymore. I already had a plan. Well, a couple of plans, actually.
Plan A was to hang myself. I wanted a blood choke [Editor’s note: A blood choke is one that compresses the arteries and veins circulating blood to and from the brain], and I had the hardware and a spot that would support my weight. I also had a bag to place over my head before the noose. I also had a large amount of lethal drugs. I had been my father’s caretaker several years prior. While he was dying of brain cancer, he had been prescribed multiple drugs. My mother had also been diagnosed with cancer during that time, so she too had an abundance of drugs.
Toward the end of my father’s life, we were issued a “death kit”: a large vial of liquid morphine, one of liquid amitriptyline and a third vial, of what I can’t remember. Since my father hadn’t been in pain, I only administered a small amount of the drugs during his last days. My mother survived cancer but now had dementia; my sister, who couldn’t take everything that had happened, ghosted us.
Which left me doing everything: cooking, shopping, laundry, all the ins and outs of taking care of my mother’s house and her pets. I did my best to juggle it all. I used to be into things: I’d run 5K a day on most days. But each time I did things, I had to up the ante and suck every drop of fun out of them.
The day of my arrest my plan was to stay at my mother’s. Her basement had a beam, while my house had no basement and no support structure from which I could hang myself. Practicality led me to do it at her place, although I knew it would be disgusting: My mother would find my limp body trailing piss and shit, a green bag over my head.
I set an alarm and took a nap. My mother was a deep sleeper and there’d be a floor between us. I didn’t foresee making any noises loud enough to wake her.
I wanted to make it back to my bed and appear to be asleep. Then I would have the rest of the night to die.
So down to the basement I went. My state of mind was much different from that of my 12-year-old self during my first suicide attempt. Twelve-year-old me cried hysterically as I swallowed aspirin. This time? I was eerily calm, steadfast, methodical.
I put the bag over my head and then the rope. The bag kept going into my mouth as I inhaled. When I had done a trial run I held my breath. Now I couldn’t focus on what I was doing, so I made a small hole in the bag. It shouldn’t matter as long as the rope could cinch.
And so I cinched the bag at the back of my neck, which put pressure on my windpipe. I started choking and making loud wheezing sounds that I was unable to stop.
Wait, what if I put the cinching point of the rope on my throat? After all, I was trying to stop the blood in the arteries on the side. I took a minute to readjust the rope.
My body was fighting, though, trying to breathe. The instinct to survive was fighting me. I stopped. I felt the darkness. I could sense it was nearer this time, that my plan could still work. I just had to muster the courage and do it.
But I didn’t. I bailed.
I had the death kit drugs, though, and could turn plan B into plan A. I dumped the vials into a glass and took it up to my old bedroom. I wanted to make it back to my bed and appear to be asleep. Then I would have the rest of the night to die.
I downed the contents of the glass. I’d already disposed of the containers, and I rinsed the glass so no one would know what I had taken. I got in bed and waited. I was pretty calm. I don’t remember how long I waited, but it felt like a long time. So back to the basement to get the rest of the drugs. I took all of them, handfuls down the hatch. I even took the leftover pain meds that I had administered to one of my mother’s ailing cats.
Alcohol. I don’t drink, but I downed a quart of vodka. Now everything was gone. That’s the last thing I remember before waking in restraints in an unfamiliar orange-lit room with pain in my throat.
It turned out that after I downed the vodka I lost consciousness. While I was busy stuffing myself with poisons, the shit was starting to work. When I passed out I knocked over a huge microwave that crashed into the fridge and woke up my mom. I guess when you lose control of your body, a few steps in the wrong direction and you can cross a room pretty easily.
My mom found me slumped on the floor and called 911.
They were able to resuscitate me. My heart never fully stopped, but I was on life support for three days. Eventually, I regained consciousness and began to breathe on my own. Some days later, once my organ started working again, I was moved from the ICU to a regular floor even though the doctors didn’t think I would survive — when they pumped my stomach the contents of it should have easily killed me.
I’ll tell you something funny. Something that, even with all the planning in the world, I had overlooked: I have a condition called gastroparesis. It delays the natural emptying of the stomach to a snail’s pace. The more I put in there at the same time, the worse it is. My stomach gets hydrolocked, so they were able to pump just about everything out.
How do I feel about suicide now? I know my thinking is messed up, but my honest feeling?
I still don’t understand how everyone else on the planet does not want it.